Boat tour on the Douro – upstream Porto to Pinhao. The tour would depart from the Estivia Pier at 8:30.
Fortunately this location was a four minute walk -downhill! Porto has some very serious hills so this was an important fact. We were allocated tables and soon after departure we were served a continental breakfast. We met Laurie and Chloe from Lyon and noticed that it seemed there was a smattering of international tourists but most Portuguese. We adjourned to the upper deck for the view but after observing the city and its bridges we decided it was too cold and retreated to the air conditioned comfort of the dining room.
The tables had been cleared and reset for lunch. Well that was quick. There were quite a few young people aboard and one group of young men rearranged the tables, bought a bottle of port and settled in for some serious card playing. It caught on and most people rearranged the tables and settled in for conversation, cards or other distractions.
Porto is on theDouro River and the region is known of course for port, the UNESCO treasures of the Historic Centre of Oporto and the Alto Douro Wine Region along the Douro Valley. Wine has been produced here for almost 2000 years and there are millions of terraces.
It was a couple of hours before we saw any terraces but not long into the journey we came to the first lock. The Douro has five dams and a lock at each. The first was 14m and I was impressed.
Then I re-read the brochure to discover that the next lock was Barragem do Carrapatelo and at 35m it is the deepest in Europe and one of deepest in the world. Wow!!
It almost made the long, long, long tour worth it. Nah. It was too long. Thirteen hours is too long.
Around mid-day lunch was served. We were a table of eight and two enormous platters of meat vegetables appeared. We were about to tuck in when another two servings appeared. Chloe, Laurie, John and I looked incredulous and all burst into laughter. We thought the serving was for four but no, just for two! The wine, fruit juice and water was to be shared among four.
Once we began chatting to the young women from Lyon the conversation soon got around to the selection of the tour. We all rolled our eyes and laughed about how we had mistakenly chosen such a long tour.
There were better ways. Apparently there is a train to Pinhao and then maybe a boat through the main locks and a bus back. Two hours instead of thirteen. Oh well that is just the way it is.
Then there was the wine tasting. Well that was another experience we would not repeat. The talk was given by a ‘whisperer’ – the sort of person who seems to need you to hang on his every word. What a bore!!! Then the wine…well two bus loads is 150 people so 150 small glasses of their ‘pink’ port (the cheapest they have) was brought out on large trays and divided out. Then we had to wait. Some obviously felt compelled to buy something. I was grateful as that then allowed us to depart.
Oh and just as a super treat…we had two hour bus trip back to Porto!!! Of course by then both our phones had died and I had forgotten to bring the power pack. Oh and by this stage it was seven at night and I was starving and not a happy Vegemite!!!
I really should have read the tour details more carefully. It turned out that the bus trip was good because it is a far better way to see the terraces as we travelled along the winding mountain paths and the soft light of the setting sun was spectacular. Ahh travel- it’s always swings and roundabouts!!!