The Douro Valley, Part Two.

After a hapless day of travelling (just call us “wrong way”), we took Jiver back to the Airbnb and went out to seek internal nourishment.  We had a couple of recommendations for places to eat from a local friend in Porto and found Taberna do Jéréré to be close by and by some miracle, Google actually got us there!  Holy mother of wow!  I had the chef’s seafood special and Joe had a veal steak.  (Roast, more like!  Well, look!)  While the seafood dish was like a baked seafood surprise it was dee-licious!  Crab, shrimp and cod all baked with mashed potatoes, and vegetables in a sort of cream sauce.  Waugh!  It was all crazy good.  And chocolate Charlotte cake for dessert.   All for about 40 Euros for two with apps and wine!

After dinner we strolled back to our place and found that Jiver had eaten the entire bag of doggie downer treats!  OMG, the bag said one per day per 20 kg. of dog!  Well, we hoped they wouldn’t kill him!  The fact that they didn’t and only gave him horrendous gas tells how useless they really were!  He was fine and ready to whine the next day!

From Régua, we drove to Quinta do Pôpa, a dog friendly winery way up on a hill overlooking the river that had the most fantastic view as well as wines and port.  Quinta do Pôpa is a small winery on the way to Pinhão that has the most user-friendly website of all the wineries I looked at.  I signed us up for our visit and ordered a cheese plate for us to have while doing our tasting without having to make a phone call.  The staff was awesome as were the wines.  They asked us if they could take a picture of us with Jiver to use online to show that dogs are welcome and we said, of course.  C’mon Portugal, more places like this, please!

After a wonderful time at Quinta do Pôpa we drove toward Pinhão and our next stop, which was Quinta do Monte Bravo, a working winery that doubles as an Airbnb.  Several times we asked ourselves, is this right?!  The road was so full of turns and so deserted.  At one point we drove across what looked like someone’s driveway!  Finally, we saw the sign on the winery.  This place is way off the beaten path but is so beautiful and tranquil that it was worth the effort to get there.  Teresa greeted us and took us to our room which was lovely and spacious for an Airbnb.  The only sounds were of chirping birds.  Now, this is a vineyard retreat in the heart of the Douro valley!

We were supposed to go to another winery that afternoon but decided to stay at Monte Bravo and walk the vineyards instead.  We were there for two nights and had dinner on site in a building where they feed the workers during harvest.  It was amazing!  Teresa cooked for us and her husband Pedro, the proprietor joined us for some pleasant conversation which was a mix of English and Portuguese.  The food and wines were outstanding.  Suffice it to say, that a good time was had by all!

Festival Season!

Portugal has officially entered festival season!  P-A-R-T-Y, because we gotta!  The Porto International Craft Beer Festival kicked it off for us.  Craft beer in Portugal is just starting to take off which is great for veteran beer geeks like ourselves.  As much as wine is usually my first drink of choice, it is great to have a good beer occasionally. And when I say a good beer, I don’t mean some fruit flavored concoction the likes of which are so popular in the states right now.

The Porto beer fest is the biggest artisanal beer festival in Europe with 47 breweries and 368 beers to try and, they do it right here!  It runs over four days and there are lots of food trucks to choose from for having a good nosh to pair with the beers.  You pay 4 Euros for a glass and purchase tokens for beer samples.  You can come and go as you please over the four days. 

This eliminates the insanity that is seen at the GABF:  Huge mobs of drunken hooligans in Denver for three days trying to sample 3,000 beers in one day because the tickets are so expensive ($70-85) with no real food.  The Great American Beer Festival was fun 15-20 years ago before it became such a behemoth scene.  It’s so American; take everything to the extreme and charge as much as possible.

We tried some excellent brews from Portugal, Spain, Estonia and the Netherlands, to name a few.  There were even a couple from the US, Sierra Nevada and Kona Brewing.  There was also a nice Spanish whiskey and coffee liquor to sample from Yria out of Madrid, Spain.  Their beers were great as well and they had a delicious mead made with cherries.   

