Stuck in Pinhao on the Douro River


We docked yesterday (Friday) in Pinhao, Portugal with side trips to the village of Lamego and the Sandeman Winery where the port wine is made. The bus ride to the winery was a winding, twisting journey that brought tears to some of the ladies on the bus!


Shrine of Lamego at the top of the hill

Lamego is home to the Santuario de Nossa Senhora dos Remedios (Virgin Mary).  Someone told me that I couldn’t take photos inside the chapel after I had already taken one. Oh, well. I wasn’t going to delete it.


Another Forbidden Photograph

We rode the bus down to the church instead of walking down the 267 steps. The monastery with its cloister is very photogenic.  I hope you like it.


I did meet one a fellow passenger, Mick, from the UK. Mick retired 30 years ago as a UK Constable Homicide Sergeant.  We hit it off right away talking about the job. Cops are the same everywhere. He is an active member of his retired officers association and working to get better benefits for widows of police officers.

We boarded the buses again and stopped at the Quinta de Siexto, the Sandeman Winery.  Our tour through the wine making process was conducted by a young woman dressed in a Zorro outfit, hat included.  The outfit is actually representative of students from the Coimba University we had previously visited.

We learned that our voyage up the Douro River has ended. According to Viking the waters around the next two locks are too swift and the Viking Osfrid is not going any further.  Instead Viking offered a 3 ½ hour bus ride (each way) to the last stop in Salamanca, Spain with hotel accommodations overnight. We said no thank you!  We would stay with the boat.

We had the morning free so I grabbed my camera and decided to explore the sleepy town of Pinhao.  As I walked off the boat I noticed several fishermen, poles out and lines in the water. I walked over to them and one of them had hooked a fish. He was trying to net the fish and keep his line tight and the fish was winning.  I put my camera down and I offered to net the fish for him. We were successful in landing the fish and then I asked him to pose for a photo.  He was beaming from ear to ear and proud of his catch.  He wanted to show me the big one he caught earlier and lifted the live net up revealing a nice fish. I congratulated him and continued on my walk.  There were other fishermen fishing but I didn’t see any success.04142018_Pinhao-Portugal_Roberto_Fish_750_6422_resize


I walked across the foot bridge to the other side of the Pinhao River and along the edge of the Douro River.  The bank is lined with tourist boats, large and small with crews getting ready for a busy weekend crowd. I walked to the main bridge and crossed the Douro River and then back into the village.  The main street is lined with souvenir shops, cafes and a nice bakery.  The railroad station is on the opposite side of the street.  I walked through town photographing old doors, old buildings and anything I thought that caught my fancy.  I walked back across the Pinhao River and along the bank where locals have small garden plots.  One resident I said good morning to in Portuguese, “Bon dia” and he replied in English.  I guess he knew I was an American. He was hoeing his garden and offered me a hoe if I wanted to help.  I passed and continued my walk.  I finally reached the ship and before I knew it, it was time for lunch!







We opted for the ship day tour on Saturday and as it turned out we were the only couple who did so.  Viking insisted on going ahead with the tour anyway so we had two tour guides, a bus driver, and a 40-passenger bus all to ourselves.  MA made great friends with the local lady guide and used her Portuguese at every opportunity.

Met a new couple at dinner, from Las Vegas.  They were a lot of fun and we had a lot in common.  Our other new friends from San Francisco had gone with the Salamanca group but we will all hook up tomorrow (Sunday) and Viking has planned a wonderful day outing including lunch for everybody.


Sailing up the Douro River

After the Viking Osfrid was moored by the bank for the night we all disembarked and boarded buses for the Mateus Castle.  It was a 90 minute bus ride over some very narrow twisting roads plus it was raining and cold.  After we got to the castle I decided not to join group tour of the building.  I mean once you’ve been to Versaille or the Hermitage, this one just didn’t measure up.

MA went anyway and after their tour we climbed aboard the bus again and sat through another hour and half twisting ride back to the ship. We had dinner and watched a movie in the room. I was hoping that we could continue our sail up the Douro the next day but it was all dependent on whether the water lever would drop overnight sufficiently to allow the boat to pass under the next bridge.

