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Portugal: March 2019


After a week in cold Vancouver BC, we move to Portugal seeking more pleasant temperatures. British Columbia is not only a cold region, it’s also a wine county. A trip to Vancouver shouldn’t be considered complete without tasting the exquisite wines. Indeed, they are much better than the wines from the near US states Washington or Oregon. The Okanagan Valley is BC’s premier grape-growing region with over 80% of the production and what a production!

In 2015, we visited the Portuguese wine region of Alentejo during the harvest: an unforgettable experience. This time we visit the Douro Region.
The Douro Valley is characterized by spectacular vineyard terraces, these begin at Peso da Regua and go up to the border with Spain. The terraced vineyards along the Douro River were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001.
While at war with France, Britain entered into a treaty with Portugal to find a replacement for Bordeaux wines. To make the Portuguese wines more durable for the transport, they added a high alcoholic spirit distilled from marc (a lot of people believe that brandy is added to the wine, but brandy is distilled from wine or fermented grape juice not from the refuse of grapes that have been pressed for wine-making). That was the birth of port wine.
Until a few decades ago, the Douro Valley was defined almost exclusively by port wine production. Over the past two decades, the Douro Valley has partly transformed its viticulture and now produces some drinkable reds but still not as good as the well-structured Alentejo wines. Although, there are over 100 different grape varieties, the red wines (and the port wines) are based mainly on Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz (also called Aragonez or Tempranillo), Touriga Franca, Tinta Barocca, Tinta Amarela (or Trincadeira) and Tinta Cao. The white wines are mainly Rabigato, Gouveio, Viosinho and Encruzado.
Unnecessary to say that we opened our 8th and last self-storage box in Lisbon (after St. Pierre, Cairns, Brisbane, Auckland, Nouméa, Papeete and Kihei).


Lisbon – Arraiolos – Estremoz – Porto (930 km and 12 days)

Our second visit to Lisbon is somewhat troubled by the huge overflow of tourists in the city. We experienced much less people in September 2015. Indeed, our perception is that the city degraded in quality since our last stay ... too many tourists, higher prices, more litter and less enjoyment.
Nonetheless, the prices are lesser than in the overpriced USA. We paid for 23 days rental car with full insurance coverage 91€ (this is less than 4€ per day!), while in the US you pay 50-80$ just for one single day! Fantastic apartments are at around 60€/day and you can have delicious dinners with fine traditional food including a good bottle of wine for half of the price you pay in the US for an inedible fat meal of unidentified origin.

After few days in Lisbon we drive to Setubal, with its colorful fisher harbor and old neighborhoods. Old in Portugal means 600 or more years. In the case of the megalithic culture, like the Cromeleque da Portela de Mogos, we speak about 6000 and more years. There’re more than 5000 megalithic sites in Portugal worth a visit (more on https://www.megalithic.co.uk).

Our next stop is in the beach town of Sesimbra and its beautiful castle. Due to the carnival celebrations (it’s Mardi Gras ...), we cannot go for a walk on the beach. Therefore, we move to Cabo Espichel and its magnificent Santuario de Nossa Senhora. Some of the best-preserved dinosaur footprints of Portugal are located on the jagged cliffs of the Cabo Espichel. However, It’s very challenging to see them, they are well below your feet when standing at the high cliff. Indeed, the dinosaur tracks are on a 70 m sheer cliff.
From the Setubal peninsula, we then drive to Arraiolos with its lovely white houses built on a steep slope, several magnificent churches and topped by a perfectly circular castle. The village is renowned for its carpets and tapestries handcrafted by generations of embroiderers. The art of Arraiolos Carpets may have started with the Moors during the 12th century. But the jewel of the town is hidden within the Pousada of Arraiolos, the magnificent church de Nossa Senhora da Assunção entirely covered in azulejos.

