9-29-17 On the Road through Austria into Italy

Our drive today was REALLY REALLY REALLY BEAUTIFUL but no pictures where taken.  Lovely views of snow covered alps…..end up near the Venice Airport where we will be picking up Terri and Jason tomorrow and going into Venice for several days.

The route we took today.

Once we got settled into our hotel we went out looking for a self serve laundry and found one!  After an hour and half, we were back to the hotel putting ourselves together for our next big adventure – Venice!

Even our NEW car got into the act.
Sorting cloths before starting the machine
Janeen – getting ready to do this thing!
The instructions on the machines and the coin area were actually quite easy to understand – NOT like our experience in France a year or so ago.
David says he is helping but who really knows

9-28-17 On the Road to Innsbruck

Stuttgart to Innsbruck – on the road most of the day but only went 325 Km (201 miles). But it was a lovely drive through the southern Alps of Germany and into the Alps of Austria. Mostly an uneventful day – but lovely views. Our hotel in Innsbruck seems to be a jumping off point for hikers as there are special packages which include various treks in the nearby mountains.

Just one of the many beautiful views along our road today.
Here’s our car on the side of the road.
A little church just to the side of our travels.



Could not believe all the beautiful views we saw along the way today.
A beautiful couple standing on the side road if I do say so myself.
Here’s or track for the day.
Our hotel in Innsbruck – nice clean place.
















Tomorrow is Venice – well, not really, but close. We are staying at a hotel near the airport so we can pick up Terri and Jason who will be joining us in Venice for a few days prior to their flight back to Virginia.

9-27-17 Mercedes-Benz Day

Not much has happened over the last couple of days – we have been waiting for TODAY.  The planning for TODAY started way last November when we started thinking about a car for our time in Europe and decided it would be best to just buy one.  Well, that lead us to look at the four basic car makers who have what is called Foreign Delivery programs:  Volvo, Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz.  We checked each of their programs, sat in a few different models and decided the Mercedes-Benz GLC-300 would be the car for us.

While we were in Virginia last December, for Christmas with our granddaughter and her parents (Jason our son and his wife Terri) we ventured out to a Mercedes-Benz dealer and put down a deposit for a new car for delivery in Stuttgart late September.  When this is now late September.

We arrived at the delivery center only to find out there was a custom’s paperwork that hadn’t been completed.  Nothing we could do about it so we were given a voucher for a beverage and tickets to a factory tour.  The factory tour was about 2 hours and quite interesting.  Having gone on a GM tour in about 1972, things have most certainly changed.  Robots do 90% of everything – heavy lifting, welding, screwing, gluing – you name it and they can do it.  The human touch only comes in for the fine detail work and finishing touches.

The entrance to the pick up center for our new car.
The factor tour was really interesting – lots of robots.
The cars come down the line and are shifted in all different directions to allow access.
Here’s the top being put on the car.
The paint line ends up putting 6 or 7 layers of paint on the car.
Robots everywhere!
Welding, crimping, bolting, screwing – all by robots along the line.

After the tour we were given another voucher for lunch – which was quite nice.  After that, we were finally introduced to our new car.  As we were going through all the particulars we soon realized it did not have European Maps in the navigation system.  Well, another voucher for a dessert and beverage while the loaded the correct maps to the system and ultimately about 2 hours later we able to finish the introduction to the car and take off.

It’s hard to believe we have done this!
Janeen really likes this color of the Mercedes-Benz GLC-300.




















First stop was to the Mercedes-Benz Museum.  Started in 1886, this organization has done an extrodinary amount of different things over the last hundred or so years.  Cars, boats, motorcycles, airplanes, racing cars, buses you name it and they have had a hand in doing something one way or another.

Along with the various cars presented there was a general timeline listing important events happening around the world – interesting to see and learn about all of this from their (Mercedes-Benz) perspective.

Built in about 1890 – this “motorcycle” could be the first one ever built.
Not something I would want to have driven.
Another early car.
Neat car with luggage rack on the roof.
The original Mercedes name sake car.
With this LO 1112, Hector Prieto began a career as a bus operator in Buenos Aires in 1969. As was customary in many private bus companies, his vehicle was colorfully painted and decorated inside with lucky charms, mascots and souvenirs to attract customers.
The Museum had a really HUGE collection of old cars.
This is the car Janeen really wanted us to pick up. Sad to say, not made any more.

After finding our way back to the hotel I turned the car over to them to put in the garage and we went out for a beer.  All in all a very pleasant day.

Celebrating our new car at dinner.



