Spain & Portugal Blog 08

May 2019

On a lazy Monday morning in Portugal, we headed north to Porto, the country’s second-largest city (although its citizens claim it is second-to-none). We’d been warned that this old town with its golden rooftops is preferred for long seafood dinners, slow strolls through sleepy streets, plus white-port-and-tonic as the sun sets across the Douro River. And we promptly fell in love with the place: unpacking in the perfectly-located, beautifully restored Pestana Vintage Porto Hotel – then sitting down in a local eatery for another Portuguese feast.

Mmmm – obrigado! (Thank you!)

Tuesday began with a two-hour guided meander through Porto – from the Praca de Liberade (Liberty Square) in the city-centre to the alluring Ribeira District, where colourful old houses overlook colourful old fishing boats, crumbling alleyways, the fabulous Sao Francisco Gothic church, port-wine houses and photogenic bridges. Come the afternoon, we found ourselves at a famous winery, Porto Calem, for a tour of the cellars plus a tasting of the famous local port (tawny and other tasty blends).

We enjoyed a break from busy sightseeing on Wednesday, taking instead to Portugal’s famous waterway for a full-day cruise along the Douro River Valley. They’ve been making wine here for 2000 years in what is now the UNESCO-recognised Alto Douro Region … and, I tell ya, sailing slowly past terraces, farmlets, bridges, dams and a scenic landscape that’s been shaped by human endeavour over the centuries was ooh-la-la lovely!

COMING UP: We wave a sad goodbye to Portugal, and cross the border back into España – disembarking for an on-foot romp around Salamanca, the country’s youngest oldest city. The show ain’t over yet folks, so stick with us …

Yours bloggedly – JOHN

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About John Cooney

John Cooney and his wife Robyn have enjoyed more than their fair share of travel. They hesitate to call themselves ‘experts’ – but they’ve grabbed every chance that’s come their way to explore new countries, cultures and customs. They’ve had the privilege (both on their own and as the leaders of numerous successful group-tours) to sample many stunning destinations: Europe, the UK, Singapore, Vanuatu, the USA, Israel, Egypt, Africa, Dubai, China, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. And their recent (and most pleasant) memories are of the places ancient-and-modern that border the Mediterranean. John and Robyn are at-home in airports, hotels, cruise ships, and the like … and they know how to make the most of a unique travel opportunity. Travel, they reckon, is an all-five-senses experience – a chance to see, feel, smell, hear and taste the world. And they’ve done it often enough to know for sure: sightseeing with a group of laid-back Kiwis is DOUBLE the fun – lots of laughs, great company, and memories that last forever!


  1. Hi Coons … WOW WOW WOW. What an attack to the senses. The colour and flavour and atmosphere and art and music. How magic is that. What a treat for you and Rob and all the team with you. Big hugz The Kerks xx

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