Passion, Port and the Douro Valley
The Douro Valley in Portugal is known for its prolific wine production which is eventually taken to Vila Nova de Gaia near the city of Porto and stored in the wine cellars. Traditionally the wine was transported there by “rabelos”, a cargo boat native to the Douro region. The microclimate in this area also allows for the production of olives and almonds. The rolling hills along the river provide fantastic scenery to enjoy a cruise or a train ride. This summer we enjoyed both of these and a great pass through lock of the Regua dam, one of fifteen dams that exist on the river.
We parked our van in the town of Pinhão from where we were able to explore much of the valley and enjoy the excellent wine. Right in the small town of Pinhão is the Quinta do BonFin, one of the many winery’s owned by the Symington family. Eventually the grapes will end up at the Graham’s Lodge in Vila Nova de Gaia. Here we enjoyed one of our favorite afternoon drinks, “Porto Tonica”, white port with tonic water and a slice of orange or a cinnamon stick. The views from Bomfin were absolutely beautiful!
I have a minor addiction with tiny towns in the middle of nowhere. From Pinhão you can hike straight up hill to the well-preserved town of Provesende, home to 356 inhabitants. This town dates back to the time of the Moors on the Iberian Peninsula. They say that the name comes from the last Moorish King of the area, Zaide. The town is pintoresque and loaded with history. You can see the Pillory from 1573 , the granite fountain and the Manor homes which remind us of the wealthy families that resided in this area.
One of my favorites parts of this town were the trash bins on the streets that are actually the baskets that were traditionally used to collect the grapes during the harvest. What an outstanding idea! We also hit the jackpot for lunch in Provesende. The main restaurant in town was already closed but the owner offered us a “light snack”. Before we knew it we had a spread in front of us of ham and cheese, local olives served with a sugar cane honey to dip, vegetable soup, bread and local olive oil, sliced apple sprinkled with bee pollen, and a local sausage called Alheira. Don’t forget the wine, we are in the Douro Valley!
- Dedicated to my Smithsonian group that I was forced to abandon due to minor injury.