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June 2-16, 2016
We invite you to join us on a Classic Tour Portugal taking in the fascinating city of Porto, the extraordinary scenery of the world famous Douro Valley and the unspoiled Minho region in Northern Portugal. Then during the 2nd week we will be based out of the fine HF Fenix Lisboa Hotel in the Portuguese capital city of Lisbon.
Our tour will begin in Viana do Castelo, we explore this lovely town, complete with funicular railway and also travel the full length of the Minho railway line to the fortified border town of Valença. We then travel to Regua, and from here we complete our journey up the River Douro by train to Pocinho, where we visit the Prehistoric Rock Art Cave Paintings at Vila Nova de Foz Côa.
On our second day on the Douro, we head back down the Douro Line to the former narrow gauge junction station of Livração then by road to the picturesque town of Amarante and Quinta de Aveleda. Finally we sail down the River Douro, passing through 2 dams and sailing under Porto's bridges including the iconic two level Dom Luis I Bridge and the former railway bridge, Maria Pia Bridge.
During the 2nd week you will experience Portugal's capital city and its historic trams and palaces, as well as having the chance to explore the central part of the country and travel by train to see three towns which hold important positions in Portugal's history: Óbidos with its medieval castle, the Royal Town of Sintra with its famous tram and palaces and the Roman city of Évora, crossing the iconic 25th April Bridge by train, which is a massive suspension road bridge that was subsequently fitted with a lower rail deck.
Thursday June 2:
We will be met at Porto airport by our tour manager, and will transfer to Campanhã train station in Porto by metro and then on to Viana do Castelo by train. Our hotel for the first 3 nights will be the Casa Melo Alvim, originally a manor house dating from 1509, the oldest urban manor house in Viana.
It was recently tastefully restored and turned into a comfortable, cozy hotel. Each bedroom is individually decorated in traditional Portuguese styles from the 17th and 18th centuries, from Neoclassic to Baroque to Rustic. Evening free for dinner and to settle in.
Friday June 3: (B-D)
Today we will have a relaxing day to explore our home for the next two days, Casa Melo Alvim. In the morning our local guide will lead us through the streets and history of this fascinating 13th century town that lies on the estuary of the River Lima. The many lavish mansions, in Manueline, Renaissance and Baroque styles, were built from the wealth brought by trade with Europe and Brazil. High above the town, reached by a funicular railway, is Monte de Santa Luzia, offering a marvellous view of the surrounding area, and in your free time in the afternoon, a trip up to the top is a must.
You will also find a basilica modeled on the Sacré Coeur in Paris which has a tower you can climb (lift available) for an even more stunning view over the town and the sea. Also worth visiting is the Gil Eanes Naval Museum, a floating naval hospital constructed in 1952 and which operated until 1973. It is now open to the public as a museum, housing the original equipment. The ship has operation theatres, communications equipment, refrigerating chambers and a reinforced hull. It was restored by a group of locals and then adapted to become a youth hostel and is one of the city's biggest attractions.
Tonight we will have our Welcome Dinner at Solar de Merufe, a short coach journey from Viana do Castelo. The evening at this beautiful location will include tasting local wines and snacks and will begin with a stroll through their gardens.
Saturday June 4: (B)
Our hotel is right next to the train station and today we will explore the northern section of the "Minho Line" and the fortified border town of Valença. Valença is right on the border with Spain which you can see across the River Minho.
A short walk from the train station takes us to the fortress which is a walled village with many shops, restaurants, houses and the ramparts that you can explore. It is one of the biggest and best preserved military structures in Europe, a piece of Gothic and baroque military architecture. The first walls were built in the 13th century and it was upgraded during the 17th and 18th centuries, forming the present bulwarked system. Valença itself dates back to Roman times, and indeed there is a Roman milestone inside the walled village, on the former road from Braga to Tui.
The old international bridge is a twin deck bridge, carrying the railway on top and the road below and you can cross the bridge to go into Spain and visit the Spanish border town of Tui. If you are feeling fit, travel over the bridge into Spain by train and walk back to Valença!
Sunday June 5: (B)
Today we move on to Regua by train, first heading back down the Minho Line to Porto where we change to our Douro Line train. After traveling through some attractive countryside, we descend down to the banks of the River Douro and follow this famous river until we reach Regua, the heart of the port wine industry.
The remainder of the day is free for you to settle in, but we suggest you visit the Douro Museum which gives a fascinating insight into the history of port wine. There is also a pedestrian bridge across the river, giving you another view of the town, and maybe of some of the river cruisers as they pass underneath.
Monday June 6: (B)
This morning we travel down the Douro Valley by train to the lovely country station of Livração, the former junction station for the Tâmega narrow gauge line. Some old railcars are still in the station yard. From here we transfer by road to the pretty riverside town of Amarante, one of the gems of northern Portugal. Here rows of 17th-century mansions with their brightly painted balconies line the narrow streets.
