Saturday 15th October:
It was a gloomy start to the day but I set off at 9 am for my usual morning walk, however, this was punctuated by a stop to purchase an umbrella. I had been advised about a restaurant that offered a cheap breakfast and so thought I would give this a go. It was pretty good value but I think they make their savings from reduced electricity on their lighting. It was rather dark but I could just manage to see the fare. It was certainly plentiful for the meager 2.20 euros that was charged.
I headed home after this to do some summing up from the week but managed another walk later in the day. I was happy enough to have a quiet day as I had a full day booked for Sunday.
Sunday 16th October: Douro Wine Tour day.
I was glad to see that it was just overcast and not raining for the start of my Douro Valley Wine tour. I was picked up promptly at 8 am by our guide, Pedro, and enjoyed, yet again, the benefit of being a solo traveler: I got to ride shot gun in the front of the van. We then went on to collect an Indian couple who were on holidays from Poland (Mark & Raino), an older American couple from Delaware (Vicky & Lee), a lady from Israel (Sima) and two young girls from NYC (Nina & ??). We were all set then for our drive out to the Douro Valley; about 100 km north east of Porto.
One of the most interesting facts I picked up during the day was from pedro on our drive out to the Douro Valley and that was about the history of Port and how it evolved. Dating back to the late 1600s the war between France and England meant that the English had trouble sourcing wine and so they turned to Portugal. The long travel time by boat between the two countries though meant that the wine spoiled by the time it arrived in England. Thus, spirit was added to the wine to help it last longer and, hence, you have what we now know as Port!
Our first stop along the way was at the pretty town of Amarante whose claim to fame seems to be that they came off best following a battle with Napoleon. This was just a short photo stop to view the the most amazingly pretty church set right on the river with, of course, the obligatory Monastery, but it was just beautiful. We then traveled another 20 minutes to our first vineyard stop at Quinta do Portal. They produce about 40% port, 20% muscatel and 40% wine but their muscatel was to die for. I asked about exporting to Australia but the assistant said she’d never done that before and didn’t have a clue, and obviously much less interest too, and so a sale went begging.
Our next stop was down by the Douro river at Pinhao for lunch before taking a 45 min cruise along the river. Lunch was a pleasant affair with the conversation turning from Brexit to the US election and I was pleased to discover there are at least 4 people I know of voting for Hilary!
The whole of the Douro Valley region is made of steep sided gorges and twisted valleys but, being terraced with vineyards, this makes for picturesque scenery. The cruise gave us a great vantage point for capturing views of some of the steeply terraced vineyards that extend along the river. Some more facts here: the geology shifts from being granite, found along coast and in Porto, to that of schist and this layered metamorphic rock greatly assists the growth of the vines. The climate ranges from hot and humid summers to very cold and dry winters.
We visited one more vineyard after lunch, Quinta do Bonfim, and tasted two ports but these didn’t have as much broad appeal as the ones from the first vineyard.
We then headed back to Porto and were home by 7 pm.