Duaro valley – 14th October 2021

At the second time if trying we managed to get the correct tour and by 9am we’re on our way for a full day sightseeing in the Duaro valley. There was just one other passenger on our tour with us.

The initial drive to the first Quinta took about 90 minutes. The drive took us high into the hills and there were some impressive pieces of construction including a 5km long tunnel. As we got closer to the valley we left the motorway and joined smaller roads studying they’re way through the hills. All around there were vines on the steep sided valley slopes. There was a slight change to the itinerary for to illness and so our first stop was the Sandman vineyard.

We had a tour of the production areas and learned how Port is made. The amount of production each year is strictly controlled by an overseeing organisation.

All of the vineyards appear to produce the initial product in the mountains but then it is transported to Port for maturing because the summer and winter temperatures are less extreme.

At the end of the tour there was the obligatory tasting of a ruby and a white port.

Our next stop was the small village of Pinhao where we enjoyed a lovely lunch of local recipes including chorizo and pork in red wine. The meal was in a small family run restaurant and came with plenty of local wine.

After lunch we boarded a boat for an hour long trip along the river where we again saw hills covered in vines of different companies.

Our final stop of the day was to an olive oil museum where they had preserved machinery that used to be used for the production of olive oil. Not used since 2001 it has been refurbished to explain how the oil used to be produced. We learnt that the best police oils have an acidity of less that 0.8%.

The setting was stunning, high above the valley and we sampled some of the oil along with a red, rise and white wine produced by the same family. All delicious!

Our visits complete we were driven back to Porto which took longer than expected due to traffic jams when nearing the city. By now it was almost 8pm and so after a quick shower we headed out to get some food. We first stopped at the town hall and a tower, along with a church decorated with blue and white tiles before having tapas during outside a restaurant.

Sated we returned to the hotel for a good night’s sleep!

Porto – 13th October 2021

So, today didn’t pan out with as we had thought!

We were up early to have breakfast and be ready for a pick up for the tour to the Duaro valley between 8.30 and 9 am. After eating we walked out of the hotel and we immediately met by a driver who confirmed the booking name which sounded ok.

We were somewhat surprised to find that we were the only two people on the tour. Around half an hour into the journey, the driver took a call which it turns out was from his boss…. It seems that he had picked the wrong two passengers up!

He turned around and we headed back into Porto.  Meanwhile I managed to get hold of the tour company that we had booked with and, fortunately, we were able to rearrange the booking for the next day!

We arrived back in Porto at 9.30 and immediately walked towards the river, hoping not to bump in to the passengers from our hotel who had a delayed start!

When we got to the rubber we booked a boat and bus tour of Porto. The boat tour was first and we cruised along the Duaro, first upstream and then down to see the six bridges that span there river in the city.

The iron bridge is now disused but remains as a national monument. It was partly designed by Eiffel

The boat trip lasted about an hour and from there we walked to find the bus stop for the open top bus tour. We waited around for a while but eventually the bus arrived. The first route took us South of the river into Gaia. There wasn’t really that much to see and the commentary was difficult to hear.

When we moved back to the north, we got off at the Sao Bento station to get some lunch. We ended up at a riverside restaurant and had some lovely fish.

We resumed the tour and spent the next hour or so seeing the city, including back to the beach area where we had been the previous day.

Once back, we had a refreshment stop before walking across the bridge to see if we could do a tour of one of the Port houses. However we were too late for a tour so we simply sampled some of the wares!

By now it was almost sunset so we walked up the hill to view the sun set from near the top of the iron bridge. It was a lovely view!

Having seen the sun go down we walked back to the hotel for a shower before heading out again to find some tea in a local pizza place.

So exist the day did not go as we had planned, we spent a lovely day exploring more of Porto.

Porto – 12th October 2021

Today was a slow relaxing day. After breakfast we walked down to the river and caught the old historic team along the coast at Foz du Duaro.

It was another warm day and once we had arrived we didn’t a couple of hours wandering along the sea front.

The town sits at the mouth of the Duaro and has a long sea front. The town itself seems pretty run down but the views to the ocean we’re a lovely way to while away the hours.

