Porto and (Again) the Amazing Douro Valley

April 19-26, 2023

The Douro Valley was calling to us again, and we couldn’t resist. This area of northern Portugal is just so beautiful and relaxing.

We would have liked to spend another day or two just chilling in Nazaré but we decided to head north to Porto, Portugal’s second largest city, and do an official tour of the Douro Valley from there. I wanted to see what we might have missed on our first trip through, as well as get some deeper insights into what not to miss as we passed through for the third time a few days later.

We checked into our apartment on the fourth floor of an office building before heading down to the heavily tourist laden area of town. A fun fact passed along from our host: after the elevator stops, count to three and it will drop about a foot; we started doing this in front of other passengers, and they looked at us like we were nuts…until the drop. Then everyone laughed and nervously got off.)

This is the Livraria Lello, “The Most Beautiful Bookstore in the World” (according to their own website at least). It is rumored to have been an influence on JK Rowling, who wrote Harry Potter while in Porto.

This is the inside of the bookstore. The staircase allegedly influenced the staircase at Hogwarts, or so I hear (I’ve never watched any of the Harry Potter movies).

This is the line to get into Livraria Lello. Yes, you have to buy a ticket and stand in line to walk through this book store. Yes, it is beautiful. No, we didn’t buy a ticket or stand in line. It’s a book store.

I have to admit that we often go to McDonalds while we travel. Not for the food, but for the wifi, so we can sit and plan the evening’s destination, etc. However, this McDonalds in Porto is a bit different. It’s in a historic cafe, complete with art deco and chandeliers. It’s commonly referred to as the “Most Beautiful McDonalds in the World”. (See a common thread here??)

We didn’t have to buy a ticket or stand in line to get into McDonalds, but we did buy some fries and sit outside and watch. It was amusing to watch the hordes of people taking selfies and posing in front of a McDonalds.

I wish I could have gotten a better photo of this incredible mural on the wall of this building, but it’s in a narrow alley between buildings so you can’t really back up enough. It has a lot of whimsical, almost sci-fi like aspects in it. I could have stood and looked at different portions of it for a long time.

We walked down to the Ribiera, or River, District and had a lunch of shrimp tacos, which are served here not in tortillas but in toasted bread. There were still good.

More interesting architecture in Porto. Many of the buildings on this street were in the process of being renovated and sold as apartments.

The Capela das Almas in Porto. This church (and several other buildings) are covered in Azulejo tiles. Azulejo tiles are hand-painted, tin-glazed ceramic tiles, and cover both the inside and outside of many buildings in Portugal.

Our tour of the Douro Valley included two wine tastings: this one in Peso da Regua.

The different types of port wines and olive oils are arranged for our tasting, with information on the mat to help us understand and remember.

Our sommelier here is holding a bottle that I would never touch or even breathe on. After explaining the winery, the vintage (1886) and the history, she asked “How much it this bottle worth?”.

Here’s the bottle: “Very Old Port”, indeed. The answer to her question: €4500, or about $4,900.

Part of the Carvalhas Vineyards, near Pinhao.

Our second stop was at the Croft Family Vineyards.

These three large tanks are used to stomp the grapes. Yep, just like in the I Love Lucy episode all those years ago.

In the tasting room at Croft.

After a couple of days in Porto, we rode east again, this time taking a meandering route north of the Douro River. Our first stop was at Quinta da Barroca, outside of the small village of Fontelo.

The entrance to Quinta da Barroca.

This place has a walking path around the perimeter and through the groves and vineyards. It’s maybe a mile and a half long.They grow a lot of fruit in addition to grapes, including Brookfield Gala Apples, Reineta Apples, and Golden Apples. These fruits are used in the making of port wine, as brandy is used to stop the fermentation process during the production of port.

On the walking path at Quinta da Barroca.

Lloyd spent his life in education after serving in the US Navy during World War Two. His background gave him a lifelong desire to continually learn (or was it the other way around?), and that contributed to his desire to travel the world. I don’t know if he ever made it to the Douro Valley in Portugal, but I know he would have loved it here.

I’m still trying to work out the details of this sign…So, you can’t sell alcohol to a 12-year-old if he is notoriously intoxicated (definition, please), otherwise it’s okay, unless said 12-year-old has an “apparent psychic anomaly”.I looked up “psychic anomaly”, and it is defined as “anything that deviates from the norm”. So, if he has a genious level IQ, or ESP, he can’t drink. Otherwise, go for it, dude.

Back at our little Mill House at Quinta da Reciao, the vines have gotten much greener since we were here a few weeks ago.

I wish I had taken some better photos. This is the actual water-driven mill next door to our apartment in the little building where we are staying. It’s been restored but many of the parts are original, and it’s still used, but only occasionally now. It’s been a mill for hundreds of years.

If you look at the center left of this photo, there is a new house in the vineyard, just down from our mill house. Henry and Francisca have nearly finished it, and I’m putting it on the short list of places I want to return to soon.

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