Cruising on a small river boat with Viking River Cruises, we traveled from the with west side of Portugal to the east, into Spain. The scenery was spectacular, varying between dramatic, rocky gorges to tranquil hillsides.
The climate is much like Northern California and ideal for growing olives, almonds and grapes. Over the centuries, the hillsides have been painstakingly planted with grape vines. All along the river’s banks, terraced vineyard’s line the river’s hillsides as well as wine estates. Instead of using fences for property borders, vineyard’s property lines are marked by olive trees. So pretty!
The Douro Valley is the heart of the Port wine production that Portugal is so well known for. Starting in the 17th century, this region began its production of this delicious desert wine. One of my favorite tasting rooms was the dramatic Sandeman winery, high on the hills over-looking the Douro River.
Our trip ended in the historical city of Porto. Beginning as a trading and fishing village, Porto dates back to the days of the Moors and Romans in the 11th century. It has been a thriving city that supplied Crusaders on their way to the Holy land. Also, Porto was the launching point of many of the successful discoveries in the 15th and 16th centuries. New territories in Brazil and India brought gold and exotic woods that were used to elaborately decorate cathedrals. Fortunately, many of the paintings, sculptures, baroque architecture and azulejos tileworks can still be seen.
One of the Porto’s highlights is the medieval district, Ribeira. It is a fascinating group of colorful, ancient houses and alleyways that border the riverfront.