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Douro Spirit Cruise Review
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Portugal, the Douro River and a bit of Spain

Douro Spirit Cruise Review by 4774Papa

29 people found this helpful
Trip Details
  • Sail Date: May 2016
  • Destination: Europe River
  • Cabin Type: undefined

The main focus of this trip was a seven day river cruise on the Douro River in Northern Portugal. In planning for this trip our friends Dan and Wanda from Corpus Christi, Texas were joining us. Dan and I were colleagues in the same office at Patuxent River, Maryland, working for the Navy. We agreed to the cruise in May of 2016 to avoid cold weather. I researched with three or four river cruise companies, including AMA Waterways, Viking and Vantage. Vantage had the best prices considering the total number of days of the tour, including the river cruise. We had done two trips with Vantage and found that they delivered an excellent product.

The Vantage tour included three days in Lisbon and seven days on the river boat.    We booked the cheapest cabin on the lower deck (as usual).  We had our pick of cabins, since we booked over a year ahead of the tour.   The boat was the Douro Spirit, one of eleven boats owned by Douro Azul, a Portuguese company.  

We decided to fly into Lisbon a day in advance of the tour, as well as staying three days after the tour ended in Porto.  Dan and Wanda made plans later and decided to book a transatlantic cruise with Princess from Ft. Lauderdale to Barcelona, Spain, then visiting Granada and Madrid prior to arriving on the same day that we did in Lisbon.  Ginny and I were in the bar of our hotel in Lisbon when Dan and Wanda arrived. We planned for our free day in Lisbon the next day.

Ginny and I had flown in to Lisbon on Delta, had good flights, but a 6 hour layover in the Madrid airport.  Jet lagged after our trip, we decided to stay in the hotel for an early meal and go to bed early and catch up on sleep.  Of course, on the Iberian Peninsula, try dining before 7PM and your options are limited.   Fortunately, our hotel, the Pestana Palace, had a nice bar and offered light food options.  The bar was nice, but expensive, however, the people there were very nice.   Our waiter treated us to a local Portuguese pastry after our salad.   The pastry is called Pasteles de nata, and similar to the famous Belem pastries, which we would discover the first day of the Vantage tour.  

Before I go to far about our tour, I want to mention our hotel in Lisbon.  It was included in the Vantage tour.  It was a former palace that had been renovated, with modern wings of spacious hotel rooms attached.  The hotel is one of the top five star hotels in the city and great choice by Vantage.  The palace part of the hotel included a chapel, grand dining rooms and more with baroque style architecture.  We had excellent meals there, including a great breakfast every morning and one welcome dinner.  The food and service were tops.  The bar and meals prices were high, so we did venture out into the neighborhood for one lunch and one dinner.  There was a Portuguese restaurant about three blocks from the hotel with good food for excellent prices.   I think the local super bock beer was about a Euro each.  The one evening we found a very good small restaurant specializing in Indian food called Santo Amaro, at Rua Amadeu Sousa Cardoso 39.  Man courses were about 5 Euros each.   The owners were from Bangladesh and very friendly.  The hotel had one minor disadvantage, in that it was not located in the heart of the city.  Still, taxis were cheap in Lisbon.  We never paid more than 10 Euros with tip for all four of us to or from the city to our hotel.

LISBON

On our free day, 15 May, before the Vantage tour began, the four of us ventured out to see some of Lisbon on foot.  Rick Steves had three recommended walking tours in his guide.   We decided to do the one that started at the Castelo S. Jorge, located at the top of a hill overlooking the city.   We took a taxi from the hotel to the castle.  Wanda was smart on paying to enter the castle, taking advantage of the senior rate, which was 5 Euros for each of us.   The castle fortifications date back to the mid-11th Century, during the Moorish period.  Eleven towers still remain of the castle.  After the Moors were defeated, Portugal’s monarch set up residence in the castle.  The Romantic Garden and patios are still there for visitors.  The castle and royal palace were damaged in 1755 by an earthquake.   During the rule of dictator Salazar, the castle was repaired and rebuilt.  Dan voiced some skepticism regarding the degree of authenticity of the current structure due to being rebuilt in the 20th Century.  Hopefully, the castle was rebuild with the same building materials and according the the original structure, as did many of the German Cathedrals that were damaged in WWII, then rebuilt with the same stone.  The views of the city and river were spectacular from the Castle.  We spent about 2 1/2 hours going through the castle and museum before continuing downhill, through some old neighborhoods to the Commercial Plaza near the river.   We visited the Largo de Sao Miguel in the center of the Alfama district.  On the walls of the church were some  beautiful tile work.  All through Portugal we discovered more beautiful tilework.   Also, the neighborhood had the quaint narrow streets and older buildings.  

