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You wouldn't be here if you weren't curious.*

Hi! I'm Elena! Welcome to my travel blog Creativelena.com.
For me, it is all about “life-seeing instead of sightseeing”: Join me as I create, eat & live my way around the world. Curious?

*Check out my book, “The Creative Traveler’s Handbook”, for learning more about what we mean by creative travel. Travelling means the world to me, makes me fit for everday life and sometimes, I trust, also calmer on the inside. Read this blog with a smile, share what you love and remember to check back regularly: After all, when was the last time you did something for the first time?

“Douro Exclusive”: World-Famous Wine & Gourmet Moments in Portugal

Maeve is holding on to dear life (and Richard), as the wine terraces next to her take a deep plunge. She does not dare to look out the car window so as to enjoy the magnificent view out into the Douro valley below. I take her hand, soothing her softly, and we both start laughing. Being the true Irish she is, Maeve is nothing short of having a great sense of humour. Meanwhile, Richard starts talking a few words in German with me, while Jeff & Lisa have simply fallen silent with happiness – they are on their honeymoon. Behind the wheel is our friend & driver Marco, who as a real local from Douro valley takes us up & along the most intricate and beautiful vineyard lanes of this magnificent river valley. He smiles because he knows: “Here, I can be who I am, taking pleasure in showing international visitors my homeland.”

A good thought. This is exactly what I had ahead of travelling out here into Douro valley for a day trip with Marco, of “Douro Exclusive”, after being recommended this tour by my dear friend André of Taste Porto Food Tours. At 09.30 a.m. sharp, Marco picks me up in Porto. Together with Maeve & Richard as well as Jeff & Lisa, we embark on our one-hour journey into Douro valley. It is an easy drive out here, full of interesting talks and first pieces of information about the world-famous wine growing district of the Douro valley, home of the great Port wines & UNESCO World Heritage Cultural Landscape.

 

Our small group size, coupled with a sense of 100% flexibility and real gourmet moments, is exactly what makes “Douro Exclusive” so special: A true winelover trip of a kind.

“We take care of visiting only small vintners for instance, such as ‘Quinta do Panascal‘, while taking our time during the exclusive boat ride on the Douro river with typical flat boats that have always served for transporting barrels up & down the river. Lunch too is meant to be all about time & enjoyment – we enjoy that at DOC – Rui Paula, as is custom here in Portugal sampling the best food the area has to offer.” Marco continues to smile at me, talking fluent English & Portuguese the whole time. I love it. Portugal just wins me over more and more. “Parece poesia …” Oh, I could forever listen to the sweet accent of the Portuguese. Inspired and motivated, I grab a Portuguese audio guide at Quinta do Panascal while going for a stroll around the vineyards … my kind of magic! 😉

Right at the start, Marco provides us with the perfect overview of what to expect when travelling into Douro valley, about 100 kilometres outside of Porto.

Right at the start, Marco provides us with the perfect overview of what to expect when travelling into Douro valley, about 100 kilometres outside of Porto.

 

Spending the day with locals turned into friends, that is the spirit of “Douro Exlcusive”: Small group sizes mean there is a lot of time for exchange, asking questions, and making new friends.

Spending the day with locals turned into friends, such is the spirit of “Douro Exlcusive”: Small group sizes mean there is a lot of time for exchange, asking questions, and making new friends.

 

The landscape of the Douro valley is marked by old and new stone terraced-hills built to facilitate agriculture, and especially wine-growing, in the river valley …

The landscape of the Douro valley is marked by old and new stone terraced-hills built to facilitate agriculture, and especially wine-growing, in the river valley …

 

… looking upon the tiled schist floor still gives an idea of how much hard labour must have been gone into building (and maintaining) those terraces over the course of the centuries.

… looking upon the tiled schist floor still gives an idea of how much hard labour must have been gone into building (and maintaining) those terraces over the course of the centuries.

 

Today, exploring the vineyards is a lot more relaxed and playful …

Today, exploring the vineyards is a lot more relaxed and playful …

 

… listening to my Portuguese wine guide …

… listening to my Portuguese wine guide …

 

… and enjoying the view back at Quinta do Panascal from the surrounding vineyards.

… and enjoying the view back at Quinta do Panascal from the surrounding vineyards.

 

Here, the grapes are being stamped on using traditional methods of harvest!

Here, the grapes are being stamped on using traditional methods of harvest!

 

We move on to enjoying a typical wine tasting combining white & red Port wines that are grown here in the Douro valley.

We move on to enjoying a typical wine tasting combining white & red Port wines that are grown here in the Douro valley.

 

 

All the fresh air makes us hungry! Or is it the sweet scent of the wine-terraced hills here in the Douro river valley? In any case, I can recommend you head to gourmet DOC – Rui Paula restaurant near the small town of Pinhão.

The cosy atmosphere of our “Douro Exclusive” tour translates into further customised experiences right on Douro river. Instead of taking one of the large tourist boats, we step aboard a small “dinghy” type boat that has ensured a safe passage of the precious wine barrels down the river for many centuries past. These boats are somehow reminiscent of ancient Viking ships from the north, apparently ensuring the best engineering technique for navigating the tricky river rapids. 50 barrels or more have once been stapled on top of and next to each other, using simple rudders for steering the boats all the way downriver and into the port wine cellars in Vila Nova de Gaia in Porto … Hard to believe likewise adventures, as the Douro river today is a large, tranquil river thanks to five major locks. Enjoying this boat trip, as well as our gourmet lunch at DOC – Rui Paula restaurant are definitely what mark the highlights of our exclusive day tour out into Douro valley.

