Perfect Pre-Cruise Prep in Portugal
The Monthly Mantra
The Transition … The Transition … The Transition
Could it really be only one day since my butt was crammed into an airline seat aboard a trans-Atlantic flight with a temperature that had to be hovering at the freezing mark? Between shivers and trying to ignore the screaming baby that was two rows back, I was still feeling the effects of the past week — the broken tooth and emergency dental visit, jury duty (that, thankfully ended after 3 1/2 hours), and the pre-vacation office crises that nearly killed me. But as the aircraft’s wheels touched down in Lisbon, all those stresses melted away and Viking River Cruises took over.
Through baggage claim, I saw my greeters front and center, their scarlet Viking shirts like beacons. In minutes, I found myself relieved of my burdensome luggage and whisked away to our luxury digs.
I’ve traveled to Lisbon for Viking River Cruises´ River of Gold, a week-long sailing of Portugal’s Douro River. The line is kicking the adventure off with a splash: a 2-night stay at the five-star Tivoli Avenida Liberdade, located on the chi-chi Lisbon equivalent of Fifth Avenue, designer shops dotting the tree-lined street and a charming market sitting just across from where the uniformed doorman welcomes us.
The effects of jet lag cut short our exploration of the elegant surroundings. The hotel’s sparkling circular swimming pool beckons, its lush shrubbery, flowering trees, and decorative wall of signature blue and white Portuguese tiles the perfect remedy for our foggy brains.
Refreshed and even a bit bronzed thanks to the stint beneath Portugal’s intense sunshine, we spruce up a bit and head to Seen, one of Lisbon’s hottest rooftop bars, conveniently located a short elevator commute away on the 9th floor of our lovely hotel. The view is spectacular — a riot of red-tiled roofs and the hilltop St. George Castle dazzle in the distance as we sip our mint-garnished port & tonics — a signature Portuguese concoction that combines tonic water and a crystal-clear dry port … something I never knew existed!
Already, I suspect Portugal holds surprises beyond its crystal-clear dry port. Dinner at our hotel’s lobby restaurant Cerejana Liberdade, one of two elegant dining spots on the property, confirms it. We devour delectable appetizers of prosciutto and a rich and buttery sheep’s-milk cheese served with pumpkin jam as we peruse a menu rich with seafood from the nearby waters, and a variety of “pots,” stew-like dishes served in brass … well … pots. Surprisingly, my favorite is açorda, an iconic Portuguese soup, a heady mixture of seafood in a sauce made from stale bread, eggs, garlic and olive oil — heavenly! The meal concludes with port — what else in this land of more than 50 port distilleries? — and a crispy apple galette garnished with a scoop of decadent cinnamon ice cream.
With that last bite, that last sip, exhaustion overtakes me. I return to the beautiful room at the magnificent property that Viking River Cruises has chosen to kick off our journey. I step into to the glorious marble bathroom to remove traces of the makeup applied 12 hours ago on a different continent before I slip into bed between luxury high-thread-count sheets. My last thought before surrendering to blissful sleep is: “Could it really be only one day since my butt was crammed into an airline seat aboard a trans-Atlantic flight with a temperature that had to be hovering at the freezing mark?”
— Judi Cuervo
Next Month: Sailing the Douro aboard Viking Helgrim