Europe 2005-2006 travel blog

Moe boarding the narrow gauge railcar in Mirandela

The Douro Valley with all the terraced vineyards for making Port wine

Porto with an old flat bottom boat in the foreground

The old flat bottomed boats used to bring the port wine down...

The old Ribeiro district in Porto - a UNESCO World Heritage Site

The lovely waterfall on the Tua River at the campsite - before...

The waterfall on the Tua River the next morning after the night...

Train travel has to be the most romantic of any mode of transportation! There are still several narrow gauge railway tours operating in Portugal and the one that is considered the most beautiful is from Mirandela in the northeast to Tua, 2 hours south. The train follows the (now raging and swollen) Tua River that is in a deep valley between two hills, terraced from top to bottom and planted in grapes or olive trees. How they harvest these crops when the hill plunges steeply down about 1000 feet is a mystery. We were delighted at the number stops we made at tiny railway stations in the middle of nowhere. There were no houses, or roads and no visible means to get across the river - yet people got off, or on, the train. We connected at Tua with the train to Porto that runs along the Douro River. This area from Tua toward Porto has been demarcated as the only place grapes for Port wine can be grown. In years gone by, all the young wine had to be floated down the river in barrels aboard flat bottomed boats to be aged and bottled in Porto.

Porto is a working town and despite the increase in tourism, has not been gentrified. What that means is that despite the riverside district of Ribeiro district being declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is full of 5-6 storey buildings, many covered in corrugated iron, some with 4 stories derelict and the 5th occupied, narrow lanes, gypsies, and a feeling of noise and mayhem! We stayed in a small hotel right in the center of the city and were wakened by a rooster crowing at dawn from a roof top not more than three buildings away. We will have a strong memory of sitting in the sunshine on Sunday morning drinking Port wine in a little sidewalk café beside the Douro River and in front of all the warehouses that age and bottle the wine: Osborne, Sandeman, Croft, etc.

We have had a tremendous amount of rain for the past few weeks - the drought in Portugal MUST be over by now. The upside is that we have been told Portugal has never been greener nor have the Spring flowers been as prolific - a bonus for us. We did have a couple of uneasy days as the Tua River rose dramatically behind us at the campsite - but we did not have to be evacuated.

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