The next day on our way to Estremoz, one of the three marble towns (with Borba and Vila Viçosa), we see tens of storks nesting on power poles. The marble in this area occurs in several colors, from classical white to a marvelous pink. Portugal is the second largest exporter of marble in the world, surpassed only by Italy. About 85% of the Portuguese marble is produced around Estremoz.
On the top of the hill at Estremoz lies its medieval castle that features a combination of Gothic, Modern and Neoclassic architectural styles.
A real discovery for us is the town of Vila Viçosa. It’s less known than Estremoz but it’s simply beautiful ... we’re really surprised, it's the most striking of all the marble towns ... a huge ducal palace entirely in marble, many impressive churches, old white houses decorated with wrought iron balconies and marble windowsills and doorways. On the top of the hill, a castle with a charming inhabited village inside and the pretty church Santuário de Nossa Senhora da Conceição. Further, you can drive across the castle, through the small alleys of its village and walk along the entire length of the walls.

In March, there’s little activity on-going in the wineries and most of them are closed for the season. This time, we visit the Herdade das Servas and Vila Santa, both in Estremoz. In both wineries, we had a private tour as we were the only two guests!
At Herdade das Servas, we tasted 12 wines (3 whites and 9 reds). Our preferred ones were the white Monte das Servas Escolha 2018 (Roupeiro, Arinto, Antão Vaz and Semillon), ABV 13.5% - no aging in oak barrels, from the reds, Herdade das Servas Sem Barrica unoaked 2015 (Alicante Bouschet , Syrah and Touriga Franca), ABV 15%, Herdade das Servas Sem Barrica unoaked 2017 (Alicante Bouschet, Alfrocheiro), ABV 15% and Herdade das Servas 2015 monovarietal of Touriga Nacional, ABV 15%.
At Vila Santa, we had lunch with the wine tasting. We had the entire restaurant floor and fire place just for the two of us!
We tasted 2 whites and 2 reds including a port wine (Duorum Vintage Port 2015). Our preferred ones were the Marques de Borba Vinhas Velhas White (Arinto, Roupeiro, Antao Vaz, Alvarinho), ABV 13% and the Marques de Borba Reserva 2015 (Trincadeira, Aragonez, Alicante Bouschet, Cabernet Sauvignon), ABV 14.5%.

Before leaving for Porto, a tour to the local market in Estremoz to buy some olives, sheep and goat cheeses for our next aperitif. It’s a small but pretty market with tons of fresh products…
On the few km before reaching the motorway A13, we cross a large rural area literally spotted by hundreds of storks, in their nest or down in the fields!

(1) Vancouver - Lisboa - Setúbal - Arraiolos - Estremoz

(2) Estremoz - Vila Viçosa - Porto

Porto is less overcrowded by tourists than Lisbon. The tourists here are generally less invasive and stay only in a few areas, mainly along the Douro and around the famous Ribeira Square. Porto is much cleaner than Lisbon. 

On our first day in town, we visit the wrong Eiffel bridge (Dom Luís I), where all tourists are walking on. This bridge was constructed by Théophile Seyrig. The real Eiffel bridge is located 1 km further East (Maria Pia Bridge). After the bridge, the second mandatory stop in Porto is Praça da Ribeira, full of restaurants, people and kitsch. Around the praça, a labyrinth of narrow cobbled streets and colorful ancient houses.

The port wines used to travel down the river to Porto, where they were aged in the neighboring cellars of Vila Nova de Gaia with a better suited climate. All the port-wine merchants have their wine cellars here. Unfortunately, many “houses” along the river promenade have nowadays only a shop and a fake cellar to trap the tourists. A few merchants still have their real cellars with thousands of barrels of Porto wine, hidden between Luna Park and cableway.

Our second day is dedicated to the visit of Burmester, Ramos Pinto and Cockburn’s. Contrary to some other Porto “cellars”, Burmester has something to show and it looks real with vats and casks and a lot of dark colors, however it is a fake for tourists. Ramos Pinto is a nice place with a "real" cellar but refurbished for the visit. Cockburn is 100% authentic with a real working cellar ... it’s not located along the Douro promenade and you have to walk for a while up hill to get there and … yes, people are really working here and … incredibly … thousands of barrels … everywhere! In addition, they have a cooperage as a further proof of real work performed there and it’s not a showroom for tourists as most cellars along the Douro promenade.

