Quinta da Roêda

After lunch, we left for our first official Port tasting of the trip, at Quinta da Roêda, which is owned by Croft, which is now under the same ownership as Taylor.

Again, I was glad I wasn’t driving the bus – the roads were not built for tourism!

The trip was short – only 15 minutes or so – and then we were at the winery.

Our guide showed us the crushing room; he was standing in one of the vats where they actually crush wine by foot during the harvest.

Port wine is a fortified wine; they use French brandy to fortify the local grapes. It’s stored in huge concrete vats.

They also grow olives and make estate olive oil here.

We saw one of their newer fields, about 16 years old.

The wine itself? Pretty good, and less expensive than it would have been in the US, but not good enough to schlep. At least not until we can try some others!

The Return Trip Begins

We pushed off from Pocinho a few minutes after 7.

I sat outside on our balcony after breakfast and enjoyed the river view.

We wanted to be on the sundeck to watch the ship go through the lock at Valeria Dam, but the area was closed for our safety, so we watched from the forward deck instead.

This lock has a bit more than a 100-foot drop – it looked a lot farther than that!

One of the other passengers pointed out that we were tied up to bollards that were being lowered along with us.

And then we were down, looking up at the sky far above.

Guess what? We saw a winery right away!

We’ll be docking at Pinhão soon for an after-lunch visit to Quinta da Roêda with a port wine tasting; later today, we will be going to Mateus Palace and Gardens for a tour and then dinner at Quinta de Avessada with more wine tasting.

I’m posting now because it’s going to be pretty late when we return from the tours – I’m glad I’m not driving!

Salamanca, the Golden City

We left for Salamanca at 8:30 this morning. It was nearly a two-hour drive, mostly through agricultural areas with a few villages on the way including La Fregeneda, Lumbrales, and Vitigudino with a rather ominous-looking silo near the roadside.

We also passed the “stork hotel” and some stand-alone stork nests.

Salamanca was almost a shock – it’s the first city we’ve seen done we left Porto. There was even traffic to contend with before we got to the Hotel Alameda Palace, our headquarters for the day.

We set out on foot for the Salamanca Central Market. Many of our cohorts wanted to try the famous Iberian ham – we found a bakery instead. Fresh fish was a big draw for locals (farmed salmon was about $10/pound), too, and we couldn’t resist a photo with a fine specimen.

I also liked the stained glass in the windows on all sides.

We met Carmen, our local guide, at the entrance to the Plaza Mayor.

The Plaza Mayor is a huge public square with statuary on the walls commemorating significant times in Spanish history. The apartments on the upper floors are very expensive; the ground floor is filled with restaurants, bars, cafes, Starbucks, and shops of all descriptions – some probably weren’t even just for tourists!

As we wended our way to the University of Salamanca (a very selective public institution, not to be confused with the Pontifical University of Salamanca, which is a private university that you can get into with enough money), Carmen pointed out the glassed-in balconies on some buildings; she said they were built in the late 19th Century to give ladies a place to sew, gossip, and watch the city.

She also pointed out the storks at St. Stephen’s Church and the Public Library, which is in a 15th Century building known as the House of Shells, built by a professor at the University of Salamanca, who is supposed to have decorated it for his wife.

In earlier times, students at the University of Salamanca did a lot of sword-fighting; the marks in this wall are supposed to be where they sharpened their swords.

There is a frog carved into the “Patio de Escuelas” at the University; finding it is supposed to bring good luck. Carmen shone a laser pointer at it to make sure we could all find it, and only after we all said we’d seen it did she tell us finding the frog meant we’d return to Salamanca.

We walked through one of the original buildings of the university, mostly used for ceremonial purposes today. Of course, there’s also a gift shop there! There were plaques above the classrooms dating back to the Middle Ages explaining the use of the rooms.

It was the custom in the Middle Ages for successful doctoral students to write an inscription in bull’s blood commemorating their victory (they also had to buy a feast for the rest of the students).

UNICEF followed that tradition in 1996 when they recognized the university for its contribution to children – but they used red paint, not bull’s blood.

Some of the interior rooms were spectacular, none more so than the Chapel.

We walked past the old and new Cathedrals; Carmen pointed out the 20th-Century carvings on the outside showing an astronaut and a devil eating ice cream!

We walked back to the Alameda Palace for lunch and a flamenco show. I think the flamenco was traditional, but the encore wasn’t – it was “Volare”!

After lunch, Diane and I went back to tour the cathedrals. They were overwhelming. There were dozens of small chapels; everything was gilded; the organ was playing the whole time we were there. One chapel is just called the “Golden Chapel” (I guess they ran out of names!).

After our visit to the Cathedral, we walked down to the Roman Bridge before hurrying back to the hotel to meet the bus to take us back to the ship.

Salamanca even has appropriate gas stations!

The trip back to the ship retraced our steps and was uneventful (I slept through part of it!).

I wouldn’t have minded more time in Salamanca; it’s a very interesting place. Hmmm…I did find the frog, didn’t I?

Morning on the Rivers

We’re preparing for our day in Salamanca, which meant we were up to enjoy the peaceful morning views from the ship. We’re still moored in Spain at Vega Terron, on the Águeda River (Portugal is on the right in the photo).

The ship will sail back into Portugal and down the Douro River while we’re away; the total sailing distance is about a kilometer!

We’ll meet the ship at Barca d’alva for our evening sail to Pocinho where we will overnight.

Off we go!

To Spain!

We sailed away from Régua promptly at 7am, en route to Vega Terron, Spain. We traversed the first of today’s three locks (at the Bagaúste Dam) before breakfast; I was amused by the road sign for the river that I saw after we’d cleared the lock.

We cruised onward to the town of Pinhāo, where the river forked.

We took the river more traveled (the Douro) and enjoyed the beautiful wine country; there were lots of signs for port houses (like Dow’s and Taylor’s) along the way.

We cleared two more locks before arriving at today’s moorage, Vega Terron – about 100 meters into Spain.

We didn’t stay in Spain long, though; our buses met us and took us back into Portugal to visit the historic enclave of Castelo Rodrigo, high above the valley floor. We visited the Igreja Matriz de Castelo Rodrigo (still in active use) and went into the ruins of the castle itself.

We only had an hour in Castelo Rodrigo, so we had to choose between seeing everything or doing a little tasting and shopping; we chose the latter and will be coming home with some flavored almonds and a cork waist pack that I plan to use to carry extra batteries for the camera and phone when we have an all-day excursion.

On the way back, we stopped at the [Miradouro do Alto da Saphina overlook](https://www.trip.com/travel-guide/attraction/guarda/miradouro-natural-do-alto-da-sapinha-58333195) to take a look at the Spain/Portugal border and our ship.

I wanted to get a selfie of Diane and me there – unfortunately, there was another guest in the background so I had to move to get a clean shot. In the process, I bumped into a slab of granite and scraped my leg – but I got the photo!

After dinner, we found that our cabin had been decorated for our anniversary!

The ship also gave us a bottle of champagne, but we didn’t open it – instead, we went to the “Fire and Ice” demo in the lounge, where one of the bartenders showed us how to open a bottle of vintage port, even though the cork had deteriorated. All it took was a Bunsen burner, a pair of tongs, five minutes to heat the tongs, a minute of using the tongs to heat the neck of the bottle, and a supply of ice water which she poured on the heated spot. Voilà – the neck broke and the port was ready to decant! It was tasty, too.

Tomorrow, we rise early for an all-day excursion to Salamanca.