Well, I was right. No internet in the hotel in Pinhao. So I’m writing this post a day late, but I think it will still carry the same impact as if I’d written it yesterday.
The morning after arriving in Porto, we awoke to the reality that my wife’s bag had not yet arrived, and that we were heading into the Douro valley for a night at a different hotel. This did not please her, but at least we knew we’d be back the following night to the same hotel. And, worst case scenario, it would provide for the best possible excuse to have to buy new clothes. She’s a trooper and handled the issue well.
We readied ourselves with a shower (once we figured out how it worked), got dressed and packed, and grabbed a quick bite in the hotel before the same driver picked us up in the same Mercedes, to take us to my port client’s headquarters across the river in Vila Nova de Gaia. We didn’t realize it during the drive in the dark the night before, but Porto is an unbelievably beautiful city. Its steep hills down to the river are covered with colourful and decorative old buildings and churches. Geographically and impressively divided by the mouth of the Douro, six large bridges connect the two cities. Some are new, others are old (like the Pont Luis which was designed by Gustavo Eiffel) but all are beautiful and majestic.
The port house was wonderful to visit. First off, the driver (who spoke no English) explained to the front desk that we had lost a bag, and they promptly called the airline (and did so for the remainder of the day, up to 7:00pm that evening) inquiring and securing its return. We were toured through the facility, its bottling line, warehouse, offices and tasting room, where we tasted through the entire line-up. We sat down briefly with the famous and established CEO as well, before leaving for the lodges, where the port wine is aged in giant oak casks. The lodges and head office are mere feet from one another. That the companies have this real estate and easy proximity to their storage is due to the fact that they are nearly 300 years old and basically founded the city itself.
After viewing the impressive lodges we went for lunch to a sister winery’s restaurant, where we enjoyed great food and wine and a panoramic view of Porto. It was postcard perfect. One thing I enjoyed and continue to enjoy about Porto is not only its sheer beauty, but as a coastal city it’s a great deal cooler than our previous visits and we welcomed the cool, fresh air.
Once lunch was complete, we scurried to the Porto train station where we departed on a two-hour ride to the heart of Port wine country, on the banks of the Douro, in the town of Pinhao. While the views and authenticity of the transportation were wonderful experiences, the sheer heat of the un-air-conditioned train was nearly lethal. Surely it was pushing 50 for the entire ride.
Upon arriving in the small town of Pinhao, we were met by a staff member who walked my suitcase and escorted us the short distance to the hotel. The Vintage House is a lovely, small hotel right on the river and is apparently a favourite luxury destination for those visiting the region. After cooling down we went for a quick walk; though the temperature never really fluctuated from the high 30’s all evening. The thermometer read 35 at 11:30 that night.
Dinner on the riverside patio was wonderful, if not sweaty, and it was quite memorable to watch the sun set on the terraced vineyards on the hills around us. The best part of the day? When my wife’s bag arrived at our room in this remote location at 10:30 at night. The winery had done a great deal of work to ensure the bag was located and promptly delivered to us, and we couldn’t thank them enough for their help.
The hot, hot train
The Douro River, from our hotel room
terraced vineyards along the Douro
our hotel in Pinhao