Knego concludes his journey up the Douro River aboard Emerald Waterways’ brand new MV EMERALD RADIANCE with visits to Coa, Mateus Palace and Guimaraes.
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All photos by and copyright Peter Knego 2017 unless otherwise noted.
Wednesday, July 26, 2017
Slab in the ridge.
EMERALD RADIANCE left Barca D’Alva at sunrise for Pocinho, where we boarded coaches for a short ride to the Coa Museum Of Art and Archaeloogy, which is perched on a ridge overlooking the convergence of the Coa and Douro Rivers. As the coach made its approach, it took a while to make out the well-camouflaged building.
Designed by Camilio Rebelo, the Coa Museum was built between 2005 and 2010 to commemorate the meeting of the two rivers in materials (concrete and glass) that both complement and contrast with its surrounds.
Our visit began with a demonstration on how the Paleolithic Douro people made weapons and started fire, using the most basic of resources: sticks, hide and stone.
Discovered and almost destroyed during the dredging work for a proposed dam and dating from up to 30,000 years ago, Coa’s rock drawings (carved with crude knives and later with chisels) depict animals and/or deities. They are among the oldest in the world and archaeologists are the first to admit that their purpose and story remain a mystery.
Monolith in tan.
After time in the multi-media exhibits, we had a chance to wander outside for a view of the rivers and the unique building, itself.
Where the Douro and the Coa (right) meet.
The structure and arid terrain felt very familiar and California-like.
Once we were all back on board, the EMERALD RADIANCE began her downstream voyage to Lamego. A leisurely afternoon would include a delicious lunch, a galley tour, tea and plenty of time to ogle our beautiful surrounds.
This middle portion of the Douro has some of the region’s most rugged and interesting scenery, which is not unlike that of the Snake River in rural Oregon, Washington and Idaho.
Dining and wining at Pacheco.
It was another scorcher of an afternoon/evening as the EMERALD RADIANCE tied up to a remote landing in Lamego. From there, coaches took us for a short ride into the vineyards of the Pacheco winery, delivering us to its cavernous cellars, where a gala dinner awaited.
Music from a local quartet, good company and the attentive staff — it all passed too quickly before it was time to head back to the coach. We ultimately rejoined the ship across the river in Regua.
Thursday, July 27, 2017
Scenic sister passing.
As we gathered for our morning excursion, I just happened to be in the right place as EMERALD RADIANCE’s sister, the SCENIC AZURE, passed and saluted us.
There was an included walking tour of Regua, a charming town with shops and restaurants but we joined Emerald’s Discover More tour ($60.00), an optional visit to Mateus Palace, a lovely Baroque retreat in the hills north of the Douro built between 1739 and 1743.
Lady in the pond.
Although the palace itself is often mistaken as the origins of the Mateus Rosé that features its image, that wine is merely grown and bottled in the region. Meanwhile, one of the first things visitors encounter is the half submerged statue of a sleeping woman by Joao Cutiliero, dating from 1981.
Grapes of path.
No photos of the interior of the palace were allowed. After our tour, we were given free time to wander its rambling gardens.
Cooking demo in the Lounge.
With all aboard, EMERALD RADIANCE cast her lines a final time and began the last leg of her journey back to Porto. Among the activities were a pastel de nata (Portuguese custard tarts) cooking demonstration hosted by cruise director Luis and Chef Nuño.
MV EMERALD RADIANCE Galley, facing forward.
And likely in response to the excellent food we enjoyed that week, the afternoon galley tour had to be done in three shifts to accommodate all interested guests.
Sailing under the Dom Luis I Bridge.
The banks of the Douro grew more lush and at the same time more populous until finally we were within Porto’s city limits. Soon, the EMERALD RADIANCE would tie up alongside her near sister, the SCENIC AZURE.
Our second and last gala evening was held on board. While it was not technically the last, it was the farewell night, giving those who wished a chance to dress up a bit (nothing too fancy, as the EMERALD RADIANCE is a low-key ship) and say goodbye to new friends and the ship’s fantastic staff.
Friday, July 27, 2017
Double bow ties: MV EMERALD RADIANCE (left) and MV SCENIC AZURE at Porto.
I slept in a bit and hung around long enough for SCENIC AZURE’s guests to head out on tour, then ventured over to the other ship for a quick visit. Scenic is the parent company of Emerald Waterways and offers a slightly more upscale, all-inclusive experience, which includes more and overall larger suites, liquor and an exclusive event ashore (often a private concert in a palace), among other perks.
Artwork in the Deck 3 lobby of SCENIC AZURE.
The ship is structurally and technically the same as the RADIANCE (same hull and specs) but with an amended layout and décor.
SCENIC AZURE Lounge, facing forward from starboard.
SCENIC AZURE Dining Room, facing forward from starboard.
Although not unlike her near sister in style, the SCENIC AZURE’s public spaces are slightly less open (ie, glass walls divvy up the Lounge into smaller sections) and boast more artwork (curated by the owners).
I did a walking tour of Porto on my visit the month prior, so my one objective was to climb to the top of the famed Torre dos Clerigos, the Baroque monument in the center of town.
Torre dos Clerigos.
Fortunately, the line was short and I was able to scale its 240 steps in relatively quick fashion, despite having had to back out of a few tight corners to allow for people coming down.
Douro overlook from Torre dos Clerigos.
I love a great view but am not keen on precipitous heights, so took a few shots in every direction and then descended to terra firma. It was a short walk back to the ship, where I still had time for a late morning run along the waterfront.
This time I made it all the way out to the breakwater and back before cleaning up, having lunch and joining the afternoon Discover More tour ($20) to Guimaraes, a beautiful UNESCO World Heritage designated town north of Porto.
Approaching the Palace of the Dukes of Braghanza.
Our visit began with a guided tour of the Palace of the Dukes of Braganza, which was originally built in the 1400s and eventually succumbed to decay.
Pink Floyd clouds over Guimaraes.
It was completely reconstructed by architect Rogerio de Azevedo in 1936 by order of Portuguese dictator Salazar. From the courtyard, there was pure glory aloft with fluffy clouds floating in a sea of piercingly blue.
Who knew (OK, probably everyone) that proper English tea with all the pomp, ceremony and sweets came from Portuguese princess Catherine of Braganza, who introduced it to the court of her philandering husband, King Charles II, in 1660.
Santiago Plaza at Guimaraes.
The visit to Guiamraes was brief but very enjoyable. Like the rest of what we saw in Portugal, it was as charming as it was beautiful. After a short time on our own, we met up with our tour guide in Santiago Plaza for the ride back to Porto.
By the time we arrived back at the ship, the north bank of the Douro was bathed in a golden-hued light that only enhanced the beauty of its pastel facades. As tempting as it was to wander about, the rest of the afternoon and evening was spent packing, dining and trying to get a full night’s sleep before an early return to California.
End of RADIANCE On The River
Very Special Thanks: Lauren Dzubak Frye, Bruno Pinheiro
Having documented over 400 passenger ships and taken more than 200 cruises, MaritimeMatters’ co-editor Peter Knego is a leading freelance cruise writer, a respected ocean liner historian and frequent maritime lecturer both on land and at sea. With his work regularly featured in cruise industry trades and consumer publications. Knego also runs the www.midshipcentury.com website which offers MidCentury cruise ship furniture, artwork and fittings rescued from the shipbreaking yards of Alang, India. He has produced several videos on the subject, including his latest, The Sands Of Alang and the best-selling On The Road To Alang."
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