Passing through Locks, 16 July 2012
I can now say I've passed through a lock in a vessel. Now whether the boat I was on was a ship or a boat I am not sure, but regardless of its designation, I was on it and we passed through not one but two locks, the Crestuma, and the Carrapetelo. We were on the Duoro River in Portugal.
Pulling in to the lock
In place, doors closing
And out the other sideWe decided to do a full day river cruise on the Duoro river, what we signed up for was 7 hours on the river, then a vineyard tour, then catch a train to return.
The cruise on the river was really lovely, unfortunately there are not enough seats provided on the decks for the number of people on the trip, and not knowing this we neglected to 'stake out' a claim. Many of the others, perhaps having this knowledge staked out and marked several chairs and kept control of them whether they were using them or not. So we ended up either standing, or down in the lounge sitting and looking out through the windows.
The scenery and the weather were fabulous. We got very excited when we started seeing more and more of the terracing and the vines growing on them.
It is a particular growing method here where the hillsides are terraced and the vines grow in these flat terraced areas. One other thing is this creates a labor intensive process as there are no machines that can be used in this growing environment. So very good for employment, at least seasonally, wonder who they employ?
So here's my write up for TripAdvisor, who, by the way rejected it. Apparently it is too long!So DouroAzul.com offers a number of tour options, the one we selected was Porto-Regúa-Porto, our boat name was Milenio, it starts at 8:30. After departure breakfast will be served, then at 1pm, lunch will be served, with arrival later in Regúa. Once in Regúa we will be transported to a vineyard for a tour, then we will have free time in Regua and will be given our tickets for the 5:30pm return to Porto trip via train, about an hour and a half trip. So back to Porto about 7, for an 11 hour adventure
That is what was advertised, and related to us verbally, all this for 73€ each.
So we arrive, early as usual, people are starting to line up,then a tour group arrives, so a whole boatload are waiting. Checkin was fairly easy.
There were several bars set up, so if you wanted you could purchase, beer, wine, water, coffee, snacks, etc.
The cruise itself was lovely, it was beautiful weather, beautiful vistas. We passed under many bridges, nearly each was announced and discussed, as were many other sites along the way. This was very cool.
Check out some of the sights!
The bathrooms were large, and pretty, unfortunately they were not serviced during the trip so receptacles
overflowed, and toilet paper ran out.
A bottle each of water, red wine, and white wine were on each table, as was a roll a each place. Soon soup was served, a broth of and with cabbage and carrots. After soup service was taken a plate with salad and a piece of some casserole, I think it was cabbage, carrot, and bacalau. Then an egg custard dessert and coffe were served. Overall the food was tasty, it is a good thing Tom and I aren't too picky, and we'll eat near about anything.
So after lunch it was back up to the decks, this time we got chairs.
Upon arrival at Regúa we were directed to three transports, a train with open sided seat cars, a touribus, open on the top, and a transport bus, which unfortunately was sitting in the sun without the a/c.
We drove to the bodega for the tour. But what we got was dropped off in a sales room, with few photos and some artifacts. We were offered a sample of a Porto Branco. That was it, that was the tour. To say we were disappointed is an understatement.
So after that we left to explore Regúa, and be at the train station at 5:15. Not being shoppers Tom and I walked around a bit then found a cafè and had a few beers. At 5 we walked to the train station, the Cruise's Tour Director was there and directed us in to a train car. It was unbelievable, there was only one small window that opened and no air-conditioning. So for the next 1 1/2-2 hours, the inhabitants of this car sat and poured sweat. As I looked around every person save the one woman and her young daughter that were sitting under the only functional window were pouring sweat, the woman sitting across from me at one point crossed her ankle over her knee and you could see the sweat coming out of her leg, I'm sure mine was the same.
So, would I recommend this tour - probably not. Although the time on the river was really lovely and I enjoyed the open air, the scenery, the birds, the sights; The food was tolerable, The 'tour' was a joke, and an insult, and the transportation back to Porto was inhumane. And at 73€ each this was, in my mind, not a budget trip, but everything about it was 'cheap'.
Ok, all that being said, we did enjoy the cruise part of the trip - we were really looking forward to an opportunity to visit a vineyard. There are plenty of opportunities to visit bodegas, sales rooms, and to sample wines, but to get in to a vineyard, with someone that knows the business, well that was the experience we were after.