Mini Trip Report - Porto & Pinhao

Old Jul 10th, 2007, 07:50 AM
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jul 2007
Posts: 64
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Mini Trip Report - Porto & Pinhao

DH is very interested in Port Wine so he and I took a "side trip" to Portugal during a 2-1/2 week trip to France. It turned out Portugal was probably the highlight of the trip!

Day 1:
We flew to Porto, rented a car and drove to Pinhao. The countryside is beautiful and hilly. Some of the twisty "mountain" roads were very challenging to drive on! We stayed at the Quinta de la Rosa just outside of Pinhao, and REALLY enjoyed it. We were in a double room in the "main" building. The room looked out on the river, was clean and roomy, and the bathroom was well-appointed. They have a binder of things to do and restaurants in the area--and whether or not the road to drive there is straight or twisty! We had lunch at a place in Pinhao called "Ponte Romana"--very good, though we were disappointed they were not serving on the patio that day.

The Quinta is on a spot where the river is running NNE to SSW, so the rooms face east-ish across the river, and the sun sets behind the hills behind the Quinta. This made for VERY pleasant evenings on the terrace, which was completely vine-covered anyway.

Day 2 up next.
K2DangerGirl is offline  
Old Jul 10th, 2007, 08:14 AM
  #2  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jul 2007
Posts: 64
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Day 2:
The Quinta has a sitting / eating room where they serve breakfast, though they set the tables up on the terrace if the weather is nice (the room also has a TV although we never saw it on). Breakfast was a small buffet: no hot food but good rolls, butter, homemade jam, some sort of ham, cheese, granola, orange juice, coffee / tea. After breakfast we took the tour of the Quinta's port and wine-making operations. It was interesting and talked about the making of Port, showed the granite crushing vats and the huge storage vats ("tonels&quot where the port is aged. Ending of course in the tasting room, where we tried several Ports. I am not a huge Port fan but DH liked them.

After lunch near town (adequate but forgettable as I have forgotten the name, nice friendly proprietor though) we went to the Quinta do Panascal. Their vineyards are owned by Fonseca-Guimarens (sp?) although I believe that is owned in turn by Taylor-Fladgate. They have an audio walking tour into the vineyards, with information about different types of grapes, and about the types of cultivation. (Old and new versions of terraces, plus the even newer "vertical".) It's kind of cool to be able to wander into the vineyard, plus some of the views are AMAZING. They look onto a river that runs into the Douro. Also ends in the tasting room <g>, we wound up buying a sampler of small bottles that could be jammed into a quart bag and carried on the plane if necessary.

That evening we had dinner (by pre-arrangement) at the Quinta de la Rosa. Very good carrot soup, fried chicken (HEE!) with rice and salad, and something like flan for dessert. Plus a bottle each of white and red wine from the Quinta. I can't remember if DH got any port with dinner, but he had bought a bottle earlier so he was prepared. It was very nice dining on the terrace and everything was very good. My only disappointment would be that we had fried chicken! I like fried chicken but it's not the first thing that springs to mind when I think "dining in Portugal".

Day 3--our return to Porto--to come later.
K2DangerGirl is offline  
Old Jul 10th, 2007, 11:05 AM
  #3  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 3,312
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Hi.

We spent what I consider too short a time in the Douro Valley but what we saw we really enjoyed.

We also toured Panascal, I thought it was very interesting.

Isn't the area lovely?
Sher is offline  
Old Jul 11th, 2007, 06:48 AM
  #4  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jul 2007
Posts: 64
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Day 3:
After breakfast at the Quinta de la Rosa, we drove back to the airport in Porto to return the rental car, since we didn't want to drive--or park--it in the Ribeira district! We took the most direct route back, rather than the "scenic little roads along the river" route; it was still sufficiently mountainous and twisty! I was very relieved to get on the A4 at Amarante.

We stayed at the Pestana Porto in a river view room. It was the splurge of our trip and totally worth it.

