Café Crem

Art, Music and Words around The Coffee Table

Madmen across the Water – Part One – Portugal 20

The Bridge at Barca (Boomobile visible thru last arch)

The Bridge at Barca (Boomobile visible thru last arch)

We headed South, keeping faith with the mighty river Douro, and, by default, the Spanish Border to the East. After about 20k of fairly unremarkable scenery, the landscape changed dramatically as we began to thread our way through towering slopes terraced with hundreds upon hundreds of vines. This was serious wine country. The river, an azure ribbon winding its way down in the valley, and the Spanish slopes on the far bank home to a myriad of Olive trees. The old stone signposts at the side of the road told us we were approaching a place called Barca de Alva, but it wasn’t on our map. We checked the bigger road map, and found it; a small settlement where the Douro turns West and heads for Porto.

Looking down at the river, I was wondering how navigable it was, as it seemed very broad for the last few kilometers. Just then, we spied a huge river craft at its moorings.

The Douro Queen

The Douro Queen

We had arrived at Barca de Alva, and discovered that a series of River cruise ships seemed to operate out of here. As we drew nearer to the docks, we saw a number of motorhomes – but with a difference. Attached to each was a huge awning, and beneath, a powerboat! We had stumbled on the venue for a huge Powerboat championship this weekend! All the early arrivals were English, though an international field was expected for the weekend. Even more amazing, the little town had laid on electricity!! Possibly the only place in the whole of Portugal where they had free juice, and we’d found it!

These crazy people race these craft at speeds reaching 160kph across open stretches of water such as this. It seems the Douro at this point is ideal for the huge oval circuit that the boats will be competing over. We resolved to watch this spectacle at the weekend, but with around 40 competitors eventually turning up, our time by the riverside may be limited.

We decided to stay a second night, see how many are arriving, then perhaps leave for a day or two, exploring the river, returning late Friday night to try and get a parking space again.

The more sedate river boats also appeal to me – I love the idea of languidly heading off downriver to Porto. But to be honest, we don’t really know if that’s what the boats do. We’ve made a note of the website, and intend to check it out when we get home.

Douro Queen and Vasco de Gama

Douro Queen and Vasco de Gama

As we settled down for that first night in Barca, we watched the English and American passengers chatting amiably on the top deck. We sat and drank our tinto by the riverside enchanted by the beautiful reflection of the illuminated bridge in the waters of the Douro.

Wonderfully romantic! – and a frisson of excitement, awaiting the roar of the engines that will shatter the tranquility this weekend….

British Powerboat awaits the weekend

British Powerboat awaits the weekend

Kev Moore

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July 18, 2008 - Posted by | culture, Entertainment, events, life, personal, photography, Valentines, writing | , , , , , , ,

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