Porto, Portugal, 4/13/2023, National Geographic Resolution
National Geographic Resolution
Europe & British Isles
We began the day early in the morning with a lovely breakfast. We sailed into the port city and boarded a variety of coaches for the first adventures of our expedition.
The Church of St. Francis, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was a popular choice. One of the most visited sites in Porto, the church is a Baroque masterpiece with ornate, gilded wood sculptures and magnificent architecture. In addition to the church, we walked around the old town and saw historic houses, intriguing alleys, and many boats on the river.
A tour of Lello Bookstore gave us the chance to see the beautiful interior of the incredible bookstore that has been said to inspire the Harry Potter books. Rowling denied this several times, but she was in Porto before writing the books. After visiting the bookstore and observing local students wearing robes, I can certainly see resemblances to the books, but who really knows?
We visited the very ornate Stock Exchange in which Gustave Eiffel had an office. The final tour on offer and the most popular of the day was a port wine tasting
The day was cool, and we woke up to a gentle fog blanketing both land and sea. The morning voyage on National Geographic Resolution took us from Santiago de Compostela along the northern coast of Spain to Bilbao, one of the great cities within the Basque country. After a beautiful breakfast, we began our day with a presentation from National Geographic photographer, Robin Moore. Robin is a photographer and naturalist with awards from Nature’s Best, American Photo, National Geographic Traveler, and Wildlife Photographer of the Year. His talk took us on a voyage through his impressive photographic career, and he shared insight into the importance of understanding and crafting light to create stronger and more impactful images. The opportunity to pepper a master of photography with questions is a rare treat, and guests left truly inspired. Following this, Kelly, naturalist/certified photography instructor, enlightened guests during her “Better Cell Phone Photography” presentation. Guests left exclaiming, “I didn’t know my phone could do that!” and, “I can’t wait to try this later today.” Luckily, we had some time to put our newfound photography skills and knowledge to good use as our adventures continued with a panoramic coach tour of the lush green countryside neighbouring Bilbao. The evening held a special surprise with a private, guided tour of the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain. A string quartet filled the museum with a delightful melody as we experienced works of art while our guide explained how the titanium curves of Frank Gehry’s iconic museum transformed this city. When we returned to the ship, we had another delicious spread waiting for us. Tomorrow, on our last full day together, we will explore Spain’s Basque capital of San Sebastian, where we will sample local wines and pintxos.
Our morning began before dawn with a sleepy coach ride along the coast as the sun came up over the Rio Ulla. Steady rain blocked our view of the sunrise, but we were treated to a gorgeous mist hovering over the water. It was an appropriate welcome to a region often known as the “land of the thousand rivers.” Our first destination was the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, which marks the end point of the Camino de Santiago, a pilgrimage route walked by Christian pilgrims since the early Middle Ages. The pilgrims still come in the hundreds of thousands every year – we saw a number of weary groups arrive and proudly raise their walking sticks for celebratory photos in front of the cathedral. Today, people walk the Camino for any number of reasons, but historically pilgrims came to visit the bones of St. James, one of Jesus’s apostles, which are (supposedly) preserved in the crypt below the altar. The cathedral represents a remarkable blend of historic architectural styles, from the medieval Romanesque interior and Gothic cloisters to the eighteenth-century Baroque façade. After gazing in awe at the cathedral’s main entrance, which features countless lined scallop shell carvings to represent the Camino and its many pathways, we entered the cathedral through the Portico de La Gloria, an original Romanesque portal. Inside, we admired the enormous gilded Baroque altarpiece and the Botafumeiro, the giant incense burner that is swung from either end of the nave during special services. Guests had the option to attend morning mass and witness this incredible performance. In addition to its religious, historical, and architectural significance, the city is also known for its cuisine, especially octopus and Galician-style beef. Our naturalist and cultural specialist Madalena also pointed guests in the direction of the best hot chocolate and churros during our free hour in the morning. Lunch was served at the Hostal de Los Reyes Católicos, a former hospital founded by Ferdinand and Isabella in 1486, which was purchased by the Spanish government and converted into a luxury hotel to promote local gastronomy. Before our traditional meal, we were treated to cocktails, tapas, and a surprise concert from a local dance troupe. The sun came out in full force before our next stop in A Coruña, where we enjoyed a quiet moment in the María Pita square, which is lined with gleaming glass galleries and art nouveau architecture. Before a quick visit to the Tower of Hercules, claimed to be the oldest functioning lighthouse in the world, we found an outlook to watch National Geographic Resolution sail into the harbour, joining us again after repositioning during our busy but glorious day.