2nd Day on the Douro River

I was up at 7am this morning to the sounds of the engines reviving up and then the Viking Osfrid moving along the calm waters of the Douro River.  Our fears about high waters were quashed and we were at last able to continue the cruising the Douro River.

The weather this morning started out chilly and misty but the sun came out and we were actually able to sit outside on the front deck. As we sailed past village after village and vineyard after vineyard I was struck by the beauty of being in the middle of the river and seeing incredible peaceful places.


Viking Osfrid moored 1st day due to high water


Mateus Castle with a statue in the pond (art)


The Train, the boat and the house all come together in this photo.


Looking aft


You can see the terraced landscape on the side of the hills.


An Abandoned Wine Warehouse along the River Douro


You can see the grape vines in this photo


Along the Douro



I liked the reflection in this photo


Sailing the Douro River

Douro_River_DMG_0103Sailing the Douro….finally

At 7:00am this morning the Viking Osfrid shoved off from its dock in Porto, Portugal and headed east up the Douro River.  Along the way we passed under several bridges and by several small villages.  Close to Porto there are large homes built out from the slope of the river valley and overlooking the river itself. The view is to die for.

Our first event of the day was at the first dam and lock.  The ship came to a stop inside a large concrete lock which closed behind us.  The lock filled with water raising the ship in the process to the river level behind the dam.  Once we reached that height the lock opened and we continued our passage up the river.

Further along the river the landscape becomes sparsely populated and heavily wooded.  The land is terraced with steps notched in the hillside.  The terraces are planted with grape vines and I presume other crops and vegetables.  The weather is rainy and it is on the cool side.  We are nicely seated in our cabin enjoying the ride up the Douro River.

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Viking River Cruise: Porto…our 1st Port

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I took this photo around 2am when I woke up, then went back to sleep.

Our journey continued Tuesday from Lisbon with a long bus ride in the rain to Porto, Portugal. This is where the “river cruise” actually begins.  We arrived tired, a little wet from a walking tour in the rain of the University of Coimba where we visited a stunning library of volumes going back hundreds of years. Lunch was at a local restaurant and MA was thrilled with a FADO music concert there. In the late afternoon we finally arrived at the Viking Osfrid long ship which was docked on the south side of Porto on the Douro River.  After we unpacked and had dinner, we both collapsed and called it a night.

 Porto is the second largest city of Portugal.  It’s located at the mouth of the Douro River and the Atlantic Ocean.  Porto is also the city or region where port wine is produced.  After breakfast we boarded our Viking buses and went on a tour of city highlights.  It concluded with a stop at the “Sandeman” wine cellars which is about a block from where our Viking ship is docked.

I’ve included some photos I took today so you can see what we saw.

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Painted on the bus, what our Viking ship looks like.

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Looking out our balcony to the other side of the river.

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Inside the main train station

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Across the river at night



Lisbon is Likable

This has been a full day of sight seeing, photographing, and sampling  some of the local foods.  Good Monday morning everyone. We woke up to a cool sunny day here in Lisbon, Portugal with a full day of planned activities.  Mary Alice and I enjoyed a great breakfast in the hotel restaurant. We gathered our things from the room and made our way down to the front of the hotel.  Viking had four buses waiting for us to give everyone a tour of the city.  We left the hotel with a chatty guide speaking on the bus loud speaker system. Our first stop of the day was at the Tower of Belem, a fortress built in the 13th Century to keep invaders from Lisbon.  Next to the Tower is a Nautical Memorial dedicated to all the lost sailors and marines of the Portuguese Navy. 750_5842a_resize


Our next stop was at the Portuguese Nautical Museum, home to artifacts from the age of discovery, 1400s-1800s by Portuguese explorers like Henry the Navigator and Vasco de Gama. It also housed all the Portuguese Naval air craft from the WW1.





Our next stop was the Alfama, an original neighborhood in the old part of Lisbon.  It is composed of very narrow streets, local fado bars, and graffiti.



