Last September I visited the Douro Valley again. This time, I had been invited to join a press trip. Usually, I’m a bit hesitant when it comes to such invitations – especially since Local Hideaways is a collection of accommodations carefully selected and visited by myself…And I want to remain as independent as possible. But, having been to the Douro region before and considering the fact that I already had one Local Hideaway there, I took my chances. And I didn’t regret it for second!
It felt like coming home to this special region in the north of Portugal, the hinterland of my favourite city, Porto. By the way, Porto is the perfect start – or end – to a trip through the Douro region…. Don’t miss it!
So what exactly is a press trip? In order to attract tourists, national and local tourist offices promote their countries or regions in different ways, one of which is by inviting members of the press and travel writers over for a trip. In a short period of time, they are given an introduction to the specific country/region, in exchange for extra media attention and promotion.
The group I was with was very diverse & international: several bloggers form Brazil; a Times of India journalist; two German travel writers; an Irish travel writer; an online travel journalist from Israel; two journalists from Argentina. And, amazingly, we got along perfectly….traveling with these people was great! We were escorted by a driver – (super) Mario -, a very knowledgeable guide, boy did she know her stuff – Monica – and Marta, our rock, who had organised the whole trip and made sure everything went according to schedule.
Sounds like a bit of a junket, doesn’t it? And in part it was, for we were shown the best parts of the Douro region, we were treated to fabulous dinners in great restaurants and we spent our nights in comfortable hotels. But it was by no means a holiday, no relaxing by the swimming pool for us 🙂. We were on the go from early morning to late in the evening. What was great, though: we were there in the perfect season: the grape harvest was in full swing and this enabled us to have a look behind the scenes of the various wineries to witness the various stages of the processing of the grapes…fascinating and such an important part of the Douro culture!
Back home in the Netherlands I longed to back in the Douro….the Portuguese have a beautiful word for it that goes even deeper: Saudades.
I had enjoyed the enchanting surroundings so much – a spectacular tableau vivant with sloping vine covered hills, sleepy villages, hidden cultural treasures and the ever meandering Douro river; the genuine friendliness of the Portuguese – they have stolen my heart; the lovely (port) wines; my reunion with the owner of LH 6Only in Porto; my return to the beautiful Quinta do Vallado; spending the night in my latest discovery, LH Solar Egas Moniz; visiting potential Local Hideaways (please send me an email for tips!) – hopefully I will be able to visit them shortly at my own leisure so that I can write a story about them.
Last but not least the special bond that we had as a group – a connection without boundaries, which enabled us to have animated conversations throughout our trip, allowed us to have tons of fun and helped us become dear friends….
And all of this in the Douro Valley!
Esther van Onna – Founder Local Hideaways. February 2017
Local Hideaways Portugal: www.localhideaways.com
Favourite Finds – Insider’s tips for the Douro:
1. Restaurante Papas Zaïde
in Provesende – my favourite restaurant.
Friendly, personal and simply delicious. Feels like having dinner in someone’s living room.
2. The Douro historical train
Runs along the bank of the Douro from June to October. The train runs between Régua and Tua. Don’t forget to get off at Pinhao – a beautiful small station.
3. A traditional Rabelo boat ride
The cargo boats used to transport wine barrels to Gaia, Porto, for storing. A different perspective of the Douro River.
4. Horta Osório Wines
One of my favourite wines, I tasted it on my trip. A small-scale winery in the Douro Valley, whose Reserva 2012 was recently voted the 9th best wine in the world by the World Association of Writers and Journalist of Wines & Spirit.
5. Museo do Douro
Régua. A modern museum that will teach you everything there is to know about the various facets of the Douro port wines and table wines. Also great museum shop!
6. Calços do Tanha
Girl power in the wine industry! Five sister are in charge of this winery. The wine is divine and they also have a very charming B&B (please send me an email if you wish to know more about spending the night here).
7. Tarouca and Ucanha – Little gems. Be sure to visit the Sao Joao de Tarouca church with its impressive tile tableaus and the ruins of the old monastery. The monastic garden has been restored to its former glory and the little shop across from it sells vegetables, fruit and herbs straight from the garden.
8. Quinta da Casa Amarela
Where you will be welcomed by the charismatic Rugeiro family. Originally a port house, Gil Jr. has taken on a new direction and now produces table wines in the old quinta.
9. Quinta do Vallado
A definite must on your list. This fantastic luxury Local Hideaway is the perfect wine hotel when visiting the Douro. It’s a great example of a modern wine house. The wines and port wines are lovely, as is their olive oil!
10. Palácio de Mateus
The only place during my entire trip that was really crowded and touristic. But I do understand why. It is definitely worth taking a guided tour through this Palace, and don’t forget to check out the gardens!