9-21-17 thru 9-23-17 Final full days in Portugal

Thursday – September 21st through Saturday the 23rd.

On Thursday, I stayed on board the boat today while Janeen headed out with the rest of the ship to Salamanca Spain. Sleeping in has its advantages and a restful day was great. After we moved the boat, to the dock of the village, I took myself for a walk.   Well, the village of Barca de Alva is about 3 blocks long and maybe 2-blocks wide. I saw about 20 people in total and that included two people from the Boat also on a walking tour.

THE main street of Barca de Alva where the boat docked for the bus trip to Salamanca.
Almonds seem to be the only product at this store.

Not a hot spot of entertainment that’s for sure.



While everyone was out touring Salamanca, I had a coffee in town.

I did stop for a coffee and read my book for a while and then back to the boat. It was a nice relaxing day.





While I stayed on the boat, Janeen went with the rest of the ship to Salamanca. If you ignore the winding 2-hour road ride, the rest stop WC line, and a timetable, Salamanca, Spain is a fascinating city. The University, founded in the late 12th/early 13th century, was one of the most progressive of its day; allowing students to study writings of Moor, Jewish and Christian philosophers. The only thing they consistently agreed upon was the huge temptation for the students in the form of Woman (who is represented by the frog of lust, usually poised over a skull or skeleton). However, if one can find the Salamanca frog amongst the carvings and religious figures, it guarantees a return to the city. The two cathedrals, which share a wall, are unique examples of the Romanesque (simple) and Gothic (soaring and ornate) styles form 11th century to the Renaissance.

This is the “new” church in town.

The “New” Cathedral (15th cent.) was delayed by massive death count of the bubonic plague, victims of which are buried in mass graves beneath the floor. Today, the city of Salamanca has mostly two sources of income, tourists and students. The University will celebrate its 800th year in 2018.

The Main Plaza of the city.
Moving art exhibit in the Square.









See the frog on the top of the skull? Well, it’s there!
This is the Shell House – the outside of the building is marked with shells it’s on the Pilgriamage Route.
See the astronaut carved on the side of the ‘new’ church.
















Here we are having an adult beverage in the lounge on the boat.
Just enjoying the curse along the Douro River.










Friday and Saturday was a nothing day – mostly sailing along the Douro as we made our way back towards Porto. So, nothing really to report beyond the views from the boat.

Enjoying dinner with our friends.
Our group for dinner in the private room on the ship.

We did enjoy our evening dinners in the private dining room with all our new found friends.











Church of São Francisco on the right bank of the Douro – Porto side.

Saturday afternoon, after arriving in Porto, we head out on our own walking tour visiting around the Ribera area of old Porto, and ultimately stopping in at the Church of Saint Francisco.




The interior of the church is a mass of carved wood decorated walls, columns, ceilings – everywhere.

After paying our admission price, we walked through the place and particularly enjoyed seeing the Jesse Tree.














The Tree of Jesse is a depiction of the ancestors of Christ, shown in a tree which rises from Jesse of Bethlehem, the father of King David and grows upward from there.

This church is famous for this depiction of the Tree of Jesse.
This carved Tree of Jesse is really quite amazing – thus several different pictures presented for your enjoyment.

This carved wood piece is quite tall with 12 kings of Judah connected through branches of the tree to the recumbent body of Jesse. On top of the tree is Joseph, under an image of the Virgin and the Child. This was made in the early 1700’s and still looks quite good.


After walking through the church, we headed outside and tried to connect with Janeen’s friend Cherlyne and her husband David. They were in Porto at the same time as us but on a tour with Tauck. After texting several times back and forth we found out they were on a ‘break’ on the other side of the Douro River so we rushed back over the river and found them! It was neat to connect, if only for a few minutes, with them – Cherlyne is a OLD high school friend of Janeen who she sees infrequently as they live in eastern Oregon.

Janeen and Cherlyn

After our ‘quick’ visit we got back on the boat and finished packing for our departure the next day.

On our last evening, the Capitan took the Boat for a spin on the River to see the night sky.

9-20-17 Sandeman Tour and lunch at a Quinta at the top of a hill.

See the terraces? See the vines? This is where the fruit comes from for the Sandeman wines and ports

OK – it’s Wednesday, I think, and we are off to Quinta do Seixo for a tour and tasting. What a surprise, they make Port! Actually they make a number of wines not the least of which is Port. This Quinta is actually the home of Sandeman – a “most renowned wine estate”.

A lovely walkway covered with vines as we entered the building.
The logo is meant to make you think of the student robs in the University we visited a few days ago and the hat is a reference to Spain as they also have produced sherry from that part of the world.

