CULTURE & CUISINE
Oporto to Basque Country ~ 8 days
22nd to 29th May & 18th to 25th September 2016 (itinerary reversed)

Trace the coast of Portugal and northern Spain on a voyage that celebrates the myriad cultures of Iberia and France’s Côte Basque. Discover the importance of Portugal’s Douro River and explore the stunning landscapes of Galicia. Along the way, encounter the UNESCO World Heritage sites of medieval Oporto, the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, and the Tower of Hercules.
 
DAY 1: Lisbon, Portugal/Embark
Arrive in Lisbon, and embark National Geographic Orion. After lunch, relax on the ship or explore on shore. Then be on deck as we navigate the Tagus River at sunset, drinks in hand. (L,D).
 
DAY 2: Oporto
Arrive in the UNESCO World Heritage site of Oporto in the late morning. The birthplace of port wine, Oporto straddles a gorge on the Douro River, linked by numerous bridges and filled with medieval architecture. See the famous azulejo tiles of the region and take in the views from the iron masterpiece Ponte Dom Luis. Later, learn the secrets of port-making during a tasting at a riverside port house. (B,L,D)
Explore with a range of transport modes: vintage tram or auto, tuk-tuk, or on foot.
 
DAY 3: Villagarcia de Arousa, Spain
Anchor in Villagarcía de Arousa and drive to Santiago de Compostela. Visit a historic mansion with impressive gardens, and listen to the melodies of a gaita, a Galician bagpipe. In the heart of Santiago de Compostela, visit the cathedral that has welcomed millions of pilgrims over the centuries, and enjoy lunch and a vibrant musical performance at the adjacent Hostal de los Reyes Católicos. (B,L,D)
Immerse yourself in the culture. Choose to join fishermen along an estuary as they collect mussels, which our Orion chef will season and prepare. Or, walk in the steps of the pilgrims’ path to the magnificent cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. We’ve even set up river rafting for you on the Rias de Galicia.
 
DAY 4: A Coruña
Cruise into A Coruña, passing the impressive Tower of Hercules in the morning light. Pay a visit to the tower, the only working Roman lighthouse in the world, visit the local market, and learn about the architectural phenomenon that earned the town the nickname “The Glass City.” Take a late morning stroll or a bicycle ride around the area’s picturesque coastal villages before we sail east. (B,L,D)
 
DAY 5:  Bilbao
Arrive in Bilbao after lunch. Explore the titanium curves of the iconic Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, learn how it has transformed the city, and have a guided tour of the interior in small groups. Wander through Bilbao’s old quarter, or go for a scenic hike along the coast. After dinner on the ship, enjoy a free evening to experience the city at night. (B,L,D)
Our musicologist has arranged for a private performance from famous Basque musician Kepa Junkera.
 
DAY 6: Saint Jean-de-Luz, France/San Sebastian, Spain
Explore both the French and Spanish Basque cultures today. At a market excursion in the village of Saint Jean-de-Luz, get an introduction to French Basque culture and cuisine, followed by a journey to the French Basque countryside for a wine and tapas tasting. In Spain’s Basque capital of San Sebastian, discover the connection to the Celts and hear the bouncing rhythms of a trikitixa, a traditional accordion. (B,L,D)
Cider houses rule in Basque Spain, and we’ve planned a special Basque dinner and cultural event in San Sebastian. Grab a glass and do as the locals do, sit at the long farm tables and sidle up to the barrel tap for a cider refill.
 
DAY 7: Bayonne, France
Take a walk through the picturesque old port town of Bayonne and learn about the rich chocolate industry for which this area is so well known. On an excursion to the former imperial retreat of Biarritz, stroll along the coast to the Rock of the Virgin, once used by Napoleon III as an anchoring point. (B,L,D)
Chocolate lovers may attend a demonstration at a small, private French chocolate house.

DAY 8:  Bordeaux/Disembark
After breakfast the next morning, disembark in Bordeaux and transfer to the airport to catch your flight home. Or, remain in Bordeaux for an added stay. (B)

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