We discovered that Dan and Wanda had visited some of the places on the lower portion of our downhill walk when their cruise ship stopped in Lisbon.   Their ship had planned to visit Cadiz, but due to heavy rains and a storm, the ship was diverted to Lisbon instead.  We had a cold beer and a snack with bread and olives at the same restaurant they had visited, overlooking the river before arriving at the plaza.    After 4-5  hours of walking around, we took a taxi back to our hotel, which cost less than 10 Euros.  

VANTAGE TOUR BEGINS

We met our fellow Vantage travel mates at the first evening on 15 May at the welcome dinner at the hotel.  There were 125 persons on the tour and we were divided into three groups, Blue, Green and Orange.   Ginny, Dan, Wanda and I were all in the orange group.   We traveled on the same bus through out most of the tour, although the actual bus did change. Our Program Managers were Manuela, Eleutério (Joe) and Rikardo.  Rikardo, was Spanish and our orange group leader.  Most of the passengers were retired people in their 60s and 70s.  The group was nice and had a chemistry that did well for us all.

Our first tour with Vantage was a Panorama Tour of Lisbon, on 16 May.   The Panoramic tour of the city included visits to the Belem Tower, Monument to the Discoveries, Monastery of Jeronimos as well as a couple of stops to take photos of the city.  Our first stop was at the site of the Belem Tower and Monument to the Discoveries.   It was a beautiful tower that served as the send of point for discoverers like Vasco de Gama.  The monument included attractive figures of discoverers, sailors and others that set out to see the World.  Also, at the site was the aircraft that two Portuguese pilots flew across the Atlantic from Portugal down to Africa, then across to Brazil in the first transatlantic flight in history.  The aircraft was a float plane.

Next the bus took us to the park across from the Monastery of Jeronimos, which we were not able to visit inside.  It is also near the restaurant were the Pasteles de Belem are made.  Our guide acquired two of these pastries for each of us.   The pastries were excellent.  In fact, we found the Portuguese pastries and desserts to be wonderful.  We visited the restaurant, mainly to use the toilet, and found the restaurant to be quite large and very busy.    After leaving the Belem area, we were taken on a bus tour (mainly windshield) to see the rest of the city.  We did stop at the hill side of a large park that extended to the hill toward the Commercial Plaza.  There was a fountain at the top of modern art that generated much conversation among everyone.   Initially, I thought the fountain was built to resemble the rubble after the famous earthquake of 1755.  That was not the case, it was just modern art.  After the tour, we returned to the hotel, had a beer and light lunch at a Portuguese restaurant 3 blocks from the hotel.   rested a bit prior to dinner.   Dinner was on our own, so we ventured out again to eat at the Indian restaurant.

On 17 May, all four of us had signed up for the optional tour of Sintra.  Wanda wasn’t feeling well, so Dan, Ginny and I were on the same bus.  Sinatra is west of Lisbon, closer to the Atlantic at a high elevation so that it was an important military fort built by the Moors.   The fort was at the top of the hill, and in ruins, so we did not visit the fort.   We visited the National Palace.  The tour of the place was good and the palace and surrounding buildings had a Moorish influence.  The Palace dated back to the Moors, but current structure was mainly from the last 500 years that the Portuguese Kings had occupied the building.  Sinatra is interesting, I had visited Portugal in 1985 and remember visiting another place there, called the Pena Palace.  One thing, I was enjoying my second visit to Lisbon.  After Sintra, our bus took us to Cascais, a larger city on the Atlantic that is a very popular tourist city for wealthy from all over Europe.  We walked around, saw a bit of the city and old fort.  We had a sandwich and beer as well.  Later, we did a windshield tour of the seaside city of Estoril, another attractive upscale tourist attraction, before returning to Lisbon.

