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The Douro Valley train ride

The Douro Valley Train Ride - Portugal

Taking the train ride along the Douro river is one of the experiences you should not miss when visiting the Douro Valley.

The scenery of the train sliding on the tracks, the river still waters with the wooden traditional boats carrying people to various locations are iconic pictures you may want to experience.

Please don’t expect a recent train but is not a very old one either. I can say is old enough to have a certain patina.

However, if you are spending some days at Porto to enjoy this little dream by yourself, only using public transportation, you might face some challenges.

To better explain myself I need you to bear in mind the sequence of the train stations, but only those will be needed during this explanation: Porto São Bento (…) Régua (…) Pinhão (…) Pocinho.

The most interesting area of the Douro Valley where to enjoy this train ride is in between Pinhão and Pocinho, the last third of the 3h20m train ride.

There are only four or five trains running per day each way.

Conclusion: you can take the 9:10 or 12:55 train at Porto São Bento, go all the way to Pocinho and you will be back to Porto again at 18:50 or 20:55, respectively.

This means you will need one complete day to fulfill this little project.

Does it worth it? Difficult to say, it is a personal assessment.

Naturally, during the Iberactive tours, we do not face this problem because we have our own logistic support and we have our own way of doing things.

We will be happy to have you on our tour, however, if you can’t or don’t want to join us, please check the following.

I will let you with two different possibilities, always considering you are at Porto:

1. Find a boat tour from Porto to Régua and return from Régua to Porto by train. The downfall of this solution is you will not visit the most interesting part of the Douro Valey, from Pinhão to Pocinho.

2. Take a train to Pinhão, have a traditional wooden boat ride and return to Porto

09:10 / 11:37 – train ride Porto São Bento / Pinhão

12:00 / 14:00 – Rabelo boat ride (the wooden traditional riverboats)

14:00 / 16:07 – free time to lunch and/or go on a wine cellar visit

16:07 / 18:50 – train ride Pinhão / Porto São Bento

I hope this is useful.

David Monteiro

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Porto Covo and the Pessegueiro Island, Portugal

PortoCovo-005---Portugal

Porto Covo and the Pessegueiro Island, Portugal

Back to 1986, a Portuguese rock singer (Rui Veloso) releases a music called Porto Covo and Bang … this little coastal village is now on the map, everybody knows about a place that used to be a relaxing spot for vacations.

The music tells you about a certain time when you could camp on the beach surrounded by other young chaps doing exactly the same and when cheap wine was the perfect companion for a grilled seabream recently caught by the local fishermen.

Is also mentioned a legend about a peach tree that used to exist on the island, the Pessegueiro island (Peach Tree Island) planted by a Vizier of Odemira, during the Moorish occupation.

About the fruit tree, I do not have any kind of information but if the island could talk it would tell us incredible stories of pirates and invasions by terrible enemies.

Nowadays you can see some ruins on the island. They are from an old fortress from the XVI century.

On the mainland in front of the island, you can also find a more recent fortress also abandoned.

During the summer both the beach in front of the island and the beaches of Porto Covo have a lot of people.

None of the less, they are gorgeous and a few magazines and newspapers already classified these areas among the most beautiful beaches in Europe.

Have fun.

David Monteiro

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Sines, much more than the harbor and the beach

Sines-003---Portugal

Sines, much more than the harbor and the beach

Sines is a photogenic location and the birthplace of one of the most famous Portuguese. Give it a try.

Sines is widely known because of its internationally and huge harbor that receives constantly enormous vessels carrying petroleum products for the factory’s around the town.

However, if you give it a chance and look at it at a closer range you will easily discover much more than that.

The beach is the most obvious spot to find and is probably one of the most “organized” there is on the coast south of Lisbon with its promenade along the sand, parking spaces and bars.

If you stand by the beach, you can look up and the castle will catch your eye. There you will find the Vasco da Gama’s house.

Vasco da Gama was a Portuguese Navigator from the XV century, probably the most famous one. He discovered the way to navigate to India.

Is not certain that he was born in the castle but that is one of the possibilities.

In case you will be traveling to Sines you might consider coming here for the world music festival at the end of July … amazing event. Please access http://en.fmmsines.pt/ to get more information.

