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Trip repot part 4: Porto

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so I'll be honest here (and I hope I don't offend anyone) but I didn't like Porto. Maybe it was a string of negative experiences, or, even though I've lived in a city most of my life, I like small towns and country better.

First the good - being about halfway through the trip we decided to stay in a chain hotel here so we would have something predictable to rest and regroup ourselves. We stayed in the Sheraton which was clean and comfy (best beds yet) and very spacious. Staff was helpful and friendly.

We also met some wonderful people during our visit - a lady from Lisbon on the cruise boat who was on her first vacation in 20 years, and an older gentleman on the train who loved President Obama and wanted to talk about Hilary Clinton's chances in2016 - fun.

The negative - although the guide book made it look lovely and easy, and the concierge at the hotel waxed enthusiastic and also made it sound easy - we found ourselves constantly befuddled in the downtown area trying to find the different sights. and everything was much further apart than the maps would have implied. Finally in desperation we paid for one of those hop on -hop off tour buses and that was when we got really annoyed - there were no announcements as to when we were reaching the next "sight", no explanations and the driver was surly and didn't speak anything but Portuguese. This would have been no issue on a regular bus - but this was supposed to be for tourists. Out of a whole day of trying to see the city there was only about 1 hour worth of enjoying it - the tiles in the train station are indeed amazing, and we had fun with a tour of the Offley Port wine "caves" - I do really like Port.

We had a similar negative experience with the Duoro river cruise. The concierge made the arrangements for us and promised us we'd be able to pay with a credit card. We brought some cash - but not a ton. There was no office at the dock and when we asked about paying the young attendant said, oh you pay on board. There was nothing said about cash only, either in writing or verbally. The breakfast on board was two rolls and orange juice, there was mold on the jam and when I showed the waiter he just grunted and took it away - didn't bring more or say he was sorry or anything (and I do speak a wee bit of Portuguese). We found the lunch heavy and pedestrian (but I expect that usually on river cruises - other passengers seemed to love it) The cruise itself was beautiful and we enjoyed the day thoroughly. But when it came time to pay they said oh no, no credit cards - cash only. We literally had to empty every euro out of our pockets and they kind of left us stranded in Regua - part of the issue was the hotel's bad advice, but it was also the cruise line's lack of helpfulness or concern that really bothered me. strong advice - do take a Duoro boat cruise - but don't us Douro AZul. It really left a negative taste in my mouth and mind. The train ride back was lovely (thank heavens they did take credit cards and I'd brought an ATM card with me that worked on the third machine we tried).

time for breakfast now - I shall finish this report later.

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