After getting some info at the tourist office, we bought tickets for the "hop-off, hop-on" bus tours, which is also a pass for the city buses during the 24 hours it is valid. We enjoyed these tours, but I think we could have planned better. It seems like a good idea, but the more popular route only runs once an hour, and the other one every 1-1/2 hours, so if you "hop off" you can't just "hop on" whenever you feel like it. It's not like London where the buses are much more frequent. We never got "stranded" anywhere but if I do this again we'll make sure to really use the sightseeing and transportation benefits. The first afternoon we rode the bus to the stop nearest the Crystal Palace and surrounding park, as DH wanted to visit the Solar de Vinho Porto--basically a port wine bar. It is in the ground floor of the Museo Romantico, and has a lovely garden with fountain overlooking the Douro and the bridge closest to the Atlantic. We spent a very pleasant couple of hours there, me sipping "PortTonics" (white port, tonic water & lemon) while DH sampled several ports. We walked to the Port Wine Museum but it had closed while so we took a city bus back to the hotel.

We ate on the waterfront at the Filha de Mae Praeta. It's mentioned in a couple of guidebooks and we really enjoyed it. We had usually been keeping (and paying for) the "starters" they bring to your table at restaurants and in this case it was practically a full-blown appetizer. We had olives and bread, sure, but there was also a really good mixed-milk cheese (goat, sheep and cow as far as we could tell from the label). We ate a lot more veal and pork in Portugal that we do in our everyday life but what's vacation for? Very nice meal on the waterfront.

Day 4 up next.
K2DangerGirl is offline  
Old Jul 11th, 2007, 07:06 AM
  #5  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jul 2007
Posts: 64
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Day 4:
We got up and took the "Bridges" route of the hop-off, hop-on bus tour. We stayed on the bus for almost the entire route, getting off at the last stop over in Vila Nova da Gaia to go visit the Port Wine lodges. We visited Sandeman's first. They have a big building along the waterfront, and at the front door they have the high-water marks from when the river has flooded over the last 200 years or so. Interestingly, the biggest problem when the caves flood is not the port getting ruined--the barrels are sealed for liquids after all--but that the barrels float around and they don't know what is what! Nice informative tour, and they have some bottles from 1904 and 1906 in a special part of the storage facility.

We had lunch on the patio at Taylor-Fladgate. I had an adequate smoked salmon pasta but DH had a pork cutlet in some sort of rosemary sauce that was EXCELLENT. And the view is incomparable. We did not formally tour their facility but looked around at some of the artifacts in their tasting room.

Then we went to Ramos Pinto. Their tours are every half-hour or so, and whoever buys the "first" ticket for a given tour gets to choose the language. When we got there, the next tour was in Portuguese and it would have been about 45 minutes until we could get a tour in English. We opted to go ahead and go on the Portuguese tour, figuring we had already heard all the stuff about port being made ("...and we add spirits to stop the fermentation and that's why port is sweet, because the sugar hasn't been fully converted to alcohol..." etc etc). BIG MISTAKE. The building was full of antiques and the tour seemed to be almost as much about the history and lifestyle of the owners as it was about Port! Many of the rooms and display cases had placards in English so we knew what we were looking at, and maybe there wouldn't have been as much detail in English anyway, but we got a little wry amusement at not being able to understand what was clearly the most interesting tour. One interesting twist was that apparently Ramos Pinto focused on Brazil for their market, and so their advertising materials had a very different flavor than the things we had seen at Sandeman's and Taylor's, focused on the British market.

Then we were done for the day, DH did not need to see any more lodges. We did not do any "typical" tourist stuff in Porto, such as the Clerigos Tower, the Stock Exchange, the Sao Francisco church or the Sao Bento train station. We were focused on the Port and logistics wound up keeping us from everything else. We're already planning to return (maybe next year) and will be better able to arrange things.

