Pinhao and Wine tour

Next up on the Northern Portugal road-trip is Pinhao

Pinhao is a small village in northern Portugal. It is surrounded with vineyards and dips down to sit just on the Douro River. It is picturesque and when we visited quite calm and beautiful. The local train runs from Porto to Pinhao and although we did not take the train it is supposed to be a beautiful trip.

We park and pop into one of the IMAG2878vineyard offices to see if we can go on a tour. Unfortunately not…it would appear that booked ahead for the most part is a must. So we wander in the town and down to the river bank to do some googling.

We manage to find a smaller and newer vineyard called Quinta de la Rosa which can accommodate us for the afternoon tour. We march up the hill (perhaps get a taxi) it’s hot but the view is more than nice.

Once we have arrived and joined the tour group we head into the courtyard and off into IMAG2889the processing and storage areas.

Quinta de la Rosa still use the traditional stomping the grapes method which would be amazing to see (in August – September depending on the season). The tour is great, and informative and the lady who takes us around is obviously passionate about Port and the winery.

Next we move on to the tasting, we try in all 2 different wines and 3 different ports. I would recommend this winery tour is a great option for a reasonably priced option. Although there are lots of options out there…make sure you book in advance if you have particular tours you want to go on.

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This post is not sponsored at all but if you would like more information about Quinta de la Rosa please click here .

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Ponte De Lima and Lindoso

This is a combo post about two of the great little places we visited one day during out drives around Northern Portugal.
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The First is Ponte De Lima.  

Ponte De Lima is a cute little Medieval town on the Lima River bank.  It is named after the bridge that crosses the river.

The car park seems odd as you appear to drive on to the bank of the river but aside from this it is an easy place to visit.  The main square is beautiful looking back across the river and the old bridge to churches and countryside.  As always with any town, move away from the main square if you want to save some money on food or drink.  We wander in the streets and enjoy the old village feel.  This town is lovely and I would definitely like to revisit it.  There is a big and famous market that opens every second Monday, all the way along the river bank…alas it is not Monday when we visit.  But this sounds spectacular.

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Lindoso

Lindoso sits within the national park and surrounded by beautiful ruggard countryside.  The area is famous for the old granaries which are called Horrreo.  The Horrero look like little stone houses or tombs, you can find them in some of the towns hidden among the older areas, or all gathered together on hillsides.  Linodoso have a big group that stand together near the castle.

The castle is great, its free to go into except the very inner walls which are only open a small part of the year and coast a couple IMAG2919of euros to get into.  The Castle has a long history and was used up until 1910 by the Portuguese

Government.  We spend an hour walking along the walls and enjoying the view and crumbling history.  It definitely feels like an adventure.

 

Also….The National Park is home to special cow found in this area of Portugal, they are called Arouquesa and they are wonderful.  Look at this guy!!

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Elf Down the Douro

Next stop on our Northern Portugal adventure.  We pick up a hire car and head off into the countryside in search of quiet, views and more wine!

We head out of Porto and choose to avoid tolls for cost saving and nicer driving.  The countryside is beautiful and lush.  We drive through the morning, it takes about 3 hours but we do not notice the time as we are blessed with the wonderful views.

Slowly we IMAG2868start to climb into the vine country before we dip down again along the riverside.  Then we start to ascend properly passing the vineyards that below to the Port Houses and Cellars that we saw and visited in Porto.  We turn of the main roads and head high into the mountains.  Its not a great drive for those who suffer carsickness or vertigo, but on we go.  We reach a small town close to Armamar.  IMAG2869

 

The view is simply incredible.

 

Stretching out in front of us, a church nestles between the vines and chimes as we clamber out and head into the most wonderful villa.  We have splashed out a little (60 euros a night) so that we can have the privilege of a swimming pool, views and a BBQ.

The next few days pass in relaxation heaven. We spend our days driving the countryside and stopping in little towns.  We visit Armamar and shop in the local bakery, butcher and shops before heading home to cook outside and enjoy the evening slowly passing.

It is perfect.

