Tagus river cruise at Escaroupim, Portugal

Escaroupim, Portugal, some days are forever

Take a Tagus river cruise at Escaroupim, Portugal, and you will feel some days are forever.

Not too far from Lisbon, driving around 45 minutes north, you will find a tiny village called Escaroupim. It sits at the left bank of the river Tagus, Tejo in Portuguese.

Escaroupim is one of the several “aldeias avieiras” along the river.

I guess you don’t know what an “aldeia avieira” is, but I will explain in another article.

At this traditional village, you can take a boat, for a Tagus river cruise and it will drive you through the several river canals where most of the birds go for their late afternoon bug meal … an amazing scenario.

On top of all, we get to know more about the local birds with entertaining explanations.

It doesn’t matter if the day is cold or hot because the boats have covers to be used if needed.

What matters though is the time of the day when you do the tour and sunset is king.

Get your camera ready because you never know when a bird or a horse will appear in front of you.

Yes, a horse.

I saw some horses with their feet in the water feeding on some grass, and they just appeared from nowhere after a turn.

Now you know: camera ready.

One of those experiences you can have far from crowded areas, and you can also visit some small villages by the river called “aldeias avieiras”.

To complement your trip, why not reserving some time to taste some of the local dishes in a restaurant by the river?  You won’t be walking too far, there is one right there near the pear where you will find the boats.

Enjoy the day, it will be a day to remember.

David Monteiro

Tram 28, Lisbon, Portugal

Tram 28, Lisbon, Portugal

Tram 28 is the most popular tram route for tourists in Lisbon.

Probably it is the only one promoted by tour operators, brochures, travel books, and other tourist information sources about Lisbon.

Note: tram 28, as it is known, is, in fact, 28E … it can seem like a minor detail but will be vital if you are waiting for it at a bus stop. Nonetheless, here I will call it 28.

Related to the 28, a few points I would like to share here, and those are:

– An introduction to the history of trams in Lisbon and the 28 in particular.

– Why is this route so promoted by tour operators?

– Is it worthwhile, or not, to take tram 28?

Naturally, on the above-listed topics, there will be a lot to say. However, I will not go into too much here, the juicy details I leave them to be shared during my guided tours.

An introduction to the history of trams in Lisbon and the 28 in particular

The history of tram 28 is part of Lisbon‘s tramways’ history, so let’s start from the beginning.

On August 31, 1901, the company “Companhia de Carris de Ferro de Lisboa” inaugurated the circulation of trams in Lisbon.

The company mentioned above had sixteen vehicles running on a route connecting Cais do Sodré square to Ribamar, in the Algés area, along the River Tagus as an inauguration circuit.

The starting of the trams circulating in Lisbon was not without controversy.

There were those outraged by the immense speed these trams were running through the streets, reaching up to 12 km/h (7,5mi/h) … go figure. 

They were also saying the trams represented a great danger to passersby and made an infernal and unhealthy noise.

Of course, all of this seems ridiculous today. Still, people were only used to animal pulled cars at the time, so those arguments seemed to make sense to many people.

What is certain is that, after a short time, the tram’s entered the city’s daily life as they had always belonged there.

In 1906 the first section of the 28 tram route was set up. Until the 1930s, the route was progressively extended until it reached the way it has today, from Campo de Ourique to Martim Moniz, two Lisbon districts.

However, after the 1960s, with the proliferation of buses, trams’ popularity began to fall. At the end of that decade, plans began to emerge to remove trams from circulation altogether.

In the early 1970s, many rails had already been removed from the public road, and many routes had been suspended.

Nevertheless, in 1974, many of the country’s structural investments were stopped, following the consequences of the Carnation Revolution. One of those investment plans that were eliminated, was the expansion of the bus fleet in Lisbon.

Anyway, the population was still growing as it was a demand for more public transportation.

Not having an available investment as a resource solution, it was necessary to recover some of the old trams. So, once again, they became useful to society.

Anyway, after a short time, 

    • the increased number of cars in Lisbon plus
    • the increase in the pace of life
    • the inability of trams to run faster
    • and, because running on rails they couldn’t avoid constant obstacles on the busy streets,

all contributed to their decline.

Even today, modern trams, of the kind one could and still can find in large European cities, were put into circulation. They are few and focused on longer routes, such as between Praça da Figueira and Algés.

Why is this route so promoted by tour operators?

When one knows Lisbon, it is easy to understand why this route is so popular.

It is a very scenic route and goes through typical Lisbon districts, with very narrow and winding streets, squeaking at low speed on the old steel rails. It also allows you to appreciate Lisbon’s traditional landscape.

Is it worthwhile, or not, to take tram 28?

The great Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa said that “everything is worthwhile if the soul is not small”.

I can’t say if it’s worth it or not for you, but I can list some of the pros and cons of this trip.

Pros:

+ the old trams, such as the 28, are part of the city’s image;

+ the 28 takes a very scenic, typical, and useful route to get to know the city of Lisbon;

+ it’s enjoyable to ride these old trams.