A large wine consortium that also owns, what a coincidence also owns Mateus where we were yesterday owns this. Sandeman was established in 1790 and has been producing port wine ever since. The logo is meant to make you think of the student robs in the University we visited a few days ago and the hat is a reference to Spain as they also have produced sherry from that part of the world.





These are the crushing and fermentation tanks. Note the metal rods sticking down in the tank, these are performing the “crush”






The tour was interesting – seems they make a lot of wine – but nothing out of the ordinary having been on any number of wine tours over the years.  However, the fermentation area and the crushing system was interesting.  They still crush the fruit in open tanks – in this case made of granite and highlight polished on the inside but they use a mechanical “stomper” as seen in the photo.

Inside Sandeman – some 10,000 bottles on display.
Aging barrels at Sandeman.













We tasted a couple of wines both of which were enjoyable – a medium dry white Port and a Ruby Port.

Having a beverage after the tour at Sandelman. Nice tasting drink.
Here we are outside the tasting room of Sandeman overlooking the Douro River. Beautiful.







After tasting we re-boarded the bus and headed to lunch at Quinta da Avessada.






As we arrived for lunch, we were met by this two of musicians.

This Quinta is part of a consortium that produces Moscatel and we had a traditional lunch to go with it.


Our lunch spot included a tasting of the local wines. New friends, Michele and Kelly overlooking the pond.
Old barrels – holding wines from several generations ago – great – great grandfather of the owner.
Large barrels still being used inside the building. These hold the owner’s Father’s and Grandfather’s productions.
















All very nice but I didn’t take pictures of the food, sorry. We headed back to the boat and where able to see lots of terraces vineyard along the road. All in all an interesting day. One side note, this trip does not want for wine and food – there is PLUNTY of both!


9-19-17 Mateus Palace

Tuesday and we off to the Mateus Palace. This is the place where the rosé wine we all drank a long time ago comes from. Remember the bottle that is squat and round? Kind of like the WWI canteens the solders use to carry? The bottles show the Palace – designed by an Italian-born architect and built in the 18th Century.

Classic Mateus wine bottle

Well, that’s the place. The baroque masterpiece is NOT where the wine is made anymore but still a beautiful spot to visit. We had been here on our first trip to Portugal so we opted to skip the guided tour of the interior and went straight to the gardens.

However, just incase you want to know what the place looks like there are a few pictures and some general facts for your reading enjoyment. Surrounding the palace is a fantasy of a garden, with tiny boxwood hedges; prim statues and a fragrant cypress tunnel that’s blissfully cool on even the hottest days. This is where we headed immediately upon arrival.

This is the view you get as you approach the Palace. The “lake” is not very big but gives a nice separation between the Palace and the approach road.
The granite wings shelter a lichen-encrusted forecourt dominated by an ornate stairway and guarded by rooftop statues.


The back of the house at the Fountain.
The Chapel and steeple is lovely.
More boxwood in the lower garden.
The boxwood was very well cared for and trimmed to perfection.
Janeen doesn’t recall seeing any persimmon tree this big.
Janeen pointing out all the fruit on this huge persimmon tree.
Janeen with that strange plant again.
This strange plant, in the garden, seemed like it was producing ‘popcorn’. The white buds were that shape. No clue what it was.
There were apples, pears and other fruit trees – not being well cared for but clearly doing OK on their own.
Maintenance – that’s the key here. I couldn’t maintain this that’s for sure.
A nice fountain as the focal point on the upper garden.


Here’s our boat and home for a week on the Douro River.
So far, after being on the road now for 3 months, she hasn’t pushed me off the edge of the cliff!

After spending quality time in the garden we joined up with the group and boarded the bus for the return trip to the Boat.




9-18-17 Walking Tour of Porto

Porto, the city on the right bank of the Douro River and the starting point of our actual river cruise, is considered to be the second largest city in Portugal after Lisbon – but that is only if you include all the surrounding areas as many of the “locals” have moved out for better housing, leaving the interior of the city with a lot of empty buildings. Our boat, the Queen Isabel was docked on the Gaia side of the river (the left bank – the Douro separates the cities of Porto and Gaia).

Lovely city, Porto.

Our first full day, after getting all settled in to our cabin, was a walking tour of the City. Janeen, fighting off a cold, stayed ‘home’ to rest and I took the adventure trail with the group doing the “do as locals do” which is the phrase they use for the more active walking tour.

The City is very picturesque and offers any number of beautiful sites to see.

