At the Porto airport, a Sixt rental agent was trying to upsell us a Mercedes-Benz. It’s only 42€/day she claimed – 18€ more than the Smart car we booked off Expedia – and it would come in handy when you drive those mountain roads. She almost had us, that is, until we reviewed the total amount and realized that, contrary to our understanding, the daily rate had now jumped to 66€ (almost tripled the amount we had initially signed up for) and we were going to be driving for 9 days. We politely declined her offer and kept our Smart.
An uneventful two hours later, we arrived at Quinta do Vallado, a 300 year old winery and hotel near Peso da Régua.
Upon arrival, we were each greeted with a glass of white Port – semi-sweet and semi-dry, it’s easily one the best Ports we’ve ever tasted.
Our room was fitted with modern and tasteful decor
including a chic retro-style radio
and complimentary fruit and wine
Our balcony had a view of the valley and the vineyards.
It was one of those languid afternoons under the blinding sun. A light breeze drifted in, carried with it sweet scent of the orange blossoms in the air. We dropped everything (we had planned for that hour) and savored the moment of bliss.
It was almost four o’clock when we headed back out for a short drive to Pinhão
Taking in views of the wine terraces along the banks of the Douro River.
We made it back at five just in time for our complimentary winery tour.
During which we visited the modern facilities
The pit where the grapes are stomped in the autumn – which as we were told, are a convivial affair brimming with music and festivity
We also toured a large wine cellar
and a smaller one with old Port barrels.
The tour concluded at the tasting room with a view
where we tasted five different wines
taking note of their characteristics and our personal preference.
With alcohol, we didn’t want to venture out for dinner. So we stayed on the estate and had dinner at the hotel. The food was nothing to write home about – The scallop was fresh. The octopus was soft and tender but large in portion, the duck was very chewy and almost hard to swallow. The caramel fondant, of all things, was surprisingly palatable and I don’t normally like caramels.
I did however enjoy the cheese selection and sampling the lesser-known cheeses of Portugal.
After dinner I took a walk towards the old manor house. It was quiet and peaceful.
Tomorrow we would drive to the mountaintop village of Marvão, stopping by other idyllic villages along the way.
Note: Driving in Portugal, we soon learned, is not much different than driving in the United States, barring that:
1) The left lane is strictly used for passing, and most drivers cut right in front of you after switching the lanes.
2) You exit the roundabout from the right-hand lane only, and you MUST stay to the left until then.
3) Depends on where you travel, toll roads in Portugal could be costly, which could be the reason why most locals don’t seem to use them. But if time is of the essence and you must use the toll road, I highly recommend paying the extra for a Via Verde transponder, available at most car rental companies in Portugal.
Coming up next in the Travel section: Autumn in Beijing