Help organizing the trip

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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g-man
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Help organizing the trip

Post by g-man » 04:02 Mon 04 Apr 2011

Hey fellow port lovers,

need some help with organizing my trip.

As my fellow travelers aren't total port lovers I need to mix hiking, port tasting and food together.

There are a whole bunch of quintas I do want to visit, but we need to do them in bunches so as to not travel incredible distances between them.

Do you guys have any road maps with suggestions?

Like if one wanted to hit up Taylors, I would imagine Fonseca and Croft would be right around the corner.

And if one does a day trip to Graham's, perhaps Vesuvio would be lurking walking distance away?
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Re: Help organizing the trip

Post by Cynthia J » 10:50 Mon 04 Apr 2011

Hi Jeff,
Re the hiking side of things - and your comment re Graham's, Vesuvio... the Symington quintas are not open for general public visits - they are working farms and private homes, basically. Also very widely spaced up and down the river, e.g. from Tua/Malvedos to Vesuvio - by river - is about 25 km - and trust me, the roads and paths dont run along the river!! A couple suggestions: Quinta de la Rosa, near Pinhão, has accomodation (pricey though) and you can contact them for a visit and tasting at their winery - about 2 or 3 km walk from Pinhão. From there, they will let you wander through their vineyards up and down the hill. http://www.quintadelarosa.com/ I visited there in October 2009 - if you want to see some photos and learn a little more, see my own blog http://winewomantravel.wordpress.com/20 ... -of-scene/ and the posting after that Pinhao Day 2 talks about the tour at Quinta de la Rosa.

If you are serious about hiking, and fit, there is a trail from Pinhão to Provesende and back again - it's about 15km EACH WAY and you will be climbing about 500 m of altitude - so this is not to be undertaken lightly, but it is spectacularly beautiful, and the Pinhão valley contains some legendary quintas, like Warre's Cavadinha, Quinta do Noval, Taylor's Terra Feita, and lots more. Provesende is a very charming village and a good place to enjoy lunch. I will try to find a link with more info about the trail - can't find anything right now, but will ask my contacts upriver to help me on that. The path does cut cross country in many places, as well as running along roads. There are no hikers' maps like the AMC does for the Appalachians or White Mountains, nor do local maps mark footpaths well, and frankly, there just ARENT many public paths. I have been told generally people don't mind your walking through their vineyards - ask first, if you can, and if you see people, it's polite to stop and say hello and make sure it's ok. (How's your portuguese?)

I have been told to find the portuguese Military maps - which I saw once in London and haven't yet found here in Porto, but I want them myself, so if I do find them, I'll tell you where! If you are going to try this, you will want to spend a night or two in Pinhão especially if you are travelling by train - quite limited service, but again, the ride is spectacular, through Minho and then along Douro. If you are driving - be prepared for winding roads - your passengers may want to be prepared! I never felt woozy in a car till I did the drive in the back of a car between Tua and Sra da Ribeira! Also there are roadworks up around Vila Real - be careful not to go astray with the diversions!

For cheap and cheerful accomodation in Pinhão I was referred to the Residencial Ponte Grande +351 254 732 456 which is across from the train station - I've not stayed there yet. Lonely Planet book indicates a rate around €30 - 40. Quinta de la Rosa and Vintage House will be more around the €150 mark, I think. FYI Lonley Planet's portuguese phrase book is a good one.

In Porto/Gaia, of course the Graham's Lodge is a must! If you want to organise a special tasting, contact Isabel or Rosalina at grahams@grahamsportlodge.com Near by is a great restaurant, plan to have lunch there before or after your tasting - Porto Iberico. There is a special Graham's bus that runs hourly from Factory House along the riverfront in Gaia (you can flag it down from any bus stop) up to the Lodge - which is free - alternatively - pick up the 901 or 906 (€1.45 or use your metro card if you have one) which between them run roughly every 15 minutes from São Bento - stay on till you pass the Lodge, and get off at the next stop, Agro (on a roundabout) and then walk back down hill to the Lodge.