Cons:

– there are often long queues/lines to get these trams, which can result in a significant waste of time, a commodity you may not have in abundance if you are spending only a couple of days in Lisbon;

– because it is trendy, it is often full of people, and having a ride in a crowded tram may not be enjoyable;

– many pickpockets take advantage of the confusion usually happening in tram 28 to get other people’s wallets and other valuables.

Before I finish, I want to thank the artist Inna Korneeva for the illustrations you can find in this article.

Inna Korneeva is a Russian artist who lived in Portugal for a while and fell in love with our country and culture.

The featured illustration is about tram 28, and the one right above is of route 15.

Route 15 is the most similar to the one made during the inauguration of Lisbon‘s trams in 1901.

The illustrations are perfect for this article, and the artist honors the trams in representing them in her work.

This artist’s work can be consulted here

Visit Lisbon and have fun.

Carpe diem,

David Monteiro

Hot air balloon ride at Alentejo, Portugal

Hot air balloon ride at Alentejo, Portugal

A hot air balloon ride in Alentejo is not an evident activity. However, it is an unforgettable experience.

It took me a long time to try taking a hot air balloon trip in the Alentejo. For one reason or another, the experience was always postponed to a better time.

At the right moment, the combination of several factors ended up bringing the opportunity for it. I was quite excited.

If I was surprised, it was positive.

The experience couldn’t be more rewarding.

We met before sunrise to start the tour as soon as the sun came up, and it happened as planned.

The memory of this balloon ride is a succession of positive adjectives that I don’t need to state. The best thing is to try it.

My experience happened near Monsaraz, Alentejo, and I was able to see the Alqueva Dam.

Above all, it is not the assortment of things you see, but the peace you feel during the trip.

Carpe Diem
David Monteiro

Hot air balloon ride
Alentejo, Portugal
Hot air balloon ride
Alentejo, Portugal
Hot air balloon ride
Alentejo, Portugal
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Paragliders at Costa da Caparica, Portugal

Paragliders at Costa da Caparica

Paragliders at Costa da Caparica, Portugal

While I was walking in the area of Costa da Caparica Fossil Cliff I came upon the scene of the featured photo … amazing.

I am not a paraglider but I am passionate about photography and it was impossible not to shoot the photos I’m sharing here.

Costa da Caparica is a beach area located a few miles south of Lisbon and, the large sand area you can see in the photo is the area between Costa da Caparica and Fonte da Telha.

A moment to remember.

David Monteiro

Barco Rabelo, the traditional Douro riverboat, Portugal

Rabelo boat

Barco Rabelo, the traditional Douro riverboat, Portugal

Rabelo boat is a traditional wooden boat from the Douro Valley and a boat ride in one of these boats is a must, during a visit to the Douro Valley.

One of the many reasons to enjoy doing what I do is the possibility to live fantastic experiences regularly.

As spectacular as an experience may be, after a few occurrences, it can also lose its luster, but this is not the case with Rabelo boat trips on the Douro River.

At this point, I have to make a remark: I am referring to Rabelo boat trips on the Douro River upstream of Pinhão and not to boat rides taking place near Porto.

The Rabelo boat trip above Pinhão and the Rabelo trip in front of Porto cannot be confused, they are two very different experiences.

On the Douro River, in its section running between Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia, many companies are offering Rabelo boat trips. Short rides can give tourists an idea of ​​what a Rabelo boat was.

Very different, and in my opinion, really interesting, are the Rabelo boat trips you can have from Pinhão upstream.

Pinhão is often referred to as the heart of Port wine, mainly because of two reasons:

    • many of the great Portwine producers can be found around here,
    • and also because Pinhão was kind of a hub where Rabelo boats used to load barrels of wine to take to the warehouses of Vila Nova de Gaia.

Let me give you a few reasons why riverboat tours here, at Pinhão, are more beautiful than in front of Porto:

    • here the river is narrower,
    • there are incredibly fewer boats around here than downstream,
    • and we can fully enjoy the area classified as World Heritage by UNESCO.

During the tours, I do in the Douro Valle, and when we have Rabelo boat trips, whenever I can, I include lunch on board … it’s fantastic.

This is one of those experiences that I never get tired of repeating. I don’t remember any of these tours in the Douro that left me indifferent.

The old Rabelo boats, now converted into tourist’s vessels, still retain some of their old characteristics.

Some of these Rabelos boats had an active life of transporting wine barrels. Therefore, during a tour like this, we are enjoying part of the history of the Douro River.

The trip of one or two hours is always a time of tranquility and relaxation.

Pinhão is between the Valeira Dam and the Custuma-Lever Dam, the waters are calm and allow a smooth sailing.

This smoothness is sometimes disturbed by the passage of large vessels, which, fortunately, doesn’t happen very often.

During the boat tour, we can see the large farmhouses where the vine grows on the terraced hillsides.

This immense extension of handmade terraces is one of the main reasons for the classification of World Heritage by UNESCO.

Depending on the season, it will also vary the colors of the slopes. Naturally, perhaps it is autumn with its golds, copper, and red colors often represented in books and brochures.

Each season brings different colors.

I also really like spring when we can see the hills sprinkled with shades of pink given by the almond blossom.