Yria Whiskey and Coffee Liquor

For food there were delicious empanadas, prosciutto like ham and Serra Estrela Portuguese cheese sandwiches which were outstanding, several different kinds of burger trucks, crepes, sweet and savory and a tasty doughnut like cake from the Algarve that was dangerously delicious.  There were even several vegetarian offerings.  Yes, all in all the event was a taste treat sensation. We will certainly plan to attend the Porto beer fest again next year!

The Douro Valley, Part Three.

We visited two more wineries in Pinhão while we were there:  Quinta de la Rosa and Quinta do Seixo.  One would think that it would get old touring port wineries but, they were all quite unique.  Pacheca, while a rather large operation, was spacious with lovely grounds and a wide selection of wines.  Quinta do Pôpa was a small boutique wine house that sat high above the Douro river and gave individual tastings from the terrace overlooking the water below.  (They were doing renovations, so tours were not available at the time.)  You could also order a picnic basket lunch to have with your wine tasting, which looked great!  (We had a cheese plate that was perfect with the wines.)

The vineyards at Quinta do Monte Bravo.

Quinta do Monte Bravo was the smallest and most endearing with unequalled personal hospitality as well as being the perfect place to get away from it all at the same time.  The food and wines were fabulous, and we felt like we were staying with friends.  It was an unparalleled experience which we can’t recommend enough.  geral@quintadojontebravo.pt.

Quinta de la Rosa was medium sized and, like Pôpa, offered panoramic views of the river.  It also had rooms and an excellent restaurant as well as an informative tour.  They also make beer at Quinta de la Rosa; a lager, an IPA and a stout, all of which were as delicious as the wines and ports.

Quinta do Seixo was the largest operation we saw and is owned by Sogrape which is a huge port wine conglomerate that also owns Sandeman, one of the biggest port houses that has holdings in Spain where they make sherry as well.  The Sandeman brand image is an international icon of port wine.  He is a silhouette of a man with a Spanish hat and Portuguese cape to symbolize both countries that was created in 1928.

The Sandeman brand icon “The Don”.
(International port wine man of mystery!)

Quinta do Seixo is a state-of-the-art port winery that gives a fun and informative tour.  The tour guide wore a hat and cape and made sure that everyone had a good time while learning about the process of making port wine.  There was wine tasting at each winery and Seixo was the only one that only offered port wines.  (That is one of the great aspects of visiting the Douro valley; most of the wineries make great table wines as well as port so, if sweet wines aren’t your thing, the dry wines are delicious as well.) They did, however, have a bar where you could have port cocktails after the tour which was awesome!  Porto tonico, anyone?

Porto e tonico (dry white port and tonic water) is our new favorite cocktail and we have one or two almost every evening to celebrate the fim do dia.  Try it and you’ll be hooked, at least for the summer!

In all, we made it to five wineries in three days and had an incredible time.  The Guia de Enoturismo lists 16 top wineries in the Douro valley so we will be returning for more sometime soon!

The Douro Valley, Part Two.

After a hapless day of travelling (just call us “wrong way”), we took Jiver back to the Airbnb and went out to seek internal nourishment.  We had a couple of recommendations for places to eat from a local friend in Porto and found Taberna do Jéréré to be close by and by some miracle, Google actually got us there!  Holy mother of wow!  I had the chef’s seafood special and Joe had a veal steak.  (Roast, more like!  Well, look!)  While the seafood dish was like a baked seafood surprise it was dee-licious!  Crab, shrimp and cod all baked with mashed potatoes, and vegetables in a sort of cream sauce.  Waugh!  It was all crazy good.  And chocolate Charlotte cake for dessert.   All for about 40 Euros for two with apps and wine!

After dinner we strolled back to our place and found that Jiver had eaten the entire bag of doggie downer treats!  OMG, the bag said one per day per 20 kg. of dog!  Well, we hoped they wouldn’t kill him!  The fact that they didn’t and only gave him horrendous gas tells how useless they really were!  He was fine and ready to whine the next day!

