Postcard from the Douro Valley
Continuing Stylecamp's four-part travel series exploring parts of Portugal, postcard number two comes from the scenic valley of the Douro River where the grapes for the country's famous Douro wines and ports are grown. If you enjoy drinking and learning about wine, a visit to the Douro region is a must!
Admiring the stunning Douro scenery in Stylecamp's floral Marlene jumpsuit
So far in our Portugal trip, we've taken in the beautiful Art Nouveau style city of Aveiro (just south of Porto), known as the 'Venice' of Portugal, and explored its beautiful golden beaches that stretched for miles. If you missed my last post, be sure to check out Stylecamp's Postcard from Aveiro to learn more about this charming city.
After a lovely two night stay in Aveiro, we hopped in the car to begin a long drive up into the wine-making region of the Douro Vallley, which would take us almost to the border of Spain.
The stunning hills of the Douro
The winding roads of the mountainous Douro valley brings you to some of the most remote and breathtaking scenery I've encountered so far, dotted with gorgeous historical Quintas that tell the story of this remarkable place.
Wine terraces for miles in the Douro
As you ascend into these amazing wine-producing mountains, rows and rows of impressive grapevines cover every inch of land as far as the eye can see. Around every turn, the different wine producers proudly lay claim to their patch, with tall, logo-bearing signs standing high over the terraces.
Young grapevines in the Douro
Wine has been produced in the Douro region for over a thousand years, as the climate in these mountains is ideal for growing the grapes needed for Portugal's famous port wines, whilst the river below was traditionally used to transport the wine back to the coastal city of Porto to be traded. I'm reliably informed that in peak summer it can get as hot as 50°C in the shade!
CASA DO RIO
Our first stop in the valley was the Casa do Rio, a fancy wine hotel near the historic Vila Nova de Foz Côa. I've since learned that the area is a UNESCO world heritage site, home to some of the most important open air Palaeolithic rock art in the world. However, that's just another reason to visit this breathtaking region.
Casa do Rio wine hotel
We booked the Casa do Rio as a very special treat and, my word, it was absolute heaven on earth. An exhilarating 3km mountain track offers glimpses of the river through fields of colourful wildflowers and leafy grapevines, to bring you to this incredibly stylish, modern hotel that sits surreptitiously into the landscape. The main part of the hotel bridges two grapevine terraces offering spectacular views over the Côa river, a vast tributary of the Douro itself.
The mountain track down to the Casa do Rio overlooks the Côa river
With only six suites on offer, the experience at Casa do Rio is extremely homely and intimate. It's owned by one of the oldest wine estates in the region, the Quinta do Vallado, who in recent times have been working as part of the 'Douro Boys' collective to produce and promote Douro wines around the world.
Casa do Rio wine hotel
On arrival we were greeted with a glass of the Quinta's white port, my first taste of a white port, which is steadily on the rise as my summer tipple of choice. We sunk back in the stylish lounge with its open-air decking that looks out onto the river, in awe of the beauty of our new surroundings, while the hotel manager relayed the evening's dinner menu to us - a sublime duck magret finished with an apricot dessert, washed down with a bottle of their lovely red wine. Our fellow guests raved about the previous evening's roasted kid goat, all sourced and produced locally, leaving us slightly envious we only had one night to enjoy it all.
Suite at the Casa do Rio
Our luxurious suite featured a huge glass window that perfectly framed the view over the river, something you could hardly resist taking millions of pictures of. Our own private decking stretched out in front where you could sip some chilled wine and stargaze the endless night sky - even make a fire if it got a little chilly. The most striking feature? The absolute peace and serentity. Hailing from the hum of London, such tranquility is something you rarely get to experience.
Wandering around the Casa do Rio estate
Despite the hotel being so remote, there was so much to do - we heartily enjoyed a wine tasting of the house wines with the staff who made you feel completely at home. Afterwards we were able to roam the vineyards and estate down to river, which was safe enough to swim in. They also provided picnics, boat trips, bike riding and kayaking. We could have easily stayed here a week.
Infinity pool at the Casa do Rio
Wanting to make the most of our short stay, the following morning we rose early to take the best swim of our lives in their amazing inifinity pool, completely surrounded by nature and restored by the gentle warmth of the rising sun. Also took some time for a little photo shoot with one of my new pieces, the Myrna shirt - I just can't get enough of those lemons!
Making the most of the stunning infinity pool at Casa do Rio - wearing the Myrna shirt in lemon print
Breakfast was a real treat with homemade pastries, meats, cheeses, jams and cakes, washed down with some much needed strong coffee after the excesses of the previous evening's sumptuous meal. We then seized the opportunity to take a kayak to explore the peaceful river and spot birds of prey nesting in the trees, before we had to tear ourselves away from this memorable place.
Azulejos at Pinhao train station - wearing Marlene floral jumpsuit