When the leaves start to colour in September, you usually find me heading somewhere south, on the lookout for vineyards, grapes, or to catch the last sunshine of the year and enjoy a few warmer days. Recent years have brought us to Tuscany, Italy or the Pfalz in Germany. This year it was time to explore the wine region in north Portugal.
The reason that brought us there at the end of September was a wedding in Porto – one of the great wine capitals. Just going to Portugal for one weekend wasn’t enough for us, so we decided to make a holiday of it and explore the local wine regions. Our initial thought was to stay in the famous Douro River Valley, but then I came across Quinta da Bouça d’Arques in the Minho Province – part of the Vino Verde wine region.
The owners promised that it would be an experience of architecture, decoration and hospitality, and it truly was.
Bouça d’Arques offered everything a traveling family could ask for:
It was set in the hills above the small town of Vila de Punhe, with a charming 300 year old manor house sitting at the end of a long cobbled road overgrown by grapevines. It stands, weathered and yellow with welcoming arms.
It consisted of 5 private guest houses, a mix of old and new.
Had a brilliant pool with great views over the vineyards in the valley below including an outdoor shower.
A walking trail – perfect for treasure hunts.
A cave – perfect for make believe.
There were several medieval towns in close proximity.
And the Atlantic Ocean was only 20 minutes away. It was so close that one could visit Viana do Castelo and have a dip in the Atlantic in one afternoon.
Speaking of one of the clear highlights of the Minho Province: Santuário de Santa Luzia in Viana do Castelo. A beautiful cathedral set above the Atlantic. We photographed it from every angle!
Of course we had to spend one day at the beach – our hosts recommended Vila Praia de Ancora! Very windy and the water a bit too cool for my toes, but it was epic.
Another day we drove to the medieval town of Ponte de Lima, Portugal’s oldest Village. That’s where Amelie became a general, trying to copy the 24 life-sized concrete Legionaries standing guard by the river.
But our time in the Portuguese countryside was short lived as we needed to get back in time for the Oporto wedding!
In Porto we stayed at the Yeatman, where the wedding took place. It is one of the best hotels in the city and can honestly boast one of the finest views I’ve ever seen. Located on a hilltop in Gaia – the traditional home of port – on the south side of the Douro. Each room overlooks the red tiled roofs and colorful buildings of Porto and the beautiful Ponte Dona Maria Bridge, built in 1877 by Gustave Eiffel himself.
At any time of the day or night, I found myself camera in hand, on the balcony. We even had to take the camera to their indoor infinity pool. A view not to be missed.
We only had about 48 hours in total in Porto and after arriving and checking into our room we went straight on a Tuk Tuk tour to get a sense of the city. We explored Ribeira, the picturesque, Unesco-listed, medieval part of town, enjoyed dinner with friends at O Mercado on top of Mercado Ferreira Borges – an old market building and ended the Friday evening with Port tasting at Vinologia – which sparked a new love for Port.
Then we were on to the wedding of the year! My dear friend Lili married her Tim in fine Oporto style! We partied until late and ate exquisitely – amazing wine pairing of an 8 course dinner. Additional Insider tip – the Yeatman is the only hotel I’ve ever stayed at that has champagne and caviar at the breakfast buffet.
This short stay in Northern Portugal definitely made us long for more. Oporto will be back soon!