From Régua, we drove to Quinta do Pôpa, a dog friendly winery way up on a hill overlooking the river that had the most fantastic view as well as wines and port.  Quinta do Pôpa is a small winery on the way to Pinhão that has the most user-friendly website of all the wineries I looked at.  I signed us up for our visit and ordered a cheese plate for us to have while doing our tasting without having to make a phone call.  The staff was awesome as were the wines.  They asked us if they could take a picture of us with Jiver to use online to show that dogs are welcome and we said, of course.  C’mon Portugal, more places like this, please!

Quinta Do Monte Bravo signage, a few kilometers outside of Pinhao in the Douro Valley.

After a wonderful time at Quinta do Pôpa we drove toward Pinhão and our next stop, which was Quinta do Monte Bravo, a working winery that doubles as an Airbnb.  Several times we asked ourselves, is this right?!  The road was so full of turns and so deserted.  At one point we drove across what looked like someone’s driveway!  Finally, we saw the sign on the winery.  This place is way off the beaten path but is so beautiful and tranquil that it was worth the effort to get there.  Teresa greeted us and took us to our room which was lovely and spacious for an Airbnb.  The only sounds were of chirping birds.  Now, this is a vineyard retreat in the heart of the Douro valley!

Azuelos tile depiction of a vineyard on the Torto River in the city of Pinhao.

We were supposed to go to another winery that afternoon but decided to stay at Monte Bravo and walk the vineyards instead.  We were there for two nights and had dinner on site in a building where they feed the workers during harvest.  It was amazing!  Teresa cooked for us and her husband Pedro, the proprietor joined us for some pleasant conversation which was a mix of English and Portuguese.  The food and wines were outstanding.  Suffice it to say, that a good time was had by all!

The Douro Valley

I was glad that our things arrived when they did as I was thinking of taking a trip to the Douro valley wine country before the tourist season got underway and the weather got too hot to handle.  I picked up a book on Enotourism in Portugal that runs down the best Quintas (wineries) in every region.  There are 12 wine regions in Portugal including the island of Madeira.  (Pretty much all of Portugal is a wine region!)  Guia de Enoturismo Portugal O que provar, O que visitar by Maria João de Almeida:  Enotourism guide to Portugal, where to try and where to visit.  It is a great reference for visiting wineries in Portugal.  Good thing I’m making headway with my Portuguese because I did not find it in English!  Luckily, it’s pretty easy reading.

I spent some time poring over the Douro section and picked an assortment of wineries that sounded the most interesting.  One can do a day trip to the Douro on a boat or by train, but  it is impossible to realize the scope of the area in only one day, especially when it takes 1.5-2 hours to get there from Porto. The best way to see it is by car. I could spend a month in the Douro valley but, we chose to do three days, two wineries per day.  Sounds reasonable, right?

Our first mistake was bringing Jiver, our dog.  I thought, we have some doggie downers, and it’s only an hour and a half away.  Ha, ha, ha.  Remember that flight from Denver to Porto?  Oh, yeah enter the incredible shaking, panting and whining dog.  Ok, it was a bad idea.  Oh, and shedding machine of a dog too.  Of course, our not so smart rental car had a black interior.  Nice.  After half an hour it had a white dog hair interior!  The only thing worse than Jiver was my husband Joe who is also a nervous traveler and a back-seat driver.  Ugh.  Again, good thing it was a short road trip! 

Google wasn’t much help either.  While the car’s GPS system got us out of Porto, it quit about 20 minutes into the trip.  And, what is it with the use of coordinates to find a place?  We missed the turn off to Villa Real which takes you to Peso de Régua, our first stop, and that cost us about 20 minutes.  When we finally arrived, we used the coordinates given to find our Airbnb.  Joe punched it in with one wrong number and we drove all over hell and gone before we ended up back where we started!  The Airbnb was right in the center of town! About a block from where we parked when we arrived. Damn!  So now, we are late for our first winery tour.  Raios! 

