Porto Day 3: Fun at the Winery

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April 26th 2018
Published: April 30th 2018
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Thursday, Day 3: The plan today was to go for a final Porto explore then check out of the hotel at noon. We were scheduled to be at the winery at 3:30p to start our newest adventure and did not want to be late. Glen and Karen left early. Marji and Gary, Mike and I started together but quickly decided split up and wander independently.

Our first stop was the Bolhão Market. We made a point of going there early because the market was closed yesterday, Freedom Day, and seemed to be a great treasure hunting opportunity. The Bolhão is a large, open air market that sells anything from fresh fish to veggies to wine to Portuguese knick-knacks to whatever. A little something for everyone. I came across an older lady that had chickens, bunnies, and pigeons for sale. When she pulled out a particularly unhappy chicken, I moved along, not wanting to know or, especially, to see what came next...chicken I eat comes from a plastic covered package in the grocery store, right? Mike and I strolled up and down the aisles, buying a trinket here and a trinket there.

Moving on to the pedestrian/shopping avenue, Rua de Santa Catarina, we stopped for a coffee. After all, it had been at least 2 hours since our last caffeine fix! Up the street was a beautiful example of exterior tile work on the Capela das Almas. The Chapel of Souls is an early 18th century neighborhood church. The altars are simple and the walls, unadorned. The only out of place object is a huge crystal chandelier hanging from the center! Around the corner from the hotel sits another humble parish church, Capela de Fradelos. It’s exterior and interior are covered with blue and white tiles that tell the stories of the saints and of Portugal. There are photos in the vestibule that show how the surrounding area went from a couple of houses on dirt lanes to this busy city with its looming buildings that currently crowd around the tiny square. I like the contrast.

By 12:30p, we were loading into the van and Glen was behind the wheel! Off to explore the Douro Valley, the birthplace of Port wine. What a beautiful trip. The highway went over the mountains on huge bridge-like overpasses that connected one hill to another. Occasionally, when it was just too big to go over, we were taken by a long tunnel through a mountain. Eventually, we crossed to the south side of the Douro and picked up a two lane country road to complete our journey to Quinta das Carvalhas. Early for our appointment, we sat at a peaceful riverside restaurant in the neighboring town of Pinhão.

Upon our arrival to the winery, the six of us were introduced to our guide, Alvaro, the land engineer of the property. Alvaro led us up the narrow, curvy road to our first lookout point and the start of our schooling about the land and the vines. Let’s start with the road: when I say narrow, I mean NARROW, and when I say steep, I mean STEEP! Like, if someone was driving the other direction, we would still be there today, kinda narrow and steep. Guardrails? I laugh in the face of danger. Glen, at one point, to comfort Karen, calmly said, “don’t worry, we already paid our taxes.” As if, no?

Up, up, up we went with occasional stops for another chapter of Alvaro’s treatise and even a short nature. Two hours late for the tasting, Pedro, the owner’s son, our host for the evening, took it in stride. Apparently, he has known Alvaro for a very long time, has heard the speech, and wasn’t surprised. Today, I learned so much information about the earth, the water, the vines, the terracing, the wine, the port...my head was swimming. Of course, that could have been from the wine.

Tasting complete, we followed Pedro up the mountain to the very top to the family’s lodge. Used only for entertainment and big family dinners, this stone and stucco building was impressive with its 360 degree views of the river and valley below. We were joined for a delicious, candlelight dinner by a family friend, Tia Wendy. What a lovely evening we had. Pedro hand sliced the jambon while we had drinks and chatted before dinner and he showed us a cool trick where he sliced off the top of a port bottle before serving it with dessert!

Exhausted, we took to our beds at midnight. Huge kudos to Glen for driving today. Nerves of steel.

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