Our third day is a bright and sunny day in Porto. A great day to walk 6 km through the old city. The Porto Sé (cathedral) with its azulejo-tiles covered cloisters is thousand times better than the one in Lisbon, really worth a long visit. A full two hours is needed for the visit and the 3€ entry fee is fully justified for what you get. From there, we descend to the incredible Igreja de São Francisco, a Gothic church whose Baroque interior is completely covered in gilt golden carvings. Something that is simply fantastic to see once in a lifetime. We remain nearly one hour admiring this church. Don’t’ expect to take pictures: it’s not allowed in there so it’s for your eyes only and you need thousand eyes to see all the details of these awesome carvings.
After this splendid church, we move to the Palácio da Bolsa (Stock Exchange Palace) nearby. It was constructed mid-nineteenth century in a neoclassical style and is supposed to be one of the most beautiful buildings in Porto. However, 10€ entry fee considering the buying power in Portugal is an outrageous theft, so we skip this place. Instead, we visit the interesting Instituto do Vinho do Porto for free, where one can really learn a lot about Port wine.
The Miradouro da Vitoria in the old Jewish quarter is considered the best panoramic view point of the city but we’re quite disappointed by this view over the riverside with the modern Vila de Gaia on its back … very little old townhouses feeling. 
The Clérigos church was built between 1735 and 1748 in a baroque style. The Clérigos bell tower (1754-1763) is the tallest campanile in Portugal. It stands 76 meters tall and can be seen from all over the city. Climbing up the tower is one of the must for the majority of tourists coming to Porto … so we do it too! Great view but the tower itself is the real attraction with all its architectural merits and it needs to be admired from the bottom. The tower is one of Porto’s iconic landmarks, designed by Italian architect Niccoló Nasoni, the most renowned architect of the Baroque period in Portugal. The architect is buried in the Clérigos church. One of the rare churches where you can be at the same height level as the altar.
The next stop is the most crowded place in Porto … Livraria Lello. Actually a simple bookshop but … its interior inspired Joanne K. Rowling, the author of Harry Potter … But to get into the bookshop you need to buy an entry ticket of 5€! As you can imagine 90% of the people there are not interested in literature, they simply want to take a selfie in this truly beautiful bookshop home to the Harry Potter legend. This magnificent building is worth every single cent ...
The Igreja do Carmo and Igreja dos Carmelitas are two churches that stand almost side by side, only separated by a very narrow, one meter wide house (yes, 1 m wide is correct!) that was inhabited until the 1980's. The house was built to prevent any relation between the nuns of Igreja dos Carmelitas and the monks of Igreja do Carmo.
We visited many other beautiful churches in Porto, you really don’t have to watch for them. At every corner, there is one. Porto is much more charming and interesting than Lisbon with plenty of attractions and you cannot get lost, just walk from one church to the next one.
Finally, we take some pictures at the S. Bento Railway Station! … yes, this is also an amazing place with its atrium lined with azulejos.

On our fourth day in Porto, we’re back to Cockburn’s Port Lodge with the largest collection of oak barrels and wooden vats of any Port cellar in town. This time is to see the coopers at work. Cockburn’s is the last Port company which still has its own cooperage, essential to maintain the barrels at top quality. The visit of the cellar is like a journey into a fantastic world: you’re surrounded by countless rows of barrels of all shapes and sizes … 6000 oak barrels and 166 oak vats have their home in this cellar. A very different image from the touristic Port shops along the Douro promenade with a nice showroom and a couple of fake Port barrels as decoration.
After 2 full hours of a private visit (we were the only two guests) and port wine tasting (two ruby and one 10-year old tawny), we walk from there to the fisher neighborhood of São Pedro da Afurada (4.5 km) located near the mouth of the Douro river. Everywhere in the village there are small restaurants grilling their fresh fish in the streets … simply delicious. You select your fish and watch as they prepare it for you … peixe muito fresco grelhado no carvão!!! The small fishing community has its own communal laundry house and washing lines by the water’s edge. 
We noticed, that in Portugal even in the major towns, you find everywhere ancient or new built public laundry houses: it seems that a washing machine is still considered a luxury good.
By bus, we return to downtown Porto to visit the Capela das Almas de Santa Catarina (Chapel of Souls) with its exterior entirely covered by azulejos with scenes from the lives of saints.