That evening the Vantage tour included a Fado Music Show and dinner at a local restaurant.  Fado is a unique Portuguese type of music that started with ballads or songs by wives of sailors lost or absent while at sea.  Our show included a male singer and a group that played Portuguese folk music and did some dancing.  We enjoyed the show.  The meal was good and it was a nice evening.   After the show, the Fado singers went through the crowd selling their CDs.   Wanda purchased one and Dan opined that the CD would wind up collecting dust still, enclosed in the cellophane wrapper.  We had a laugh at that.  

TRIP TO THE BOAT

On 18 May, we checked out of the hotel and set out for some sites in route to our boat.  The itinerary provided that we meet the boat in Porto, which is on the Atlantic where the river ends.  However, heavy rains had preceded our arrival in Portugal, as Dan and Wanda indicated, since they were in Spain for almost a week prior to arrival in Lisbon.  The rains had caused the river to rise so that the boat, the Douro Spirit could not make its way to Porto.   The solution, our bus would take us upriver to meet the boat.   We were told that we would not miss any port or activity, except a stop at a cork factory.  That proved to be true.   Our first stop was to Obidos, a walled city (the Romans had built walls around the small town 2000 years ago.  We were told that some of the original Roman construction remained, but that the walls had been improved over the years and repaired after that famous earthquake of 1755.   The town had narrow streets and quaint mediterranean type homes.  The castle was quite large, but we couldn't go inside.    I remember walking those walls with my children in 1985.  Dan and I walked them again, but due to our age, were careful not to go near the unprotected edge of the walk.    After Obidos, we stopped for lunch at the traditional fishing village of Nazare.  The city was more a traditional fishing village than tourist city, but still attracted tourists.   We had a nice lunch at a large waterfront restaurant.  It had to be large, since we had three bus loads.  After a couple of hours or more, we reached the boat, at Pocinho.  This port was between two scheduled ports, Pinhao and Vega de Terron.  It was located just east of the last of five locks on the Douro River.

DOURO SPIRIT

The boat was moored on a fairly remote doc, but we were very happy to board.  The Douro Queen, a close copy of the Spirit was there as well.  We entered the Queen in order to reach the Spirit.   The Queen looked identical from the beginning, but we discovered some differences the more we were able to compare ships.  The Spirit appeared newer than the Queen.  The embarkation process was very smooth.  We received our keys and found our cabin, # 102 near to bow of the ship on the deck lower than the reception.  This cabin, identical to most of the others on the ship was one of the few cabins in the cheapest price category.  Our friends, Dan and Wanda had upgraded for a modest fee to a cabin closer to the middle of the boat.  The ship was clearly very new, we later learned it was built in 2011.  We had large windows with blinds that we could raise or lower electronically.  The cabin was about the size of a cabin on an ocean cruise.   We had plenty of storage space and placed our empty luggage under our beds.  We had two single beds that were pushed together.   The ship’s dining room, contrary to most river boats was on the lowest deck, below our deck.  That did not prove to be a problem.  One deck above us were more cabins, the reception, the bar/lounge with seats and tables for everyone.  The top deck was for sailing down the river and open to the weather, except for one section with a tarp like cover.  We enjoyed that deck as well as the bar area to watch the beautiful Douro Valley go by.  

