No visit to Porto (north west of Portugal) is complete without a detour to the Douro Valley which is exactly what I did on my recent sojourn in September, incidentally weather-wise a great month to visit. This area has been long devoted to vineyards producing Port wine and table wines. It’s now a UNESCO World Heritage Site too. The River Douro extends from Northern Spain to its outlet in Porto and the best way to explore this region, if time is of the essence, is to take a guided day trip from Porto.
We drove from Porto into the hills following a route with stunning vistas abound, admiring the breathtaking landscapes not to mention the terraced vineyards themselves that make up the Douro Valley. We even stopped by one of the terraced vineyards and got to pluck some of the grapes and eat them – breakfast taken care of!
Next up was the best part – Port wine tasting and the actual process of producing it. We were met by the owners of the vineyards themselves who showed us around their estates. By the end of the day we were pretty well educated in the different types of Port wine, not to mention the subsequent purchases of Port and table wine – hence I had to buy an extra bag to bring the bottles back. (Tip: take an extra bag because no doubt you will end up making several purchases.) Often these producers do not sell mass market and hence it can be difficult to lay your hands on their produce unless you have it shipped.
We then stopped at Pinhao, a quaint little village, and explored the blue and white tile murals at the local train station after having a leisurely traditional lunch. To end this wonderful day we hopped onto a rabelo boat (a traditional cargo boat native to this region) for a relaxing one hour cruise up the river and back. All in all, if you have two-three days to spare, it’s well worth staying at any one of the boutique hotels in the area for a relaxing and rejuvenating break.
By Diane Bilimoria, London