We have been without internet access for the past couple of days, so I’ve been unable to upload my daily posts – excuse me while I play catch-up.  (This one was written on Wednesday.)

Our last day in Portugal was full of both great adventure and perfect leisure.  We rented a car for the day to drive out of town to visit some of the nearby vineyards.  Shane was slightly nervous about driving here, as Portugal is known as one of the most auto-accident prone cities, and in the words of Rick Steves, “If you get in an accident, you will be blamed.”  Eeek!  But my ever-so-brave husband volunteered to get behind the wheel for the sake of all of us being able to see this other side of Portugal.  And so, the four of us piled into our cute little Toyota Yaris and were on our way to the vineyards.  Getting out of the city was relatively easy, as traffic was light and we were able to avoid any of Porto’s 10-foot wide, two-way roads (it’s amazing that anyone in that city still has their side-view mirrors).  The freeway was easy going as well, but once we turned off the several-lane highway way and onto the smaller roads to get to the quintas (the vineyard houses/tasting rooms), things got just a little hairy.  Trucks will come barreling around curves so quickly on roads that are so narrow that you have to be ready to hit the brakes and hug the very edge of the road with only half a second’s warning.  But Jack navigated and Shane drove like a champ, and after only a couple of wrong turns and one or two white-knuckled close calls, we rolled up to our first stop of the day, Quinta do Panascal.  And within seconds we knew that the harrowing drive was totally worth it, as vineyards unrolled before us in front of a perfect blue sky.  We were allowed to freely wander as we listened to an audio tour about the history of the quinta, and spent nearly an hour taking in the beauty of the vines and the hills and the calm little river at the base of the valley.






We then tasted a couple of the Ports, took a few more deep breaths of the fresh country air, and hopped back in the car to go get some lunch.  Jack had read about this great little restaurant on the edge of the Duoro River called D.O.C., and so we decided to check it out and treat ourselves to a really nice meal.  As soon as we were served our appetizer of small toasts topped with warm brie cheese and pepper jelly, I knew we were in for something special.  I chose the four-course menu, which consisted of cream of asparagus soup with scallop and mushroom ravioli, then octopus with potatoes and wilted greens, an intermezzo of tangerine sorbet, then braised pork cheek paired with a creamy mushroom and bread mixture, and, for dessert, warm apple pie topped with goat cheese and a dollop of olive oil ice cream.  Ooh, la, la…




The food was beautiful and amazing, the open view of the river was wonderful, and the company of good friends was such a blessing.  A perfect meal.  And so we rolled ourselves out of the restaurant, absolutely stuffed but wanting to hit a couple of more quintas before heading back to Porto.  We weren’t able to find anything quite as special as our first stop, but we still were able to taste some good Port and do some more exploring.  We hit the road back to Porto late in the afternoon in order to get the rental car back on time, sorry to say good-bye to this spectacular little corner of the world, but completely satisfied with a genuinely fantastic day.  Again, Shane handled the roads like a rock-star driver, and we made it back to the hotel incident-free.

After watching the sun set over our last night in Porto, and still full from lunch, we grabbed a few small things from the market around the corner and picnicked on the hotel patio for dinner.  It had been a full day, and it felt good to relax, to unwind, and to look forward to our upcoming adventure: next stop, Madrid!