There will be time to visit the Monastery and other sites during our walk through the town. After lunch we join our coach for the short journey to the vineyards at Quinta Da Aveleda, one of the region's top Vinho Verde estates with its fine gardens, where we will visit the gardens and taste their very own wine and cheese. Our coach will drop us back at Penafiel station for our rail journey back to Regua, arriving early evening.
Tuesday June 7: (B)
In the morning we catch the regional train east along the river to the railway's terminus at Pocinho. Until the late 1980s the main line continued to the Spanish border at Barca d'Alva and at Pocinho, the Sabor narrow gauge line branched off. You can still see a steam loco from that line that was abandoned in Pocinho when the line closed. This is a superb scenic journey with stunning views and we might catch sight of the rare Black Kite which still manages to survive in this remote area of Europe.
From Pocinho we will make a short road trip to visit the UNESCO World Heritage Archaeological Park and Museum near the small town of Vila Nova de Foz Côa. As well as visiting the museum, with its spectacular views over the River Douro, we will also visit one of the prehistoric rock art sites, traveling 4 miles through the countryside in an all-terrain vehicle with an easy walk for the last 600m. At the end of the afternoon we return to Regua by train.
Wednesday June 8: (B,L)
One of the highlights of the holiday, we sail down the River Douro to Porto. We pass through two dams, firstly the spectacular Carrapatelo Dam. The lock in this dam will take us down 118 feet, one of the deepest locks in Western Europe and an unforgettable experience. Later we pass through the relatively small Crestuma-Lever Dam, as we start to see more settlements and finally the city of Porto. The approach to Porto is spectacular as we pass under a series of bridges, including the iconic Maria Pia railway bridge and the Dom Luis I two-level bridge. After docking we will make the short journey to our hotel for the night.
Thursday June 9: (B)
Most of the day to explore Porto on your own. The hotel we use is very centrally located and within easy walking distance of the famous São Bento station with its mosaics, Aliados Square, the picturesque Ribeira district of Porto and, on the opposite side of the river, the Port Wine Lodges in Vila Nova de Gaia.
You can cross the famous two level Dom Luis Bridge to reach Vila Nova de Gaia. Consider a trip on the historic trams which now run again in central Porto, or even the modern surface tramway (metro) that extends out of Porto often on former narrow gauge railway lines. Late afternoon we board one of the fast express trains in first class for the fast 2 hour 35 minute ride south to Lisbon and transfer to the Hotel HF Fenix Lisboa. This hotel is next to Marques Pombal in the heart of the city and is our base for the next seven nights.
Friday June 10: (B, D)
Today is a free day in Lisbon. Armed with our transport ticket covering the metro, buses, trams and funiculars, we will have the whole day to explore this fascinating city. To begin, we suggest you catch the route 15 tram (normally operated by modern low-floor trams) for a journey along the waterfront to the area of Belém, whose Tower (Torre de Belém) was built between 1515 and 1521.
A visit to the 16th-century Mosteiro dos Jerónimos is also possible. Here amongst many interesting areas we can see the Tomb of Vasco Da Gama, the Cloisters and the tiled Refectory. Nearby are the tropical gardens, a peaceful park with ponds and waterfowl and containing many rare tropical trees and plants.
After time for lunch in one of the local restaurants you can take another vintage tramcar to the area of Ajuda. Here you find the Neo-Classical 19th-century National Palace of Ajuda. No expense was spared on this former royal residence, including the extraordinary Saxe Room in which every piece of furniture is decorated with Meissen porcelain.
You also have time to relax in the nearby Botanical Gardens. These were laid out on two levels in 1768 and include a 400-year-old dragon tree and geometrical box hedged gardens. Alternatively, from Praça Da Figueira catch a vintage tram on route 12 to the Moorish Castelo de São Jorge. This castle, which dominates the city skyline, offers the best views of the city. There are also pleasant gardens within the walls and a 12th-century church. Then explore the historic Alfama area of the old city.
For transport enthusiasts consider visiting the CARRIS Tram museum at the tram depot in St Amaro (on route 15) where you will have the chance to ride on a tram dating from 1901. Don't forget the 3 funiculars in Lisbon, all dating from more than 100 years ago, and the iconic Santa Justa Lift. Another option is to travel on routes 25 or 28 to Estrela, with the 18th century Basilica Da Estrela which can be seen from all over Lisbon. Across the road is Estrela Park, where you can mix with local families out for a stroll, and enjoy an oasis of peace and quiet in the middle of this bustling city. Or take a train from Cais Sodré along the Estoril coast to the swanky seaside resort of Cascais. This is a very scenic line, running within sight of the sea most of the way. Indeed the Estoril line was the first in Portugal to be electrified and for many years was operated as an independent railway.
Your tour manager will be able to advise you on these and the many other things to see and do. Tonight we will have our Welcome Dinner in a traditional Portuguese restaurant.
