Portugal – Gardens & Vineyards of Porto & the Douro Valley. October 2020

Portugal – Gardens & Vineyards of Porto & the Douro Valley October 2020

October 2020

It is time to come back to Portugal….it has been awhile and we are in need of what Portugal offers not only for our body but for our soul….exquisite architecture, Azulejo tiles, the views of the Douro River, the sounds of the seagulls, walking through the UNESCO neighbourhood of Ribeira in Porto – a squiggle of alleys lined with gorgeous old buildings and where your hotel is located and where you will see so much more on our guided tour including the 14th century Gothic Igreja de Sao Francisco and its glistening gold interiors. Port wine tasting of course!

In Serralves Park we come upon an unmistakable landmark of Portuguese architecture – a fine example of early 20th-Century gardening art and the only garden laid out in this era in the manner of landscape architecture. The work of Jacques Gréber in 1932, it is characterised by a subtly Art Deco, modern classicismo influenced by French gardens of the 16th and 17th centuries. In the south of the garden we find a water garden of multilayered, interconnected water features, while in the western portion an avenue of liquid ambers stretches out. With the birth of the Museum of Contemporary Art, in 1996, a new landscape was laid out in harmony with the bubble gum pink building by Pritzker Prize winner Alvaro Siza and includes species native to the north of Portugal, including birch, holly, oak, yew, hawthorn and heather.

We head to Santar, Located at the heart of the Dão Wine region. Santar is a small village of just 1000 inhabitants, known for its beautiful manor houses and centuries-old palaces. It offers a unique combination of religious and noble architecture, terroir, wonderful natural landscapes and winemaking traditions. It is also home to a constellation of magnificent historical gardens around the main estates– Casa dos Condes de Santar e Magalhães, Casa das Fidalgas, Casa Ibérico Nogueira and Casa da Magnólia, among others – which have been restored and united under a single landscape plan designed by the celebrated Spanish landscape architect Fernando Caruncho.

The Beira Alta, the upper mountainous region, which is where Dão wine comes from is what we will be tasting with our lunch in this area at the Paco Dos Cunhas. For an important wine region like this it comes as a bit of a surprise that vineyards don’t dominate the landscape. Just 5% of the region is under vine, with pockets of vines planted in clearings in the pine and eucalyptus forests clothing the hilly terrain.

On the way back to Porto we will share a very special historic spot too.

Quinta da Aveleda is a wine estate that is an integral part of the vinho verde region. Here the vines encircle a landscape created by Ju Janson that includes a wooded garden of immense botanical variety crisscrossed by narrow avenues and winding paths. We wander between lakes and pavilions, with our attention drawn to the architectural follies that bear testament to the artistic daydreams that were very much part of the Romantic era.

Of course another wine tasting then we continue on to a private manor house and enjoy a visit of these gardens by the owners and lunch and wines of the manor house.

Guimarães, a UNESCO medieval city is our next hotel check in then dinner at HOOL.

Not far from our hotel is Braga specially known for baroque architecture and Bom Jesus, a spectacular staircase – In the unexpected layout of the Sacramento do Bom Jesus, the design fuses naturally with the difficult topography of the hillside to create a staircase of gardens on different levels reinforcing the typically baroque effect of a multiplication of spaces and views.

Before heading back to our hotel we visit another private garden and enjoy a drink…

The Douro Valley is our next area with a stop at one of the most breathtaking vantage points of the region and continue to the spectacular Quinta do Crasto where some of the best wines of the region are produced. Visit of the estate and vineyards followed by private lunch with presentation of the wines.

Pinhão, in the heart of the Douro Valley is where our next hotel is, the beautiful Vintage House Hotel.

The landscape of the Douro is very much a part of its history and heritage, and our exploration continues with a boat trip – on a traditional rabelo – that lazily transports us through a vision of step slopes covered in vines and punctuated by cypresses, all part of a landscape of terraces shaped by man almost as if it were a series of gardens. We finish our magical boat ride with a visit to a Quinta where after a visit of the historic wine Estate and its scenic vineyards we enjoy al fresco lunch with organic vegetables produced in the estate and Churchil’s renowned wines.

We head back to Porto but there is still more…. Mateus spectacular baroque Manor house and Gardens – The gardens of the house descend in terraces of box trees complete with a complex arrangement of flowerbeds. A tunnel of cypress trees arrives as a surprise and we head along a magnificent path formed by vaulted, verdant foliage. At the end of our stroll we discover a truly beautiful arrangement of box trees, the shape of which fans out from a Hinoki cypress tree (Chamaeyparis oculta) in a series of flutes, arches and arabesques.

A stop in the charming town of Amarante for our farewell lunch at the Michelin star Casa da Calcada with wines of course…. then back to Porto for our last night before heading home….

Now I am sure you will want to book either pre or post tour nights for this tour…and we can also arrange arrival pickup and delivery back to the airport.

If you are interested in coming along with me on this small group tour, please send me an email to donna@icangarden.com so I can let you know when ready for booking.

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