All aboard: Marco invites us to step aboard this historic Douro river boat that has once been used to transport Port wine barrels all the way downstream and into the Port wine cellars of Vila Nova da Gaia in Porto.

All aboard: Marco invites us to step aboard this historic Douro river boat that has once been used to transport Port wine barrels all the way downstream and into the Port wine cellars of Vila Nova de Gaia in Porto.

 

From the boat, we take in the surrounding landscape ...

From the boat, we take in the surrounding landscape …

 

... and wave at the many other visitors passing us by!

… and wave at the many other visitors passing us by!

 

I love those large, comfy cushions right by the stern. You?

I love those large, comfy cushions right by the stern. You?

 

The small boat “Quinta do Pascal” departs several times a day from the small town of Pinhão.

The small boat “Quinta do Pascal” departs several times a day from the small town of Pinhão.

 

My tip for you: Stopping for a relaxing break at the gourmet restaurant DOC – Rui Paula.

My tip for you: Stopping for a relaxing break at the gourmet restaurant DOC – Rui Paula.

 

The lady of the house here takes really good care of fulfilling our each and every wish and to inform us about the specialities and local produce being served here.

The lady of the house here takes really good care of fulfilling our each and every wish and to inform us about the specialities and local produce being served here.

 

Take this for a true “amuse gueule”: Mini-sandwiches filled with a delightful meat pastry.

Take this for a true “amuse gueule”: Mini-sandwiches filled with a delightful meat pastry.

 

Celebrating the Portuguese (culinary) way of life means we all become friends over this wonderful food culture here: Thank you for a great day together dear Richard, dear Mave!

Celebrating the Portuguese (culinary) way of life means we all become friends over this wonderful food culture here: Thank you for a great day together dear Richard, dear Maeve!

 

Continuing the “gourmandises” being served: Cut slices of Alheira sausages with fried eggs are simply delightful.

Continuing the “gourmandises” being served: Cut slices of Alheira sausages with fried eggs are simply delightful.

 

Of course, each course is marked by corresponding wines from Douro valley …

Of course, each course is marked by corresponding wines from Douro valley …

 

… and dessert too is simply delightful: Something for all the senses, I would say!

… and dessert too is simply delightful: Something for all the senses, I would say!

 

Some three (!) hours later, we get up from our lunch table savouring the view over Douro river valley: OBRIGADA for a great afternoon together dear Marco, dear Richard, dear Jeff, dear Lisa, dear Mave (from right to left).

Some three (!) hours later, we get up from our lunch table savouring the view over Douro river valley: OBRIGADA for a great afternoon together dear Marco, dear Richard, dear Jeff, dear Lisa, dear Maeve (from right to left).

 

Treading the true paths of the locals: Marco takes us up & away to one of the best vantage points over the central Douro river valley!

It is a steep take up from the main road by the river Douro and up into the wine-terraced hills. While dear Maeve gets more and more nervous at each turn of the road, I actually feel more and more “at home” – Douro river valley mirroring our own wine-terraced river valleys of the Danube & Kamp rivers back home in Lower Austria! Of course, a different micro climate marks this land, what with more than 200 autochthonous grape varieties growing in the Douro valley alone!, but the spirit, dedication & commitment of the people working the land over many centuries is palpable in a very similar way. I take a deep breath, enjoying the countless photo and short walking stops along the way. Last but not least, we are up at the Miradouro do São Leonardo da Galafura, some 800 metres above sea level with a view over the entire middle section of the Douro valley. Breathtaking moments indeed, featuring soft words of admiration spoken by our very friend & guide Marco. A moment to remember!

High above the Douro river, the view upon the valley’s many little “Aldeias” becomes even more enjoyable. “Almost every house here is somehow connected to the wine”, Marco tells us with a wink.

High above the Douro river, the view upon the valley’s many little “Aldeias” becomes even more enjoyable. “Almost every house here is somehow connected to the wine”, Marco tells us with a wink.

 

Always committed to explaining all there is to know about Douro valley …

Marco himself is constantly committed to explaining all there is to know about Douro valley …

 

… as well as being our day’s photographer: Moments to remember out in Douro valley with dear Richard & Mave!

… as well as being our day’s photographer: Moments to remember out in Douro valley with dear Richard & Maeve!

 

Thanks to Marco, we also get to peek “behind the curtains” of Douro valley, watching the actual harvesting of the grapes going on.

Thanks to Marco, we also get to peek “behind the curtains” of Douro valley, watching the actual harvesting of the grapes going on.

 

Last but not least, I recommend you take the view from Miradouro do São Leonardo da Galafura, one of the best vantage points overlooking the Central Douro valley.

Last but not least, I recommend you take the view from Miradouro do São Leonardo da Galafura, one of the best vantage points overlooking the central Douro valley.

 

Thank you all for such a wonderful day together !!!

Thank you all for such a wonderful day together !!!

 

Looking for even more “winesome” travel tips & ideas for discoveries in both Douro valley & Serra da Estrela? My dear friend & co-blogger Julia Oberdorfer has recently travelled there and shared her stories. Worth reading: Check it out!

🙂

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Written by Elena

Elena writes about creative destinations, shares her personal travel stories and brings inspiring photography & interesting news updates home to you. Her mission is: "Continue to be amazed at this world, one creative travel experience at a time."

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