Saturday June 11: (B)
We will spend today in the Roman town of Évora, in Portugal's Alentejo region. Sights include the Roman Temple of Diana built in the 2nd Century AD, the convent, the cathedral, the chapel of bones and the aqueduct. On arrival at Évora we walk from the station into the walled part of the city to Geraldo Square. From here the narrow streets radiate out in all directions and using the square as a reference, you can easily find the monument or museum or other point of interest that you want to see.
Make sure you sample the rich Alentejo style food at lunch time. Évora is one of Portugal's more important cities and in 2011 the railway line was upgraded and electrified to allow 125 mph running. We cross the River Tagus on the famous 25th April Bridge.
Sunday June 12: (B)
Sintra is awash with beautiful and historic palaces and castles. Using the regular service bus, we will visit two of the most interesting, Pena Palace and Park and the Moorish Castle. Located in the Sintra hills, Pena Park and Palace are the fruit of King Ferdinand II's creative genius and the greatest expression of 19th-century romanticism in Portugal, denoting clear influences from the Manueline and Moorish styles of architecture. The palace was built in such a way as to be visible from any point in the park, which consists of a forest and luxuriant gardens with over five hundred different species of trees originating from the four corners of the earth.
From the Moorish Castle, you can admire a unique landscape that stretches to the Atlantic Ocean. Overlooking the Serra de Sintra, it consists of a fortification built around the 10th century after the Muslim conquest of the Iberian Peninsula.
Monday June 13: (B)
We take a morning suburban train to Mira Sintra where we change to our Regional West Line train to Óbidos. This line is almost like stepping into a by-gone era, as modernisation has not yet arrived here! On arrival at Óbidos, we walk up the hill from the station to the walled fortified town which remains a well-preserved example of medieval architecture. A typical Portuguese town with a maze of cobbled streets lined with white-washed houses with terracotta roofs. The area has been occupied since Roman times and has seen some important moments in history. In the 13th century it became a Royal Town when King Afonso II gifted it to his new bride and in 1808 the first gun shots, which started the Battle of Roliça during the French Invasions, were fired from Óbidos. Here, Napoleon endured his first defeat in the Peninsular War. Nowadays the town is preserved as a picture-postcard scene and no development is allowed within the walls. The castle, rebuilt in 1148, dominates the town and is now a Pousada (a luxury hotel).
Tuesday June 14: (B)
This morning we shall explore Lisbon's historic tram system using some of the tourist tram routes now in operation, two of them operated exclusively by un modernized "700" series trams dating from the 1930s. One of these routes runs to Principe Real on a section of line that hadn't seen a tram in 20 years until this new tourist tram route started in May 2015.
After our tram tour we shall cross the River Tagus to Cacilhas where we can have lunch in one of the traditional restaurants near the pier and take a cruise down to Belém and see the city from the river before disembarking back in the city center. Alternatively, for the tram fans, explore the modern tram system south of the river, which starts in Cacilhas.
Wednesday June 15: (B)
Today we once again travel by train to visit the stunning Serra setting of Sintra. This National Park and World Heritage Site is an area of wooded ravines, fresh water springs and a favorite summer retreat for the former kings of Portugal. We start our day by taking a suburban train from the ornate, mock Manueline, Rossio station the full length of the line to Sintra. A short walk takes us to the terminus of the Sintra tramway where our private hire tram will be waiting to take us down through the pine trees of this high class residential area to the beach and back.
This tramway was opened in 1904 and originally ran the 10 miles from Sintra down to the coastal resort of Praia das Maças (Apple Beach). In recent years the tramway has been restored and the original tramcars once again operate over virtually the whole of the original route. After lunch we take a local bus to one of the most beautiful architectural and landscape Romantic creations in Portugal: the Park and Palace of Monserrate, unique representatives of 19th century eclecticism. The Palace combines Gothic and Indian influences as well as Moorish suggestions together with exotic and plant motifs which are harmoniously extended to the exterior. The gardens have received species from all corners of the world, which were planted according to their geographical origin. The front lawn of the Palace provides a well-deserved rest, while discovering one of the richest Portuguese botanical gardens.
Thursday June 16: (B)
Late morning we return to Lisbon Airport for our flights home.
All Prices are per person
|DOUBLE ROOM OCCUPANCY.................................................................................||$5,295|
|SINGLE ROOM SUPPLEMENT.................................................................................||$895|
|HOLIDAY DISCOUNT BOOK BY JANUARY 15...........................................................||$-500|
|DEPOSIT TO HOLD SPACE CONFIRMED..................................................................||$1,500|
|FINAL PAYMENT DUE MARCH 2, 2016|
DOUBLE ROOM OCCUPANCY$5,295
SINGLE ROOM SUPPLEMENT$895
holiday discount book by january 15-$500
deposit to hold space confirmed$1,500
FINAL PAYMENT DUE march 2, 2016
*15 NIGHTS LODGING
*WALLED TOWN OF OBIDOS
*RIVER DOURO BOAT CRUISE
*TRAIN RIDES PER THE ITINERARY
*ENTRANCE TO THE PALACES OF SINTRA