Updated: Jan 17
We arrive in Porto, the capital of North in Portugal. We first step into the old-world charm and settle in at Vila Foz in the beachfront Foz do Douro area. The old manor house preserves its majestic glamour and represents the revival of the high bourgeoisie culture of Porto. It is truly an authentic elevation of all the senses. And With all the original architectural details from the 19th century, this palatial building is the perfect home to begin of our journey in the city.
Between the Atlantic and Douro River setting, we follow the fishermen into the historic centre. From the cork crafts at the local market in Ribeira to Portuguese Custard Tart and pastry, we start the day with some lovely essences of Portugal. Begin at the Church of Souls, the stunning Azulejo painted tiles at the exterior façade depict the scenes from the lives of saints.
After we experience the opulence of the golden Church of Sao Francisco, we come to Palacio da Balsa, an old stock exchange building in Neoclassical style for a royal retreat and exotic encounter within the mind-blowing Arab Room. And through the iconic crimson staircase, we enter the fantasy world of Livraria Lello. Known as the inspiration for Harry Potter, this most beautiful bookstore came from the passion of literature of Lello brothers and has gathered numerous artists, academics and writers for more than a century.
While finish up the Baixa area, we come down to Douro River and cruise through the charming river banks. We could feel the pulse of the city from the colorful houses to the seven bridges that connect both sides. Taking the tram uphill, we head up to Torre dos Clerigos that dominates the entire landscape of the city, step back in time and immerse ourselves in the abundant culture and treasure from the brotherhood of the Clerics.
And yet, we could not forget to mention the famous Port wine. We are given an in depth tour and tasting at Cockburns Cellar in Gaia, an area on the other side of Douro river where the winemakers store the Port from the valley for exporting. From the oldest vintage from 1868 to the traditional barrel making, we enjoy the full expression of Port and its spectrum.
Through the trace of the wine-making history, we are ready to jump into our adventure in the wine country. After two hours of driving, we finally arrive at the exclusive Quinta da Corte overlooking the impressive landscape of Douro Valley. Port is a rich wine from a rugged valley. For centuries, the only way to plant a vineyard in the region was by building dry stone-wall terraces. These heroic tasks formed a dramatic and beautiful look of the Douro. The growing methods used by the Quinta da Côrte are highly sustainable, close to full organic standards.
After a fresh and homemade gourmet luncheon, we come to explore and relax in our design oriented casa, dated from the 19th century. We also get to witness the old cellar from the original families for storing the special Ports. It was a great connection to learn the tradition and history of the property. The entire casa and wine cellars have been re-worked by renowned architect, Pierre Yovanovitch. It combines tradition, modernity and luxury. We get to taste the exquisite Ports and Tawny in the middle of bold architecture, abundant nature and works of art everywhere you look.
Follow the breathtaking wine country and impressive cultural landscape of the Douro, we hop on the river boat to experience the first wine region demarcated in the world from a different perspective. Whether it is rain or shine, we simply can not resist the magic of The Douro.
And then, we return to the modern world of Porto, have a little moment to sit back and adjust our pace in the peaceful and elegant sanctuary and spa at Vila Foz, to restore and balance our energy and senses.
A brand new day leads to a brand new adventure. Start with a warm and welcoming lunch at Cantinho do Avillez, where the Traditional Portuguese Gastronomy meets with an international affair. Every dish is full with passion and unpretentiousness that is absolutely satisfying.
Under the Portuguese sky, the pink Art-Deco Casa de Serralves and the museum make Serralves Park a destination for Portuguese and international contemporary art and culture. Walking through the modern cityscape in Porto, we are impressed by the distinct polygon of Casa da Musica. Designed by architect Rem Koolhaas, the music hall is the first building in Portugal dedicated to music exclusively. It is a place for urban sensations and entertainment.
After ending our musical journey in the Blue Room at Casa Da Musica, we step into a gastronomic playground at Mini Bar Porto. Created by the renowned chef Jose Avillez, the neon-flickering scenery comes to life as the night falls. It offers an unforgettable and surprising gastronomic experience, where nothing is what it seems.
At the end, just like how we started this journey, we fell in love with saudade, the nostalgic feeling of Porto, all over again.