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Saturday, 19 March 2016

Cruise and Land Tour in Portugal - July 7th/15....

At the Hotel Grao Vasco, we had a buffet breakfast which was alright but not exceptional. 

The scenery in Douro Valley surpassed what I expected to see.  The photos were taken from a bus -  there was a haze and some reflection on the windows.   They give a taste of what is to come on the second half of the trip, with the AMA river cruise down the Douro. What one sees in these photos are unending vineyards and olive (and various fruit) trees planted on rolling hills. 

The Trafalgar Tour of the Mateus Palace Gardens did not include the inside of the Palace.  However, the AMA Waterways Tour on July 19th did include the inside.  The manor house was conceived to present carefully created vistas and series of mirror images.  The first thing visitors see is a formal pool reflecting the manor house, and in the pool is the intriguing statute of a woman lying on her side.

For most visitors, the lasting memory is of the vast cedar tunnel, which was formed from cedars planted in 1941.  It is 115 feet long and 25 feet high, the tight-knit greenery providing an aromatic walk in summer.  To keep it in shape, gardeners have to scale specially fashioned outside ladders.

Port comes only from a demarcated region of the upper Douro valley, stretching 62 miles to the Spanish border. There are essentially two categories of port - red and wood-aged.  The former are deeper in color and will develop after bottling; the latter, including tawny ports, are ready to drink when they are bottled, and white port is in a category of its own.   If I remember correctly, we received a small glass of port after every dinner during the entire trip (both Trafalgar and AMA).  One time we received white port as an aperitif.  Port is usually an after-dinner drink, is sweeter than normal wine, and can complement desserts, chocolate, nuts, cheeses.   Personally, I am not that fond of port but many people, especially the British, like it very much.

We received just a short guided tour of Guimaraes; then we were left to our own to sightsee, take photos and have lunch.   A short walk from the Largo da Oliveira, there is a very nice photo opportunity of the church, Our Lady of Consolations and St. Passos.   For lunch,Gelato ice cream.

We were scheduled to stay two nights in Oporto, which is the second largest city in Portugal after Lisbon, and one of the major highlights of the trip.  Oporto, unlike Lisbon, did not suffer from the earthquake of 1755, therefore, Oporto’s buildings are older than most of Lisbon’s.

We arrived later in the day and immediately checked into the AC Hotel Oporto.  In the evening, we went to Oporto’s western suburbs, which face the Atlantic Ocean.  We had dinner at a local restaurant and had time afterwards to walk along the sea shore and take some photos.

We had a very nice, included dinner at a local restaurant which overlooked the Atlantic Ocean.  There was the usual olives and bread, and we started with a crab dip with small slices of toast.  As an appetizer, we had fish fritters, cheese fritters, non-pork meat balls and then pumpkin soup.  For the main dish, there was sliced roast beef, roasted potatoes and sautéed spinach.  For dessert, key lime pie with bits of pineapple and there was the usual unlimited wine served.

Photos belong to Phil Bianco 

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