For our last morning in Porto, we have breakfast in the over-expensive Café Majestic (300% over the normal price). Opened in 1921, the Majestic is a classic Belle Epoque-style coffee house … but its exclusivity is due to Harry Potter. The Majestic was the favorite place of Joanne Rowling, when she worked as a teacher in Porto and the birth place of Harry and “He who must not be named”. Everyone would like to take a seat here for a magic selfie ...

(3) Porto - Peso da Régua - Pinhão

Porto – Peso da Régua – Pinhão - Quinta do Tedo – Aveiro – Lisbon (1050 km and 14 days)

The Douro is the world’s oldest demarcated and regulated wine region (1756). Nowadays, it’s divided into the following sub-regions:

  • Baixo Corgo: The western most area with the mildest climate and most precipitation, resulting in lighter wines and higher  production. It’s the sub-region which was planted first, but it is considered to give wines of lesser quality than the other two sub-regions.
  • Cima Corgo: Centered around the little town of Pinhão, protected by the mountains from the maritime influence, represents two-thirds of the Douro’s production, and it’s where the majority of the famous Quintas is located.
  • Douro Superior: it’s the driest of the sub-regions stretching up to the Spanish border, it’s wild and isolated and facing an extreme climate: very cold winters and hot summers with temperatures of up to 45 degrees. The region is only sparsely cultivated, with only 9% of the Douro’s vineyards. This sub-region was originally not part of the Douro wine region.

While the Douro is associated primarily with Port wine, the Douro region produces just as much table wine, and some of them are of good quality, not matching however the overall quality of the Vinho Alentejano ...

After driving a few hundreds km, we are now in the famous Douro wine region. On our second day in Peso da Régua, we visit the town of Lamego.
Lamego enjoyed a period of great prosperity in the eighteenth century when the city produced the so-called "fine wine" that later gave rise to the world famous Port wine. It is a very ancient city, that was captured by the Moors, reconquered by the Christians, and then returned again into muslim hands, until it was definitively reconquered in 1057 by Ferdinand I. Remaining as evidence of these medieval times are the castle, on the hill overlooking the city and the Cathedral. Initiated in the 13th century, the gothic and baroque church has the vaulted ceiling entirely painted by Niccolò Nasoni. On the other end of the old city stands the Santuário de Nossa Senhora dos Remédios with its monumental baroque staircase of 686 steps, attributed to Niccolò Nasoni. Built on top of Monte de Santo Estêvão, between 18th and 20th centuries, this Marian shrine is visited by pilgrims from all over the country. It’s a pleasant walk to the top despite the steep and never ending staircase, rewarded by a great view of the entire city.
After Lamego, a picturesque drive to the small village of Ucanha. The main reason to go to Ucanha is its Roman bridge over the River Varosa and the 20m tower, added in the 15th century to collect tolls and taxes.
The afternoon is dedicated to visit Quinta do Vallado, established in 1716 and located in the Baixa Corgo region. It is one of the oldest and most famous "Quintas" in the Douro Valley. Today, we’re the only two guests (again) and we can have a “private” visit through the vineyards and all the steps of the vinification and aging process. We taste 5 wines (1 white, 3 reds and a fortified muscatel). Our favorites are the monovarietal Sousao, the Reserva Field Blend (comprised of over 40 different Douro grape varieties) and the Porto Branco with only muscatel grapes aged in stainless steels for 3 years (to be consumed within 2 weeks of opening!!).