All the other major tasting rooms are along the river front in Gaia, with a few a short walk up the hill from the river front, well sign-posted. Again, in my own blog I wrote about many of those lodges and tasting rooms last May, though there are a couple I've not yet gotten to. Do not miss Dalva (C da Silva) and a visit to Gonçalo. There is a tourist office right there, which will have a map with all the tasting rooms marked.

Look for a copy of Charles Metcalfe's Wine and Food Lover's Guide to Portugal - excellent resource! Couldn't have lived with out when I first settled here, though I saw him recently and he was saying it is already sadly out of date regarding restaurants - so many opening and closing at such a fast rate. But very comprehensive about Douro quintas that ARE open to public (but many by appointment only - so do plan ahead), as well as about all the tasting rooms.

Good luck planning, I'll post again when I get more info about the walk to Provesende - I was planning to do it myself soon. take care!

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Re: Help organizing the trip

Post by Glenn E. » 01:45 Wed 06 Apr 2011

Up in the valley, the quintas are far enough apart that you will not want to hike between them. You could probably hike to a single quinta each day from Pinhao, but more than that would be challenging. Pinhao is centrally located to a number of famous quintas but you'll still probably want to hire a car (or pre-arrange taxis) for visits.

In Porto/Gaia everything is much closer. It's easy to visit several lodges in one day on foot, though the terrain is very hilly so you might want to take taxis or use the buses to save energy.

As Cynthia said, the Grahams lodge is a must. Do use the shuttle bus to get there, though, as it's pretty far west compared to some of the others. Sandeman and Ramos Pinto are my usual recommendations down along the waterfront in Gaia and those would pair up nicely with a stop at C. da Silva to visit Goncalo.

Also plan a lunch at the Taylor lodge (right across from the brand new Yeatman hotel) because their restaurant has a spectacular view of Ponte Dom Luis I which was designed by a student of Gustav Eiffel. Yes, that Eiffel. If the weather is nice you can eat on the patio. Visiting the Yeatman itself is worth the time because it really is an amazing hotel.

On the food side I've already mentioned the restaurant at the Taylor lodge, but I would be remiss not to mention D.O.P. It's the new Rui Paula restaurant in Porto and it's supposed to be excellent. I haven't had the opportunity to try it yet, but if it's anything like his first restaurant D.O.C. you won't be disappointed. I'll also second Cynthia's recommendation of Porto Iberico. I suspect that Vinologia and/or the Solar do Vinho do Porto are already on your list as well. Lastly, if you have the time and are willing to go searching, have lunch at Bufete Fase for the best Francesinha in all of Porto. There are only 13 seats in the entire restaurant, so eat at a weird time or you'll have a 20-30 minute wait. It's on Rua da Santa Catarina - the walking/shopping street - on the left several blocks up the hill past where the traffic restriction ends.
Glenn Elliott

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Re: Help organizing the trip

Post by DRT » 08:54 Wed 06 Apr 2011

g-man wrote:Like if one wanted to hit up Taylors, I would imagine Fonseca and Croft would be right around the corner.
Jeff,

It's the same story with Vargellas and Roeda (Croft) as Cynthia describes for Malvedos and Vargellas. They are not open to the public and are about 25km apart by river, much farther by road. The reality is that almost all of the big quintas are not open to the public and are extremely difficult to get to by road. I can't think of every seeing anything resembling a public footpath in the Douro so getting around that way is going to be near impossible without going onto private land. As Cynthia says, you should really be asking permission from the owners before wandering into their precious vineyards.

Fonseca's Quinta do Panascal is on the south side of the river about halfway between Regua and Pinhao and is open to the public. When I visited a few years ago they were handing out headphones and a recorded message to guide you around a marked trail of the vineyards. I didn't really like the idea as it gives you no opportunity to ask questions and the information is pretty basic.

Sandeman recently opened an excellent visitor centre at Quinta de Seixo. You could definitely hike to that from Pinhao but the walk up the hill from the river would be a challenge on a hot day.

There are a few other quintas that are open to the general public but I can't remember which ones.

Be very careful about hiking along the more remote roads in the Douro as the locals have some very interesting driving styles and seem to be able to negotiate these winding tracks at enormous speeds.