For the next week, we enjoyed the excellent food and service on the Spirit.  Good Portuguese wine, red, white table wine and port were served before, during and after dinner (in the dining room) as much as we could consume.    We ate a lot of fish, since the fish in Portugal was excellent.  One night we had a great leg of lamb and another a Portuguese steak.  Breakfast was accommodating to the American travelers, with eggs cooked to order or omelets, crispy bacon, plenty or fruit, muesli, bread, croissants and more.   For lunch, we had a choice of dining in the dining room with a sit down meal, as with dinner or a lighter fare in the bar/lounge area.   After one lunch downstairs we opted to eat lighter in the lounge.   When dining on a tour, like to Salamanca, Sintra or Nazare, we had complementary wine with our lunch.  Our waiter was Antonio and he was great.  We got to know him during the cruise and he made our dining a pleasure.  

Since we were about 4/5 or 3/4 of the way up stream, we did miss viewing some parts of the Douro river twice, but that was not a huge problem.  I think Vantage and Douro Azul did their best considering the high water problem and that the cruise before us had been cancelled.  Vantage only leases the boat about once a month, so the cancelled cruise was not with Vantage.  

POCINHO TO VEGA DE TERRON

Our boat arrived in Vega de Terron, which was in Spain, on the border with Portugal.  After lunch, we took a tour to Castelo Rodrigo.   The small town surrounded the damaged castle and had a wall.  This town made Obidos look like a metropolis.   I think it only had a population of 125.    The castle was burned in the 17th Century and in the 18th Century dynamited by the Spanish.  There was a small church in the town with some interesting art.  This excursion was good, but not one of our high points of the cruise.  Regarding the overall excursions on the cruise, we had a great one to Salamanca, Spain and at the end in Porto.   Still, cruising the beautiful Douro River was special.   I have seen a lot of vineyards in France and Spain, but the Douro Valley beats them all.  After dinner we had a flamingo show put on by three women.  It was pretty good, despite the lack of a male dancer.  The music was pretty good.   One of the women had a great voice.

VEGA DE TERRON TO BARCA D’ALVA

The cruise here was not far, the boat just moved from Spain across the border to Portugal adjacent to a small village.  However, this was our day for the full day trip to Salamanca, Spain.  Our bus was the last to depart the dock and many of us on the bus were amazed when the bus was turned around after about 15 minutes of driving to return to the boat to pick up two passengers that were late to arrive at the bus.  This added about 30 minutes to our already long, over two  hour trip to Salamanca.  However, since we arrived some at the hotel in Salamanca for a pit stop before we headed into the city for the walking tour the line to the toilets was not long since the other two buses had been there a while.  Turning back actually had some benefits.  The tour of Salamanca was nice, we had a Spanish guide, who took us to the key points explaining the history of the famous University city.   The University there is the oldest in Spain and fifth oldest in Europe (1215).  There were two cathedrals in the city, one four hundred years older than the other.   The older cathedral dates to the 12th Century and the newer one from 16th Century.  The cathedrals were side by side.   Both had beautiful art and architecture.  The altarpiece of the main altar in the old cathedral was amazing.  The Plaza Major was impressive.  After our tour of the city, we had a late lunch at the Hotel Alameda Palace, where the buses  had dropped us for our pit stop earlier in the day.  We returned to the ship, had dinner at 7PM. 

BARCA D’ALVA TO PINHAO

This day was a great cruising day on the river, since we went through two locks.  Also, Pinhao is one of the more amazing places to see miles and miles of vineyards almost covering the sides of all the hills around the river.  The locks were large and the change in water level for the first lock was 72 feet; second lock, 109 feet.   Upon arrival, some of us took a little time to walk off the boat and visit the train station in the city.  It had attractive tiles.   The evening at Pinhao was special, since we took buses up the steep hills (these are serious hills, but I hesitate to call them mountains).   Many of the passengers on the bus did not want to look down at the huge drop offs.  We arrived at the Quinta da Avessada, a winery near the top of one of the hills.  We were treated to an in-depth explanation of how port wine is made.  We learned that the average alcohol content in table wine is 12%, while port, which is fortified with alcohol has a 20% content.  The owner was amazing.   He was very dramatic with his vivid explanations.  He used his arms to emphasize everything and kept us inthralled with his presentations.  We had a excellent dinner there with plenty of wine, table and port.   Folk music was provided we danced in the aisles.  We gave the owner a standing ovation.  Later, he told our Program Managers that our response to his presentations was the best he had ever experienced.   Perhaps we are honorary Portuguese now.  

