Portugal 2006: Pinhão

Friday, 26 May 2006

We are having a late morning at the Estalagem de Santa Bárbara, partly because it is so lovely and tranquil here. After a café at the Pastelaria Primavera (our favourite pastelaria in Oliveira do Hospital), we are heading north to Pinhão in the Douro valley. We are expecting some rather warm weather and our connectivity will probably be spotty during our four days there.

Our arrival in Pinhão was rather different. After an amazing drive along the Douro and our first glimpses of the vineyards, we arrived near the town only to be faced by a long line of cars stopped in front of us. It turns out that the bridge is under repair and the only way over the river is by ferry. We subsequently found out that the ferry only runs at certain times of the day and it had just started running again as we arrived. It took us 40 minutes or so before we finally arrived at the other side and 3 minutes later we were at Quinta de la Rosa.

Our room is actually a two room suite and feels like a little house. It seems to be very old, is remarkably cool inside (without the assistance of air conditioning) and has one bathroom wall which is mostly carved out of rock.

Dinner was in Pinhão at Pensão Ponto Grande where we shared a dish of roasted pork which had been marinated in vinho tinto for two days before cooking. It was accompanied by cabbage and some good tomato rice with chickpeas. The wine was a 2003 Vinho Comprida from Quinta da Poça which is just up the road from La Rosa. The very nice owner told us he would be making cabrito with tomatoes and peppers tomorrow, so we will return for dinner on Saturday.

The weather is heating up, so only 2.5 today on the Knowmark Weather Scale.

Saturday, 27 May 2006

The Quinta de la Rosa is a lovely estate and we were reluctant to actually leave this morning. Especially since it was cool for several hours this morning (during this unseasonable heat wave). So we took our time – which is not unusual – and finally went into Pinhão for some supplies, et al. After some initial exploration, we found a very nice pastelaria (see photograph below) for our late morning café e pasteis. We also found some wonderful regional cheese and olives, plus carrots (and some so-so bread) for lunch later.

We then set out on an incredible (incrível) journey north up the Rio Pinhão valley to Alijó (on the east side of the valley). Coming back, we crossed the Pinhão to Sabrosa (which required going waaay down and then waaay back up) and returned to Pinhão on the west side of the valley. The scenery is simply spectacular – there is no other way to describe it. We don’t have the proper camera to capture what this looks like. The terraced vineyards are everywhere, built over many centuries.

We went back to Restaurante Residêncial Ponto Grande tonight where we had the cabrito with tomatoes, onions and peppers that the owner, Senhor José Vieira kindly promised us yesterday. It was very good, especially the potatoes which seemed to have been cooked with them (see photo below). There was a simple but tasty salad and some plain rice which went very well with the meal. As wine, we chose the 2001 Vinha de Mazouco which was fine but not as good as the Quinta da Poça that we drank last night.

Since the weather is uncomfortably hot, today only rated a 2.0 (zero points for temperature).

Sunday, 28 May 2006

Today seemed to be a bit less hot than yesterday (at least to Susan) but it was still quite uncomfortable. Unfortunately, we’re not doing much walking because of the heat, but we’re eating just as much! Hopefully things will cool off enough while we’re in Porto to work off some of this food.

There is apparently marvellous scenery along the Rio Tua, one of many tributaries of the Douro. Many people take the train from Pinhão to Tua and then switch to the narrow-gauge train which runs along the Tua to Mirandela. We thought about taking it, but for a variety of reasons decided not to check it out today. Instead we drove to Alijó again, but by a different, indirect route, starting with the ferry across Douro.

UP. We drove up and up (there’s a lot of that here!) on N222 to São João da Pesqueira. On the way, we stopped at the Padaria Lusitana in Ervedosa do Douro and bought some bread.

DOWN. Then we went down and down (see previous parentheses) and crossed the Douro at the Barragem de Valeira.

UP. Once again, up and up, through Linhares (which seemed very historical) to Parambos, all of this on N214.

DOWN. This time, down and down (now on N212) led to the confluence of the Tua and the Douro, in Tua. We could see where the narrow-gauge railway to Mirandela starts, and a bit of the gorge which forms the very dramatic scenery at the start. The part that we could see was very different scenery- even steeper mountains and very rocky and wild with no olive trees and vines as we see almost everywhere else.

UP. Our second trip to Alijó in two days, this time via São Mamede da Ribatua where the landscape levels off for a bit. Still, every bit of land seems to be covered with vines.

UP. A bit more until the landscape flattened out again for quite a while in to Alijó where we had lunch in a shaded spot in a nice park. It is cooler in Alijó due to the higher altitude. It didn’t take us as long to get there as we had expected and so we ate lunch a bit earlier than usual, however it was the same old lunch – mmmm: wine, cheese, bread (better than we’ve been eating so far in this area), carrots and olives.

DOWN. The drive down from Alijó was via the same route (N323) that we took up there yesterday – but it is certainly not a hardship driving that route again. And, it looks a little different going the opposite direction. The views are spectacular; we just can’t get over how much of this really rugged landscape has been turned into land for growing grapes and olives … it is immense!

Again due to the heat, today only rated a 2.0, however Susan is angling for a 2.0+.

Monday, 29 May 2006

Our last full day in the Pinhão region found us once again somewhat limited by the heat. It just means that we don’t spend as much time stopping in various places and walking about. But, we managed to do quite a bit. We did the ‘formal’ tour (week days at 11am) of Quinta de la Rosa, which was quite interesting, followed by a wine and port tasting. Of special interest was trying the 1998 LBV Port, since we wanted to buy one more bottle of port for nightcaps. However, we also tried the 1992 LBV bottle-aged Port and decided to buy that instead, as it was quite unusual.

Then, we drove to Régua (about 30 minutes away), because we had heard about a Douro wine shop there. However, there wasn’t much there that was of interest to us, although we did buy a bottle of 2004 Quinta do Monte Travesso. We also had a relatively nondescript lunch before slowly working our way back to Pinhão. It is beautiful country here – it is quite stunning. We also drove up the Rio Torto valley to Ervedosa do Douro just to buy some bread at the Padaria Lusitana, where we had found some excellent bread yesterday (hot out of the oven at 5pm). Since we were ‘eating in’ on our last night here, we needed to have some first-rate pão!

Another very hot day, so only a 2.0 again; however, the evening turned out to be very pleasant.