Trip to the Douro; Advice

Post your experiences of travel, especially for the Douro region. Make recommendations for places to stay and visit or ask advice from those that have already been there.
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JacobH
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Trip to the Douro; Advice

Post by JacobH » 10:38 Wed 14 Jul 2010

Dear everyone,

I'm thinking of going to the Douro for a long weekend in September or October this year and was wondering if I could seek the wise counsel of :tpf: on my plans?

I was thinking about spending two nights in the Douro valley and one in Oporto. I get the impression that there are a lot of good hotels and Quintas which take guests in and around Pinhão, but I would also like to visit, or at least see, some of the major Quintas in the Douro Superior (such as Vesuvio and Vargellas). I am therefore wondering whether it would be worth staying for two nights in the Pinhão region or whether I should also look at places further East for the second night?

There are a few other things I have been pondering: is it worth, on a first trip to the Douro, to visit Régua, or should I leave that to another occasion and head straight to Pinhão? Is the train service reliable enough that I could come back to Oporto on it to meet up with a connecting flight? If so, I might spend the first night in Oporto; if not I might head straight out on arrival in Portugal and spend the last night there instead.

Finally, does anyone know whether there any particularly good or bad times to go in September or October?

Many thanks!

-Jacob
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Andy Velebil
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Re: Trip to the Douro; Advice

Post by Andy Velebil » 14:54 Wed 14 Jul 2010

Jacob,

From the Oporto airport you can take the Metro train directly to the Oporto-Campana train station stop (then walk across the street to the actual station). Then catch a train all the way to the Douro. The train schedule isn't every 20 minutes, so you need to plan accordingly. For if you miss a train departure, you may be waiting around for a long time till the next one. Check out here (use the time table search in the lower right) but be advised they don't put the train times up very far in advance, but they seem to arrive/depart about the same time as the summer schedule so it will get you close enough for planning now
http://www.cp.pt/cp/displayPage.do?vgne ... RD&lang=en

The train ride is very relaxing and picturesque. Once you arrive in Pinhao it's easy to grab a cab to wherever you are staying.

There isn't a lot in the way of hotels east of Pinhao (close to a train stop anyways) and the area gets real rugged real fast. But I'm sure some others more familiar can chime in with places up river. Keep in mind, once you go past Pinhao travel times get real long. (example: the train from Pinhao to Vale Meao stop is about 45 min-1 hour long and driving it over twice as long).

In Pinhao area there are a lot of B&B's and small hotels to chose from. Quinta de la Rosa, Quinta do Portal (although about 20 min away), Passadouro, and Quinta do Silval, just to name a few.

Regua is a great place and there are a good number of famous Quinta's close by it. The good part is Regua is easier to get around in than farther east and has a better night life. The new hotel on the south side (forgot the name) is excellent.

Hope this little bit helps.

J

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benread
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Re: Trip to the Douro; Advice

Post by benread » 20:27 Wed 14 Jul 2010

Jacob,

Having just come back from a similar length trip, you would have no problem getting from Porto to Pinhao over 3 nights. We spent day 1 in Porto (Axel's recommendation of the Grand Hotel de Paris was excellent value and reasonably convenient) and 2 nights at Passadouro. I would highlt recommend Passadouro, with one proviso, which is that it is about 15 minutes (approx EUR12) in a taxi from Pinhao. The location, accomodation and food are all excellent though. There is a Quinta that is located on the other side of the river from Pinhao - I forget the name - but I think Axel stayed there on his recent trip.

We returned from Pinhao to Porto airport on the Monday, and apart from having a 3 hour check-in, it worked perfectly. The train journey is just slow and tedious once you get closer to Porto. The Pinhao end is too spectacular not to enjoy! We used the Gatwick Easyjet service and could easily have got to Pinhao on Day 1 had we chosen to do so. Tram from the airport to Porto Campanha is the way to link to the train, but if you do stay the night in Porto on day 1, get the train from Sao Bento - it is a very pretty train station. Just read my note hereabout the system for buying a ticket!

If you do stay in Pinhao, it is possible to get the train further up the river, but they are few and far between and not many of the Quinta's are that close to the stations, so plan carefully!


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JacobH
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Re: Trip to the Douro; Advice

Post by JacobH » 11:44 Fri 03 Sep 2010

Thanks for the advice. That's really helpful and most things seem to be falling into place for the 1st-5th October. (And if anyone else is around then and fancies a drink then please let me know!)

Just one further question: do you think it's worth hiring a car (from Regua, so you'd get the train there and drive the rest) or can you work on taxis alone?
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AHB
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Re: Trip to the Douro; Advice

Post by AHB » 13:03 Fri 03 Sep 2010

There are obvious problems associated with hiring a car to use to visit a variety of wineries. Personally, I have always relied on a combination of taxi and train. If you decide to rely on taxis, it's worth asking someone at each of the places you visit to book your next taxi for your onward visit. Whenever I've done this, I've not had a problem.

Incidentally, I think you'll be in the area at the same time as Roy's next harvest tour so it may be worth you posting on FTLOP where you will be and when to see if you can meet up with those guys.
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RAYC
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Re: Trip to the Douro; Advice

Post by RAYC » 12:54 Thu 09 Sep 2010

Jacob,

I have just returned from a quick trip to that area - Pinhao and surrounding areas are beautiful, and I am sorry I did not have time to stay overnight there. However, I also had a very good evening out in Regua.

As well as the recommendations from others, I found the following two webpages had some good ideas and links (very few of which, unfortunately, I was able to try):

http://www.infoportwine.com/round_trip.htm

http://www.wine-pages.com/food/oporto.htm (with a few Dirk Niepoort recommendations at the bottom of the page).

On a personal note, if you were looking for specific recommendations:

In Porto, I had a great pre-flight Francesinha at Restaurant Regalaria (Rue do Bandardim). Excellent with a beer.

In Regua, I had a very good meal at Douro In (http://www.wonderfulland.com/douro-in/index_en.htm#) which was pricey (though perhaps not by London-standards) and the type of place that I would not be surprised to find some locals turning their noses at (modern art chandeliers and mood lighting, white leather chairs, slate place-mats, Sting on loop!). However, my lamb dish was fantastic and the others on the menu looked great too (only tip would be to avoid the salads starters, which were unspectacular). They also had a good range of wines and ports available by the glass (I managed to get through a Niepoort 1998 Colheita, Quinta de Prelada 10 yr Tawny, Quinta de Santa Julia 2003 VP, and Aneto Colheita Tardia 2007 - all of which were thoroughly acceptable and generously poured!). They also have what looks to be a very nice terrace bar overlooking the Douro if you just wanted a drink before heading on elsewhere.

The train journey along the Douro does look amazing, and on Saturdays I think they run a steam train service. If time is tight (as it was for me), a taxi from the centre of Porto to the airport on my final day cost me in the region of 25 euros and took about 25 minutes.

If it works out that you are in Porto on a Sunday when a lot of the restaurants are closed, "Assador Tipico" is a good Churrasqueira restaurant that served me very well - actually I think they have a number of restaurants of which the Gaia one is supposed to be the best (and has the odd samba show on offer as well), though I ended up in the Porto one which turned out to be very good also.

Hope you have a great trip

Rob
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JacobH
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Re: Trip to the Douro; Advice

Post by JacobH » 11:55 Sat 09 Oct 2010

Thanks very much for all the suggestions. We had a fantastic time. :-) I’ll try to post some reviews of what we saw in the relevant threads in the forum for future reference (and, when I have time, a longer summary here!).
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