PINHAO TO REGUA

Our morning (22 May) was a wonderful cruise through the heart of the Douro Valley.  Fantastic scenery with another lock to transit.  After lunch our tour started with a trip to Quinta do Seiko for wine tasting.  The buses took us on another scenic ride up narrow roads, up a steep hill to a Quinta that is a part of the Sandeman wine company.   Sandeman is famous for its port wine that is sold in the USA.  The Quinta was at the top of a hill, overlooking one of the more beautiful areas of the valley.  We were taken through the process of how port is made, which we must have done three or four times.   However, we had wine tasting.   The trip was enjoyable due to the site of the wine tasting.  Then, we visited the Mateus Palace and Gardens.   Mateus Rose is a popular rose wine sold in the USA.  This palace is pictured on the wine bottle label.   We tasted no wine there, but had a tour of the palace and gardens, which is the ancestral home of Count Mateus, owner of the wine company.   The palace was interesting, not in a knock your socks off way, but in showing how people of the Portuguese nobility lived.  Back to the ship we had dinner and a Folk Music Show with “Alto da Escrita.”  The group of nine men and women were very entertaining and probably the best show we had of Portuguese folk music.


REGUA TO ENTRE-OS-RIOS

Prior to cruising (23 May), we had the option of visiting the Douro Museum in Regua (walking) or a visit to Lamego.  All four of us and most of the passengers chose Lamego.   We were advised that we had the choice at Lamego of walking down 600+ steps from the church to the city or taking the bus.  We chose to walk down the step.  The church was the Santuario Nossa Senhora dos Remedios.  It was a beautiful church at the top of a hill overlooking the city.   There were several staircases with landings that took us down the 600 or more steps.   Most of the landings included a large and beautiful tile work of art that were impressive.  Walking down the steps turned out to be well worth the effort.  Upon arriving at the bottom, we made our way to the Cathedral and spend some time inside, before taking some time to do a little shopping nearby.  Returning to the ship, we had lunch and then cruised from Regua to Entre-os-Rios.   The boat passed through another lock, this one with a change in elevation of 115 feet.   That evening we had the Tuna show, with more traditional local music, this time from students.   It was entertaining, as were all the Douro Spirit shows.  

ENTRE-OS-RIOS TO VILA NOVA DE GAIA

Our cruise was nearing the end and this morning (24 May) was our last full day on the boat.  We cruised in the morning to Gaia, which is a city just across the river from Porto, the second largest city in Portugal.  We passed through one more lock with an elevation change of 46 feet.  The large hills we had seen earlier in the cruise were not longer.  The hills were not as high, but we encountered a more populated area, with more homes, towns and activity on this portion of the river.  Before lunch we were taken to the Caves Ferreira wine cellar in Gaia, walking there from the boat.  After more schooling on how port is made, we had some great port wine before returning to the boat for lunch.  After lunch, we had a wonderful sightseeing tour of Porto.  The tour included our bus taking us to the Atlantic coast, which is the newer and trendy part of the city, before visiting the old city.   The old city is very hilly and we took lots of photos.   Ginny wasn’t feeling well due to some allergy issues, so she stayed on the bus.  We visited the ancient cathedral.   Construction of the cathedral started in the 12th Century with it being completed in the next century.   Changes were made to the building in later centuries.  The cathedral was loaded with amazing art and history.   We visited the Rail Station Sao Bento, which has been called the most beautiful train station in Europe.   The building’s walls were covered with amazing telework of scenes from Portuguese history.   We stopped at the Clerigos Tower and our guide pointed out many key buildings in the city.     After returning to the boat and dinner, we packed and prepared for departing the boat the next morning.   Some passengers had flights out of the Porto airport very early and had to be awaked as early as 2 AM.   We had the same issue three days later, when our flight from Lisbon to Amsterdam departed at 5AM.