We returned to our hotel and Mary Alice and I walked around the corner for lunch, returned to the room for a short nap and we were off again.  This small tour was a taste of the local food.  Our tour departed at 3PM and the first stop was at a small local restaurant for a custard tart and coffee.  Very good. We continued our walk to a local lunch spot for a beef sandwich.  I didn’t care for it, too tough.  The last stop was a taste of local hams, sausage and cheese.  750_6027a_resize


Rained in Madrid, Raining in Lisbon

We had Saturday on our own in Madrid, so our plan was to catch the Hop On Hop Off bus and see Madrid. We got on the bus but never got off. It rained all day. We walked back to the hotel and found our favorite Chicken restaurant and have a late lunch. We did just that. We got back to the hotel and did not leave for the rest of the night. We got up Sun morning got packed and met our Viking rep in the lobby. The had transportation already to take us to the airport for our flight to Lisbon.

That flight went without a hitch other than me spilling coffee all over MA. But that’s another story. Viking met us at the airport in Lisbon and took us downtown to the Tivoli Hotel. We were hoping to get out tonight but you can see it’s raining in Lisbon also.

Tomorrow is another day!


The Forbidden Photograph: Inside the Prado Museum….don’t mess with WW


Learning About Art

Good morning everyone!  It’s Friday and MA and I are in Madrid with Viking River cruises.  Nothing like a great night’s sleep to kill jet lag.  However, I woke up at 3 a.m. wide awake and finally dozed back off.  I made coffee in the room, finished yesterday’s blog and got dressed for our tour of Madrid today at 9 a.m. MA and I got downstairs to the hotel restaurant for breakfast.  We were the last ones to arrive but we had plenty of time.  The breakfast buffet was something to behold. We settled for my Weight Watchers standard: scrambled eggs, fruit and coffee. That’s “0” points.  I’ve dropped 15 lbs so far om weight watchers and I don’t want to blow it on this trip.  Believe me I could have had a feast at this breakfast spread. We gathered our coats, camera and water and our group boarded a small bus for a driving and walking tour of Madrid ending in a visit to the famous Prado Museum.

It’s a beautiful day in Madrid, blue sky and cool temps. Our guide began with the history of Spain and Madrid and never stopped.  I wanted to tell her that Spain could have had it all if they had kept Texas in the early 1800’s, but hindsight is as common and bland as boiled potatoes.  If the king had only known!


The Royal Palace


Our bus stopped at the Royal Palace for a photo op, so here it is.  One of these street performers was putting the final touches on his gold costume and got really upset when I took his picture. He shouldn’t be in public if he doesn’t want his photo taken. Too bad. Another street musician got a Euro coin for his play and a smile.

We walked around “old Madrid” and stopped at a cafe in the Todo Pasa de la Plaza for coffee and churros. The Plaza had markets galore and I could have spent an hour in there but I had to photograph quickly to keep up with our group.750_5783a

We got back on the bus and stopped at the Prado Museum.  I left my camera on the bus because I really didn’t want to photograph “art”.  I had my iPhone anyway.

The Prado Museum is serious about security.  They prohibit just about everything except your body.  Take a look at what you cannot bring into the museum. They even run you through an x-ray and body scan before entering. Our guide handed everyone a ticket and we began our tour of the Prado.

As soon as I saw the group of kids and their teacher, I was wishing for my camera. No problem, I saw a bunch of Chinese taking iPhone photos…I just whipped out mine and photographed the school group learning about art.  I was suddenly accosted by the camera police and told I could not take photos. I tried to explain I was not photographing art just the kids. She insisted and made me delete my photo.  Ok! Don’t mess with WW and as soon as she went to the other side of the room and began harassing someone else I took the same photo and stuck my camera in my pocket. It reminded me of the time we were in the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Russia, and one of the Russian females told me I couldn’t take a picture of their precious “Amber Room”. Little did she realize who she was dealing with. I have the photo in my St. Petersburg collection.


