Day 4 – Douro Valley and Porto

We started out for Porto today. It was a very pleasant drive with little traffic. Scotch broom, which one of the Aussies told me they call Wattle, covered the countryside. I’ve never seen so much broom, the plant vilified in Marin as an invasive.

After a rather ordinary drive except for the brilliant gold of the broom, we turned up into the Douro Valley and held our breaths at the beauty.

Vineyards line the hills on both sides of the river. We drove up to the town of Pinhao.

Boats take passengers up and down the water. We even saw a Viking river cruise ship, making me happy to be on land.

We visited the Carvalhas Vineyard and Winery, the only such establishment still owned by Portuguese. It traces its history back to the Portuguese royal family. The King and his government started making wine in this area in response to the Lisbon earthquake of 1531. They used the proceeds from wine sales to rebuild Lisbon.

We had quite a good tour in which the guide explained the restrictions imposed by the vineyard being in an area designated as a UNESCO heritage site.Vertical rows, although they allow for more vines, can only be planted if the hill slant is 35 degrees or less because otherwise it contributes to erosion. Unbelievably, everything is done by hand: planting, picking, crushing and all the rest. They have a need for workers and use immigrant labor to cover the shortage.

The guide described how vines were planted in the past, when all varieties of grape vines were planted together and wine was made from the results regardless of the mix. This winery still makes wine from the old wines in this way, and I have to say, after the tasting, that it was incredibly delicious. Vinhas Velhas – old vines.

On the way to Porto, we had a flat tire. Fortunately we were able to hop on our “sister” bus, one of the benefits of a big group, so we went on to Porto while our bus arrived later.

The view from my hotel room balcony to the little street below.

Tired of the long bus ride, I took off from the hotel, and at the end of the street, I found a crafts fair.

Then decided to walk to the train station. The walk passed interesting facades such as this one with the tiles depicting scenes of the Douro River.

The train station, called  São Bento, for Saint Benedict, is another UNESCO World Heritage site. It contains murals composed of thousands of hand-painted tiles depicting scenes of historic Porto. They are stunning.

Sao Bento is an old-time train station from the early 20th century.

An exterior part of the station has been converted to a food market which contains booths that offer food created by various chefs.

The food center, called Time Out, was started by owners of a magazine of the same name.

After several days of ham and bread and bread and ham and bread and ham and ham, I decided on the vegetarian booth for which the specialty of the day was chickpea curry and sweet potato soup. It was okay, reminding me somewhat of dal.

But I enjoyed seeing the food being prepared.

On the way back to the hotel, I spotted from afar what looked to be possibly a street sale of textiles, but getting closer I realized that the textiles are walls for the homeless.

On the corner I also came across a group of young people in a boxing competition with lots of people watching. These are feisty girls.

Tomorrow we’ll take a tour of Porto and have a ride on the river.

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