Published on : 06/24/2015

Exploring the Douro Valley and Vila Real

There are some days on this Photo Tour where I feel like I need to pinch myself and ask if this is all some kind of dream.

Today, as I sat on the sun deck of the MS Vasco da Gama, cruising through the incredible Douro Valley, I had one of those moments where I thought to myself: this can’t possibly be real life.

Throughout my past twenty one years on this Earth, I have had the opportunity to see a lot of amazing sights from all over the world, but if I have to be honest, the Douro Valley is probably one the most spectacular sights I have ever witnessed. Being surrounded by rolling hills, with landscapes morphing every few seconds, this has definitely been my favourite cruise view so far on the Photo Tour. Take a look at these photos and you’ll know what I mean:

My afternoon was well spent admiring these landscapes as we cruised along the Douro, while my morning was dedicated to exploring the northern Portuguese city of Vila Real.

The first stop of our excursion was the city’s most well-known attraction - the Casa de Mateus, an 18th century manor famous for being the namesake of Portugal’s Mateus Rosé wine. While today, this wine is no longer made on site, many flock to the manor for a glimpse at the famous façade easily recognizable on each bottle. Comprised of both a manor and a beautiful French garden, this estate still serves as a secondary residence for the Count of Vila Real, an honour which is it has held since its completion centuries ago. One look at this beautiful estate and you’ll see why it is considered one of the finest examples of baroque architecture in all of Portugal.

Our tour of the manor took us through a selection of rooms, all unique in their collection of paintings, furniture and relics, as well as their intricately carved wooden ceilings. However, I think that the real standout moment for the Casa de Mateus was when we had free time to explore its perfectly manicured French garden. One passenger even compared the grounds to a “mini-Versailles”. What do you think?:

Our excursion concluded with some free time in the main city of Vila Real to explore its shops, bakeries and churches. It was a relaxed end to a morning of sightseeing, especially because my exploration took me to this incredible viewpoint overlooking the city:

So, if you’ll excuse me, it’s time for me to take my place again on the sun deck and enjoy the incredible beauty of this region. I can definitely see why the Douro is such a favourite among river cruisers… it has definitely won me over, that’s for sure.

Talk to you all soon from Spain!

- Christina

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