On the Road is a weekday feature spotlighting reader photo submissions.
From the exotic to the familiar, whether you’re traveling or in your own backyard, we would love to see the world through your eyes.
When we last left our intrepid travelers they were getting on the bus in Amarante, Portugal to head to the Douro Valley.
The Douro Valley is an amazing place. The landscape is very hilly, verging on mountainous, which always makes for intersting views. Added to this is buildings fitted onto ridges and even places where it doesn’t seem reasonable to put a building. Even more so, it seems every square foot that could support a grape vine is in fact planted with a grape vine. Here’s a view with an emphasis on the mountain.
Here’s another view where you can see reasonable sized patches of vineyards. You can also see that everything is terraced and the terraces follow the contours of the land, so you have very few straight lines and parallel rows. Another example of vineyards that look very different from home.
We visited Quinta de Pacheca in the Douro Valley. They have some flat land so they have some vineyards that more resemble the traditional vineyards with straight rows, as shown in this photo. They are also producers of their own wine and, of course, port. Most of the grape grape growers in the area just sell their grapes to one of the big port producers and never worry about actually making wine. We had a very nice tour and then a fine meal with their table wine and port. I don’t particularly like the fortified, port-like wines that are widely available in our area and I was interested to see if I would like the real thing. Well, yes. As my wife said, “Great, another expensive taste I’ve discovered.”
The rain we had been just missing caught up to us in the next stop, La Coruña, Spain. We took a walking tour of the city, and like most European cities, some of the most interesting views are of the old churches. Drizzled most of tour, so we didn’t really get wet. When the tour ended we decided not go back to the big square and get some local wine and it turned out to be a good decision as it started raining much more heavily.
The next stop was Bilbao, Spain. They have a Guggenheim museum which is famous for its architecture. I thought the best thing was the huge dog.
My wife thought the coolest thing at the Guggenheim was the big spider.
The next stop was Bordeaux, France. Here is Château Pichon Baron as seen from our balcony as we sailed up the river to the city.
Another sight sailing up the river; Église Saint-Seurin in Lamarque
Here is our ship docked in Bordeaux. It was the most accessible city we visited. When you stepped off the gangway you were about 50 feet from the park along the river. A bit further on (where you see the building tops next to the river) is a group of shops and restaurants. This picture was taken from the observation deck of La Cité du Vin, which is a “unique cultural facility where wine comes to life through an immersive, sensorial approach”. It was almost heaven for a wine nerd like me, but it was a huge amount to take in. One fun fact: the word symposium comes from ancient Greek drinking party practice. Hmmm, I think all the symposia I participated in made me get my own wine and drink it afterwards.
Here is Bordeaux at night from our balcony. Usually the ship left port about 6pm so we wouldn’t see the city at night. We stayed two days in Bordeaux so we did see it in the night, but we just looked at it and didn’t go out carousing. Such party animals.
That essentially the end of the trip. From Bordeaux we sailed up the coast into the English Channel and on to Southampton. We did encounter some fog and, not at all surprisingly, the fog horn for a ship this big is LOUD. At Southampton we just got on a bus to go to Heathrow and fly home. Another unsurprising lesson relearned on this trip; Heathrow is maddeningly awful.
All in all a wonderful trip with a chance to get a glimpse of places we haven’t been. Highest priority for a return trip would probably be the Douro Valley followed closely by Bordeaux and Lisbon.