OF VINES AND SHORELINES
Although snow is not rare here in wintertime, it’s the fiery August sun that infuses the grapes with sugar in the high Douro Valley. In this land of granite and shale, where nothing else grows, even the smallest plots are planted with vines. They cling to the terraced cliffs and surround the quintas, winegrowing estates whose immaculate white buildings are topped with pink-tiled roofs. After the grape harvest, the wine is mixed with brandy and hauled to Vila Nova de Gaia, at the mouth of the Douro, to be aged in barrels for as long as 50 years. The journey along the river, once accomplished by single-masted boats called rabelos, sees the landscape change from abrupt cliffs to the lower hills that nurture the vines of vinho verde, a young, slightly sparkling wine that goes marvelously with shellfish. Across from Vila Nova de Gaia and its wine storehouses, Clérigos Tower, nicknamed “the candle,” dominates the steep hills of the city of Porto. Along the docks, the Ribeira district is a maze of narrow streets lined with old houses
— and replete with small restaurants serving bacalhau (cod, which the Portuguese can supposedly prepare in 365 different ways) as well as myriad other varieties of fish from the market on the port.
Another river, another city. In Lisbon flows the Tagus, wide and regal, slowly making its way to the Mar da Palha (“sea of straw”). During the day, the air is filled with the rumbling of the “electricos,” the swaying yellow trams that climb the city’s seven hills. And in the evening, the 12-string Portuguese guitar accompanies the sad but lovely voices of the fado singers in the Alfama district, with its white Moorish buildings, and the pastel-colored Bairro Alto, while the last rays of sunlight cast a golden glow on the ocean.
From these shores the great Portuguese explorers set sail to discover the world: Bartolomeu Dias, Pedro Alvares Cabral, Vasco da Gama… Some 650 miles out in the Atlantic, Madeira, the “Flower Island,” still bears witness to the age of exploration, a haven of peace where the hortensia, magnolia and jacaranda blossoms burst forth in a medley of color. These same flowers also adorn the shores of the southern Algarve region: 200 kilometers of coastline where the Mediterranean, under cloudless skies, washes up onto paradisiacal beaches, vast stretches of white sand interspersed with little coves in the shadow of high cliffs.
Hotel and restaurant in the country. On the island of Madeira the “Pearl of the Atlantic”, the Casa Velha do Palheiro welcomes you from its setting above the busy city of Funchal. The original building was a hunting lodge built by the Conde de Carvalhal in 1804 and fully restored in 1997. The Casa Velha is a haven of calm surrounded by the famous Palheiro gardens and the 72 par Palheiro golf course. It’s an ideal place to unwind, enjoy the gardens and walk the levadas (irrigation channels) in the foothills above the Estate. Relax in the Spa, play golf and lunch at the Club House overlooking the Atlantic or visit Funchal for a glass of Madeira at the Wine Lodges and check out the Casa Velha motor yacht “Balancal” lying in the marina. ... Learn moreless
Hotel and restaurant on the seafront. Situated on the beach of Praia da Rocha in this sunny region in the south of Portugal, a 19th century family house overlooking the ocean became the first hotel in the Algarve In 1934. The Bela Vista Hotel & Spa has now been refurbished and is a preserved resort on this busy coastline, where you can find relaxation and privacy amidst vibrant colours. Basking on the recliners around the very fine pool, or lounging on a beach with direct access, this is the perfect place to while the time away. The murmur of the waves is a constant companion, whether sipping a cocktail at the bar at sundown or enjoying a romantic dinner on the huge terrace overlooking the beach. ... Learn moreless
Hotel and restaurant in town. Settle down onto the terrace of your room and admire the panoramic view: beneath your eyes, Porto, listed as a Unesco World Heritage site, and the sinewy curves of the Douro river. The Yeatman, located in the heart of Vila Nova de Gaia, the historical headquarters of the Port wine houses, owes its name to a family of British traders who are still active: a legacy that can be found in the décor of the rooms and the great collection of Portuguese wines. The Chef showcases contemporary gastronomy in the restaurant, where food and wine pairing is an important part of the dining experience. The final touch is the choice of Caudalie and Vinotherapie® treatments for the spa. ... Learn moreless
Hotel and restaurant on the seafront. Along with the Cabo da Roca lighthouse Fortaleza do Guincho is the most westerly point in Europe. Atlantic waves crash against the rocks at the foot of this impressive building. At the entrance, two cannons turned towards the ocean remind you that you are entering an ancient fortress. This is a building of character and immense charm, with preserved 17th century interiors, delicious cuisine and the beach just two steps away. Try water sports, play golf, or go to the casino in Estoril. For vibrant culture and nightlife, Lisbon is just 30 km away. ... Learn moreless
Hotel and restaurant in town. The lemon-yellow facade of the Casa da Calçada hints at the sunny stay that awaits at this hotel. Situated in the heart of the town of Amarante, between the bustle of Porto and the sun-dappled countryside of the Douro Valley, both less than an hour away, this building dating back to the 16th century, with its golden baroque interiors, is a favourite with those who love beauty, golf, great wine and gastronomy. Nearby you find a splendid 18-hole golf course. The hotel also produces “Vinho Verde” wines, and on-site activities include a tour of the region’s best wine “quintas” that will ensure that you never forget the differences between Tawny, Ruby, White or Vintage Port. ... Learn moreless