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Grande Lago, Portugal – a great adventure! (part 1/3)

If you’re looking for bright skies and warm sunshine and a relaxed cruising destination (maybe even a romantic break?) then we highly recommend heading to Portugal and hiring a Nicols self drive barge on the Grande Lago. This largest man-made lake in Europe is in the Alentejo region and just two hours from Lisbon by car. Grande Lago is surrounded by a mix of rural olive groves and vineyards and numerous villages – all small but very pretty.

The Nicols base at Amieira Marina is the only boat hire base on the lake so the waterways never seem busy. Their hire barges are all in tip-top condition and well-equipped with everything you’ll need. Boats also have a GPS and sonar which makes navigation simple – guiding you safely and avoiding shallow waters or obstacles in the water.

The artificial dam has seen the waters flood the landscape with trees, mills and even a village all now underwater. Some taller hills remain – now picturesque islands in the lake.

The water is extremely clean so can be taken directly from the lake into the boat to be used in the bathroom and the kitchen for things like washing the dishes. A separate tank is onboard for storing drinking water. The environment is important to Nicols so the boats feature dispensers with biodegradable soap so as not to affect the lake and solar panels which help charge the boats batteries.

Another useful onboard item is the mobile phone. At no cost this can be used to call the base team if necessary, but also the restaurants and shops in the villages who will happily pick you up (sometimes even for free!) to go for dinner or shopping. With some villages being a few kilometres away from the lake this is extremely convenient.

When it comes to mooring places you have two options. You can use the floating docks near the many villages or you can go all ‘Robinson Crusoe’ and simply moor up at the edge of one of the islands.

The Nicols team provided us with detailed instructions both in the training room at the base and then onboard our two cabin Estivale Quattro. We felt fully prepared to begin our boating adventure – a short break (Tuesday to Saturday) which will see us take the following route: Amieira Marina – Estrela – Mourao – Monsaraz – Luz – Dam of Alqueva – Amieira Marina.

After 2.5 hours of cruising we arrive at the very small village of Estrela. The mooring pier is only 50m from the village and we are the only boat so we decide to spend our first night on the boat enjoying a simple alfresco dinner on the terrace while enjoying the silence and stunning sunset.

As we head off to bed the cabins feel warm (after all it’s been 33 degrees outside all day!) but after a few hours we start to feel the temperature fall. Fortunately below the bed in a drawer we find duvets for a comfortably night’s sleep.

In the morning, after a good breakfast, we take a leg stretch into Estrela. It is very small so soon head back to the boat ready for the next part of our journey – the next destination being Mourao which is the largest village in the area with approximately 2,000 inhabitants. From the mooring pier it is a 2km walk and at the entrance there are a few shops and businesses and smaller houses but it is at the heart of the village that makes the walk worthwhile. Set on a pretty hill lies the 13th century castle which offers beautiful views across the surrounding area. Also in the middle of the village is a small park where we relax with a tasty ice cream bought from a bistro just opposite. This sets us up nicely for the walk back to the boat.

We leave Mourao and then, after passing under the large unique bridge that crosses the lake we have a clear view of the approaching Monsaraz – a beautiful village also perched high on a hill. As we begin our mooring manoeuvre at the mooring pier we notice that there are four other Nicols boats as our neighbours! As it is a public holiday there are quite a few visitors.

This pier has many more facilities including a restaurant and activity centre where you can hire equipment for a number of watersports. We opt for some sunbathing and a swim in the lake before watching some fisherman bring in a good catch. Once again our evening is spent enjoying dinner onboard gazing at another wonderful sunset!

