Popo — that’s me — visited Italy for the very first time in October 2012, then again in 2013. In October 2015 I went to France, and in May 2016 I went sightseeing across Canada by train! By the end of 2019 I added Spain and Portugal to my journey.

This is my travel blog. Popo, while an Italian name, means Grandmother in Chinese, and though our granddaughters aren’t Chinese, I am. You’ll see.

“2012 – First Trip” records an uncommon trip to Italy in 24 little stories.

“2013 – Italy” is about taking my adult art students from Hawaii to a villa in Tuscany. Painting lessons, cooking lessons, and train rides into Florence comprised the first two weeks’ experience before I moved on to the Cinque Terre, Rome, and Pozzuoli.

Viking River Cruises took me to see Paris and the Heart of Normandy in 2015. In 2016 I traveled across Canada by rail. Below this introduction I share my view of Spain and Portugal.

With Viking River Cruises, we spent the whole day touring the Douro River Valley on land, where it seems the scenery is monopolized by grape vineyards and olive groves. Quinta, or wineries, dot the landscape.

Local guides took us wine tasting, introduced us to a Portuguese bread baker, and provided a primer on how olive oil is made.

Favaios label

Wine ages in four types of wood—chestnut, Portuguese oak, French oak, and American oak. Each produces a different flavor.

The sweet wine attracts bugs, hence the napkin cover.

Two wood-burning ovens yield tasty bread all day long.

The baker and her four-corners bread from an age-old recipe.

The baker lives upstairs across the narrow street from the bakery.

Olive tree

Oranges, grapes, and the river

An inviting spread at D’Origem where we sipped wine from one glass and tasted olive oil from another.

The Douro River is not very wide.

~ Rebekah

In Salamanca, the city in Spain, the market beckons. Residents shop in the morning for the freshest ingredients. The afternoon is for siesta!

The market in Salamanca is big



More meat

Vacuum packed







Ham again

Looks yummy

What a treat to see!

First, some bridges

The Viking river cruiser Torgil departed Regua on a very chilly Saturday morning and went through three locks on the narrow Douro River to Pinhao where we visited Mateus Palace followed by Quinta do Seixo vineyards, where we sampled both white and tawny port wine.

Hot chocolate hits the spot.

River scene

We’re not the only boat on the river.

View from the top deck while going through a lock

Not much space surrounding the boat in the locks. Viking brand takes advantage of all the available wiggle room.

Water hyacinths

Crew keeps an eye out while the captain in the wheelhouse steadies the ship.

Here are more river views on the way.

These vineyards are the color of gold, the same color as the river when it reflects the sun during certain times of the year.

Mateus Palace and Gardens

Mateus Palace, named for a place, not the family who lives here.

Statue of a naked lady


Just one solitary gardener takes care of the palace grounds. He is eighty-something years old.

Lovely roses


Quinta do Seixo (wine estate)

Familiar Sandeman logo

View of the Douro River from the winery

The tasting room and gift shop


View of the double decker Luis I Bridge from the Viking Torgil docked on the Douro River

A guided tour of Porto, Portugal, this brisk, foggy morning was meant to orient us visitors for later exploration on our own. My photo album shows the feeling of Vila Nova de Gaia, the old part of the city.

The buildings in the middle ground in the photos above and below are storehouses for port wine.

Ceramic tiles called azulejos cover the walls of the middle building.

Strong colors

Double decker Luis I Bridge

From the lower deck

You can see the white stern of our longship dockside at the far right. Other vessels tie up together.

Porto’s hills afford panoramic views.

Fronting the Clerigos Church cathedral

The cathedral bell tower

Pedestrian square

In the train station, blue and white ceramic tiles depict periods in Porto’s history.

In Lisbon, Portugal—or Lisboa, its better place name—decorative ceramic tile and cork are ubiquitous. Viking River Cruises arranged a tour of Museu Nacional do Azulejo, the National Tile Museum. It included the chance to decorate a tile to take home. Knowing of this excursion, for fun I decided to look for creative applications of tile. I found them on sidewalks, like these:

Brightly colored tiles cover building exteriors, providing durability and practicality as well as decoration.

As for cork, products made from this bark are in many gift shops. I found postcards made from cork (the price is twice as much as paper stock) and this cute coin purse that features some tile designs. The rooster is a symbol for good luck.

What about the tiles we decorated at the museum—a sailboat on Pete’s and a flower on mine? After firing, the final results will be delivered to us when we board the river boat Viking Torgil tomorrow for Porto on the Douro River.

Obrigada (thanks) to Viking for a wonderful, first class pre-cruise introduction to Portugal!

~ Rebekah


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