Mike and Renée and friends
tour the Basque Country
and cruise the Duoro River
On Ama Vida
March 2014

....

A trip to Portugal has been on our wish list for a long time. We had missed out on Portugal due to a pilot's strike on a previous cruise, and this time we decided to try small ship river cruising from Porto to Salamanca on the Duoro River. Before the cruise we spent a few days touring the Pais Vasco (Basque Country) in Spain and France. We had a great time!

PAGE ONE covers the independent pre-cruise trip to Bilbao and the Pais Vasco.

THIS PAGE covers the pre-cruise package in Lisbon and the transfer by way of Fatima to the Amavida in Porto.

PAGE THREE covers the Duoro River Cruise on board the Amavida.

Six of us were traveling together. After a great four days touring the Basque Country, we flew from Bilbao to Lisbon where we were met by Ama Waterways and transferred to the Tiara Park Atlantic, a beautiful hotel for our pre-cruise stay. From here on out, almost everything was included in our comprehesive cruise package.

We began next morning with a standard bus tour of city, including the imposing Jeronimo's Monastery and other city sights.

We also had a chance to sample the famous Pasteis de Belem, a lovely little custard tart with cinnamon. It was just the thing for a snack.

Connie skipped the city tour in order to take a tour of the Tagus estuary, one of the world's most famous bird watching areas. She had a knowledgeable guide in Bernardo from Birds in Nature and enjoyed the trip very much.

We went back to the hotel for a late lunch and a nap, because at 8 PM, when the evening is just beginning in Lisbon, we were picked up by a wonderful guide from TOURS BY LOCALS, Ines. She took us on a panoramic tour of Lisbon by night, all lit up, and then to Sr. Vinho's, a famous fado club.

There we enjoyed a traditional Portuguese dinner, served in several courses, along with the local wine.

Between courses came the fado music. It consisted of two guitarists and a Portuguese 12 string guitar, accompanying different singers, male and female. Our guide had thoughtfully brought along blank cards and a marker to give us running translations. Fado comes from a root related to "fate" and is usually sad music somewhat in the nature of blues.

All of the singers were wonderful and with Ines to help us understand it, we all completely enjoyed the evening of fado. We got back to the hotel about midnight, tired but glad we had the experience.

Our second day in Lisbon featured a bus tour to Sintra in the mountains nearby. This was a location for royalty to vacation and the drive up over winding roads is very pretty. The town is full of narrow winding streets and small shops. Of course the ladies took full advantage of that. The white and yellow building in the background is the Pena Palace,

Many of the buildings had beautifully tiled facades. This one was particularly nice. It was right next to the Cafe de Paris which featured crepes made in front of you on a hot griddle and filled with jam or marmalade.

(Just a note to those who may travel in Portugal. We asked for bread and butter with our meal here, The three of us received three little pats of butter and were charged 1,20 Euro each. We got three rolls and were charged 1,60 Euro each roll. Total charge for three rolls and three pats of butter was 9 Euros or about $13! Be careful about bread and butter in Portugal!)

Then we stopped in a little wineshop for a taste of Ginja, the local cherry liqueur, which is served in a dark chocolate cup and is delectable.

The next day we boarded the bus and left Lisbon to travel to Porto and board the Ama Vida. On the way we stopped at Fatima. This shrine is devoted to Our Lady of the Rosary. It is the most venerated spot in Portugal.

Pope John Paul II was especially devoted to this lady and credited her with saving his life from an assassination attempt. He visited the shrine three times. The bullet which was taken from his body was placed in the crown of the statue of the lady. (You can see it just below the blue orb.) Many believers want to light a candle to the Lady of Fatima.

Our next stop was at the beautiful Quinta do Valle do Riacho for a wine tasting. We had a tour of the Quinta (a quinta is a wine producing estate) and then a classic wine tasting in the great hall. Since our cruise is titled "A Celebration of Wine," we had many wine tastings added to the regular itinerary. While this was a beautiful site and an interesting tasting, it did cut down the time we were able to spend at Fatima, to the disappointment of some of our party.

From here it was on to Porto where the beautiful ship Amavida was waiting for us.

PAGE ONE covers the independent pre-cruise trip to Bilbao and the Pais Vasco.

THIS PAGE covers the pre-cruise package in Lisbon and the transfer by way of Fatima to the Amavida in Porto.

PAGE THREE covers the Duoro River Cruise on board the Amavida.
We like to discuss our travels.

EMAIL US at basque@bully4.us

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