Douro- Day 7 on Viking Helgrim


If you have seen its many television commercials, Viking rules the road when it comes to daily excursions..

Even two days before this cruise in Portugal on the Douro River, Viking offered us tours around the city of Lisbon. We hadn’t even laid eyes on our “baby longboat” (they call it that because our 262-foot-long vessel only holds 106 passengers versus the more common ones that hold 190), we had taken three tours of Lisbon. We were practically Lisbon natives by the time we left town.

After finally boarding the Helgrim on the third day, the number and variety of ways to entice us out of our staterooms and off our boat had grown to a wide array of tempting options. There were so many offerings it was hard to make a decision. Should we go to the Portuguese Tile Museum or the Lisbon Maritime Museum or the Taste of Lisbon excursion? Unfortunately, we couldn’t do all of them. It was similar to the feeling you have when confronted with two pleasant but impossible choices. Should I have the chocolate cake or the carrot cake? My granddaughters solve that problem by having both pieces, but when one person wants to be in two different places at the same time, it creates a problem.

At any rate, here’s my list of Viking excursions that I did NOT take this week, but wanted to. . .

Porto City Hike: riding in a funicular to the top of this hilly town and walking down, getting some desirable exercise in the process.

Wine tasting at a family estate.

Taking a helicopter to get a birdseye view of the city of Porto

Visiting the nearby town of Guimaraes, Portugal’s first capital, the Old Town of which is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Taking in the wine cellars of Porto pilgri

A five-course dinner with port wines to match

And that was just on our first day out!

The next day, because I chose to see the Mateus Palace and Gardens, I missed “The Art of Port Blending.”

After a full nine hours of touring Salamanca, Spain (which I wouldn’t have given up for anything), I was exhausted and opted to stay aboard the Helgrim the following day. That meant I had to give up a tour of “The Traditional Bakeries of Favaios (with a large lunch included); a wine tasting with a sampling of local sausages and cheeses at the winery of Carvalhos; and a third tour option of local olive oils, local honey and more wine tasting. I did not feel cheated, given the excellent and abundant spread of food prepared beautifully by Chef Peter Benko right there back on the Helgrim.

image courtesy of Julie HatfiledOn the last day of eating and drinking and touring I chose to “Walk in the Footsteps of Pilgrims at Lamego.” That meant I couldn’t take another option to “Follow in “The Footsteps of Cictercian Monks.” I walked down the 686 steps in the Pilgrims’ footprints, but not on my knees – the way the pilgrims did and sometimes still do on the way up, to the chapel at the top of the hill.

Viking urges its guests to do as many excursions as possible “to enhance your journey.” But if I had done as many excursions as they wanted, I Viking recommended, I would never have seen the inside of my lovely stateroom. Who says it’s wrong to sit on the open bow deck and drink in the scenery with a glass of port wine in my hand? Or to sit on the stern deck with three other guests and play a few hands of bridge as the landscape floats by?

Story courtesy of Julie Hatfield. Photos courtesy of Timothy Leland.

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