 

Fire Elf

On one of our evenings in Porto we decided to head out in the evening for pudding and a drink only to notice some fire.  We headed towards the fire and stumbled on this amazing art instillation spread across the city.   Here is a little clip just a small part of the experience.

 

Tawny Elf

We’ve been away and with the new addition to the Elf clan, we have also been very disorganized and didn’t get anything lined up on the site for our away time.  So now we are back and back to business!

We’ve been in Porto and into the Port wine (especially the Tawny, my new favorite thing). 

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We arrive on a Friday morning and catch the metro from the airport into town before walking to our Air B and B.  The metro is relatively easy to use and find within the airport.  Have change with you for this, it makes it so much easier.  You buy a card for 60 cents and then add trips to it.  Two important things to remember: 

1. Once you chose the type of trip (day travel or individual trips) that is the only type of trip you can use the card for.
         2. When you use the machine for the first time remember you need a card per person. When you select 2 trips you will get one card with 2 trips on it.  So best bet is to do them individually. 

Right, boring information bit over.  

We spend our first two day wandering in the streets of Porto.  We walk up the hill into the Cathedral, which is lovely but not as nice as some of the little churches that we discover as we walk around.  But the view from the Cathedral beside the Bishop’s IMAG2822Residence is lovely.  This is a lovely area and well worth a visit.  

We duck into 3-4 different churches which are beautiful all inlaid with gold our favorite is Igreja de Sao Francisco.  Porto is a wonderful place to wander in and the views that open out as you turn a bend in a little alleyway.  The tiled houses with their different colours and the terracotta roof tiles make this city lovely to look at. 

Head across the big iron bridge called Dom Luís I Bridge built by Théophile Seyrig, there are two levels and you can walk across both.  The view from the top level is spectacular. The bridge connects you to Vila Nova de Gaia, which is where the port cellars are.  The view back across the river to Porto is fab.

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Once you are in Vila Nova de Gaia, you will see all the signs pointing you along the water front to the different Port wine cellars.  The different companies offer a variety of tours and tastings, tours only or tastings only.  The best tour and tasting combination (as recommended by a local) is Crofts, to get to Crofts head along the waterfront and past Sandemans and you will see the signs. 

For a good quality tasting head along to Quinta do Noval.  If you want to tour here you will need to book well in advance, at the moment of publishing this blog, the next available tour is in September!  But if you want a good tasting, this is a great place to start.  It is a little more expensive than other options but the quality and different types of wines and ports that you will get to try make it well worth it.  We split the 40 year old taster between four people at a price of 40 euros.  The tasting comes with explanations of each of the wines and ports, how they are made, what the difference in ageing process is, bottling and so on.  Also…wow, so tasty.

More information about Noval here

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More from our Northern Portugal adventure soon!

Elf in Sintra

Sintra is a place from a fairy tale reached from Lisbon by a short train ride.  It is magical but it is also very busy and seems to be designed for tourism and not all that much else.

The cheapest and most leg friendly way to get to the castle and to the Palace of Pena is to catch the hop on hop off bus.  The bus starts just outside the main entrance to the train station and costs 5 euros.  The bus goes in one direction around the sites of Sintra, you can get on and off the bus as many times as you like but can only do one round trip.

We got off at the Palace of Sintra which is impressive and gives a nice view of the valley and surrounding area, we did not pay to go in, but jumped back on the bus and headed up to the castle.

The castle of the Moors sits up on top of the one of the peaks of Sintra.  It’s a meandering walk once of the bus to reach the entrance but lovely cool gardens and stunning views.  There is not much inside the castle but the walls, but we spent a good hour clambering over all of the walks and following them up to the highest peaks.  A lot of time, energy and money has been put into the restoration of the castle and taming the forest.

IMAG1964Next we head up to the Palace of Pena which perches like a set of colourful building blocks on the second peak in Sintra.  The Palace has been renovated throughout so don’t expect an old world feel.  The outside walls are bright colours and against the beautiful blue sky it is something wonderful.  The rooms inside are set out as the Royal family had them in the beginning of the 1900.  It really is lovely and not to be missed.

Elf’s tip: Save some money by buying a tickets to the monuments that you want to enter at the same time.