Lisbon, in Portugal, Porto and the Duoro River Valley have become “all the rage”.The Duoro Valley east of Porto, in northern Portugal, was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, due to it’s scenic beauty and wine producing history dating back 2,000 years.
My husband and I left the hustle and bustle of Lisbon and Porto to board the Viking Torgil for a luxury Viking River Cruise on the Duoro River. We chose a river cruise for our Portugal trip because of the ease of travel, the relaxation onboard and the variety of free tours and excursions.
Cruising the Duoro River is a journey in a class of its own.
“I feel like we are journeying back in time,” Gary commented as we passed arched Roman aqueducts. I compared the Duoro vineyards to other famous wine areas in the world, commenting: “We’re not on roads or in a vehicle, like in South Africa or Napa. And best of all, we’re floating by famous vineyards while sipping Porto wine on the sun deck by the pool.”
For a wine enthusiast like my husband, it was thrilling to witness the history Portuguese wine unfold on our river cruise upstream. We watched vintners tending their vines in the fields. Pruning, harvesting and stomping of the grapes is still done by hand – and foot. In the harvest season, if you time it just right, you may be able to take part in the ancient practice of crushing and pressing grapes with your feet. Picking grapes, carrying heavy baskets up and down the steep ledges is backbreaking work.
One day we stopped for a tour and a tasting of aged Port wine at Sandemans wine estate, a property that has been in the family for generations.
Speaking of wine, every day on board we sampled delicious Portuguese wines unavailable in the USA. Some are meant to be drunk immediately; others were aged Port wines you would save for a special celebration.
They taught us how to make the simple tarts of flaky pastry filled with custard, topped with cinnamon. After the class, I pigged out and ate a half dozen little two-inch tarts before dinner. That’s a guilt-free vacation to me!
The treats didn’t stop at the wines and delicacies of the sea, but continued with rich stews, fresh vegetable dishes and fantastic desserts.
On the fifth day of the cruise we visited the sleepy town of Pinhao, in the epicenter of the winemaking region. During the harvest season the village explodes with workers and wine aficionados from around the world.
All to quickly Portuguese vacation came to an end. We ventured from the well-worn European circuit of England and France to explore a small, seductive country and we’d seen enough to know we’d be back.
Next trip, my third in as many years, we’ll explore a little deeper into the countryside. Here are the areas I’d like to see and where to find more information.
You will find this kind of warmth and hospitality everywhere in Portugal.