Here is an important safety tip:  You must make an appointment to visit Quintas in Portugal.  DO NOT just show up at a winery and expect to take a tour.  These places are small and muito popular!  This is one of the first things the Guide tells you.  (Thank you, Maria!)  Our original plan was to leave Jiver at the Airbnb but since we were running so late, we brought him with us.  Even as a service dog in uniform, he is not allowed in a lot of places.  Portugal is not super dog friendly, sadly.

We arrived at Quinta da Pacheca half an hour late and were told, no dogs at first.  Then, they told us to go ahead up to the winery and they let us join the group with Jiver after all.  Whew, it was stressful getting there but once we settled down, it was beautiful!  Jiver made friends instantly with Aqua the winery dog and it was all good.  (She was cute and hey, Jiver is a handsome guy!) Quinta da Pacheca, besides being a fantastically beautiful winery with wonderful wines, has wine barrel rooms where guests can stay!  That’s right folks, for $3-$400 per night you can stay in a giant wine barrel that’s been converted into a room on the property.  While they looked cool, it was a little out of our price range.  We cheaped out on accommodations so that we could buy more wine to take home!  The wines at Pacheca were so good that we bought a mixed case of white wine, red wine and port wines. Hey, they had free shipping and as Joe likes to say, why wouldn’t you? Keep calm and drink wine. That’s our motto!

The Douro Valley, Part One.

I was glad that our things arrived when they did as I was thinking of taking a trip to the Douro valley wine country before the tourist season got underway and the weather got too hot to handle.  I picked up a book on Enotourism in Portugal that runs down the best Quintas (wineries) in every region.  There are 12 wine regions in Portugal including the island of Madeira.  (Pretty much all of Portugal is a wine region!)  Guia de Enoturismo Portugal, O que provar, O que visitar by Maria João de Almeida:  Enotourism guide to Portugal, where to try and where to visit.  It is a great reference for visiting wineries in Portugal.  Good thing I’m making headway with my Portuguese because I did not find it in English!  Luckily, it’s pretty easy reading.

I spent some time poring over the Douro section and picked an assortment of wineries that sounded the most interesting.  One can do a day trip to the Douro on a boat or by train but that is for amateurs!  It is impossible to realize the scope of the area in only one day, especially when it takes 1.5-2 hours to get there from Porto.  I could spend a month in the Douro valley, but we chose to do three days, two wineries per day.  Sounds reasonable, right?

Our first mistake was bringing Jiver, our dog.  I thought, we have some doggie downers, and it’s only an hour and a half away.  Ha, ha, ha.  Remember that flight from Denver to Porto?  Oh, yeah enter the incredible shaking, panting and whining dog.  Ok, it was a bad idea.  Oh, and shedding machine of a dog too.  Of course, our not so smart rental car had a black interior.  Nice.  After half an hour it had a white dog hair interior!  The only thing worse than Jiver was my husband Joe who is also a nervous traveler and a back-seat driver.  Ugh.  Again, good thing it was a short road trip!

Google wasn’t much help either.  While the car’s GPS system got us out of Porto, it quit about 20 minutes into the trip.  And, what is it with the use of coordinates to find a place?  We missed the turn off to Villa Real which takes you to Peso de Régua, our first stop, and that cost us about 20 minutes.  When we finally arrived, we used the coordinates given to find our Airbnb.  Joe punched it in with one wrong number and we drove all over hell and gone before we ended up back where we started!  The Airbnb was right in the center of town!  Damn!  So now, we are late for our first winery tour.  Raios!

Airbnb.Regua
The view from our Airbnb in Peso de Regua with terraced vineyards and the Douro river.

 

 

Regua.Wine.City
Peso Da Regua: City of Wine!