>> See the part 2/3

Very happy with everything

YOUR CRUISE

I cruised on a boat : Nicols 800
Boat’s name : foix
Leaving from : Le Somail / Canal du Midi (France)
Return to : Le Somail / Canal du Midi (France)
Date of departure : 08/10/2016
Date of return : 15/10/2016

UNFOLDING OF YOUR CRUISE

Greetings : 4 out of 4 stars
Handing over of the boat : 4 out of 4 stars
Boat condition : 4 out of 4 stars
Boat equipment : 4 out of 4 stars
Equipment condition : 4 out of 4 stars
Return of the boat : 4 out of 4 stars
Your remarks and suggestions about your cruise :
Very happy with everything

YOUR GENERAL IMPRESSION ON YOUR HOLIDAY

Your general sentiment : 4 out of 4 stars

YOU AND NICOLS

Would you like to rent a boat with Nicols again ? Yes

AUTHOR

Name : Patrick
City : VIVY
Country : France

Thank you for the hospitality

Dear Port Authority

We wanted to write and thank you for our stay during the storm the past two days. The woman who is the front of your business is excellent! I am not certain of her name, but she runs the front desk. She has a short bob hair cut (blonde) and may be seen sporting a red baseball cap. She did everything to help us!  Ordered us a taxi, postage stamps, weather updates, ordered baguettes for the morning… A real life saver. I even saw her cleaning a boat when she wasn’t in the office.  What a great representative of your operation.

Hats off to This lady. I would certainly want her at the front desk of my business. Thank you for the hospitality.

Best Wishes. We would look to book with you in the future because of her customer service.

Many thanks again.

Regards

Michelle & John Kemp on the Tommy.

Sitting in the splash pool drinking wine under the stars

YOUR CRUISE

I cruised on a boat : Confort 1100
Leaving from : Le Somail / Canal du Midi (France)
Return to : Le Somail / Canal du Midi (France)
Date of departure : 24/09/2016
Date of return : 01/10/2016

UNFOLDING OF YOUR CRUISE

Greetings : 4 out of 4 stars
Handing over of the boat : 4 out of 4 stars
Boat condition : 4 out of 4 stars
Boat equipment : 4 out of 4 stars
Equipment condition : 4 out of 4 stars
Return of the boat : 4 out of 4 stars

YOUR GENERAL IMPRESSION ON YOUR HOLIDAY

Your general sentiment : 4 out of 4 stars
What memories do you keep of your holidays?
Sitting in the splash pool drinking wine under the stars.

YOU AND NICOLS

Would you like to rent a boat with Nicols again ? Yes

AUTHOR

Name : Rhian
City : Caernarfon
Country : Wales

The freindly helpfulness of your team at Amieira

YOUR CRUISE

I cruised on a boat : Estivale QUATTRO
Boat’s name : Alqueva
Leaving from : Amieira / Grande Lago (Portugal)
Return to : Amieira / Grande Lago (Portugal)
Date of departure : 23/09/2016
Date of return : 03/10/2016

UNFOLDING OF YOUR CRUISE

Greetings : 4 out of 4 stars
Handing over of the boat : 4 out of 4 stars
Boat condition : 3 out of 4 stars
Boat equipment : 3 out of 4 stars
Equipment condition : 3 out of 4 stars
Return of the boat : 4 out of 4 stars
Your remarks and suggestions about your cruise :
Your people at the Amieira site made a very big difference to our overall enjoyment. From Ruth, Mario, Lucia, Rui, Antonio through to Ana, they were ALL so pleasant, cheerful and so very helpful – they really seemed to care that we had a good time. Mario (Mr FixIt), Rui (Mr RayBan) and Antonio particularly so. Seems unfair to pick them out but we had more to do with them. However, it was Mario and Lucia that made all the difference. Between them, they arranged so that we had the perfect boat for us. Thank you again Mario and Lucia.
I don’t know how much input to the maintenance of the lake you have but there are quite a few markers/buoys missing at crucial points. One of the pleasures of having a a dual position steering is being able to sit out in the sun enjoying the wonderful landscape. Instead, you have too keep charging down to follow the GPS….

YOUR GENERAL IMPRESSION ON YOUR HOLIDAY

Your general sentiment : 4 out of 4 stars
What memories do you keep of your holidays?
The peace and quiet, the beautiful landscape, castles and little villages (even poor little old Luz) and the breathtaking sunsets that we had. And, of course, the freindly helpfulness of your team at Amieira. Well done all.

YOU AND NICOLS

Would you like to rent a boat with Nicols again ? Yes

AUTHOR

Name : Tim
City : Shipton Moyne
Country : England