The entrance to the Douro River and Oporto was a lovely sight in warm afternoon sunshine with an avenue of palm trees along the waterfront making it feel really foreign. Up river the gorge narrows and is spanned by many bridges, the first giving a huge 60metre clearance.
We moored up in the very welcoming Douro Marina, and met up with Mark's friend Frank Verheijen. He whisked us of in his car along the waterfront and up the gorge to the most spectacular city. The buildings cling to the cliffs rising high above to grand buildings set high on vertiginous drops. I hopped out to sit on the riverbank and sketch whilst Mark got a city tour.
The river flows at a great rate through the gorge, setting up standing waves like rapids. Through this power the trip boats, built on the design of the long elegant barges that carry the barrels of port down river. Along the bank, original barges are moored, their long steering oars trailing in the current, angled down from the high steering platform above the precious cargo. Flags fly from the barges with familiar names such as Sandeman.
As the sunset I packed up and headed across the bridge amongst the throngs of visitors to meet Mark and Frank at little restaurant set into the walls of the town above the river. What a spectacular spot to sit and eat dinner. Fantastic!
The following day I fully intended to head back to explore Oporto, but was laid so low by gastroenteritis again (3rd day) that I couldn't manage it. However in the evening Mark coaxed me into the dinghy and we went up river to view the city again. Well worth it!