Wednesday, August 19, 2015

On Board our Viking River Cruise

Starting with upgraded (you know I love that word!) room assignments
and "safety instructions" aboard the Viking Torgil .....

we soon realized that this trip was going to be first class with attention to every detail! 
The best way to travel with 3 other couples .... no decisions, everything planned with perfection!

Chef Pedro and Program Director Carmen welcomed us with a special dinner and a sunset scenic harbor cruise along the Douro River.  
Porto is most famous for it's historic port wine trade and it is the only city in Europe 
with six bridges! 

The guys got up early to experience going through the first lock.

only the first of many locks and low bridges during our week along the Douro River .......

The scenes along the river were spectacular,
with precision rows of port grape vineyards stacked up every hillside,
lined with olive and almond trees.....

and clear blue skies all week! 

Every night we dined together.....
with our attentive waiter, Emanuel. 
Who, by the way, enjoyed us so much that he quit after 
his last night waiting on us! 
He was a sweet boy but missed his Mama! 

We managed to celebrate a few special birthdays too! 

This was a sample of the sunset view from our dinner table.....

After our evening cocktail and a serenade by the piano player we would retire,
exhausted but eager to explore more of Portugal. 
Every morning, Carmen's voice would announce.....
"Bom Dia, your bus is boarding in fifteen minutes!" 

And we were on the road to another interesting sight!  

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Melhor De Lisboa!

The best of Lisbon!
We checked into the Hotel Trivoli Lisbon, perfectly located within walking distance of the 'old city' and were quickly greeted by the program director of Viking cruise.  The shaded pool and a glass of something cool called to us while we waited for "the rest of the gang" coming from London ....

Let the fun begin!

Our morning guided Viking tour of Lisbon took us along the river front, 

Where modern meets ancient ...... 
Belem Tower was a welcome landmark for sailors returning home.

and to the Mosteiro dos Jeronimos,

with a specialty of the area .... cinnamon-sprinkled custard tarts.
The nuns apparently used egg whites to starch 
their clothes so came up with this creamy treat with flaky pastry 
using the egg yolks! 

I say, "when in Portugal, taste everything!" 

Dinner that night introduced us to Portuguese cuisine and 
the interesting and dramatic music genre known as Fado. 

Our bus transfer to Porto, where we will board the ship, began early the next morning...
luggage packed and at the door at 7:00AM!
On the way we visited the University grounds of Coimbra University..... 

where graduates proudly wear black capes they have personalized,
and we visited an incredible library where real bats 
keep the bugs and mice from eating the books. 
They claim that THIS is where JK Rowling, while living here in her early life,
 got many of her
ideas for the Harry Potter series. 

On to the cruise ship and our first night on board!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Tapas in Madrid

Following the lesson we learned in San Sebastian years ago, we booked a Tapas Tour (English speaking) for our first night in Madrid.  Not only did it keep us awake and engaged but a walking tour is a great way to familiarize yourself with a new city and some of the local food delights of the area.

In Spain, dinner is commonly served late, between 9 - 11.  So after a siesta, many locals will stop by one of the small tapas establishments and have a drink and an appetizer.

 We met our guide near the Plaza Mayor, by day he works for the British Embassy!  
He explained that the word Tapas comes from the Spanish word tapar "to cover". 
Small plates were set on top of a glass of sweet sherry or in our case,
sweet vermouth, to keep the fruit flies from settling.
Eventually small appetizers appeared on the plates.  

This restaurant specializes in Jamon Serrano....
thinly sliced dry cured ham.

One of our favorite tapas restaurants specialized in mushrooms......

.....filled with chorizo, garlic and parsley, 
and sprinkled with lemon olive oil
on a very hot grill.

We went back the next day for another round! 

Tapas may be cold like olives & cheese,
deep fried croquetas or calamari 
or served piping hot like these garlic gambas "shrimps".

After 5 or 6 stops we could not imagine 
going for dinner....
When in Spain .... Tapas is the way to go! 

Notes:  We stayed at El Jardin De Serrano
right on the Plaza de la Independencia
It was perfect, fantastic service, Hop on/off bus stop,
Who's who Night spot, shopping district!