My cousin Sara booked this special day trip, months ago, to the Douro River Valley. We were so excited to go and also relieved that Garin was feeling mostly well enough (he still tires easily and has to take some naps during the day) so we wouldn't have to cancel the trip.
The Douro River Valley is known not only for it's one-of-a-kind scenery, but also for producing the famous wines (both Port and table wine) that come out of Portugal. Unlike the way our vineyards are planted in California, these are planted on steep hillsides and the harvesting is done by hand in September and October.
It was long, but very enjoyable day!
No time for lingering over pastries this morning, but rather some fruit and a quick bowl of cereal. We had to leave our house at 8:30 to walk to the San Bento train station, not far from our house. We were met by our local tour guide who provided us with our train tickets for the Douro Valley. The trains are clean, spacious and well-ventilated (all the windows open for fresh air), which we were pleased to find.
No sooner did we pass some of Porto's famous bridges, than Catherine fell fast asleep, as she always does in any moving vehicle (plane, train, automobile). Her ability to sleep anywhere, anytime and in any position is impressive, to say the least.
The views were beautiful for the entirety of the two hour journey, but most especially as we got closer to our final destination.
Once we grew closer to our destination, we caught a glimpse of the beautiful river, with a backdrop of lush green vineyards for as far as the eye could see.
We hopped off at the Ferrao station (the train continues on northbound and into Spain). There we were met by our second guide, Rui, who picked us up in a roomy, comfortable, air conditioned van, in which we would spend the rest day. The weather was toasty, compared with Porto. Rather than a cool 72 degrees, which it was in Porto that day, the temperatures were in the low 90's, which is preferable for grape growing.
Our first stop was a river boat cruise along the Douro River, which lasted about an hour. The views were gorgeous.
The next stop was Casal de Loivos, a village high up into the mountains (approximately 1000 feet above sea level), where were were treated to breathtaking panoramic views of the valley.
Next stop, lunch! We travelled to the the Quinta de Avessada Winery. We were greeted with a cool glass of their Muscatel wine, while waiting to be seated for lunch.
Lunch was nothing short of a feast. Above there are photos of only a few of the courses (there were five in total) because we were so famished that we devoured them before I could remember to photograph them. With lunch they served both a red and white wine (an entire bottle of each). Given that I am a light drinker, the kids asked if they could have a taste. Catherine and Miles preferred the red, while Graham preferred the white. Garin stuck to the fresh mango juice. The meal was magnificent!
Three stuffed bellies in no hurry to go anywhere. Miles, Graham and Garin parked themselves on this couch in the lobby of the restaurant, too full to move.
Once we were up and moving again, we went to another part of the same winery to see how the wine is produced and stored, which was fascinating. They have had mechanized "wine stompers" (dressed in traditional clothing), showing how that part of the process works.
We then made our way to the Bread and Wine Museum in Favios, where we learned how the both the bread and wine are made in this area of the valley. It was a fun and interactive experience for the kids.
Our final stop was at the Favios tasting room (which was so cool). We had a private tasting of their Muscatel wine (the kids wanted to try this one as well). As you see, everyone was exhausted by that point and happy to be relaxing on their comfortable couches and chairs.
Our lovely driver, Rui, took us back to Porto. All of us slept for most of the 90 minute drive back, which was surprising, given all the food and wine consumed during the day!