A busy day starting with our group heading to the quinta. This involved a 20 minute coach ride to a hilltop village then we switched to smaller coaches or vans for another 20 minute ride on.a narrow cobblestone road down to the quinta. There we found a beautiful building housing a mini museum about the wine operations as well as the ancient stone carvings in the area and Roman ruins. Port tasting followed. It was a common theme on the tour of many of us who thought we didn't like port discovering that actually some we did.
The afternoon brought a drive to Castle Rodrigo way up a hill where no doubt on clear days you get an awesome view. Instead for us the weather gods turned against us and we had fog and rain. It was also our last and best chance for true Portuguese cork products and other souvenirs like almonds.
Our last night on board the lovely Andorinha and her wonderful crew.
Day 10 - playing catchup here after 2 busy days
An early start as we.packed our bags and left the ship at 8 am for a 2 hour drive to Salamanca. The weather gods were.appeased and we had a sunny, cold but clear day. On arrival in the city we had a "technical stop" that included pastries, small sandwiches and drinks. Then off for a walking tour of the city followed by about 1 1/2 hours on our own. Its a beautiful city with interesting architecture and history. The cathedral was huge and very different from others we've seen. Plus the university had some interesting buildings.
Back to the coach for the final drive to Madrid. We arrived about 6pm for an easy checkin to our lovely old hotel and at 7:30 went on our tapas tour. It included two different bars and a walking tour with our guide. Along with the tapas we had drinks including a vermouth unlike any most of us had ever had. Delicious. Walked back to our hotel.at the end of a long and busy day.
Tomorrow is our final day of touring and farewell dinner. Amazing how fast these tours go by.
SS, absolutely agree. I'm sure I combined Berlin with a stop or two...Vienna, Amsterdam, Stuttgart, Frankfurt, Milan (I have a fav Swiss-owned hotel there)...all have been regular stopovers over the years. European trains make it so easy.
Day 10 -
Last full day of the tour and a full.day it was. After breakfast we broke into two groups - one walking to the palace and the other taking the coach. Glad we opted for the coach as it included a bit of city sightseeing and a photo stop at the bull ring which has some interesting architecture. Very moorish. It was a beautiful sunny day so we enjoyed walking around it.
Then off to the palace for a tour. In many ways similar to most other European palaces - grand rooms, lots of art work and history. My favorite was the all porcelain room - walls.and ceilings made of porcelain.
After time for lunch we headed by foot to the Prado. Heavy security screening as there had been another incident of someone attempting to glue themselves to the art in protest (climate change?). Our guide was amazing. He did a great job of explaining some of the art history and development.
Our farewell dinner was in a private room of the hotel. Excellent food and we had a classical guitar player for background music. A bit too noisy to fully enjoy as our tour group was so busy chatting. We really did get a.good.group of 72 that had a wonderful tour together.
Tomorrow some of us stay on here for a day or two. My husband and have two extra days then we're off on our own to a Barcelona for three. Today we're going to see more of Madrid on our own. Not sure about tomorrow. Toledo?
If this is my last post in this thread thanks for following along and putting up with my typos and random periods. I'm doing it on a 7 inch tablet so editing is a challenge.
Thank you for this, Claudia. It brought back many memories from this past June. Have a safe and uneventful trip home!
Thank you Claudia for a great overview. My husband and I are seriously considering this trip for 2024. I am extremely interested in your 3 days in Barcelona as we would like to add that in to our tour as well. Hope you can post the details.
Claudia - Toledo is worth a visit if it isn't too expensive.
Claudia, thank you so much for taking time from your Tour to provide a daily report. I have enjoyed it very much. Enjoy the rest of your trip.
Great reports Claudia
I second a trip to Toledo; a full day there would be required, however, to see all that it offers...stunning views, Muslim, Jewish and Christian monuments and places of worship.
First day post-tour.
We had a leisurely morning with a long breakfast chatting with some of our fellow travelers. Weather sunny again. We opted for a visit to the Madrid Archeology Museum (MAN). Its about a 20 minute walk from the hotel. Part of it is currently closed so.admission was free, but the part we cared about -Iberian history from Paleolithic times to Moorish - were open. Very well laid out with mostly clear signage. They have a downloadable app but apparently we hadn't downloaded enough to be fully useful. Spent several hours.
Strolled back to the hotel stopping at a place across the street from the hotel called Faborit with excellent salads and sandwiches.
