On Friday we woke up to a bright and warm day. The group headed out on three separate excursions which included local Port Winery tours (and wine tasting), a picnic, and a tour of an 18th century Catholic church. We compared experiences over lunch back on the ship as it set sail for the afternoon. We all enjoyed relaxing on the upper deck, swimming in the pool, reading and the soaking up the sun as our ship meandered downstream past many more terraced vineyards. It is a special time of year as the grape vine leaves were displaying a mosaic of fall colours and small trails of smoke rising into the air from the small fires where farmers were burning off leaves and branches from the recent harvest.
We arrived to dock at a small riverside community called Caldas de Aregos where we would stay the night and as evening approached we gathered on the upper deck for an exquisite Portuguese barbeque buffet presented by the master chef and his hard-working team. Later in the evening most of us stayed up on deck playing cards enjoying many stories and laughter.
It was a very relaxed Saturday morning as we enjoyed our breakfast in the dining hall as the ship set off again down river. The quiet atmosphere soon broke to the sound of the ship’s horn as we approached the Carrapatelo Dam, the fourth of six lock systems we will enter and the highest river lock in all of Europe with an incredible drop of 35 meters or 115 feet. The captain impressed us with his skill in steering this long vessel into the narrow lock with less than a foot to spare on either side and coming to a gentle stop within a few metres of the concrete barrier wall at the end of the lock. The ship descended very quickly and in no time the massive door rose up revealing the river channel ahead and we were off again. We arrived to dock at Entre-os-Rios a bit ahead of schedule which offered an opportunity for a short stroll into town after lunch.
Our afternoon excursion took us to the historic Quinta da Aveleda gardens, an impressive private estate nestled in a small and unique region of Portugal offering the perfect climate for producing Vinho Verde (young wine). This fourth generation family estate also maintains a beautiful garden of lush trees and plants where we received a guided tour in advance of some of the estate’s refreshing wine and locally produced cheeses. Then it was off to the Casa de Vila Verde where we toured a 12th century home and enjoyed a delicious dinner prepared by a Portuguese celebrity chef in an adjacent restored barn.
Just another wonderful day on the Douro River and tomorrow we will sadly arrive at the end of our cruise at the town of Porto, Portugal.
– Terry Petkau