PORTO ON OUR OWN

The next morning we had breakfast with Dan and Wanda, said goodbye and caught a taxi to our Bed and Breakfast in Porto.   The B&B was located a couple of blocks from the river in the Ribeira, or old part of the city.   It is called InPatio Guesthouse on Patio de Sao Salvador, 22.  It is located in a patio area across the street from the Mercado Ferreira Borges.  This building is a restored market building now used as an exhibition and event centre.    We arrived at the InPatio at about 9:30AM and checkin time was 2PM, but arrangements were made for us to have coffee and fruit, while our room was being prepared.   We checked in early and went out to explore the city.  

The InPatio Guesthouse was simply the best that we have encountered, ever. The location is perfect for site seeing in Porto. The rooms and building structure were new and modern with all the modern amenities, including a wonderful walk in shower with a large rain shower head. The room had a safe for our valuables, flat screen TV, comfortable bed, mini-bar, coffee/tea maker and more. Ferdinand and Olga, the owners were super. Our breakfasts were great with homemade items, different every morning. Ferdinand assisted me in confirming a tour reservation and arranging for a taxi. The hotel had an elevator for luggage. The hotel was located near the river and all the downtown sites as well as many excellent restaurants.  The cost of the guesthouse was 95 Euros per night.

We stayed there for two nights.  The remainder of the first day, we walked around Porto.  It was a hike, due to the hills.  We decided to go down to the waterfront then east toward the large metallic bridge before walking up the many steps to the Cathedral.  I had seen the Cathedral, but Ginny had not.  After that we walked down to the beautiful rail station with all the tiled walls.  While Ginny was looking at the station, I purchased our rail tickets for our trip from Porto to Lisbon on 27 May.   The second class tickets cost 30 Euros each.  We explored more of the city and did some shopping, then have a bowl of soup and beer as a restaurant frequented by locals (cost 5.5 Euros total).    That evening we dined at a family restaurant recommended by Olga near the waterfront.  The restaurant was A Grade and offered traditional Portuguese cuisine.  The address is Rua de S. Nicolua 9.   Ginny and I had a wonderful meal of fresh sea bass.   Prices were very reasonable.   With a bottle of wine the entire meal for both of us was about 60 Euros.

Back to InPatio, Fernando helped us to confirm our tour reservations with a Viator tour to Santiago de Compostela and Viana do Castelo the next morning.  I booked the tour with Viator, however the local tour company was Living Tours Portugal.  We were picked up a little after 8AM by Tiago, or guide, with six others in a Mercedes small van.   Tiago was an excellent guide.  His knowledge of history was the best. We learned all about the history of Portugal and Santiago de Compostela and its significance to history, particularly those on the Iberian peninsula. Our meal was excellent and the long drive from Porto was interesting, due to Tiago's briefing on the history and sites to come. Also, the scenery was excellent. We went by Vigo, which was nice.   Santiago de Compostela is in Galicia, the NW most province in Spain.   The population is very Celtic.  Bagpipes are played there and we discovered a piper on the back side of the Santiago cathedral.  We learned that the local Galician language is actually closer to Portuguese than Spanish.   Apparently, the Galician and Portuguese languages were both more influenced by the native Celtic peoples.

Santiago de Compostela is a special place for the people of Spain and Portugal.  

The city has its origin in the shrine of Saint James the Great, now the city’s cathedral. It is a destination of the Way of St. James, a pilgrimage originated in the 9th Century. The remains of the apostle James were brought to Galicia for burial. In 813, a bright star guided a shepherd who was watching his flock at night to the burial site in Santiago de Compostela. The shepherd quickly reported his discovery to the bishop. The bishop bishop declared that the remains were those of the apostle James and immediately notified the King. To honor St. James, the cathedral was built on the spot where his remains were said to have been found.

