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Published: January 19th 2022
Fueled by my blue pancakes, I was ready to get the day under way. Our next excursion was the town of Pinhao. This is the first year of doing the Duoro River cruise, so they are still fine tuning the activities. We walked up to a train station were given vouchers for free gifts at various shops throughout the town. I spent most of the day with Alex, a Tauck tour guide from Ecuador who was on this trip as part vacation, part training. We had talked frequently, so it was nice to stroll the town while chatting. We had delicious local sausage at a shop called the Mercearia do Viking, a sad tiny hot dog on a giant bun at another, coffee and a sublime lemon cake at a third, but my favorite was the port shop with port tasting and chocolates. Alex and I met up with some other people from the cruise and sat in the sun having a grand time. Inside the shop, a set of 4 steak knives caught my eye, and try as I might, I could not let go of the idea of having a dinner party at home with cured meats, sausages and
Quinta do Noval
Fine ports since 1715
cheese artfully arranged on my Portuguese cutting board with these knives to cut them. The frugal me I wrote about in an earlier blog said no, these were far too expensive, while the Pamper Brendan was like a puppy with excitement. Someone at our table finally told me this magic phrase. If I didn’t buy them, I would always remember passing on them when I really did want them. These would be a memory of the trip rather than a souvenir, so I bought them, and never looked back.
Once again, the Andorinha relocated down the river while we were out exploring, so we were taken on our coaches to meet her. It had been arranged that I would be given a tour of the kitchen, so today was the day to see how all the amazing food is stored, prepared, served, and all of the aftermath is cleaned. Since the ship is so new, the kitchen was well designed, shiny, clean and new. Tauck has a passenger friendly dining program where there is not a set dinner time for all, but instead dinner hours, so kitchens have been set up to facilitate this instead of the one giant
Quinta do Noval
Wonderful time in the sun
banquet type seating. The Chef walked me through, not caring that all his crew smiled and shouted hi chef to me as I passed through. The storerooms were what I noticed the most. Each was for specific items such as produce, seafood and meat. All were clean, organized and impressive. Feeling like a SIP (Self Important Person) I rejoined my friends in the lounge for a bounty of Portuguese meats and cheeses along with wine. There was an after-dinner dance party. Of course, it should be common knowledge that I am clumsy, dorky, and do not dance. Ever. Period. End of story. I did enjoy the music and watching the crew and passengers who are good dancers cut the proverbial rug.
Our final excursion was to a large town called Guimaraes It was another headset walking tour, and frankly, I was out of sorts, and didn’t listen to the commentary all the time. Slowly, I warmed to the tour, and by the time we were set free for lunch I was back in line. Merry Jo, Dave and I ran into a couple from Puerto Rico that we had dined with the night prior, so had a long lunch
and some very good conversation. I took the time afterwards to do some Christmas shopping. I like to wrap wine bottles in kitchen towels as gifts, so bought several towels for the upcoming season. I also treated myself to a couple porcelain dishes to hold olives and artichokes on my cured meats board.
Back at the ship, we had a choice to take the rest of the afternoon off, or to stay on the coach and visit a port cellar that has been in operation since before the USA was even a country. To be honest, I waffled on this. I was tired, and had been cranky, but then again, it was a chance to check out something new and different. I ultimately stayed on and enjoyed the tour. The cellar had dusty, crusty bottles from eons ago. Being in there reminded me of the Cask of Amontillado
from high school literature class. The tasting room was sleek and could have been lifted out of a trendy nightclub. I didn’t think I could justify buying and shipping more port back to the States, so I sipped, savored, enjoyed then strolled back to the bus.
It was a sad
fact that we were on our final night onboard. This cruise was a very special experience. With Covid still raging on, we weren’t sure if we would be able to take this spur of the moment trip. Tauck offered onboard testing so we would have our results in time for our international flights. After taking my test, I was asked by Rusty if I would like to see the rest of the behind-the-scenes areas of the ship. Why yes, I would like that a lot. The ship’s Engineer walked me around showing me the engines, the waste treatment system, the kitchen for Arthur’s restaurant, laundry, crew area and back out through the main kitchen. More “Hi Chef’s” and off I went ready for cocktails to the final dinner of the sailing and to celebrate with the crew and receive a special toast from the captain for a successful cruise.
Dinner was nice, and Merry Jo, Dave and I opted to dine with just the three of us. The elegance, service and crew were all there, yet the evening had lost its luster. The excitement of what was to come was gone, and all that remained was the mundane chore
Quinta do Noval
Happy with my knife purchase
of organizing, packing and preparing to leave this fantasy world. We were given numbers for our luggage, and times to be picked up and taken to the airport where we would rent a car for the next, and final leg of this trip. They would be staying in Europe for another few weeks, but the clock for me was ticking ever so loudly.
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