Since we had a week off from school for a local Spanish holiday last week (Dos de Mayo), I decided to head to Porto, Portugal from Wednesday to Saturday. I really enjoyed visiting Lisbon, and flights to Porto from Madrid are really cheap! I wanted to see some more of Portugal, so I got on a plane Wednesday morning and flew out there. I was pretty tired when I got there because my flight was so early. I made my way to the hostel I was staying at, but they said to come back later to check in. I was in the mood to take a nap because it was pouring down rain and I was sleepy. Instead, I found myself a pair of 10 Euro rain boots and hopped aboard a Yellow Bus for the Porto Vintage tour. I needed to orient myself and see the highlights of the city without getting soaked!
I stayed on the Porto Vintage Yellow Bus tour for about an hour and a half, until it stopped in Gaia, across the river Douro from the main center of Porto. On this side of the river is where all of the port wine lodges, or ¨caves¨ are located. On the tour bus, we had just covered the main buildings of Porto, seen the beach, and I felt much more educated about Porto´s history. I hopped off the bus and since it was still raining off and on, I headed first to Ramos Pinto, a port wine company well-known for its scandalous advertising campaigns for its port wine during the 1920s.
It was early afternoon by this point, and I had just eaten the ham and cheese sandwich I packed for lunch on the bus. I decided to do a wine tasting of 5 different types of Ramos Pinto port wine. What I really liked about Ramos Pinto was how classy and exclusive the lodge seemed. It was decorated tastefully with couches and adorning the walls were poster prints of all of the ads produced during the 20s. I sat down to do the tasting with a pen in hand, because they provide you with a wine tasting portfolio of all of their wines so that you can take notes about the color, smell, and taste of each wine you try. I really enjoyed each one, and since the ¨lunch/ siesta¨ hour was drawing to a close, I asked to take a tour, since I had read on my Nook that Ramos Pinto provides an unusual tour at their lodge. There was a tour starting in 20 minutes, but in Spanish. I went for it and actually understood everything pretty well. On the tour, in addition to seeing the wine cellar and learning about how Ramos Pinto port wine is produced, we also got to see how the business started, the old offices, and the room used for entertaining business guests. On the tour was a Spanish couple with their adorable 2 year old son, and after the tour was over, I practiced my Spanish with the 3 of them. Then I bought a vintage poster before leaving Ramos Pinto and heading uphill to Graham´s.
Graham´s is like the luxury line of port wine, and luckily the lady at the tourist office had given me a card to go on the tour and tasting for free. The tour at Graham´s was a little more stiff, but the guide was a 26 year old guy so he hung out with me during the tasting because I was the only one there alone. He told me stories about working at the wine lodge, and definitely convinced me that tawny is the best kind of port wine. I was already starting to lead toward this conclusion, but he explained in more detail how the tawny is produced. Instead of aging in a huge oak barrel, tawnies are aged in smaller kegs which means that the wine has more exposure to the wood and to oxygen which gives it a taste reminiscent of nuts and dried fruit.
After Graham´s I headed to Calem´s wine lodge. I had to walk back down the hill, but Calem´s tour and tasting was included as a part of the Yellow Bus ticket, so of course I went. After visiting two higher end port wine lodges, I was not too impressed by Calem. It was still fun, and I got a fairly private tour, being that it was just me and two German guys. The German guys asked a lot of interesting questions and were fun to talk to during the tasting. By this time, it was getting close to 6pm. All of the lodges close between 5 and 6, so I headed to the Gaia gondola ride. The line goes from the port wine lodges along the River Douro, up to the higher level of the bridge. It only takes about 5 minutes to get up to the top, but the view is gorgeous. I walked back across the bridge towards my hostel. This time, I was able to check in. I ate a little snack and signed up for the hostel´s dinner that night. I still had about 2 hours until it started so I went to the ATM and tried to find a grocery.
For dinner, we had vegetable soup to start, followed by a veggie and beef stew served over rice, and a creamy pudding for dessert, all served with sangria. I met some other very nice backpackers around my age at dinner. We didn´t end up eating until around 10, so by the time we were done it was getting pretty late. I was so tired from a full day of sightseeing, so after making plans for the next day I promptly went to bed.