Madrid Traffic

The second half of today’s tour began at 6pm.  We gathered in the hotel lobby, boarded our little bus and headed for the first of three tapas cafe/bars.  Our first stop was the El Toro Tapas.  We all sampled their tapas and red or white wine.  I had the sangria.  It is a fruit punch made with wine.  I remember Muzenski and I had a pitcher of it 50 years ago when we were in Madrid.  From the there we walked in the rain to the second bar,  the Colmado de las Viandas and to Hacienda Zorita, home of the Pata Negra and the world’s best Jamon Iberico, Spanish ham. We sampled their wine and cheese and olive oil and bread.  It was all good.


From the Zorita, we went by bus to the third and last tapas bar, the Zahara Oborne, where we sampled some delicious fried potato/onion croquettess with white wine. Excellent.  I eased out of the dining room and walked outside and photographed this white building lit with lavender lights.  We all boarded our little bus and returned to the Intercontinental Hotel. For now, hasta manana!


Not Bad for an iPhone 8




We left Houston on Wednesday morning for IAH, flew American Airlines to Charlotte, close connection for our American flight to Madrid.   I was hoping to be able to sleep some of the 8 hr flight.  Wrong. MA had no problems sleeping and I had a really good book with me,  Not Between Brothers, by David Marion Wilkinson.  It is a novel about early Texas. Great read.


Walk around the hotel

We arrived in Madrid as the sun was coming up and after clearing customs and finding our luggage (that’s always a good start) we quickly found the Viking Representative who drove us to our hotel.    Viking has put us up in the Intercontinental Hotel near the old part of Madrid. This is a modern elegant hotel with a very hospitable staff. We got into our room around 11am, then walked around a little, had a coffee and ending up taking a nice long nap.  We were up four hours later in time to meet some of the people we would spend the next two weeks with in Lisbon and on the Viking river cruise.


Lobby Meeting of the Viking guests

  Mary Alice and I found a restaurant near the hotel, enjoyed some tapas and and called it a day! Friday we take a bus tour of the city with our fellow Viking passengers and Friday evening we have a Tapa’s tour of three restaurants where we will sample various Tapa’s and a class of wine or two.  Stay tuned!


Catamaran Tour on St. Lucia


We docked in St. Lucia which is a gem of an island.  It is by far the most beautiful of the islands in the Caribbean.  We had originally planned not to do any shore excursions but decided to go on a catamaran with the Clarks, Dick and Mary.  Our boarding time for the catamaran was 1:00pm which gave us time to have a leisurely morning and get ready.

We met our host and our group at the gangway and our hosts for the day.  We had a short walk to the catamaran where it was being tied to the dock.  All aboard and we were off.  Right out of the bay was anchored a large 3-mast sailing boat.  As we sailed south to Marigot Bay there was a huge 5-mast sailing ship anchored off the coast.  I had never seen one so large.


5-Mast Huge Sailing Ship

The catamaran tour took us down the coast to Marigot Bay where the film Dr. Doolittle was shot.  We arrived at another inlet shore where other catamarans were anchored.  Most of our fellow tourists got in the water as did Mary Alice.  The crew was charming and attentive to their guests.  I think Mary Alice had a great time from the smiles I kept seeing.  We stayed at the swimming hole for 40 minutes and everyone got on board and we were once again headed back to the Regal Princess.


MA’s Swimming Buddy


Regal Princess Docked in St. Lucia




St. Lucia’s Twin Peaks


See you later.


Photography Tour in Barbados, where Camouflage is Illegal

12242017_Barbados_Camo_Illegal_750_0078_resizeWe were notified by the ship’s billboards that it was illegal to wear any kind of camouflage.  It seems that the military’s drug interdiction units wear cameo and they don’t want the public confused with non-military civilians, aka: tourists.

We were up and going at 6:30 with a quick breakfast and long walk to the port entrance. We met our tour guide and small bus and began a photography tour of Barbados.  Our drive took us across the island to the Atlantic coast.  After three stops for photos and one for rum punch we headed back to the ship just in time for lunch.  I’ll attach an array of photos for you to look at.  It is what today was all about.  First photo is a silhouette of another couple on the tour with us.12242017_Barbados_Silhouettes_on_The_Beach_Cropped_750_0036_resize


“A Patch of Green”


I am not a fan of seaweed, but I liked the colors here.


That’s one big rock.

Our guide:  Ron Carrington fixing “rum punch”