As we leave Peso da Régua, we drive to Caves da Murganheira in Ucanha. Despite the short distance from the demarcated Douro region, this is no longer Douro but the wine region of Tavora-Varosa: the sparkling wine region. Needless to say, we have another private visit, with only the two of us. The excellent climatic and soil conditions favor the creation of wines with intense flavors and aromas. Murganheira is known to produce some of the best Portuguese sparkling wines.
Founded over 60 years ago, Murganheira sparkling wines are aged in its unique cellar dug by hand through the hard blue granite. This provides the perfect environment for a long wine maturation. Three millions of bottles are waiting patiently there to be ready to see the light ...
Murganheira sparkling wines are produced from Malvasia , Gouveio Real, Cerceal, Chardonnay, Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, and Pinot Noir. They do produce a good red sparkling wine (made from Touriga Nacional) but not as excellent as the Australian ones we tasted in Barossa Valley and Mc Laren Vale.

After this tasting, we head to our next base: Pinhão, where we will stay for 5 days. The drive from Ucanha to Armamar is unexpected … extensive apple orchards replace here the usual vineyard landscape, giving a singular contrast to this area. Armamar is one of the greatest national producers of apples with 1400 ha of planted area. At altitudes between 500 and 800 meters, Armamar is the mountain apple (Maçã da Montanha) capital.

From Armamar, we take the fantastic M513 to Folgosa across beautifully terraced vineyards: it’s like the best Douro postcards … a sunny cloudless sky with amazing landscape. We stop many times along this winding road to take incredible pictures … the traffic is near to zero here.
The N222 is the road that follows the Douro river between Pinhão and Régua. This road was voted the World’s Best Drive in 2015 … well, we really don’t understand why! It’s a fast road and you don’t see the famous terraced vineyards of the Douro (UNESCO World Heritage). This road is one million times less spectacular than the M513 we just came from. In fact, to see in their full beauty the terraces you need to be higher than them and should be against the sun to have the full contrast between the vertical and the horizontal part of the terraces. On the winding M513, you always have the best view and after each turn, you see the terraces in a different light and perspective. Down in the valley along the N222, you only have one direction (to the East) and you’re looking upwards … thus, you can only see the front of the terraces, no depth … you don’t have the impression that the hills are made of terraces planted with vines. The same of course is true for the cruises along the river … you will never see the famous UNESCO terraces in their full beauty.

As we arrive in Pinhão early afternoon, we visit Quinta da Roêda (Croft Port Wine). We’re now in the Cima Corgo region, where most of the famous wineries are located. This Quinta was not on our program but as we’re early we give it a try … It’s an expensive tour of 12€ that takes one to a showroom with fake wooden vats and fake lagares in granite (treading and fermenting tanks) and allows the tasting of 3 Port wines (pink, ruby and tawny). The real winery cannot be visited … why? For us, it’s really a waste of time and money … nothing to see and nothing to learn … a bullshit for tourists and the reason why it was not on our original list!
It’s time to check in at the Vintage House Hotel … what a beautiful place! We will be spending our next 5 days waking up with the views of the vine terraces overlooking the Douro.

Our second day in Pinhão is a wonderful sunny day without a single cloud. So, we take the opportunity to visit few wine land villages and we start with Casal de Loivos. The miradouro, on top of the village, looks out over Pinhão and the bend in the Douro river. It’s a beautiful view of the Douro river and surrounding vineyards.
Our next destination is Quinta do Portal in Celeirós. Our Garmin calculates two routes: one of 18 and one of 13 km. We take the shorter one, along the vineyards on a winding and incredibly steep cobbled single lane road down and up the Vale de Mendiz. The experience is quite scary but the views are amazing and with this weather, breathtaking!
We go up to an altitude of 500 m before reaching Celeirós. The Quinta do Portal is quite a new estate …
We have once again a private tour of the cellars and we taste 3 wines (2 reds: an excellent Portal Tinta Barroca 2016 – ABV 15.5%, a good Quinta do Portal Reserva 2016 – ABV 14.5% and 1 fortified muscatel white aged 11 years in oak barrels).

