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  • nigeldalton

River Douro

In 2019 we thought a trip down Portugal's River Douro would be a great trip. We planned it for 2020 and it got cancelled. We replanned for 2021 but health issues meant another cancellation. Replanned for 2022 but the same as 2021 so we were beginning to think it wouldn't happen. However, 2023 got under way and despite flight changes we managed to get into Lisbon for a couple of days prior to joining our ship, Viking Helgrim, in Porto in time for our anniversary. When we boarded we were given the keys to an upgraded cabin which went down extremely well - thank you Viking.

Helgrim is a lovely ship and the crew are super helpful. It's spotlessly clean and the food is excellent, thank you Cesar.

We started off with a coach trip up from Lisbon to Porto via the University town of Coimbra, then took lunch at a small restaurant where we had fado music inbetween courses, then, a short journey to Gaia on the opposite bank of the River Douro to Porto where we picked up our ship.

The following day we visited the Mateus Palace, owned by the family who produce the rose wine of the same name. A beautifully kept house with a great reflection in the pool from the driveway. On the way to the Mateus Palace, we went through the Carrapatelo Dam which is one of the largest in Europe. After visiting the Palace, we visited the Sandeman owned Quinta Do Seixo for some port tasting.

Most of the next day was taken up with scenic cruising until just after lunch when we were coached to Castelo Rodrigo, an old castle ruin on top of a hill - it figured in historical battles between Spanish and Portugese troops. In the evening we had an excellent flamenco display by Solearte, a group of dancers from across the Spanish border in Salamanca.

On the 23rd we decided not to do the 2 hour trip to Salamanca and to take advantage of the ship's facilities, read and take photos. We had seen a lot of red & Black kites along the river and also some Griffon vultures and an Egyptian vulture. I'd managed to get some kite images but the vultures were way in the distance and I would have needed my long lens to get them.

We took a trip to Lamego to the spectacular Shrine of Our Lady Of Remedies with a reported 700 steps to go up. We were bussed to the top and only had them to walk down. A stunning place, leading into the small centre of Lamego from where we returned to the ship.

Our last full day was 26th and we had booked a "strenuous walking tour" of Porto with a guide. This worked out well because we were the only two people who wanted to do strenuous activities apparently. We had a ride in a water taxi, went up the funicular and hiked to the top of the Clerigos tower for a panoramic view of Porto, before returning to the ship. The one thing we didn't manage to do was visit the famous Livraria Lello bookshop in Porto, which provided the inspiration to JK Rowling in the Harry Potter books. It's been called the most beautiful bookshop in the world and also the Harry Potter Bookshop. The queues are huge and you need a ticket to go in.

I won't cover the flights home, they were a nightmare, it'll give you some idea if I just say we were up at 2:30am for a 5am flight and a 7 hour layover - thanks KLM.

Here's a few photos from the 3500 I took.


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