In the previous blog we ended our time in Porto, where we enjoyed a fun city trip, delicious diners and beautiful photography spots! Even though we have a preference for the more natural surroundings, we had a lovely time. After Porto, we continued driving inland, where we made our way to the Douro Valley.
A friendly surprise
First we stopped for a couple of nights just North of the Douro area, in the surroundings of Vila Pouca de Aguiar, a small town with a fantastic lake only minutes away from our campsite. The campsite was very quiet, but beautifully situated below the pine trees. We were very happy with the almost luxurious facilities, that we stayed a bit longer than intended. We had a bit of catching up to do and were mostly glad we were in a more rural area after visiting (or at least trying to visit) quite a few cities in relatively short time. We were welcomed not only by the campsite hosts, but also by a new friend for our furry four-pawed corgi.
Shall we keep him?
A stray dog (we learned later) inhabited the campground since a few days. Initially hesitant about letting our corgi, Moose, mingle with Marley (as we decided to call him), we decided to give it a shot. Lo and behold, Moose took charge, proving he had the upper paw in this unexpected friendship. Marley became our loyal companion, following us around even outside the campsite. His antics and endless energy kept us entertained, and Moose seemed thrilled to have a new buddy. When we had a 45 minute walk around the nearby lake, Marley followed us the entire route (on a safe distance) and even returned to the campground with us. The next days he kept visiting to check out on Moose and they played here and there.
After a couple of nights however, we had to move on and our time in Vila Pouca de Aguiar had to come to an end. Laura was a bit upset we had to leave Marley behind, as he followed us all the way to the campground exit. She couldn’t help but feel a twinge of sadness, imagining a life of traveling with an ever-growing pack of dogs. If Rowan wasn’t around, she would probably be traveling with 2 dogs now, or maybe a full campervan filled with furry friends by now? No one knows. Anyway, off we went, towards Pinhāo, a small town on the Douro river, famous for good ports.
Driving to the Douro
Little did we know that the drive from Vila Pouca de Aguiar to Pinhão would become one of the most beautiful routes in Portugal. The lush green valleys, filled with yellow flowers and vineyards provided an absolutely stunning view of the valley. Every turn was a surprise and we had numerous stops to take a photo or just absorb and enjoy the stunning views.
Vineyards in the Douro
Quinta de la Rosa
As we arrived in Pinhão, we decided to visit a few port vineyards. Our first stop was Quinta de la Rosa, conveniently located along the river. Quinta de la Rosa is quite well known in the area. It has two restaurants, the first a bit more luxurious than the second, which feels more of a relaxed vibe. As we were going for a tasting and a quick lunch, we decided the second was the best for us.
However, a hilarious parking mishap made us appreciate the challenges of maneuvering a 7-meter van on narrow mountain roads. Ah well.. 15 minutes later we managed to get a spot on the outdoor terrace. Sipping on a vintage port and a mouthwatering 10-year-old tawny, we couldn’t help but savor the experience. The combination of exceptional wine, stunning valley views, and warm Portuguese sun created an unforgettable moment. We loved it and we were ready to buy bottles if it weren’t the first vineyard we visited. After relaxing at the terrace a bit longer than “a quick lunch”, we moved on as Mr. Happy Fur was still chilling it in the (ventilated) van.
Quinta da Roêda
We decided to move to the other side of town and visit a Croft port vineyard called Quinta da Roêda. The premise is on the outskirt of the down and the grounds almost look like the garden of a palace, wonderful. With distant views over the vineyards, a great outdoor terrace and colorful flowers all around, it is a very picturesque location to settle down and taste some ports. As we arrived, we realized our timing coincided with the arrival of a massive tour group. Around 100 people flooding into the tasting room. But fear not, dear readers, for we managed to escape the chaos and enjoy the tranquility of the outdoor terrace instead. Meanwhile we got served 3 different ports, a very young port, a vintage and again their 10-year old vintage. As the tour group left for a walk around the vineyards grounds, we enjoyed the silence of the surroundings, the chirping birds and of course the wonderful taste of the liquor we had been presented. We intended to visit a third port vineyard, Quinta das Carvalhas, after this one, but as we settled down too long it was already pretty late that day and most vineyards were ready to close shop.
Camping on the Douro river
So, instead, we moved back into town and found a fantastic place to wild camp on the river front, 10 minutes walk to the city center. The rivier in front of our camping spot (which was a legal place to spend the night), on the west side of the Douro, close to Quinta de la Rosa, provided us with the perfect opportunity to bask in the afternoon sun and take a refreshing swim. Even our furry companion couldn’t contain his excitement as he leaped into the water with some anxiety.
Eating in Pinhão
As evening descended upon us, we ventured into town in search of some bites. Sadly, our waterfront dining experience turned out to be a bit of a letdown. The local port certainly pleased our taste, but the mediocre and overpriced food left much to be desired. It felt like we had unwittingly stumbled into a tourist trap. Nevertheless, we made the most of the evening, bonding with friendly Belgian campers and enjoying a peaceful night under the stars.
The next day, as the sun peeked over the horizon, Rowan embraced the early morning hours to capture photographs of the tranquil Douro River and the charming town of Pinhão. Armed with fresh baked bread, he returned to our riverside spot, where we indulged in a lovely breakfast and bid farewell to this beautiful place.
On to the South-West Coast
Our original plan was to stay longer but an unfavorable weather forecast and the fact we also were keen to move further down the coast, made us leave the Douro Valley. If you like to read about the remote Portuguese South-West coast, probably one of the “hidden gems” of the country and about our biggest disappointment yet, please continue to read our blog on the South-West Coast of Portugal.