A long weekend in... The Douro Valley
Cox & Kings’ Mike Fleetwood spent three nights in the Douro Valley – Portugal’s famous port wine region – and was not disappointed.
You might think that northern Portugal and the Douro Valley are a little too far to travel for a weekend, but having done just that for three nights recently; I now know that it is a completely stress-free way to spend a long weekend.
Flying into Porto, one of the easiest ways to get to the Douro is by car, taking around an hour and a half. Another much more scenic mode of transport is the train – winding through stunning landscape and beautiful hills on the way. As the train starts to approach the Douro Valley, an area that has been dedicated to the production of port wine since the 18th century, you can’t help but notice the beautifully-manicured, terraced vineyards. The region is a designated Unesco world heritage site, stretching over 100km from Regua to the Spanish border, and has been associated with the production of port for more than 2,000 years.
Boat trips along the Douro river are another fantastic way to enjoy the beauty of the Douro Valley, passing numerous of the famous port lodges along the way – Graham’s, Warre’s and Dow’s (to name a few). The small village of Pinhao sits on the banks of the Douro river and is a great spot to watch the passing boats or have a light bite for lunch.
Not far from Pinhao, you can find the tiny village of Provesende, a very attractive village with a lovely church and some fine country houses. There is a small shop here, ‘A Loja Amarela’ (The Yellow Shop), selling charming traditional handmade pottery, baskets, rugs and linen from all parts of Portugal. You can find the shop on the Rua do Fundo, just below the church. It is the perfect place to pick up some presents to bring home and definitely worth a visit.
A trip to Portugal would not be complete without a port tasting and for this I would recommend Graham’s Port lodge in Porto. Constructed on a commanding site in Vila Nova de Gaia, a short distance from the Atlantic Ocean, Graham’s lodge enjoys splendid views of the ancient city of Porto, across the Douro river, and also of Vila Nova de Gaia. Built in 1890, the lodge has strong granite walls currently housing over 3,500 casks of port, as well as many large oak barrels, vats, and an impressive Vintage Port cellar. Whilst exploring the cellars, you get a true feeling of the strong history and passion associated with the production of port in the country over the years. The recently completed wine bar provided an excellent opportunity to taste some delicious ports by the glass, led by a trained oenologist who was more than happy to answer our questions.
All in all, a weekend in the Douro Valley and a trip to Porto is highly recommended for a long weekend. I only wish it had been longer.