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Early this morning, Gil from Around Lisbon was kind enough to drop us off at the Gare do Oriente in the new district of Lisbon, that grew around the facilities built for the World Expo 1998. While he drove, he pointed out various landmarks and aspects of Lisbon, including a part of the old Refinery retained from the original industrial district that was demolished to make way for the Expo Centre and its surroundings. From Gare do Oriente, the three-hour Alfa Pendular train trip to Porto is a wonderful way to see the portuguese countryside. After checking in at the Clip Hotel at Gaia, we wasted no time, intending to make the most of our short stay, The receptionist, ever-smiling Sandra Abreu , suggested we walk down Avenida Republica to Ponte Dom Luis I , and cross to the Se Cathedral. As always, the plan changed, and we walked up to the Monasterio Serra de Pilar, from where the happenings on this side of the riverbank and the cable car were too tempting to ignore. We ended up taking the cable car to the riverbank to explore the plethora of wine cellars on the Gaia side of the river.

Something you must keep in mind is that almost everyone offers you a complimentary wine tasting when you book for the cable cars, cruise or sightseeing. So you could end up doing a lot of wine tasting for one afternoon, speaking of wine tasting, after a few other places, we realized there’s nothing better than Croft’s , a bit of an uphill walk from the river, but it includes an informative guided tour of perhaps some of the only remaining authentic wine cellars with hand-made casks and vats in the area.

The traditional boats called ‘rabelos’ that carried wine casks downriver from the Douro have now been converted into tourist boats that offer picturesque and romantic trips up and down the Douro. Incidentally we saw a wedding happening at the monastery, another wedding reception on a boat, and later that evening, caught a bridal couple sneaking into our hotel!!!

The boat ride at 10 euros per head is a great investment (certainly not better than the day trip up the Douro past the vineyards) and provides an exceptionally good view of Douro life.


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