We spent a lot of time in the Cathedral as well as walking around the old city.  Many pilgrims were in the city and many had hiked or biked hundreds of miles to the shrine.    Our group of eight with our guide Tiago had a nice lunch of tapas (we were in Spain) and the local wine.  We spent about 3 1/2  hours in Santiago, lunch included and then proceeded back to Portugal.   On the way back to Porto, we stopped at a small town inside an old fort on the border with Spain.   The fort is one of many that dot the border between the two countries.   The fortifications were large and the town inside more substantial than you might think, since it was confined to the inside of the fort.   The fort was quite large.  There was an city nearby that was not inside the fort.   Before Tiago could drive the van through the gate of the fort (stone walls), we had to fold the outside rear view mirrors on each side of the vehicle.  Inside the city were quant narrow streets and houses with shops and churches.  Looking over the walls of the fort toward Spain, across the river, we could see the comparable Spanish fort.

Back to Porto, after an 11 hour day trip, we found a tapas type restaurant one block over from the waterfront.  We had a light meal, but it was good.

TRAIN BACK TO LISBON

We slept late, had a great breakfast at InPatio about 9AM, then caught a taxi to the rail station (the suburban station for Lisbon) for the train leaving at 11:47AM.   Our second class seats were clean and spacious, but the car was clearly not new.   Beverages and snacks were offered on the train.  Our train took about 2 hours and 20 minutes to reach Lisbon.   There was a speed indicator inside our car and we reached speeds of 200KPH (120MPH) at times, while cruising speed seemed to be about 160 KPH (100MPH).  Leaving the station, we caught a taxi to our hotel near the airport.  It was not far away.   Our hotel was the TRYP Lisbon Aeroporto Hotel, a Wyndham hotel.   The hotel was nice and cost about 90 Euros.   The hotel was directly across the street from the airport, so the next morning at 3AM Ginny and I rolled our luggage up the incline to the airport.   After doing so, Ginny indicated that next time she wanted a limo.  

FLIGHT HOME

We left Lisbon at 5AM on a KLM flight to Amsterdam (no direct flights from Lisbon to Atlanta).  To my surprise we found the transfer in Amsterdam to our delta flight a bit of a pain.   First of all, the airport immigration lines were one solid mob.   It was not organized.   We found the lines for non EU passengers and plugged along for 30-40 minutes, making sure no one cut in front of us, since there were no lines roped off like you see where organization is the key.   After clearing that mess the electronic boards told us to go to gate EI, which was not a gate, but another long line (it was roped off).  The sole purpose for this queue was for someone to scan our passports, check there authenticity before sending us to our real gate.   By this time our flight was already boarding and we had then another line that was a mob, where they checked our passports once more as well as boarding passes allowing us to finally board the aircraft.

Our flight to Atlanta was Flight 73 and our aircraft was an Airbus 330, which I like, since Ginny and I can have the window and aisle seats on one side of the aircraft (instead of the Boeing 777 with three seats on each side).   The flight was good with free wine and fortunately, I had an aisle seat relatively close to a restroom.  I watched three movies during the flight.  The best was the Ron Howard movie about Herman Melville and the ship that was wrecked by the huge white whale.  After a few hours in Atlanta, we made our way home, via Jacksonville, airport.  Coming in the door at  home, Simon, our cat was waiting for us.   It was good to see him.

REFLECTIONS ON FOREIGN TRAVEL

After living overseas for nine years some years ago and traveling extensively since my retirement in 2010, Ginny and I still love to travel.   I believe initially, I enjoyed travel primarily to visit historical or culturally significant places in the World.   I still enjoy visiting those places, but my interests have broadened to include places of considerable natural beauty.   Places like Around Cape Horn, the Norwegian Fjords, the Grand Canyon, Blue Mountains of Australia and sea shore of Maine are of interest.   The Douro valley of Portugal falls into this category, although there was a clear historical and cultural factor.  Portugal is a great place to visit because its people seem genuinely friendly, a bit more than you find elsewhere.  Therefore, I highly recommend this trip.

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Cabin basic 102

Cheapest cabin, same size as most of others. Cabin had nice features and was spacious enough.


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