Day two of our Porto trip started early (you can read about day one here and day three here). We had some wires crossed regarding a tour we had booked and got up way earlier than necessary for our pick-up. I’m not usually a big fan of taking tours on vacation, because I hate having my day scheduled for me, but since we had such limited time and getting to the Douro wine region is difficult, it was definitely the right choice under the circumstances. We ended up touring the Douro River Valley on both Friday and Saturday to see as much of the region as possible, and both tours were incredible. For Friday, we booked with Living Tours, Portugal and had Joana as our wonderful guide.After she picked us up, we headed immediately out of the city and toward the mountains. Joana pointed out the eucalyptus crops we passed as well as the vinho verde, or “green wine”, vines which are taller than normal vines and harvested earlier, before full maturation – resulting in a refreshing and slightly effervescent wine. One regret of the trip was not getting to visit a Vinho Verde winery, but we did have several different green wines with our dinners, and they were all great and incredibly affordable. Someday we’ll have to go back and check into the region further.The jet lag was definitely getting to me on the drive out to the valley, despite the beautiful scenery, I could barely keep my eyes open during the drive. Tom kept elbowing me for the most beautiful sights, which I definitely appreciated, but I still regret not being able to stay awake.
Our first stop, funny enough, was at Quinta do Seixo – owned by Sandeman, who is also the owner of the cellar we had visited they day before.The views, as you can see, were incredible. The Douro Valley is both the oldest and smallest wine region in the world (I find this hard to believe because it seemed very large, but we heard it several times during our stay). In order to maximize space, vines are planted on virtually every square inch of land possible. The growing conditions in the Douro Valley are ideal for producing wine due to the warm climate and excellent drainage provided by the steep mountain slopes.
The vines are planted on terraces, shown in the picture, and the grapes must all be harvested by hand. A machine harvester could be used if the rows were made wider, but that would significantly reduce the grape yield.We toured the large winery at Quinta do Seixa, and then tasted two port wines paired with cheese. It was very interesting to see such a large production. In Napa and Virginia, we’ve mainly only visited smaller boutique wineries, which are our preference, but it really is impressive to see something on such a grand scale.
In between the two winery stops planned for the day, we had lunch in the small town of Peso da Regua at the charming Douro Inn. During the delicious meal, which was included in the tour, we chatted with our fellow tourists all of whom were from Canada. It’s so much fun to meet new people, especially people with a shared love of food, wine and travel.
I had expected the included lunches to be simple – a sandwich perhaps, but instead it was a three course lunch starting with a vegetable soup, a choice of whole fish or turkey stroganoff and dessert.This ice cream pie topped in caramel was one of the best things we ate on the trip. After lunch, we set out for our second destination, Quinta Do Tedo – a much smaller winery that produces both port wines and table wines (dry wines).Our tour guide was very humorous and gave us a quick tour of the grounds before our second wine tasting of the day. We tasted three ports, as well as two dry wines. They had a pink port, which I thought was extra fun.After we wrapped up the tasting, we left the valley to return to Porto. Tom and I were basically running on fumes, but there was nothing to do but fight the jet lag and keep going. We decided to venture into a different area of the city to find dinner. One of our tour guides had recommended a place called Camafeu, which turned out to be rather difficult to find, but very worth the search.
On our way, we stopped by the Lello Bookstore.They weren’t allowing pictures inside, but the famous staircase was indeed stunning. We arrived only five minutes before close, so we weren’t able to browse much, but I’m glad we made the stop.
We wandered around a bit more, searching for the restaurant and taking in some sights. The area was very trendy, and hilly, with winding roads and alleys that were full of restaurants and bars. Eventually, we found our destination.The dining room is romantic, and tiny, but we lucked out and got the last available table. We were starving (this was pretty much true of the entire trip, a lack of sleep will create a ravenous appetite) but between the Portuguese gratin we ordered, bread and butter, and our delicious entrees (goat cheese ravioli for me, veal for Tom) we were stuffed.
We walked off our dinners, returning to the hotel to pass out. A true traveler may have made it to a bar to party the night away, but one must know their limitations.