Passadouro is a great place to stay but a little remote if you don't have a car. I don't think de la Rosa will be as expensive as the Vintage House as I think I paid about 70 Euro when I stayed there 3 years ago.
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Re: Help organizing the trip

Post by AHB » 13:07 Thu 07 Apr 2011

Jeff

There's a dedicated Rota do Vinho (or something similar since I'm working off memory) for which you can find details on the web. This lists out a number quintas who are open to the public (although some by prior appointment) and operate an arrangement similar to the wine trails you can find in Australia, California, France etc.

Take a look at the details on the web - it might help you to plan an itinerary that can be done by foot or by foot and by train. Just remember it can be punishingly hot out there.

Alex
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Re: Help organizing the trip

Post by Cynthia J » 21:24 Mon 11 Apr 2011

as Cynthia describes for Malvedos and Vargellas.
Derek, I NEVER let the V.......s word pass my lips... or fingertips!

Jeff, rota do vinho do douro - most sites I'm finding are in portuguese, but ...http://www.viniportugal.pt/index.php?op ... &Itemid=34
Viniportugal is a good resource. Also, in Régua, next to the train station, is a tourist centre where you can find maps etc. for the rota. Waiting to hear back from a friend re that route between Pinhão and Provesende, and links for hiking generally - if they exist.

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Re: Help organizing the trip

Post by DRT » 22:52 Mon 11 Apr 2011

Cynthia J wrote:
as Cynthia describes for Malvedos and Vargellas.
Derek, I NEVER let the V.......s word pass my lips... or fingertips!
:oops: :lol:
"The first duty of Port is to be red"

Ernest H. Cockburn

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Help organizing the trip

Post by Andy Velebil » 22:53 Mon 11 Apr 2011

Cynthia J wrote:
as Cynthia describes for Malvedos and Vargellas.
Derek, I NEVER let the V.......s word pass my lips... or fingertips!

st.
Oppsie LOL

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Re: Help organizing the trip

Post by RonnieRoots » 20:07 Tue 12 Apr 2011

Jeff, when are you going? We are there from 21-28 april.

If you fancy a bit of hiking: a hike we did a couple of times and enjoyed a lot is the walk from Vargellas to Vesuvio. Take the train to Vargellas and walk along the path that takes you mainly along the Douro banks. Things get a bit complicated at the point where you have to cross a side river. You have the choice to either walk over the railroad tracks (which isn't that risky because there aren't many trains crossing) or scramble through the bushes. The last bit, through the Vesuvio vineyard, goes along the railroad track, and is a bit of hard work, but all in all it is a beautiful walk that is well worth the effort. You can take the train back from Vesuvio station. Do check the schedule beforehand, because there are not many trains on this track. Have a look at some photos here.

Cynthia, Ronald of Quinta do Passadouro has a set of the military maps. I know he went through quite a bit of trouble to get them. So you might want to contact him to find out where to get them.

Have fun there Jeff!

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Re: Help organizing the trip

Post by mosesbotbol » 15:02 Wed 13 Apr 2011

Take your pick when it comes to dining in Porto. The regular restaurants are all good at a minimum, but the average is quite satisfactory in taste and price. There are several trendy places too. I wish I could’ve eaten at some humble looking places as the food coming out looked amazing.

Definitely schedule a stay at Portal, it has everything a port maven would want in a lovely setting. Everything is really spread out in the Douro to say the least. I’d consider renting a car or van to get around.
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g-man
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Re: Help organizing the trip

Post by g-man » 15:13 Thu 14 Apr 2011

How many wineries should one consider hitting up in a single day?

in napa, the general rule is if you schedule tasting sit downs, expect to spend 2-3 hrs per winery so at max you can do is 4-5 wineries if you wanted to spend a whole day doing that.

Is it the same in portugal?
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Re: Help organizing the trip

Post by g-man » 15:54 Thu 14 Apr 2011

RonnieRoots wrote:Jeff, when are you going? We are there from 21-28 april.