Rested for a bit then went out exploring and looking for Chocolateria San Gines which is supposedly the best place for thick hot chocolate with churros to dip in it. Loads of crowds for a Sun afternoon. Found the place -or actually places - all of which had lines of people. It took us about 15minutes to pay and get a seat. The chocolate was.delicious and the churros hot but blander than expected. I think we need to try more somewhere else. Its a lousy job but someone has to do it.
No idea what our plans are tomorrow. We took about 13k steps today and our backs are feeling kind of beat. Who knows. Feels.kind of good just to do what we want in the moment.
Great report! Will follow up in a few days with a PM.
How did the guitarist at the farewell compare with Andrés Segovia.
Speaking of Iberian history, I read some time ago in Nat Geo that the Vikings, on their way to attack Rome of all places joined up with the Visigoths or some other Russo-Germanic group and caused trouble in Iberia. A subgroup they crossed over into Africa. Who knew?
Wonderful report Claudia and yes the hot chocolate is delicious, sorry you didn't enjoy the churros.
Alan, no idea how the guitarist compared. We just enjoyed it.
Not surprising about the Vikings considering they established themselves in Normandy (hence the name) and did make it into the Med.
Post Tour -Day 2
We decided against Toledo. Really regretting not booking a tour which would have included transport. You probably see less of the sights but would decrease the walking just to get to them. Oh well,.maybe next time
Instead we took a stroll from the hotel to Plaza Mayor and the Mercado de San Miguel which is an amazing food hall. Mostly prepared foods and bars. What a feast for the eyes - ham, cheeses, pastries, tapas, etc. From there we just randomly strolled, did a little shopping, and took photos. Had a bit of a hunt to find the bear with a strawberry tree statue that is part of the Madrid coat of arms. It was smaller than expected and partially hidden by construction barriers around the Plaza del Sol.
For.lunch we walked to place about a block from the hotel called.Cerveceria Cervantes. I think we were the only tourists. Ordered tuna empanadas , shrimp with garlic and inadvertently twice as much beer as planned. The food was delicious especially the shrimp which I plan to try making at home. It arrived at t the table sizzling.
The afternoon continued our quest for hot chocolate . We found a different place and tried it with porras which are sort of extra large churros. Still.A bit bland and my husband thought the chocolate wasn't as good. Hoping for better in Barcelona. We take the high speed train there tomorrow. A bit of an adventure. Hopefully it all goes smoothly.
Claudia - Safe and swift travels to Barcelona. I loved Mercado de San Miguel. Great for people watching.
My favorite street in Barcelona is Las Ramblas. It is lined with beautiful trees and tons of restaurants. It is approximately 1.2km and a lovely walk.
Hi…this is on behalf of Claudia -
“My posting is dead in the water until I get back to the US. Got logged out of the Tauck website and now any attempts to log in just go to the UK site so I can only see the forum not post.
For Noreen, our hotel is on Las Rambles and in fact our room looks over it. Yes, A bit noisy but good thick windows. We slept fine last night.”
Were you trying to use the forums link at the bottom of the Tauck (UK) homepage? Try just using www,forums.tauck.com/ or www,forums.tauck.com/ncr
If it still requires a logon, try using https://www.tauck.com/ncr for the Tauck (US) website to logon first
The ncr at the end stands for “no country redirect”
I don't know if either will work, but give it a try. There are some other things to try in "settings" like turning off location services, etc. but they are a little more involved and depend on what device (Win, Chrome, IOS, etc.) you are using.
Above also sent via email.
Well, so much for that. Claudia says no joy. She can read the forums but can't post (like all UK Taucktourians)
There are a number of other things people can try by messing around- clearing cookies, then use Private Browsing available with Firefox and other browsers, using a VPN, etc. etc.. But, as I mentioned above, each procedure is unique to your operating system, browers, and situation.
The forum won't be the same without Claudia (for a few days)!
Just teasing. Enjoy Barcelona and your trip home. I look forward to your Barcelona posts upon your return home.
Barcelona post tour - Yep, she's back!
The Tauck driver picked us up at the hotel and not only drive us to Atocha station but walked us in and showed us how to find our train. It's a huge station and has escalators like moving sidewalks. Great on luggage until the up/down angle gets steep and you're trying hard to keep your bag from rolling away. (Check out my comments in the lost luggage thread). Bought cold sandwiches for the ride and found our train with no problem. I had booked the quiet car. Turns out not a good choice for a lunchtime ride as the refreshments cart doesn't come into it and no one else was eating. Never did find out exactly what the rules were so we just sat there hungry.
