For over 30 years we have been offering guests this classic journey to visit Portugal and Spain on a memorable river cruise in the Douro Valley. Our newest team-member James recently joined our group this past fall. Discover our journey through James’ words:
I recently joined our Portugal, Spain and Douro river cruise Journey and wanted to share with you some of the experiences on this classic Journey.
We met the group in Porto, Portugal. This beautiful coastal city is one of the oldest European centers and a UNESCO world heritage site.
Having a few hours to explore the “centro da cidade” (downtown), we visited the central market, Sao Bento train station and the Chapel of Souls. Many Porto landmarks are known for the blue and white tile adorning their walls, which Portugal is known for. These tiles make great gifts for family and friends!
My favourite visit in Porto was the Lello book store, known as the worlds most beautiful bookstore. A definite must see!
In the evening we boarded our home for the next 7 days: the Spirit of Chartwell. This Luxury Barge was used by Queen Elizabeth II as it sailed the Thames in London for her Diamond Jubilee. It now calls the Douro River home – and if you are lucky you can stay in the one Luxury Royal Suite.
After meeting all our new friends and shipmates, we were welcomed onboard by our professional and courteous staff. We had time to settle in our staterooms, all of which had a very elegant feel. In the evening we were invited to a sumptuous dinner from our amazing chef and his kitchen team. The meals were always something to look forward to. Not only for the delectable dishes but the company of all the additional guests. A great place to get to know each other.
As we set out down the Douro it was easy to see why this river cruise is in demand by travellers from all over the world. Just the landscapes alone are a sight to behold! As we travelled down the river at a leisurely pace, you are surrounded by mountainous steps of the local vineyards. There are just miles and miles of grapes and different types of vegetation, I have never seen so many different shades of green.
On the ship itself, we were treated to a lecture of the history of the region and Portugal as a country. The ambiance was complemented by local musicians who performed folk and classic Portuguese songs.
The Chef took time out of his busy schedule to offer a class to learn how to prepare “Pasteis de Nata”, a Portuguese custard tart. Also, all meals were served with local wines of the regions we passed through. A very fun way to understand the regions of Douro!
The ship only travels in the daylight, which gives ample time to enjoy the landscapes and nature. When docked in the ports, we had many excursions into the beautiful and historic towns that dot the Douro.
Some of my favorites:
Lamego – a picturesque town and the home of a centuries old “Sanctuary of Our Lady of Remedies”, a classic church with over 686 stairs. A great place to get your daily steps in.
Figueira de Castelo Rodrigo – feel the tangible history and see the remains of a 13-century castle that had many different religions co-existing for centuries. The local shops offer many flavors of almonds (spicy was my favorite), local wines and a multitude of cork products from bags, earrings and a cork tie!
Salamanca – feel the tangible history, literally, by touching the sandstone walls of the classic buildings. Whether it is one of its cathedrals, house of shells or the University founded in 1134. While you are at the ornate hand carved entrance, see if you can find the famous frog: “Perrita”.
Quinta da Aveleda – here you can meet the countess Maria. A personality that shines, even if the sun is not. She set a beautiful table for the whole group and was gracious hostess who personally led the tour of the estate. Be sure to try the famous Vinho Verde (Green wine). This vineyard is the largest exporter of this type of wine.
Our final destination was Porto. Arriving at sunset was a great ending to this Journey. This is a beautiful city scape at night.
The last evening on the ship was a nice way to say goodbye to both the crew and the other guests.
Learning more about the history and people of Portugal has widened my understanding and curiosity to learn more. I have left a small part of my heart in Portugal but brought back great memories, friendships, and a vintage bottle of Port wine.
Journey in Portugal, Spain & the
Join us on the Spirit of Chartwell as we visit Lisbon, Porto and cruise on the Douro.