If you fancy a bit of hiking: a hike we did a couple of times and enjoyed a lot is the walk from Vargellas to Vesuvio. Take the train to Vargellas and walk along the path that takes you mainly along the Douro banks. Things get a bit complicated at the point where you have to cross a side river. You have the choice to either walk over the railroad tracks (which isn't that risky because there aren't many trains crossing) or scramble through the bushes. The last bit, through the Vesuvio vineyard, goes along the railroad track, and is a bit of hard work, but all in all it is a beautiful walk that is well worth the effort. You can take the train back from Vesuvio station. Do check the schedule beforehand, because there are not many trains on this track. Have a look at some photos here.

Cynthia, Ronald of Quinta do Passadouro has a set of the military maps. I know he went through quite a bit of trouble to get them. So you might want to contact him to find out where to get them.

Have fun there Jeff!
ah we'll miss you by 2 week or so

going to be there may 6th to the following week
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Re: Help organizing the trip

Post by DRT » 20:08 Thu 14 Apr 2011

g-man wrote:How many wineries should one consider hitting up in a single day?

in napa, the general rule is if you schedule tasting sit downs, expect to spend 2-3 hrs per winery so at max you can do is 4-5 wineries if you wanted to spend a whole day doing that.

Is it the same in portugal?
Do you mean wineries (Quintas in the Douro) or Lodges (VNG)?

Visits to the quintas that are open to the public would be an hour or two. Visits to lodges will take no more than an hour each on the tourist trail.
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Re: Help organizing the trip

Post by g-man » 22:08 Thu 14 Apr 2011

Both, I would imagine that the lodge visits are more of a walking tour and goign to a bar afterwards and tasting through their line ups, as oppose to a winery tour where you might sit with the proprietor and talk about methods and sneak possible barrel tastes =)
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Re: Help organizing the trip

Post by Glenn E. » 02:40 Fri 15 Apr 2011

You could easily hit 5-6 lodges in one day if you wanted to - the tours are reasonable short (20-60 minutes) and they're reasonably tightly packed together in VNdG.

Hitting more than 3 quintas in one day might be challenging unless you deliberately picked ones that were close together. Each tour might take only 60-90 minutes, but then you might spend a similar amount of time reaching the next one. This ain't California - what roads that do exist aren't up to US regulation widths and are very much not straight. Vesuvio to Vargellas by boat is a lazy 20-minute ride. By road I've heard it is 2 hours.

Except for the area right around Pinhao, the "big name" quintas aren't near each other. Even the ones around Pinhao can involve surprisingly long drives. Noval and Terra Feita can see each other across a small valley, but I'd be willing to bet that it's at least a half hour drive. I wouldn't be shocked to hear it's an hour.

I'd plan maybe 2 quintas per day and then make sure they're ones you really want to see. Also remember the previous advice - most quintas are not open to the public except by appointment, so for example if you want a tour of Noval you'll have to contact Rute and see if she's available for a tour. The only ones I can name off the top of my head that are open to drive ups are Panascal and Seixo (I think).
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Re: Help organizing the trip

Post by JacobH » 09:39 Fri 15 Apr 2011

Glenn E. wrote:The only ones I can name off the top of my head that are open to drive ups are Panascal and Seixo (I think).
I think several of the others around Pinhão are open or have daily tours (which may need to be booked), such as Foz, de la Rosa, Carvalhãs and Panascal.
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Re: Help organizing the trip

Post by RonnieRoots » 20:13 Fri 15 Apr 2011

If you make appointments for quintas to visit, don't plan more than 2 a day. We had it more than once that a visit that was only meant to be about an hour ended in lunch somewhere with many bottles of wine. Take your time, it's more fun. :)

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Re: Help organizing the trip

Post by g-man » 03:44 Sat 16 Apr 2011

RonnieRoots wrote:If you make appointments for quintas to visit, don't plan more than 2 a day. We had it more than once that a visit that was only meant to be about an hour ended in lunch somewhere with many bottles of wine. Take your time, it's more fun. :)
any must have recommendations if i were to hit only 2?
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Re: Help organizing the trip

Post by RonnieRoots » 05:47 Sat 16 Apr 2011

g-man wrote:
RonnieRoots wrote:If you make appointments for quintas to visit, don't plan more than 2 a day. We had it more than once that a visit that was only meant to be about an hour ended in lunch somewhere with many bottles of wine. Take your time, it's more fun. :)
any must have recommendations if i were to hit only 2?
Niepoort Quinta de Napoles
Quevedo
Quinta do Crasto
Quinta do Portal

Quevedo and Portal have visitor facilities, but it never hurts to make an appointment in advance to get some extra attention. For Niepoort and Crasto appointments are necessary.

