One of the nicest things about a Viking River Cruise is the included shore excursions; generally speaking, at least one a day. I am sailing on the Viking Osfrid along the Douro River and on this day I am visiting the Mateus Palace and Gardens near Regua, Portugal. Built in the first half of the 18th century, the palace is one of the finest representations of Baroque civil architecture in Portugal with finishing touches by architect Nicolau Nasoni.
Walking along the main drive, we pass under a canopy of trees and come out in front of a reflecting pool mirroring the beautiful mansion. The palace consists of the main house, gardens, winery and chapel.
The National Monument was built by Antonio Jose Botelho Mourao, 3rd Morgado of Mateus. The closer I get to the palace the better I can admire its façade.
We are ushered into groups of ten and taken into the mansion. As if an elaborate square dance, groups rotate from room to room with plenty of time to hear about its treasures including furniture from several periods, 17th and 18th century paintings, and religious relics housed in the palace.
Our first stop is in the all-season room featuring four paintings of woman representing the seasons. This room, as with all the interior spaces we are allowed to visit, features intricately carved wood ceilings.
Although the family still lives here, we are also allowed to explore the ladies parlor, gentleman’s parlor, dining room and, my favorite, the library. Featured here is an illustrated edition of the celebrated Lusiadas of Luís de Camões, published in 1816.
Once our tour is complete, we are given free time to explore the gardens modelled after Versailles. The different areas are separated by hedges. Arches are used to move from area to area. Hedges and grass are trimmed to create patterns.
This day a rainbow of roses is in bloom; their scent on a spring breeze.
Soon it is time to return to our ship and sail a little further along the Douro heading to more historic adventures.