The bridge across the river – one of 5 or so.

Our trip included a walk across the steel Dom Luis I Bridge. This double deck bridge with light rail and pedestrians at the top and general traffic and pedestrians on the lower deck was designed, in part by Gustave Eiffel and built in the late 1800’s. From there it was a short climb to the Porto cathedral.


Cathedral from the courtyard in front.
The Cathedral alter.
Outside the Cathedral
Statue at the Church

The Cathedral sits on the highest point and has a commanding view of the City.


















This was our trolley arriving about 30 minutes late.
The Driver moves the seat and controls from one end to the other to operate the tram.









From there we took a short walk to catch the local tram – not really a local’s thing to do as it is very slow and not running on schedule often.  It seems all the trams came from the United States sometime during the 1940’s.

The Train station was a treat – with wonderful tile murals on the walls depicting the history of the country.

The inside of the train station – wonderful tile murals on the walls

Walking though the City was enjoyable. We visited parts of the City we (Janeen and I) had not visited in our visit 10 years ago. It is sad, however, to see all the empty buildings as many are in poor condition waiting for someone to come with lots of money to fix them up.

One of the many streets we walked along.
Many buildings have beautiful tile on the outside.
Roof tops and streets – lovely
Another of the narrow streets of Porto.














After the tour, we got back to the boat for various beverages and a discussion by the cruise director on the upcoming events for the trip.   Tomorrow, Tuesday, we start heading up river!

Janeen, Richard, Patricia, Shelly, Kelly, Jerry, Gloria and me. Our dinner group on Monday – we had a great time together.

9-17-17 University of Coimbra and arrival to Porto

Sunday we packed everything up and loaded on the bus to head to Porto to board the boat for the river portion of the UniWorld adventure. However, after stopping for lunch we went to visit the Library at the University of Coimbra. This is one of the oldest universities in Europe having started in the 1290 in Lisbon and moved a coupe of times until it reached a final location in Coimbra 1537.

Our guide explaining what the University Student wears and the history of all its parts. These robes were the model for the Harry Potter books.
The front steps of the old King’s Palace now used for classrooms and offices.
The front door of the library.

Our main stop was the old library. This was built between 1717 and 1728; it is one of the exponents of the Baroque Portuguese and one of the richest European libraries. It consists of three floors: it was completed in 1728 began receiving the first books after 1750, and currently its collection comprises some 40,000 volumes. Richly decorated in the Baroque style it was an interesting site.

Shot looking through the library to the end. Basically three different rooms with two levels of books in each.
The ladder in place on the second level.
The end of the library with a painting of the founding King.
One of the side rooms of the library.












Main alter of the Capela de Saint Miguel

After the Library we paid a short visit to the to the Capela de Saint Miguel. The original chapel most likely dates from the 16th Century and the decorations clearly show that influence.






The organist has to crawl into the organ from underneath from the back side to be able to play the thing.

The organ, mounted between two windows, is really way oversized for the space. The chapel is still used for worship and other ceremonies’







Capela de Saint Miguel Virgin Saint statue

After the visit to the University we completed our drive to Porto and boarded the Queen Isabella.

The City of Porto taken from our patio on the boat. This is looking up the river.


9-16-17 Palaces of Portugal

Saturday was an excursion to two different places – the Palace of Queluz and the Palace of Sintar. First stop was the Palace of Queluz.

This was one of the last great Rococo buildings to be designed in Europe, the palace was conceived as a summer retreat for Dom Pedro of Bragaza,  later to become husband and then king consort  to his own niece, Queen Maria I.

Work on the palace began in 1747 and was used for a number of years but after 1826 it slowly fell from favor. In 1908 it became property of the state. Over the years it has had fires, earthquake damage and lack of maintenance. Recently there has been a series of restorations undertaken to return it to its original condition.

This was the public entrance side of the Palace of Queluz.

We entered from the “public” side of the building, the not so formal face that is presented to the City and toured a number of different rooms. Our guide, Isabel (part of the UniWorld crew) gave great information about the furniture, designs of the rooms and historical events that occurred in the spaces.

The Ballroom at Queluz
The private alter in the Capela at Queluz
Queluz Empire Bedroom
Queluz King’s Bedroom
Princess Maria room
Princess Maria rooms
Queluz Queen’s Boudoir
Queluz – The Sala de Mangas decorated with tile panels illustrating the wealth of Portugal’s colonies
Janeen checking out the decorations

































The Music Room. Portrait of Maria I hangs above the piano
Torch room














Lovely garden but only about 1/3 of what was there. The rest is under renovation.