If you have any contacts with those companies, it's great to do a tour of either Vesuvio, Malvedos, Vargellas or Noval. But these are all difficult to get into.

We also had good fun visiting small quintas such as Quinta de Baldias and Quinta de Marrocos. Maybe not the most stunning ports (although we found some nice surprises there!) but very friendly people and great fun.

If you have some time to spare you can always do Panascal or Seixo.

For lunch (or dinner): go to DOC (near Napoles along the Douro), Douro In or Castas e Pratos (both Regua). In Regua you can also buy bottles of the Casa do Douro 1963 or 1964 colheita. They are for sale in the Casa do Douro office.

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Re: Help organizing the trip

Post by AHB » 14:00 Sat 16 Apr 2011

Castas e Pratos is a great restaurant and has a super wine shop on the side. We had an extremely well prepared lunch there, washed down with a delicious (if you like your port well mature) bottle of Baldias 1987 traditional LBV.
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Re: Help organizing the trip

Post by RonnieRoots » 18:56 Sat 16 Apr 2011

I bought a whole bunch of that port at the quinta years ago (could well have been 2002 or 2003) for 5 euro a bottle. All long gone and much enjoyed!

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Re: Help organizing the trip

Post by g-man » 20:17 Sat 16 Apr 2011

Defintiely wouldn't miss Oscar for the world.
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Re: Help organizing the trip

Post by Glenn E. » 21:48 Sat 16 Apr 2011

RonnieRoots wrote:In Regua you can also buy bottles of the Casa do Douro 1963 or 1964 colheita. They are for sale in the Casa do Douro office.
It still kills me that we practically drove past the Casa do Douro in Regua on the 2010 Port Harvest Tour but didn't stop so I missed out on a chance to pick up some of these. I've heard that they aren't that great, but I've also heard that they're only 30 euros. Besides, '64 is my birth year, I'd buy it regardless.
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Re: Help organizing the trip

Post by RonnieRoots » 05:09 Sun 17 Apr 2011

Glenn E. wrote:
RonnieRoots wrote:In Regua you can also buy bottles of the Casa do Douro 1963 or 1964 colheita. They are for sale in the Casa do Douro office.
It still kills me that we practically drove past the Casa do Douro in Regua on the 2010 Port Harvest Tour but didn't stop so I missed out on a chance to pick up some of these. I've heard that they aren't that great, but I've also heard that they're only 30 euros. Besides, '64 is my birth year, I'd buy it regardless.
I only ever tasted the '63. It may not have been mindblowing, but still nice, and great to taste. And indeed, not expensive.

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Re: Help organizing the trip

Post by Cynthia J » 15:38 Sat 23 Apr 2011

hello again Jeff,
Still no leads re on-line information about the path from Pinhão to Provesende, but near the Pinhão train station is a kiosk which has tourist information, also there is a billboard sort of thing with information about it standing nearby. I am told it is well marked. Alternatively the place next to the station in Régua, which has all the informatino about the Rota do Vinho may also have information, don't know, just a thought. Sorry I can't find more... Also, re the military maps - found them, but not sure they will help - do not have the path marked, they actually don't strike me as very friendly to the walker, though as maps, they are beautiful things. You can buy them at the Porto Editora shop, just off Aliados, Praça de Dona Filipa de Lencastra 42, just two doors from the Hotel Infante Sagres. They cost between 5 and 6 € each, and naturally Pinhão to Provesende crosses the corners of three different maps! Pinhão is in the top left corner of 128, the bottom left corner of 116 has the Vale de Pinhão (and the north bank of the Douro all the way to Tua) but Provesend itself is just over onto map 115 bottom right corner, but that map does go up towards Sabrosa.

Also, second the recommendation to visit oscar quevedo, but DO contact him first - he travels so much!!

Good luck, enjoy your trip! cynthia

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