Performance Tour to Portugal

Day 1 Travel to Madrid
Day 2  Madrid to Salamanca via Avilla.  Hotel

At 8:25 AM, our flight arrives at Madrid’s Barajas International Airport, and after going through passport control, and colleting our luggage, we’ll be met by our guide and our USIT tour conductor, who will lead us to our coach.  Shortly thereafter, we depart the airport to enjoy a panoramic tour of Madrid, including the amazing Royal Palace and the Plaza Major.  Then we depart for our visit to Avila, a two-hour ride on the highway, on our way to Salamanca.  Avila is famous for its medieval city walls and towers that enclose the town.  We’ll see the cathedral and the convent of St. Teresa.  Then we continue to Salamanca, the end of our travels for the day.   We arrive early evening for check-in and dinner at our four-star hotel in the heart of Salamanca.

Day 3  Salamanca to Porto

Depart Salamanca in the morning, arrive Pinhão for a cruise down the River Douro through the vineyard region to Porto on the Atlantic Coast, arrive Porto early evening.

Day 4  Tour Porto

After breakfast at the hotel, we’ll enjoy a panoramic tour of the city, including visits to St. Francis Church, one of the famous Baroque Golden Churches.  We are invited to sing a concert in this national monument at 6:00 PM.  Next to St. Francis Church is the Commercial Association Palace (Palácio da Bolsa), a major neoclassical landmark, rich in artwork in the interior.  Our final visit this morning is the Cathedral of Porto, an austere, fortress-like cathedral where King John 1st married the English Princess Philippa of Lancaster in the 14th century and where their son, Prince Henry the Navigator, was baptized.   While the building has its origins in the 12th century, it has undergone many alterations over time.  We’ll hear about why from our guide.  After lunch on our own, we’ll enjoy a one-hour cruise on the Douro River to see the city from the water, including the city’s six bridges.  We return to the hotel for some free time and dinner is on our own.

Day 5  Day trip to Braga and Guimarães

After breakfast, we’ll drive out to Braga.  Sometimes called the “Portuguese Rome” for its many churches, Braga is an ancient town in northwest Portugal. Its history and livelihood are tied to Christianity dating to the 3rd century. The city’s 12th-century Sé (Cathedral) is still one of the most popular attractions.   We’ll have lunch on our own in Braga.  Then we go on to Guimarães, a city in region of Minho, and it’s one of the most historical cities in Portugal, said to be where “Portugal was born”.  It was the first city of Portugal to have a famously beautiful Castle, and a Palace to visit, from the beginnings of the country.  The Castle has been classified as one of the New Portuguese Seven Wonders.

Day 6  Coimbra to Tomar

After breakfast at the hotel, we’ll check out early morning (8:00 AM) and depart for Coimbra, about two hours’ drive from Porto.  Together we’ll visit University Library at 10:30, and the Cathedral.  Inside the library, there are three great rooms divided by decorated arches. The walls are covered by two storied shelves, in gilded or painted exotic woods and the ceilings are decorated with painting, and the library contains about 250 thousand volumes.  The cathedral is one of the most important Romanesque Cathedrals in Portugal and was built by the first King of Portugal when the city was the Capitol of the country.  After lunch on our own in Coimbra, we continue to Tomar, a charming and historically outstanding town on the banks of the Nabão River. It is dominated by a 12th-century Templar castle to see it’s collection of medieval weapons and armor, and the Convent of Christ (declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO).  Tonight we stay in Tomar.

Day 7 Tomar to Lisbon via Evora

After breakfast at the hotel, head south to Lisbon, by way of Evora.   We take the scenic route through Santarem and several small towns to arrive at lunchtime.  After lunch on our own, we’ll tour Evora, which is one of Portugal’s most delightful towns. In addition to its spacious town square with shops, restaurants, and cafes, it is an “open-air museum” with a large number of well-preserved monuments, including its cathedral, a Roman temple, and the 15th century Loios Convent with Gothic church.  Evora is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Late afternoon, we depart for Lisbon, an hour away.

Day 8  Lisbon, city tour

After breakfast at the hotel, we’ll start our half-day walking tour of Lisbon from the hotel at 10:00 AM.  We’ll walk through the medieval Alfama district, a village within the city, still made up of narrow streets, tiny squares, churches, and whitewashed houses, and up to St. George’s Castle, dating from the 6th century, overlooking the city (adm. Incl.).  Then we’ll visit the amazing Jeronimos Monastery.  This monastery, dedicated to St. Jerome, is the most impressive symbol of Portugal’s power and wealth during the Age of Discovery.  King Manuel I built it in 1502 on the site of a hermitage founded by Prince Henry the Navigator, where Vasco da Gama and his crew spent their last night in Portugal in prayer before leaving for India. We’ll also go by the Belem Tower and the Discoveries Monument.  Lunch is on our own after the tour, with some free time to explore.   We will sing a concert afterward after the 5:00 PM mass at St. Anthony’s Church.

Day 9  Obidose, Nazare and Batalha Monastery

After breakfast at the hotel, we depart to the north, and our first stop is Obidos, a delightful little walled city with its origins in Roman times.  Next we continue to the Batalha Monastery (Mosteiro da Batalha),   erected in commemoration of the 1385 Battle of Aljubarrota, to thank the Virgin Mary for the Portuguese victory over the Castilians.  It took over a century to build, starting in 1386 and ending circa 1517, and it’s one of the most important Gothic sites in Portugal.  After lunch on our own in town, we’ll sing a concert in the sanctuary.  Then we continue to Nazare, where we’ll have lunch on our own before visiting the Chapel of Our Lady of Nazare.

Day 10  Cascais and Sentra via Cabo di Roca

After breakfast, we travel north to the royal town of Sintra, hidden in the lush mountain forests.  The Romans made it a place of cult moon worship and named it “Cynthia” after the goddess of the moon. They were followed by the Moors who also fell in love with the lush vegetation and built a hilltop castle, a palace, and several fountains around the town. Later it became the summer residence of the Portuguese royal family and attracted a number of wealthy aristocrats who built huge mansions and villas. Here we’ll have lunch on our own.  Then we continue south toward Lisbon, making a stop at the lighthouse at Cabo Roca, on a bluff high above the pounding Atlantic surf.  On the way into Lisbon, we’ll drive through the upscale coastal town of Cascais, with its beautiful beaches and abundant shops.  After a visit there, we continue the remaining half an hour drive along the coast into Lisbon.

Day 11 Travel home from Lisbon
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