Next up, dinner on our last night in Portugal and my best story.
K2DangerGirl is offline  
Old Jul 12th, 2007, 07:44 AM
  #6  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jul 2007
Posts: 64
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Dinner at Tromba Rija

Background: DH had gone to a Port tasting in Seattle, "hosted" by the master blender of one of the houses (I forget which). DH asked for any restaurant recommendations, and was told "Tromba Rija". It is across the river from Porto in Vila Nova da Gaia so while touring the port houses during the day we stopped by and made a reservation for 8pm. We showed up at about 8:05 to find the doors still locked. While we stood outside wondering "Now what?" the staff came over and opened the doors. Obviously we--the early-dining Americans--were the first to arrive and were the only customers for about 15 minutes! They asked us what we wanted to drink, and we were a bit confused after they couldn't bring me a PortTonic (see Day 3), a rose wine, or a half-bottle of any kind of wine. We were thinking "What kind of place is this?" but I just ordered a bottle of red and figured I would just see how far I got (DH does not drink wine).

The cooks were still setting out the food on what turned out to be buffet tables COVERED with food. There was one table that seemed to be "appetizers and side dishes" with everything you could imagine. (Including crayfish with their heads still on. I am kind of a picky eater and said "I may kill you later" to Mr. DangerGirl.) Another table was covered with all kinds of smoked and roast meat and sausages. A third was covered with all kinds of cheeses, and a bit later they filled a table with cakes and mousses for dessert. After ~1-1/4 hours, we are FULL and pretty much done, so DH asks a waiter for our check. This prompts a panicked visit from the horrified hostess. Was something wrong? Did we not like the food? We are apparently leaving before we are done! She brings a tray of fruit, then a carafe of port and a basket of nuts. (I only vaguely remember the fruit tray although I do remember shooting a walnut shell across the table--remember I am still working on the bottle of red wine.) Then she brings a decanter of frozen slush that she calls almond liqueur (it is like drinking an almond extract Slurpee) and something she calls "fire water". DH says it is indeed fire water. The almond slush is poured into shot glasses then has a lemon squeezed over it. The whole shooting match is finished with a lemon-lime sorbet, and I believe I may have had a coffee.

Finally after two hours we are allowed to leave. The bill arrives and it is 59 Euros. Total. Including the bottle of wine, which explains the lack of half-bottles or any other aperitifs. So we highly recommend the Tromba Rija (I may not be spelling this right), but show up hungry.

The next morning we flew back to Paris. I guess this trip report has not been very "Mini" but hopefully someone going to Portugal can glean some information.
K2DangerGirl is offline  
Old Jul 12th, 2007, 11:14 AM
  #7  
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 965
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Dangergirl, it seems you enjoyed the North of my country. It's lovely isn't it? Very nice report.

The Tromba Rija is a great restaurant yes, one of those where you can't be on a diet....

I think you knew how to take the most out of your stay in the Porto region, in what concerns visits,sights, hotels and restaurants.

I live in Lisbon and can't wait for August to come because I am going to spend a weekend in Porto, a place I love.

If you come again don't skip the so many wonderful places around Porto, up in the North like Ponte de Lima, Viana do Castelo, Guimaraes and Braga. You will love it.
Tere is offline  
Old Sep 25th, 2010, 10:43 AM
  #8  
 
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 6,994
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Great trip report DangerGirl: and most of the places you mention we have been to, however not that restautant, so we will put it in our book of 'must do's' as we are going back to Portugal next month...can't wait.
clarasong is offline  
Old Sep 28th, 2010, 02:11 AM
  #9  
 
Join Date: Apr 2010
Posts: 9,270
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Thanks DangerGirl - we're heading to Portugal at the end of this week and have 3 days in the Douro valley. Really appreciate all your info as I'm doing very last minute planning!
spcfa is offline  
Related Topics
Thread
Original Poster
Forum
Replies
Last Post
minamax10
Europe
16
Oct 10th, 2019 12:15 AM
minamax10
Europe
12
Jul 28th, 2019 12:05 PM
Xander2
Europe
8
Feb 21st, 2012 04:17 AM
Ricardo_215
Europe
17
Mar 26th, 2010 08:58 PM
bwalton
Europe
6
Jun 4th, 2008 12:23 AM

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are On


Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Manage Preferences - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Your Privacy Choices -