French style colonnade

We stopped halfway along the beach at a bar and spent a few hours just sitting and watching the world go by. We eventually moved along and caught the bus back to the centre.

The bus trip back was a little eventful as the driver managed to clip the back of the bus on an old building next to the roadside.

No one was hurt and we changed buses to get back to the centre. On the way back to the hotel we had a quick drink in a rooftop bar.

After a shower and change we headed out for some food before returning to the hotel. Road trip on Wednesday to the Duaro valley so an early start!

Porto – Monday 11th October 2021

A lazy start with breakfast in the hotel at around 10 am. The food was good; a typical continental spread.

After breakfast, and lathering on the sun screen we went for a stroll, passing by the station at Sao Bento which has amazing painted tile walls. We also noticed the painted tiles on the front of the nearby church which we hadn’t spotted the previous evening.

Painted tiles in the station

We spent the morning wandering around the river which is just a 15 minute walk from the hotel. The area is really pretty with brightly coloured houses decorated with tiles on one side and numerous port ‘caves’ on the other. The area is dominated by the Luís I Bridge which is a two level bridge with a road ridge at the bottom of the gorge and the metro high crossing high above.

A tram crossing the bridge
Traditional River vessels used for transporting the port down getting the Duaro valley
Funicular railway

At about 1pm we stopped for some refreshments and watched the world go by.

The weather is unseasonably warm at around 27°C (hopefully staying like that all week) and so it was good to relax in the sun.

We’d booked a food tour for the afternoon and so after a quick stop back at our hotel we went to meet the tour, just around the corner. We met our guide Teresa and two other couples, one from the United States and one from France.

We started at a coffee house with a strong coffee and a nata, a traditional cake off the region.

Next we walked to another place where we had a glass of vinho Verde and a cod fishcake, also both specialties, the latter even though there is no local cod and it comes all the way from Scandinavia!

Our third stop was at a small local bar where we had a pork roll (bifana) which was topped with a chilli sauce, washed down with a Super Bock!

The next place was a small delicatessen which served is done Portuguese red wine and smoked meats and cheeses and then final stop, back down by the river was to sample three different ports. We both decided that he tawny port was the best… On this occasion!

By now it was almost 7pm and so we headed back to the hotel for a shower before going out again. After a few drinks we decided to try and get a late meal at the restaurant attached to our hotel. However, the server didn’t seem interested and so we headed back out to find somewhere. (We probably shouldn’t have bothered!) As it was gone 11 we called it a night as a combination of the walking and heat had tired us out!

Home to Porto – Sunday 10th October

We left home about 11 to head to the airport. The traffic was heavy and we had to skirt around an accident but we got to the airport in good time and dropped the car at the airport hotel we’d be staying on our return.

We took an Uber to the airport and checked in. It was a bit chaotic but once we’d dropped our bags, security was efficient and we were soon relaxing in the lounge.

I was excited to be travelling again and despite having to wear masks, and faff around with uploading documents before we left, thing’s we actually pretty straightforward. Good and drink in the lounge were ordered on an app and brought to the table quickly.

The flight left and arrived on time and we negotiated customs, noticing that our passports are now stamped on entry.

Porto has an efficient metro network and we were able to catch a metro from the airport to nearby our hotel for about €2.50. the journey took less than half an hour and after a brief walk in the wrong direction we were soon checking in to our hotel. The hotel Teatro seems to be in a good location in the centre of the city. The staff were friendly and showed us to our room.

By now it was around 7.30 and so we unpacked and then headed out to find some food. We didn’t go that far before we found a cafe with tables outside. The evening was warm and we both had a beer with a burger.

A couple more drinks before we headed back to the hotel for a glad of wine and a relatively early night.

Monday 10th February 2020

After breakfast and checking out we caught a bus to the walled town of Mdina. The town is small and we walked around it in no time. The streets are narrow with tall walls and all built in the local limestone.

The main church
View from the wall

We walked back to the main transport area and caught a bus which we thought was going to take us to the nearby town of Rabat. As it headed off in the other direction we realised our mistake and so jumped off and caught a bus back! We walked from here to St Paul’s catacombs where we spent around an hour going into some of the catacombs which had been built as burial chambers.

