I have just returned from an amazing trip with Riviera Travel upon their Solo Tour ‘Portugal’s Douro Valley and Lisbon’.
We were met by our Riviera Representative at Porto airport and taken to the Douro Palace Hotel Resort and Spa where we were staying for the first 3 nights of our tour. The hotel had spectacular views of the river Douro, I have never stayed in such an idyllic location. It was so quiet and beautiful. We arrived at the hotel early evening and enjoyed port and canapés outside. At about 7pm you could hear the nuns singing across the valley and it was rather moving. We had a lovely buffet dinner at the hotel which gave us time to meet the rest of the group.
The following morning, after a leisurely breakfast, we drove through the Douro Valley to the village of Pinhao where we went on a mini cruise down the river and were able to enjoy the views from the Douro river itself. After the relaxing cruise we went to the town of Lamego and visited the beautiful church on the hillside which looks down onto the town. You could either be dropped by the coach or climb 600 steps up to the church, I decided to walk and I was so pleased I did, the views did not disappoint. On return to our hotel we had a wine tasting evening, sampling the hotel’s own delightful selection and something to suit all palates.
The next morning, we were lucky enough to sneak in a ship visit to see the Douro Elegance, the ship was stunning and accommodated 121 guests. The 5* ship even had a swimming pool! We had a chance to talk to some of the guests on board who all said how much they were enjoying the cruise and how wonderful the staff were. After the ship visit, we went on to Porto where we had a local guide to show us the major sights including Porto train station with its amazing ceramic tiles which tell the story of the history of transport here. We also had free time to walk around Porto, where the main focal point is the river Douro. We also had a tour of the Taylors Port lodge where we learnt the history of port, and sat in the lovely gardens and sampled red and white port with the resident peacocks. The Peahen was nesting on top of one of the port barrels!
After spending our last evening at the Douro Palace we went to the pretty village of Aveiro, set along a lagoon and took a boat ride in a ‘Moliceiro’, a gondola like boat, where we were entertained by the captain with different stories about the area. We also had some free time to wander around the pretty village and enjoy some lunch. We then moved onto the city of Coimbra where we were staying for one night. A local guide showed us the prestigious university and views over the city. Our hotel was centrally located and during the evening we had the opportunity to visit one of the local restaurants. The town had a lovely atmosphere and plenty of choices regarding places to eat. After breakfast, we drove to Batalha and visited the monastery which is a UNESCO listed site. The monastery is stunning and afterwards we had chance to sit out in the sunshine with a coffee whilst looking out on this impressive building. We then moved on to the coastal resort of Nazare where some of the world’s biggest waves have been recorded. However, the day that we visited the Atlantic Ocean it did seem quite calm. We then travelled on the funicular to the cliff-top, which had breath-taking views over the beach.
The next morning, we walked to the train station and took a train into central Lisbon where we met our local guide, we took a fascinating walking tour around the historic Alfama quarter. Lisbon is a stunning city and we had free time to enjoy it. The city has trams going up and down the main streets which is a lovely sight to see, we stopped for a lovely lunch and had buskers entertaining us. The great thing about Lisbon is that within 20 minutes on a train you can be at a beach and it is lovely having the contrast. During the evening we were lucky enough to do the optional excursion with Riviera to a Fado dinner, where we enjoyed three-courses and were entertained by various singers. I have never experienced anything like it and I would recommend this very special experience. The following morning, we visited the lovely town of Sintra which was only a 20 minute drive from Lisbon. It has extravagant palaces and ancient castles. I took the local bus up to the castle and walked around the gardens there. Sintra is a lovely place to enjoy a leisurely lunch and people-watch.
We then moved on to the Jeronimos Monastery, the final resting place of Vasco da Gama. The carvings on the outside and inside of the monastery were very impressive and whilst we were there a wedding was taking place which was lovely to see. Opposite the monastery there is an impressive monument which is a statue of the great navigators of Portuguese history, you also have the 16th Century Belem tower. We had a lovely meal that evening at a local restaurant and said goodbye to our fellow Riviera guests as they had an early flight the next morning. We were lucky enough to have a late flight back and took advantage of the free time; we took a train to one of the nearest beaches and had a paddle in the Atlantic Ocean. One of the most stunning beaches and lovely towns to walk around is Cascais. We got back to the hotel in time for a quick freshen up and then were met by our Riviera Representative and transferred back to the airport for our return flight.
I loved Portugal and I would certainly recommend travelling with Riviera. Everything about the trip was excellent, and after seeing the Riviera Elegance I would love to experience a Riviera River Cruise, and would have no hesitation in selling this product to my family, friends and customers.