Our tour continues with the small village of Provesende, a typical small Portuguese village.
Then, en route for Favaios, the Capital of Muscatel! We pay a visit to the Adega Cooperativa de Favaios (cooperative winery). Another private tour of the facilities and the cellar followed by a tasting of 2 muscatel wines: a 3 year aged in steel tanks, light amber, very aromatic and fruity and a 10 year aged in chestnut oak barrels (the oak of the poor, the wood has larger pores which contributes to a rapid aging process), darker with a woody nose and a candy-like taste. 
In 1935, the Instituto do Vinho do Porto declared that spirit could no longer be added to wines produced in the vineyards 500 m above sea level. This led to Favaios not being able to produce Port wines anymore. So, the cooperative was founded in 1952 with 100 members who restarted to produce wines but this time Muscatel instead of Porto. Nowadays, there are 550 members of the cooperative for a population of 1'064 inhabitants! 

Today, the sun disappeared… As such, it’s not worth touring the region and we decide to remain close by. We start the day with a visit to Quinta do Bomfim in Pinhão, next door to the hotel.
The estate is owned by the Symington family who have worked here for five generations and who also owns Cockburn’s, we visited in Vila Nova de Gaia. 
As part of our favorite feature, a private tour of the vineyards and the winery. The visit includes the vats and barrel cellar, with its complex roof-structure, which has been used for over one hundred years to hold all the Port Wines from every harvest at the estate before they are taken downriver to Vila Nova de Gaia for further maturing. We finish the tour with a rather disappointing tasting of 3 table wines. 
We finish the day with a glimpse of Alijo, located in the heart of the Douro region. Its importance is closely linked to the production of wine, however, it’s a dull city ...

Pinhão has one of the most beautiful railway stations in the country: it has a nice collection of azulejos from 1937. The four walls of the station are decorated with 24 blue glazed pictures made of more than 100 azulejos and depict typical scenes of the Douro Valley related to port wine production. A central aspect of Portuguese culture, Azulejos have been produced without interruption for five centuries. 


(4) Pinhão

The sun is back for our fourth day in the Cima Corgo region. We drive along the winding N222 towards São João da Pesqueira and the Santuário de São Salvador do Mundo. It’s a picturesque and breathtaking drive where we stop all the time to admire the impressive views. The best stops along the road to São João da Pesqueira are the Miradouro de Casais do Douro, the Miradouro de Cedovim, the Miradouro da Doroteia, the Miradouro de Estrada Nacional 222 and the Miradouro de Abelheira. Some of the miradouros offer only a narrow and tiny parking space ... not so easy even with a small car.
At midday, we arrive at São João da Pesqueira. The old center consists of an architectural group from the end of the 18th century, with the Misericórdia Church, the Clock Tower and Arcade, developed along an axis with examples of religious, civil and military architecture.
Situated on the banks of the River Douro, São João da Pesqueira owes its name to a natural lake that was once full of different species of fish. This turned the spot into a paradise for fishermen and it therefore became known locally as the "pesqueira" (fishing-ground).
We continue to the Santuário de São Salvador do Mundo. It consists of small chapels scattered all over the hillside, culminating in the one on Monte da Fraga (at an altitude of 711 meters).
The panoramic view from the hilltop over Cachão da Valeira and the River Douro is most impressive.
The seven chapels recall the main scenes of the Passion of Christ. The construction of these temples have been initiated by Friar Gaspar da Piedade, after a trip to Rome and Jerusalem, during which he escaped a shipwreck. For this reason, he decided to build this Santuário, overlooking one of the most dangerous paths of the river Douro.
We take the N222 back to Pinhão and decide to go and visit the Quinta do Noval. Both given its favored location and the geometry of its vineyards, this estate remains both very much a showcase for the entire Douro. The Quinta produces the Nacional Vintage, one of the rare grapes that survived the phylloxera. Located on the left bank of the river Pinhão, the farm is built over the famous schist walled terraces, divided up by flights of stairs carved in the same white as the buildings and the road that makes its way across the estate. Unfortunately, the winery is closed – so, no visit and no tasting!