By now it was time to head back to the hotel, via two buses. We just had time for afternoon tea before heading to get a taxi to the hotel for our evening flight back to Gatwick.

We were glad that we hadn’t planned the return trip on the Sunday when storm Ciara was blowing. It was a little bit bumpy on landing, butt nothing compared to what it was like the day before.

Sunday 9th February 2020

Another relaxing start with breakfast before catching a couple of buses to take us to Marsaxlokk, a pretty town on the coast where there is a Sunday market.

Unfortunately, half of the island seemed to have the same idea and it was pretty busy. It must be absolutely packed in the summer! We wandered around the market area, taking in the sights and seeing the pretty painted boats bobbing in the harbour.

The church

After a quick drink we caught another bus to take us to Paola, where we planned to see some catacombs. However, on arriving there, wet realised that our we hadn’t done or planning very well as you need to book weeks in advance!

It was now mid afternoon and so we decided to catch a bus back to the hotel for afternoon tea.

We had a short walk around the harbour near our hotel before a shower and back to the lounge for drinks and cards!

Saturday 8th February 2020 – Malta

We had a leisurely start before catching a bus to Valetta. The bus network in Malta is very good although the traffic and coastline means that short journeys can take quite a while. The bus dropped us off right outside the city gate.

New city gate

After walking through the city gate the first thing that you get to is the new parliament. Directly behind this is an open air theatre built directly on the site of the old one that was destroyed by the Luftwaffe in the war.

Parliament building
Open air theatre

We walked on down the main Street which was decked out with banners because of the St Paul’s festival due to take place on the Monday.

There are reminders of Britain’s role of there island everywhere…

A short way down the street and we came to the co cathedral.

Outside of the co cathedral

Inside the cathedral is intricately decorated with the floor made up of stones, each one carved for one of the Knights.

Caravaggio painting

Having looked around the cathedral we walked a little further and then stopped for a well earned beer, sitting on a square in the sun.

After our drink we walked into the main square and then through the streets to the upper gardens, overlooking the the cities.

From the upper gardens we descended and entered the Lascari war rooms. These were a top secret bunker that was used first to coordinate the defence of Malta against the Luftwaffe and then to plan and monitor the campaign to take Sicily in 1943.

We had a really interesting tour of the rooms.

On leaving the war rooms we descended again to sea level, passing the Victoria gate.

At the bottom of the hill we caught a lock boat across to the three cities. There were some great views on the boat.

On the other side we stopped for another pit stop and had a beer overlooking the marina.

We spent the next hour or so wandering around Birgu and then got a taxi back to our hotel where we took advantage of canapes and drinks in the lounge.

A bit later, after a shower, we walked to the bar area for a couple of drinks out on the town. The area around the hotel was quite commercialised so we didn’t stay out long and had a night cap back at the hotel bar.

Friday 7th February 2020 – London to Malta

We had an early morning flight to Malta and after a short delay due to fog and there threat of French air traffic control strikes, we left Gatwick.

The route was a bit more circuitous than it should have been to avoid the strikes but we arrived on Malta just 15 minutes late.

We had a taxi to the hotel intercontinental, in St Julian’s and checked in at the lounge and had a drink before heading to the room.

View from the room

After a shower to freshen up, we headed out to explore. We walked through the streets of at Julian’s towards the ferry across the harbour to Valetta.


However, the swell in the harbour had caused the ferry to be cancelled and so we took a taxi to the other side, to see the Malta experience, a 45 minute show giving the history of Malta. It was interesting to see how frequently over the years the island had been invaded and just how strategiclly placed it is in the central Mediterranean. It also included a short talk about the history of the hospital, which treated mainly rich men.

By now it was gone 5pm so we had a short walk through Valetta and some of the pedestrianised streets before getting a hair raising taxi back to the hotel.

Having had an early start we decided just to stay in and make use of the hotel facilities so went upstairs to the lounge for canapes and drinks before am early-ish night ready to explore on Saturday.

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