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The garden of our wonderful Airbnb place where we stayed in Sintra (click the image for more info)

People interested in my web site may like to know that I have added a new page on Portugal for armchair travelers (or people who might be thinking of going there).

Portugal is a relatively recent discovery for my family, and it didn't take long to fall in love with the country and with its very friendly people. The cost of living is low, and the Portuguese really care about their environment, with almost 100% of their energy needs coming from renewables.

If you have never been to Portugal... then I highly recommend it!


Cruise on the Douro River, Portugal (with a day trip to Salamanca in Spain), June 2016

We recently went on a 7-day cruise on the Douro River in Portugal, a wonderful experience. This cruise started and ended at Porto and included navigating 5 locks, among them the highest single-lift lock in Europe.

We saw many examples of Portugal's use of solar power and hydro-electric power, and learnt why its world-leading investment in renewable energy is so good for its economy, as well as for the environment.


Click the above image to see the trip itself...


...or click this one to see my photos of some of the art we found in public places


We also visited the Art Nouveau and Art Deco Museum in Salamanca. Photography wasn't permitted there, but click the picture for my post about it.


If you are interested, these are also the direct links to my photoblogs:

[Cruise on the Douro River]
[Some Wall Art Along the Douro]
[The Art Nouveau and Art Deco Museum, Salamanca]


If you would like to skip the photoblog, then (as usual) click the chevrons (>>) below to move on to my next “normal” post


Cruise on the Douro River, Portugal (with a day trip to Salamanca in Spain), June 2016

We have fallen in love with Portugal, a very friendly (and eco-friendly) country. It is especially friendly to the English - the oldest alliance in the world between two countries that is still in force, we learnt, is between England and Portugal (if you're interested, see here).

Our cruise (on the AmaVida, or “Love Life”, a small but excellent river boat) started and ended at Porto and included navigating 5 locks, among them the highest single-lift lock in Europe.

Porto (map link) - start of our river cruise on the Douro. Our first evening was a harbour tour, beautiful in the evening light.

The building to the right of the cathedral, catching the sun, is the Bishop's Palace.





"The Maria Pia bridge, commonly known as Ponte Dona Maria, is a railway bridge built in 1877 by Gustave Eiffel" - who later was responsible for the Eiffel Tower in Paris and the Statue of Liberty in New York, among many others





Next morning, starting up the Douro in early-morning mist



Approaching the Crestuma Lever dam, with a relatively small lock (only a 46 foot rise)...


...but which still generates over 100 MW of hydro-electric power


The side of the lock, which I could easily touch from inside our cabin window. The boats on the Douro are designed to JUST fit in the locks.


The boat rises at about one inch a second in this lock...


...and we are soon heading upstream. This is a very different river from (say) the Rhine!





Approaching the Carrapatelo Dam, with the highest single-rise lock in Europe (115 feet)


Serious sluice gates... and as with all the dams, they generate hydro-electric power here, around 200MW in this case (around 800 GWh per year)


Going in... some passengers enjoyed this, while others retreated to the lower decks!


Hmmm... this is all going to fill with water...


Going up (looking ahead)...


... and up (looking behind)...

Unlike in the small locks, the rate of rise increases considerably after a while, because the incoming water is far enough below the boat not to disturb it








While traversing locks and going under low bridges, the sun-deck shade awning is lowered hydraulically... showing that its top is covered in solar cells...



...which, together with the solar cells on the captain's wheelhouse, can supply the entire electrical demand on the boat in good conditions.


The Mateus Estate - remember Mateus Rosé? It was generated purely for export and to generate much-needed income, the bottle's shape taken from WWI canteens.


The Casa de Mateus Foundation was established here and, with the university town of Vila Real, still plays a major part in the cultural and economic recovery of the region




The Cedar Walk...


,,, only a few grapes grown here (but big vineyards elsewhere)...


...and another kind of harvest, free energy. Portugal really gets it. They produce enough hydro-electric, solar and wind energy to export some clean-generated electricity to other countries in Europe, while they collectively laugh all the way to the bank!

(In May 2016, the whole of Portugal ran for four consecutive days on renewable energy alone.)


Evening at Régua (map link)




A walk after supper




Next morning... England voting on Brexit...


Leaving the Bagaúste Dam (a mere 84 feet rise), looking back...


Another 560+ MW of electricity generated here





Castelo Rodrigo, a very picturesque fortified hill town, current population now down to 65, near the border with Spain


Looking over Spain (if I'm facing the direction I think I'm facing)






The much bigger town of Figueira de Castelo Rodrigo below, where most of the population of this village has moved to



Welcome refreshments (free wine tasting)

More pictures of Castelo Rodrigo here


Descending towards Barca D'Alva (map link), where the Douro forms the boundary between Portugal and Spain. Spain is to the right of the bend in the river. The distant mountains beyond the river are in the Bragança District of Portugal, which was populated before the Romans by the Celts.


Rejoining the boat at Barca D'Alva, where it moved to during the day's excursion.


The next morning we had a day trip to the beautiful city of Salamanca in Spain, where because of the heat (close to 100°F) we spent the majority of our free time in the Art Nouveau and Art Deco Museum, one of the finest collections of such art and sculpture in the world. We couldn't take photos there (except in its wonderful Art Nouveau café) but I have featured it in this post below.

[Portugal/Spain visit continues in Part 2]