Here is an important safety tip:  You must make an appointment to visit Quintas in Portugal.  DO NOT just show up at a winery and expect to take a tour.  These places are small and muito popular!  This is one of the first things the Guide tells you.  (Thank you, Maria!)  Our original plan was to leave Jiver at the Airbnb but since we were running so late, we just brought him with us.  Even as a service dog in uniform, he is not allowed in a lot of places.  Portugal is not super dog friendly, sadly.

Pacheca.2
Sitting area and vineyards at Quinta da Pacheca.

We arrived at Quinta da Pacheca half an hour late and were told, no dogs at first.  Then, they told us to go ahead up to the winery and they let us join the group with Jiver after all.  Whew, it was stressful getting there but once we settled down, it was beautiful!  Jiver made friends instantly with Aqua the winery dog and it was all good.  (She was cute and hey, Jiver is a handsome guy!)

Barrel.rooms.Pacheca
Wine barrel rooms in the vineyard at Quinta da Pacheca.

Quinta da Pacheca, besides being a fantastically beautiful winery with wonderful wines, has wine barrel rooms where guests can stay!  That’s right folks, for $3-$400 per night you can stay in a giant wine barrel that’s been converted into a room on the property.  While they looked cool, it was a little out of our price range.  We cheaped out on accommodations so that we could buy more wine to take home!  The wines at Pacheca were so good that we bought a mixed case of red and white wines and port.  Hey, they had free shipping within Portugal and, as Joe likes to say, why wouldn’t you?  Keep calm and drink wine.  That’s our motto!

 

Y’all Ready for This?!

Random is the keyword for how things work here in Portugal.  I have been told by locals that how things go in the government offices largely depends upon the mood of the employee with which you’re dealing.  On an international level, it seems that the “rules” can change from minute to minute.  Or maybe, it’s just our interpretation of said rules. 

So, after freaking out about having to get a certificado do bagagem from the consulate in San Francisco, translate the inventory of our things into Portuguese (which I did) and all the other attendant forms, here’s what happened…

We were at the Arrábida shopping mall here in the Canidelo hood, about to buy a printer/copier so that we could print out and copy everything when, my phone rang.  It was Bongers calling to say that our shipment would be delivered next week on Tuesday or Wednesday.  I replied that I was working on getting the requisite forms but that it probably wouldn’t happen that fast.  (San Francisco Portuguese consulate, enough said!)  He said, that’s ok, never mind the forms, we can get it through customs for you for 124 Euros without any forms.  At first, I didn’t believe him.  It was a good thing that there was a place to sit down, so I did.  Really?!  …says I.  And then I thought, why ever didn’t you tell me that this was an option in the first place?!  I said, done. Where do I wire the money? 

It would have cost $200 to Fedex the forms to and from the consulate plus their fee so, 124 euros sounded like a screaming deal at this point.  Our man at Bongers said that he would let me know what day delivery would be by the end of the week.  I said, you are awesome and rang off.  Hal-le-freakin-lu-jah!  One bureaucratic bullet dodged.

I didn’t hear from Bongers and thought, well, they will let me know when our shipment is ready for delivery.  On Monday evening I was giving an English lesson online when the doorbell rang.  It was the movers.  They were outside with a truck load that contained our worldly goods!  It was a good thing that we were home!  I finished the lesson while Joe received the box parade.

Whoo hoo!  After nearly three months, I had forgotten what all we shipped.  I was glad to have summer clothes because it is supposed to be in the eighties here on Sunday.  Sadly, the only thing that was broken was Joe’s $400 office chair, the one thing he really needs, of course.  And naturally, the deductible on the moving insurance for breakage is $500.  Figures, ‘eh?

Our favorite Portuguese bubbly to celebrate having fully arrived in Portugal!

But, all in all we are happy to have our things and now feel like we have finally arrived.  I still say that if you are moving to another country, don’t ship anything.  It is not worth the brain damage nor the cost.  Thank you very little not so Transparent International and, thank you very much Bongers International!