After the interior tour we went through the gardens (always a highlight for Janeen) and back to the bus for our next Palace.

Janeen liked this statue
Live Monkey’s were around the garden and memorialized in the garden fountains
Neptune fountain
Bacchus in the garden
The guide book for Sintra

The Palace of Sintra is not as opulent as the Palace of Queluz and is the best preserved of the medieval royal residences in Portugal. It was occupied from the early 15th century to the late 19th century.

Sintra Palace – with two chimmey stacks from the kitchens
Ivory inlay writing desk
Outside in the one of the courtyards at Sintra
Janeen listening to our guide
Janeen outside in the courtyard at Sintra
Ceiling of the King’s audience room with crests from various families
King’s room – called the Magpie room for all the decorations on the ceilng.
Large fires would be made in the middle of the room for cooking large game
The main kitchen of Sintra open fires would be paced under the areas
Nice tapestry on the wall











































After we were finished up touring the Palace of Sintra, we headed towards the coast and to the small town called Cascais. This resort focused town had lots of new homes as well as well kept places of some substance. However, as it was getting closer to 2 in the afternoon, my particular goal was lunch.

Lunch menu – nice place to stop for a bite.
Lunch with great fish and sparkling sangra.
Curry and rice.
An Omelette for Jerry
Pouring the Sangria
Shellfish and rice in the pot!
Shellfish and rice on the plate
Us leaving the restaurant
Janeen outside of a cork shop – lots of goodies made from cork.

After lunch, back to the bus and our hotel.

9-15-17 City Tour on the Bus

On the bus ready for adventure!
On the bus ready for adventure!

Friday was City Tour time with the bus and large groups using the headphone system to hear what the guild has to say. Our first stop was in Belém at the Monument to Fallen Soldiers.




Memorial to the fallen – all the names are written along the back wall.

The represented a dark period in Portugal’s modern history that ultimately resulted in the overthrow of the Salazar dictatorship but the toll on Lisbon was extremely high as many of the soldiers families originated from the capital. The Overseas War took the lives of over 9,000 soldiers and lasted between 1961 and 1974 as Portugal desperately tried to retain its African colonies.




What a lovely couple.

From there, it was a short walk to the Belém Tower. The Tower built in the early part of the 16th century is a fortified tower and was part of the defense system at the mouth of the Tagus River. Having survived for so long, including a major earth quack in 1755, it is the Ceremonial Gateway to Lisbon.

Jerry and Gloria – also a lovely couple.









From there we boarded the buses and made our way to the Monument to the Discoveries. This monument was created to celebrate the achievements of the explorers during the Age of Discoveries and the creation of the Portugal’s empire.

Great monument to the Discoveries.


The Age of Discoveries started in 1415 with the capture of the North African city of Ceuta by the Portuguese and reached a peak at the turn of the sixteenth century when Vasco da Gama discovered a shorter route to India and Pedro Álvares Cabral discovered Brazil.

It was a bit windy.
Yes, I have a selfie stick!








The creation of trade posts and colonies on the new trade routes led to a Portuguese empire that spanned three continents, bringing wealth to Portugal and Lisbon in particular.

The monument was built in 1960 on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of Henry the Navigator’s death. Henry the Navigator was a driving force behind the overseas exploration and he financed many of the expeditions.

The 171ft tall monument, shaped like a ship’s prow, stands at the marina in Belém, the starting point for many of Portugal’s explorers.  It shows more than thirty statues of people who played an important role in the discoveries. Leading the way is Henry the Navigator who is shown standing on the bow holding a model of a caravel. Behind him are king Afonso V – who supported the exploration and colonization of Africa – and the explorers Vasco da Gama (who found a direct route to India), Pedro Álvares Cabral (discoverer of Brazil) and Ferdinand Magellan (the first explorer to circumnavigate the world). They are followed by navigators, writers, missionaries, a mathematician, a cartographer and other figures from the era of the discoveries.

After this we took a rest on the bus while the rest of the group toured a Monastery (we had visited it on our first trip to Lisbon so didn’t need to do it again).

From there a brief walking tour of the old town and then back to the Hotel.

Some streets are just walkways.
One of several “streets” we walked in the old city.
Not all the guides information was that interesting.
Loved this woman putting out her laundry to air as we walked by.

















Once at the hotel we popped out for a bite to eat – found a VERY local place where Janeen had the fish! There were maybe 6 tables and a counter where you placed all your orders. Not any English being spoken in the place!

Janeen and her fish.
The Fish!
Lunch counter was busy.