21 September 2018 Porto
- Douro Valley
Today, we went on full day Douro Valley wine tasting tour, lunch and river cruise. Our day started early being picked up and driven inland with 2 other couples to Douro Valley famous for its production of port wine. The scenery on the way was very impressive with rows and rows of vineyards and olive trees clinging to the hills.
We visited a winery estate where we learnt about the local winemaking, sampled various ports and watched a film on the history of wine. We then drove down to the Douro river and walked across the bridge with stunning views of the surrounding countryside.
After this we visited the village of Pinhao where we spent time exploring the beautiful village and the train station with its gorgeous blue and white tile murals depicting the scenic Douro landscapes and vineyard workers. Then we had a traditional Portuguese lunch of pork, lamb, fish and sausage dishes, accompanied with local wine, port and dessert. The meal was delicious and plentiful.
Next was a one-hour sightseeing cruise up the river in a rabelo boat, a traditional Portuguese wooden cargo boat that was used for centuries to transport people and goods along the Douro river. It is flat bottomed, with a shallow draught, which was necessary to navigate the often-shallow fast flowing waters prior to the construction of dams and locks. The views from the river of the surrounding vineyards and houses is spectacular and the cruise was peaceful and relaxing.
The last stop of the day was to a family run wine, olive and honey estate where we heard how the wine is made by foot mashing which is the traditional Portuguese way of crushing the grapes. We sat at tables overlooking the estate with samples of olive oil and honey dips with bread and three tastings of award-winning local wines.
As this winery was nestled in the remote countryside we stopped to have a look at the glorious views of the Pinhao.
We then relaxed and sang on the drive back to our destination. The people on our tour were very talented singers.
22 September 2018 Porto
Today, we went on a three-hour free guided walking tour of Porto. We began with the grand boulevards and shady parks of the upper city where the 14th century Muralha Fernandina city walls once stood.
Walking the streets, we saw Igreja do Carmo, two churches with walls joined even though they were built two centuries apart;
Lello Bookstore where JK Rowling wrote and was inspired for her first Harry Potter book The Philosopher’s Stone and now costs €5 to enter the bookstore;
incredible displays of ‘azulejos’ (colourful glazed ceramic tiles) on numerous buildings throughout the city;
Porto’s iconic blue tiles and tiled scenes at the Sao Bento station;
Porto Cathedral, the most important religious edifice in the city and has been declared a National Monument;
Clerigos Church with its iconic 75.6 metre tower and one of the most panoramic views of the city and Douro. After climbing up and down the ancient twisted streets of Ribeira district we walked home via the Dom Luis I bridge which was built in 1886 by a disciple of famous Gustave Eiffel and has two levels, one for pedestrians and cars and the other for pedestrians and the metro. The view of the river and city is spectacular.
It was another exhausting day but well worth it. This tour would have to be one of the best we have completed so far.
23 September 2018 Porto – Santiago de Compostela
This morning we drove to Santiago de Compostela and parked in an Aires 20-minute walk from the city centre.
Santiago is the final stop on the epic Camino de Santiago pilgrimage trail and the alleged burial site of the Biblical apostle St James. His remains reputedly lie within the Catedral de Santiago de Compostela, consecrated in 1211, whose elaborately carved stone facades open onto grand plazas within the medieval walls of the old town.
We wandered around the UNESCO World Heritage old quarter with its granite buildings and monuments and through alleyways and squares until we came to Obradoiro Square.
Here there was a huge amount of people sitting or leaning up against walls with enormous backpacks with shells attached, bikes with saddlebags and riders stretched out on the ground and others staggering with backpacks and large sticks or walking stocks. I guess they were the pilgrims who had just completed their final stop on their epic route. In the background is the majestic façade of the Cathedral.
After going through security, we visited the Catedral de Santiago de Compostela, which is as huge inside as it is outside. The main entrance to the cathedral has 200 figures referring to the Apocalypse and the figure of Saint James the apostle appearing to welcome the pilgrims. Hanging from the ceiling of the church is a botafumeiro, a gigantic incense burner which is swung during the service of the pilgrim’s mass at midday every day.
24 September 2018 Santiago de Compostela – Bilboa
Today was a driving day and our destination Bilboa. We camped 10 kilometres outside Bilboa in an Aires with 9 other motorhomes. It is a great place to stay if you are visiting Bilboa as there is a train about a 3-minute walk from here.
25 September 2018 Bilboa – San Sebastian
After leaving our campsite we did our grocery shopping and then had a leisurely drive to San Sebastian. We drove to an Aires about 40-minute walk from the old town near the bullring. There were at least 50 other motorhomes here when we arrived, and several others arrived during the late afternoon.
After organising ourselves we walked about 400 metres up the road and caught bus 28 into the Old Town which took about 20 minutes and cost €1.75. We met up with Mark and Anastacia and walked up and down the small alleys in search of Pintxo bars (tapas) of which there are many. When you enter the bar, you pick up a plate and either point out the pintxos you want or just select them and then either pay for them as you go or at the end of eating. The pintxos are small selections of various food and each bar have their own specialty. We tried two different bars where we selected squid wrapped in pepper, jamon croquettes, artichokes with seafood filling, 3 sardines with olives, garlic prawn and pork skewers and scallop mornay with mushroom. They were absolutely delicious.
After saying farewell to friends for the last time we headed back to the motorhome.
26 September 2018 San Sebastian
We caught the bus into the Old Town to see the sights. Following a map from the tourist information centre we began our walk at La Bretxa Market which is a traditional street market with stalls selling a variety of wares.
As it was lunch time we continued on to Fermin Calbeton a street in the Old Town where there is wall to wall pintxo bars and as is a passion of the Spanish ‘txikiteo’ -hop from bar to bar, pintxo to pintxo, glass of wine to glass of wine, in our case sangria. The variety of pintxos is amazing and sometimes it is very hard to have only a couple and then move on.
A few metres on we strolled into Constitution Square which is the epicentre around which the Old Town’s network of streets evolves. It is an arcade square, overlooked by the city’s old town hall, whose balconies still retain the numbering of the old stands from the bullring that it once was.
Next stop was the Basilica of Santa Maria, a baroque church erected in the 18th century. Down at the end of 31 de Agosto Street stands San Vicente Church, the city’s oldest building built at the beginning of the 16th century.
We continued through one of the Old Town gates of the ancient city wall along to the Port to the Marina full of yachts.
Further along is the City Hall building formerly the city’s casino which was built in 1887
and opposite this is the Alderdi Eder Gardens, a green space with a carousel.
We continued on to La Concha beach which is acclaimed as one of the most beautiful city beaches in the world and stretches for 1,300 metres. As today is quite warm, there are a lot of people on the beach swimming in the crystal-clear blue water with rolling waves.
At the end of our 2 hours walk we caught the bus back to our campsite for the second night.