Back at the hotel, we still have the entire afternoon to spend. So, we decide to walk over the bridge to Quinta das Carvalhas. It’s one of the biggest wineries in the Douro region, owned by the Portuguese Real Companhia Velha. A short walk from the hotel over the river Douro and we arrive in the beautifully decorated tasting room. Located on the left bank of the Douro river, right in the center of Pinhão, the estate covers the entire hillside facing the Douro river and occupies part of the slopes of the right bank of the tributary Torto river. Carvalhas’ Old Vines are a century old and are a post-phylloxera plantation, representing one of the richest selection of ancient indigenous Douro varieties.
We have the pleasure to taste 7 wines and 1 port (1 white, 6 reds, 1 tawny) during the entire afternoon. All of them are excellent including the sugarless 10-year old Tawny. Our preferred ones are the Carvalhas Touriga Nacional, 14,5% and the Quinta dos Acipretes Grande Reserva DOC Douro 14.5%, Touriga Nacional and Touriga Franca.

One more day to go before leaving our exquisite stopover. We have once again a wonderful weather and this time we go visit the other side of the river.
We drive along the beautiful winding road to Covas do Douro and our first stop is at Quinta Nova De Nossa Senhora Do Carmo. It ‘s a gorgeous estate overlooking the Douro river. The property was once owned by the Burmester family but changed ownership in 1999. We have a private tour of the working winery which is rather small followed by a tasting of 6 wines (2 whites and 4 reds). The reds are rather poor but the Pomares Branco made with Viosinho, Gouveio and Rabigato, 13.7% is an explosion of tropical fruits on the nose and in the palate.
The winery offers a pedestrian circuit with 3 different routes, properly signed, in a total trail of 8 km. This won’t be on our list for today as we have a long way to go.

We continue our journey to São Leonardo da Galafura. Close to Régua, and in the vicinity of the village of Poiares, lies the São Leonardo da Galafura viewpoint. The landscape below encompasses both the Douro valley and the Serra do Marão providing a wonderful 360-degree view of the Baixo Corgo region.

After enjoying this amazing sight, it’s time to return towards Pinhão with our last winery stop at Quinta do Crasto. The small road on the right bank of the Douro offers a nice landscape with beautiful and intensive terraced areas.
After a rather quick visit of the winery (we’re not alone this time…) and a stop at their handsome cellar, we taste 4 wines and 1 port (1 white, 3 reds and 1 ruby). Only one wine gets our attention: Reserva DOC Douro 2015 – ABV 14.5% from the century year old vines, a blend of 25 to 35 grape varieties. It’s one of the most expensive visit we’ve done so far (25.00€) and it’s not worth the price!

We’re blessed! It’s again a gorgeous day to continue our visit of the Douro valley and its vineyards…
After our last gargantuan breakfast at the Vintage House hotel, we leave for the Quinta do Panascal estate. 
Quinta do Panascal is a beautiful property overlooking the River Távora and it’s now Fonseca's flagship estate specializing in Port wines. At Panascal, there's an educational audio-tour allowing guests to wander independently through vineyards. Well, when we arrive the wine shop is closed. So, we decide to wander around on our own. It’s well signposted and we have a nice walk alone entirely through the vines atop the rolling hills overlooking the Távora River. 

After this refreshing stroll among the vines, we drive to Quinta do Pôpa in Tabuaço. The estate is the dream of grandfather Francisco Ferreira, mostly known as Pôpa, of having is own vineyard in the Douro. It’s a micro-winery with a production of only 150,000 bottles – 14 ha of vineyards including 4ha of vinhas velhas (old vines). The only micro-winery we’ve seen in the Douro so far. The old vines are over 80 years old, with over 21 types of grape varieties. 
As refurbishments are going on, we have a restricted visit of the winery. The cellar is so tiny …
We’re pleasantly surprised by the quality of the 5 wines and the port (1 white, 4 reds and 1 ruby) we taste. We enjoy the Pôpa TN 2015, Touriga Nacional 14%, the Pôpa TF 2006, Touriga Franca 13.5%, the Quinta do Pôpa Homenagem 2013 at 14.5%, a blend of Touriga Nacional and Tinta Roriz from the old vines with a special bravo for the Pôpa VV 2014, Vinhas Velhas with 21 grape varieties at 14%.

