Thursday, August 1, 2013
Industry Legend, Patricia Riley, Guest Blogs for Goldring Travel - Paris and Portugal on AmaWaterways' AmaVida - Part II (Regua to Barca d'Alva)
Unlike other European river cruises where you are able to walk off the ship and start your walking tour, a cruise along the Douro requires motor coaches to get you to the sights.
A small town of 7,000 Regua was our first port from which to explore the various Estates which the region is famous for. Regua is in the middle of a tourism boom. Our guide informed us that if we returned in 10 years we would probably not recognize it. You can see the beginnings of a re-branding of this town as the place to go for wine bars, restaurants and shopping. A whole area of old warehouses are being transformed into something very different from the authentic town center that is there today. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? I love the charm of places that have not turned into the center of a tourist destination.
While I am not a fan of motor coaches there is no other way to get to the places you must visit. Even for someone that does not like motor coaches I have to admit, these are beautiful. They are brand new and still have that "new car" smell. Our group of 100 guests are split into three incredibly roomy buses. Considering that not everybody goes on the tours it is approximately 30 people per motor coach.
In Regua we had a scenic 20 minute drive to the Sandeman's Estate (which I will talk about tomorrow). Upon our return to Regua the group was offered a tour of the Douro Museum. I chose to explore the little town instead.
I walked the local streets and came across what I think was some sort of political scene. Lots of police in front of the Institute of Port Wines. I was never able to find out what it was all about, despite having a Portuguese lesson earlier in the day!
I also went into the local supermarket. Though that term is pretty much an oxymoron this market was where the locals shopped and I joined them. My shopping cart was a little bit different then the local resident's cart. Our ship has Diet Coke but not Coke Zero so I bought a couple of bottles.
I also always find very interesting wine selections at grocery stores. I knew how to say, "Not sweet" and was directed to what I hoped were the dry white wines from Portugal. At less than 2€ for a bottle I didn't have much to lose. I brought it back to the ship, had the bartender open it, and was treated to a delightful white similar to a Sauvignon Blanc. Had I not wandered around I would have missed all of that.
On our third morning most guests chose to take the motor coach from Regua to the small town and pilgrimage site of Lamego. If you do this be prepared as there are 600 steps from the top to the bottom of the pilgrimage site, Our Lady of Remedies. You actually only walk down, but still. There are two categories of tours on this trip. Active Walkers and Gentle Walkers. The gentle walkers use elevators where possible or are coached from point A to point B while others walk.
On other AmaWaterways cruises there is another tour called the Late Risers. While possible in destinations where you walk off the ship this type of tour would not be feasible with motor coaches. About 10 of us choose to stay onboard and experience more locks and a view from the river of the numerous estates we passed on the road to Sandeman's Estate.
After picking up the guests that took the tour in Pinhao, the rest of the day will be spent cruising the most narrow part of the river enroute to Barca d'Alva, our next port for an overnight stay.