Arrived at the Barcelona Sants station and went looking for the metro. Hard to find and I was about to give up and opt for a taxi to the hotel. Should have done that. The metro has standard escalators and some times not even that. There are elevators but often hard to find in the confusion. Other than dealing with luggage the metro is good there. We bought a Tfamilia card for 10 euros good for 8 rides and could be used for both of us.
Our hotel there was a Citidines brand serviced apartment/hotel. They have standard hotel rooms, studios and 1 bedrooms. Best points of it were price, having a kitchenette, laundry room, location on La Rambla, roof top terrace. Low points were daily maid service extra, a room overlooking La Rambla (noise), marginal towels, hard bed. It worked for us and we'd use them again but ask for a room away from the street especially on the weekend.
First full day of sight seeing we opted for the Barcelona Touristic hop on hop off bus. It has two loops and your can transfer between them. We boarded it at Plaza Catalunya just down from our hotel which is a major transport hub for Barcelona. I bought the tickets online and there is a senior rate. In fact I found much of Portugal and Spain have senior rates for museum passes and such. We spent most of the day riding the bus and getting off to check out different sights. The architecture in Barcelona is so unique. Lots of famous Gaudi buildings but plenty more. Back at Plaza Catalunya at lunch we went into the El Cortes Ingles dept store which has a 9th floor cafeteria with panoramic windows and decent food.
We bought timed entry tickets for the Sagrada Familia Brasilia for 9am the next morning. After trying and failing repeatedly to buy them online we ended up getting them thru a tourist kiosk. We opted for a self guided tour using an app downloaded to our phones. We did the basic download at home but to actually get the tour info you need your ticket reservation number. Ended up using the hotel Wi-Fi to finish that step. Using our metro card we got to the basilica easily ( use the Gaudi exit from the station) and were almost the first in that morning. The basilica is absolutely amazing. If you only ever see one church in Europe this is the one to see. The level of detail and symbolism especially in the exterior stunned me. The guide just keeps showing you more and more. Inside its very light and bright. We spent close to two hours here.
After lunch we took a stroll thru the gothic area getting lost which is super easy to do and made our way back to Ramblas and our first look at the Boqueria market. Similar to the one in Madrid but bigger.
Friday we had our flights back home. We opted for the Aerobus to the airport. Cost 5.90 euros. We trundled our nags to Plaza Catalunya on the bumpy sidewalks, bought our tickets easily at the self serve kiosks and boarded the bus for Terminal 1 (Barcelona airport has 2). Took less than 30 minutes. Check was.easy. The agent told us where to find the business class lounge after security as there isn't an Air France lounge there. There is a Fast Lane thru security and our BC boarding passes got us thru it super fast even with my weekly now regular frisking by an agent due to the knee replacement. The lounge was excellent but the walk to the gates. from there is long so don't wait too late heading to your gate.
We left Barcelona having seen only a fraction of it. There is Park Guell - another Gaudi design - the Picasso museum, the gondola between the waterfront and Montjuic, day trips, etc. You could easily spend a week there. Wished we'd had more time but so glad to be home again.
Thanx again for all your patience and encouragement.
The “Treasures of Spain and Portugal” trip does the Tauck treatment of Barcelona. Bare in mind that Mallorca is hotter than the hinges in the summer time. We have done Barcelona several times, so there is still more to see if you choose to arrive early or stay later. The Majestic hotel in Barcelona is really special.
The few times I visited Barcelona courtesy of our Uncle, were great. The fleet landing was at the foot of the Ramblas and the USO was located in a restaurant only a few blocks away. The waterfront looks so different now and it was so long ago, it was hard to find anything I recognized on Google maps. I did find Los Caracoles restaurant we ate at back in the day whenever we visited.
Everyone loves the Ramblas … including the pick pockets and muggers. We were mugged at the bus stop at the far end. When visiting there it is best to carry minimum cash and a credit card. If you have a back pack, it will be a target. They got my wife’s Coach purse by cutting the strap with a razor or some other really sharp instrument. She did not even know it was gone until some time later. They work in teams, one to distract and the other to do the deed.
We were very careful - as we always are when traveling. We minimize what valuables we carry using the room safe. I carry a small cross body bag from Travelon with straps that can't be cut and locking zippers. The bag can also be worn as a waist pack. If possible under my jacket. My husband uses a money belt especially if we are moving between hotels.
Wonderful trip Claudia, glad you are back home safe.
After a week home and some perspective I've written a summary in part to address some issues not mentioned before.