Following the discovery of this gem, en route to Quinta do Tedo in Folgosa where we’ll spend the night. The estate sits above the confluence of the Douro and Tedo rivers with amazing views of the vineyards and it specializes in organic red wines & port wines.

It’s a perfect afternoon for a hike along the 4.5 km walking path: a circular route starting near the main building with a beautiful view of the Douro river, then the path skirts the peninsula and follows the Tedo river through the vineyards to carry on uphill to the feitoria (literally farm but in the Douro Valley it means vineyard) stone markers called Marcos Pombalinos. As a way to solve rampant over-production of wine in 1755, it was decided by the Marquês de Pombal, Prime Minister of Portugal, to establish a demarcated Douro wine region, the 1st official wine region of the world. Only wine coming from the demarcation area were considered to be of finest quality and received the authorization for export. Between 1758 and 1761, a total of 335 stones were installed. Today 103 feitoria stones are still standing and 2 can be found at Quinta do Tedo. We were able to find stone number 94 placed in 1761. 

After this effort, we’re rewarded with our wine tasting (3 reds and 2 ports). Well, the wines are quite disappointing but the ports are not that bad.


(5) Pinhão - Aveiro - Lisboa

Our tour of the Douro is now over. Luckily, the weather is beautiful for our drive to the coast ... destination Aveiro: the “Venice of Portugal”. Aveiro is characterized by a maze of canals filled with brightly colored boats. Along the main canal in downtown Aveiro is a series of buildings with façades inspired by the romantic Art Nouveau period that is responsible for the city’s reputation as an open-air Art Nouveau museum, a bit like Napier (NZ) for the Art Déco. 

We spend the sunny afternoon wandering around the canals and exploring part of the city. Aveiro is really a beautiful city that is best discovered by foot!

The sun is out and it’ll be a great day today. A rich and inexpensive breakfast in one of the cafés close by the canal, few pictures of the colorful boats parked there and it’s time to get to the fish market. There’s neither a lot of people nor fishermongers at 08.00 this morning but it’s always a delight to see all these fresh fish…
There’s no doubt that a highlight of visiting Aveiro is a ride on the gondola-like boats called moliceiros or mercantel. Traditionally, the moliceiros were used for gathering seaweed that was used as a local fertilizer whereas the bigger mercantel were used to transport salt and other goods. Therefore after the fish market, we embark on a city tour with mercantel Ricardo. We’re the only ones on this big boat and we have a private visit of the city. The sun is shining and it’s getting warmer, the ideal conditions for a boat ride. With this light, the buildings and scenery are awesome.
Once the ride is over, we’re offered 2 packs of Aveiro sea salt, tribute to the living tradition of Aveiro salinas.
We then continue our city tour by foot. A visit of Sé de Aveiro (cathedral), we walk through the cobbled streets making one discovery after the next … the Praca Marques de Pombal and its astrological signs designed in the pavement, the Igreja da Misericordia with the gilt carved wood, the azulejos, the Igreja da Vera Cruz in baroque style. Even the shopping center, the Forum Aveiro is nice.
However, the unexpected jewels are the colorful and naughty paintings atop the moliceiros … Try to spot them and understand their meaning...
We finish the day with a sunset view of the salt pans at the Eco-museum Marinha da Troncalhada for our last evening in Aveiro.

We have a very long route to Lisbon…
After dropping our rental car and bringing our 2 bags to our new apartment near the Rua da Madalena, we take a taxi to collect our remaining luggage in the self-storage. We have now 4 big bags and 2 backpacks that we need to re-pack for our next flight.
This leaves us four full days to enjoy Lisbon and get ready to go back to a normal sedentary life ...

We're already shaping our next travel around the world but this time it will be shorter ... only 6-9 months ...