For me, as a passionate photographer, Sines is without a doubt a photography spot.

Have fun.

David Monteiro

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Volvo Ocean Race 2017 in Lisbon

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Volvo Ocean Race 2017 in Lisbon

If you are planning to visit Lisbon, take the opportunity to see the Volvo Ocean Race ships.

The Volvo Ocean Race 2017 will start on the 22nd of October, from Alicante, Spain.

From Alicante, these marvelous ships will “fly” to Lisbon sailing 1300 Km.

On the 28th of October, we will have the pleasure of having them sailing on the Tejo river.

If you can, do not miss this big event that is much more than just looking to nice boats.

The environment is fantastic and there are many opportunities to learn about the technology behind this race and get in touch with a unique reality.

Apart from what you can learn, there are always many things to do.

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Last time I had the chance to try walking on a stackline. My performance was terrible but some guys were amazing.

I hope to see you here.

David Monteiro

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Lisbon’s pogrom of 1506

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Lisbon’s pogrom of 1506

In 1506, Easter in Lisbon was forever marked by a tragic event. Between 4000 and 5000 people were killed and, some of them, after being tortured, accused of being Jews.

Portugal is country of tolerance, is part of the Portuguese heritage.

That being said it doesn’t mean that there are no problems concerning tolerance, of course, there are. But, in the actual world, I can consider Portugal as being a country where differences, towards the majority, are well accepted.

However, on 19 April 1506 something happened that was going to be remembered as the Pogrom of Lisbon or the Easter Massacre.

For the context and details, I will call your attention to the Wikipedia’s description that I find quite useful: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lisbon_massacre

Please pray for the end of all kinds of discrimination.

David Monteiro

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Off the beaten track vacations? Really?

Guadalajara-001---Espana

Off the beaten track vacations? Really?

If you really wish for some vacations off the beaten track so consider going to the Lagoon of Taravilla … it will worth your time.

There are more people talking about doing some off the beaten track vacations than really doing it. You know that, right?

By the time people start to really do their bookings is when Madrid and Barcelona get’s most of their time and money. In this case I’m talking about Spain.

Please don’t get me wrong I really love Madrid and Barcelona is a fine place to visit.

But the true strong memories and bonding moments usually come from some time spent on more relaxed, natural and less complex environments or even from situations out of “civilization” where “things” happen.

It’s like writing or reading a book, flat scenes will not stick to your mind and they will just occupy pages of your book without leaving any trails.

On the other hand you have the extraordinary and then is when places like the Lagoon of Taravilla makes a huge difference to you and to those that matters and you will remember.

The photo:

My oldest sun Zé Monteiro, diving into the Lagoon of Taravilla.

Was a quite warm day on July and we was doing some walking and getting the best of each opportunity, like this one.

The area is amazing. The water comes from the river Tagus, not too far from its spring and is abslutly cristal clear.

Have fun,

David Monteiro

Location of the Lagoon of Taravilla: Lat N40 39 02 / Long E0 01 58

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Café Nicola, a “must visit” place in Lisbon

Lisboa-028---Portugal

Café Nicola, a “must visit” place in Lisbon

The Café Nicola is one of the icons of Lisbon, is a “must visit” places in the city.

There are many fine examples of monuments, interesting buildings or just events started by foreigners in Lisbon or Portugal and the Nicola coffee shop is one of the most iconic in between those cases.

In 1755 Lisbon was greatly affected by a very destructive earthquake and the city had to be totally rebuilt.

The square where Nicola is located, called D Pedro IV square but generally known by the name of Rossio before the earthquake was an area where the military used to train or do their parades. At that old square, there was also probably the biggest hospital in Lisbon.

In 1787 an Italian gentleman called Nicola opened this coffee shop with his own name.

The coffee shop location was perfect. Quite close to the most elegant garden at the time, the “Passeio Público” (Public Promenade) where you could find the most influential people of the Lisbon society.

The “Passeio Público” no longer exists but the Nicola is still there proudly open and usually crowded.

It has been a meeting point for artists, politicians’, writers and other public figures.

I waited until Christmas time to take the picture … I absolutely love like that.