Dress: An oft asked question on all cruises. At the welcome dinner at the Queluz Palace I did a brief count and would say ½-2/3 of the men wore sport coats and about 12 women were in dresses or skirts. But the time of the farewell at the hotel in Madrid the jackets were down to about 12 and only a couple of dresses.
Weather: We scheduled this tour in late Oct/early Nov in large part to avoid hot weather and crowds. The drawback is your chance of rain goes up in Oct. We had a mix with some lovely sunny but cool days and a couple with rain. Our bike ride was canceled because of the weather and the visit to Castle Rodrigo was cold, wet and view-less. Average highs were in the 60’s. A bit warmer in Madrid and Lisbon. The tour group a week before us had rain as well.
Category 2 Cabin: This was our first experience of an Emerald Deck cabin (and my husband’s last). The room itself is fine. Unlike the 150 sqft cabins, this one has the storage cabinets slid over opposite the bed with about 4 feet of clearance. It included a hanging clothes cabinet and one that was all shelves. In between was a wide desk with loads of electrical outlets and room under it for bags or whatever. It also had the usual refrigerator, safe and Nespresso machine. The bathroom sink and shower area were plenty big enough but the toilet was way too close to the opposite wall – about 14 inches. My 6 ft husband had serious issues with this. The small room window was ok but blocked in some ports by the wall of the dock. Other than the very weird confluence of weather and tides our first night in Porto it was very quiet.
Food: On the ship it was good. As with previous cruises with Tauck the breakfast and lunch buffets serve up a mix of items that sometimes were hits and sometimes not so much. All my dinner choices were excellent. We ate lunch once in Arthurs and enjoyed it if for no other reason than it avoided the lunch buffet line. Because the ship is small, there is only one line and it tended to back up at lunch into the seating area causing problems for the wait staff. This doesn’t happen on the bigger ships with the double sided buffets. The breakfast at the Intercontinental was adequate at best. The coffee was sometimes good, sometimes not. They don’t offer to let you order hot cooked eggs and the day we were due to depart my husband and I waited over 30 minutes for omelets ordered as soon as they opened since we had a fairly early departure time. The Westin Palace was much better and the farewell dinner was excellent. The lunch off the ship was terrible but the dinner was good.
The Andorinha: We were excited to see it and compare it to the 5 other Tauck/Scylla ships we’ve been on. It’s similar in many ways and completely different in others. The décor is beautiful and Scylla ought to hire the designer the next time they do a remodel of their ships. The amount of windows and light is great. The windows in both the lounge and dining room are floor to ceiling. On the downside is the dining room buffet set up mentioned above and the way the lounge works (or doesn’t) for special events. The structure allowing for the open atrium design also means there are visual blocks depending on where you sit. The night the flamenco dancers were performing, only a few people up close could really see them. The dining tables are primarily rounds ones sized for 4 or 6 people. There was one 8 seat rectangular table that was reserved for a group the entire time and one night a group of 8 of us squeezed into a smaller rectangular table. No 2 person tables. Wifi and Tmobile service is limited/slow especially once the ship leaves Porto.
Itinerary: This is not a cruise for those who want to be kept busy every day. In part this is because the ship has to sail during the day and because the Douro goes thru a very rural area without big towns. The Douro is a lovely small rive, the vineyards with their fall colors were beautiful and there’s almost no shipping traffic. We enjoyed most of the sightseeing provided though I think the Lisbon coach tour was meh with the biggest highlight being the warm Pasteis de Belem tarts. Not sure of the solution for this as Lisbon is a tough place for big motor coaches to navigate. I wished we’d added 2 days on our own. We really enjoyed Coimbra, Porto, Guimares and the garden tour, though some free time in Porto would have been nice. There is also a VERY big emphasis on port wine. Several of us were surprised we found ones we really liked. There’s lots to do in Madrid and our personal add-on of Barcelona was well worth the effort.
Claudia - Thank you for your insights, I'm book for this cruise next year in late august (living in Florida I do not mind the hot weather). When I get close to the date I may PM you for your take on the excursions.
Gladys, The main thing is to give yourself more time in Lisbon. If we'd added 2 days instead of 1 we could have taken the train to Sintra without worrying about getting back for the welcome dinner. By the time I realized we needed it we'd already booked and paid for the airfare.
We used to live in Tampa so I know how hot and humid it is. Short of fires again next year you'll be fine and might even enjoy the ship's pool.
Claudia, I'm only doing the cruise have been in Portugal and Madrid twice and seen a lot of both, actually I have contemplated moving to Madrid.