Lunch is served on the boat. A diverse, practical, and tasty picnic.

There is no shortage of wine. After all, we are in the land where Port wine is produced, but also excellent table wine, the famous Douro wine.

Among the most famous grape varieties in the region, Touriga Nacional is the most common.

It makes excellent mono-vine wines and is increasingly used even outside this region where it is best known.

The two hours of a Rebelo boat ride pass quickly, and you always feel like repeating.

What is today a memorable experience was, in the old days also memorable for completely different reasons.

It was a hard and dangerous life, taking wine barrels downstream the river from several spots at the Douro Valley until Porto, where the wine was supposed to be shipped to all over the world.

How could that be if the river is so calm?

Today, flowing in between several dams, the river is kind of tame. It was not as such before the dams, it was like doing withe water rafting with wooden boats filled with big wine barrels.

To give you a better perspective, I selected two videos. Unfortunately, they both have small problems but I guess they can give you a better idea about what I was referring to.

The first one is from 1923 and you can see the rabelo boats on their journey downstream to Porto but also upstream. Unfortunately is a mute movie.

The second one is an extraordinary documentary, full of interesting details, especially on the part where it tells all about how these heavy boats could return home navigating upstream this river.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find an English version. Anyway, I think it worth seeing it and if one day we will see it together I can explain it to you if needed.

Maybe you will join me one day for a boat ride.

Have fun,

David Monteiro

The Douro Valley Train Ride – Portugal

The Douro Valley Train Ride - Portugal

The Douro Valley train ride is one of the experiences you should not miss when visiting the Douro Valley.

The scenery of the train sliding on the tracks, the river still waters with the traditional wooden boats carrying people to various locations are iconic pictures you may want to experience.

Please don’t expect a new train but it is not a very old one either. I can say it is old enough to have an individual patina.

However, if you are spending some days at Porto to enjoy this little dream by yourself, only using public transportation, you might face some challenges.

To better explain myself, I need you to bear in mind the sequence of the train stations, but only those will that will be required during this explanation: Porto São Bento (…) Régua (…) Pinhão (…) Pocinho.

The most exciting area of the Douro Valley where to enjoy this train ride is in between Pinhão and Pocinho, the last third of the 3h20m train ride.

Only four or five trains are running per day each way.

Conclusion: you can take the 9:10 or 12:55 train at Porto São Bento, go all the way to Pocinho, and you will be back to Porto again at 18:50 or 20:55, respectively.

The above-mentioned means you will need one whole day to fulfill this little project.

Does it worth it? Difficult to say, it is a personal assessment.

Naturally, during the Iberactive tours, we do not face this problem because we have our logistic support, and we have our way of doing things.

We will be happy to have you on our tour, however, if you can’t or don’t want to join us, please check the following.

Let me give you two different possibilities, always considering you are at Porto:

1. Take a boat tour from Porto to Régua and return from Régua to Porto by train. The downfall of this solution is you will not visit the most interesting part of the Douro Valey, from Pinhão to Pocinho.

or

2. Take a train from Porto to Pinhão, have a traditional wooden boat ride, and return to Porto

09:10 / 11:37 – train ride Porto São Bento / Pinhão

12:00 / 14:00 – Rabelo boat ride (the wooden traditional riverboats)

14:00 / 16:07 – free time to lunch and/or go on a wine cellar visit

16:07 / 18:50 – train ride Pinhão / Porto São Bento

I hope this is useful.

David Monteiro

Muckross Lake, Killarney, Ireland

Muckross Lake, Killarney, Ireland

In Ireland, everything happens with high drama, intensely and vividly.

Crossing the Muckross Lake couldn’t be different.

I was staring at Lake Muckross without quite understanding where we were going to cross it.

Also, what can be so exciting about boating on a lake?

We all have done that before, somewhere.

However, the descriptions were fascinating.

So, I decided to rely on the good taste and wisdom of those, as myself, make from tourism their way of life and passion.

Nevertheless, my doubts were quite sticky, and they would not leave me almost until the middle of the lake.

I wasn’t sure what I was doing.

As we approached the opposite bank, I began to see a very narrow tongue of water, and the tiny boat where we were in started to move in that direction.

In a couple of minutes, I saw myself navigating this canal that meandered inland.

At a certain point, still in the channel, the boatman explains to us we would have to leave the boat so he could pass a shallow zone.

This possibility of going to shore was exciting because it allowed us to cross a small and old stone bridge.

On the opposite side of the canal, I could take some photos from top to bottom while some boat maneuvers took place.

It was a postcard scenario, and our bright red life jackets would give the photographs a surreal look.

The cold, the humidity of the rainy weather and the fog accentuated the dramatic look of the whole landscape.

The gray clouds with black contours gave me the feeling of an intense rain approaching at any moment.

Being on a boat without protection, it added to the drama.

We were lucky, and it was just the weather being Irish.

It was a 10km crossing, and it took about ninety minutes.

We left at the opposite side of Lake Upper.

The mirror of black water was mesmerizing, and the mountain lines on the horizon gave a watercolor look to the scenery.

Just amazing.

Carpe diem

David Monteiro