The last Portuguese village on the Douro is Barca D’Alva where the Scenic Azure had to dock because the Spanish portion of the river lacks locks on its hydro dams. Again, the comfortable Scenic buses took us for an almost two hour ride to the remarkable Spanish city of Salamanca, population 150,000, dating back to the pre-ancient Rome period (Hannibal laid siege to the city in 220 BC).
Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the city centre boasts Spain’s oldest university and iconic buildings like its 12th Century Romanesque-style Old Cathedral, the 16th Century Casa de las Conchas (covered in symbolic seashells) and the Baroque style City Hall in the largest public square, La Plaza Mayor. Lunch and a Spanish Flamenco Dance show were provided at the nearby Hacienda Zorita, a 700 year old former monastery, now a five star resort. Its wine cellar holds almost 1500 barrels.
Heading downriver again towards Porto, we stopped at the Portuguese village of Pocinho where three tours were offered – the Coa Valley Museum, a kayak adventure or, our choice, a gourmet almond experience at the Casa Palnova Estate, a 1652 manor house that also produces olive oil and port wine. We were shown how local almonds are opened with small hammers, then how they are roasted in sugar syrup and covered with cinnamon, orange or ginger flavour. Lots of samples!
Photograph: Lunchtime entertainment. Flamenco Dancers.