Enjoy the place.

David Monteiro

Note: Café Nicola, Praça Dom Pedro IV 24-25, 1200-091 Lisboa

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Jewish heritage of Castelo de Vide, Portugal

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Jewish heritage of Castelo de Vide, Portugal

When looking for the Jewish heritage in Portugal, Castelo de Vide has to be on the list.​

When you are looking for the Jewish heritage in Portugal, Castelo de Vide has to be on your list.​

At Castelo de Vide, you will find many points of interest like its medieval Castle and the village itself.

However, the most important heritage you will find there is its Jewish background.

This small village located by the border with Spain is usually not included in vacation routes.

Why? Probably for not been in the list of most touristic destinations.

Personally, I love the place.

I find Castelo de Vide as hidden treasure, and it can take you to a time travel to the XV century.

During the XV century, the Jewish community was running away from Spain.

One of their logical destinations was the Portuguese border to establish their new settlements.

At the end of the XV century and during the XVI century, the Jews found themselves also trapped in Portugal.

The marriage agreement in between D. Manuel I and D. Isabel (1), included expelling the Jews from Portugal.

Please consider that D. Manuel did not want to do that so the solution was to proceed with the agreement but closing the borders at the same time.

Now, the Jews found themselves in a situation not to be wanted in the country but from where they could not run away.

The result was, they were confined in ghettos called “Judiarias” – Jewish quarters or neighborhoods.

This part of History you can learn more about it in Castelo de Vide.

Related with the Jewish background, what can you see today in Castelo de Vide?

  • Judiaria (Jewish quarters or neighborhoods)
  • Sinagoga (synagogue)
    Casa do Arçario (Arçário House)
  • Fonte da Vila (Town’s Fountain)

If you are interested in the History of the Jewish community in Portugal, you must visit Castelo de Vide.

David Monteiro

(1) Manuel I, of Portugal, and D. Isabel, one of the daughters of the Catholic kings

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The origin of the name Donostia

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The origin of the name Donostia

Donostia in Basque or San Sebastian in Spanish are the names of a magnificent Spanish Basque town. Are these names related some how?

Apparently the answer is yes.

Let’s take a look on what we can find in the Wikipedia:

“In spite of appearances, both the Basque form Donostia and the Spanish form San Sebastián have the same meaning of Saint Sebastian. The dona/done/doni element in Basque place-names signifies “saint” and is derived from Latin domine; the second part of Donostia contains a shortened form of the saint’s name. There are two hypothesis regarding the evolution of the Basque name: one says it was *Done Sebastiáne > Donasa(b)astiai > Donasastia > Donastia > Donostia, the other one says it was *Done Sebastiane > *Done Sebastiae > *Done Sebastie > *Donesebastia > *Donasastia > *Donastia > Donostia.”

in https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/San_Sebasti%C3%A1n

David Monteiro

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Relaxing at the SPA of Casas do Côro

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Relaxing at the SPA of Casas do Côro

Relaxing at the SPA of Casas do Côro, an off the beaten path hotel, after a walk in the Côa Valley is an experience I definitively recommend.

Are you looking for off the beaten path experiences? If so, this is for you.

Imagine spending a morning chatting and walking on the rolling hills of the Côa Valley.

To end your morning there is no better way than having a marvelous home cooking food at Ervamoira, a wine-farm from Ramos Pinto winery.

At this wine-farm, you can also visit a rock art engravings site with more than 25.000 years old drawings … amazing.

After this good meal and a cultural moment, is time for some walking.

The existence of several trails nearby gives you the opportunity to do a longer or a shorter walk as you please.

Walking is always a moment for extra chatting with your adventure companions while time flies.

One way or the other, one arrives tired at the end of the day and will be the perfect time to relax, enjoy some downtime.

In the Côa Valley your eyes can only see small villages, rural roads, some castles, and nothing more.

However, like hiding itself from most of the less curious people, you can find an extraordinary hotel with a not less impressive SPA area.

Its name is Casas do Côro.

… a massage followed by a warm bath … uuaauu …

The evening spent with friends and good wine is also unforgettable.

I can get used to this … and so do you.

Join me for a tour.

David Monteiro