Beija-Flor: Beautiful Handmade Portuguese Crafts in Porto
written by Gabriella Opaz | 21st March 2018
Portugal is a land of unexploited adventure, dramatic beaches, unique cuisine and a people with a seemingly limitless supply of compassion and kindness. It’s overflowing with thick, lush green forests, succulent flavorsome vegetables, diverse libations such as Ginja (a local cherry licor), and numerous castles that dot the landscape. It’s captivating, enchanting and additive!
Your journey begins in Lisbon, where you’ll embark on a three-hour Portuguese gastronomy tour in the heart of city, while discovering the cultural, historical and gastronomic secrets of the city. From here, you’ll head to Porto for an unforgettable 8 day tour of the lush and majestic Douro river. Once wild, the river has been tamed by locks to resemble a series of finger lakes, adding greatly to the valley’s ambivalence. Leaving behind the Atlantic influenced greenery of the coast, you’re immersed in a Mediterranean land of olives, vines, and picturesque, medieval hilltop villages. Our destination is the higher reaches of the valley from where we visit Salamanca – home of one of Europe’s oldest universities, two of its finest cathedrals, Spain’s finest city square and even the Inquisition! Upon your arrival back to Porto, enjoy yet another food tour that will take you through the meandering cobble streets to relish the flavors of Northern Portugal.
This 11 day Food, Wine and Cultural Cruise will not only be unforgettable, but the perfect taste as to what Portugal has to offer.
“It’s not easy to plan a wine trip, especially for a group that expects a high level of wine communication, education, and experience. Ryan Opaz and the team at Catavino exceeded all expectations in my first visit to the Douro. The knowledge base they represented, the contacts they have, and the professionalism they exhibited is of the highest caliber. Beyond that, and possibly most importantly, Ryan was simply a blast to travel with.”
After meeting your private driver at the airport, you’ll check into your boutique hotel tucked on a small street, just steps from the Avenida Liberdade, Lisbon’s premier promenade. This family owned charming hotel not only offers exceptional service, but a warm classic feel that makes you feel at home.
If time allows, take the rest of the day to enjoy the city. Lisbon is vibrant with an infectious charm and small town feel. With its cobblestone sidewalks, azulejo-tiled buildings, old-fashioned trolleys puttering down steep inclines, time becomes irrelevant. Lisbon abounds with quaint cafes run by grandmothers donned in lace aprons, chic lounges and charming traditional restaurants who have specialized in one individual dish for a century.
Meet the passionate people crafting old-school Portuguese food deep inside Lisbon’s traditional neighborhoods. Visit the traditional hole-in-the-wall bakeries famed for their warm, freshly baked breads and eggy, sweet tarts. But your egg adventure won’t end there. Ovos (eggs) are an essential ingredient in all Portuguese cuisine. They’re poached in soups and açordas (bread stew); fried on top of steaks, mixed in sausages and sandwiches; blended into many of their beloved bacalhau (salted cod) dishes; and beaten with sugar and cinnamon in numerous desserts and sweets. You’ll explore heaps of these delicious recipes alongside a wide range of Portuguese wines. Explore the undiscovered flavors of traditional canned fish, savory petiscos (Portuguese small bites), craft Portuguese beer and a range of freshly picked fruit and nuts. By the end of this tour, your love of Portuguese cuisine will not only deepen, but you’ll have a profound sense of saudade – a sense of longing and missing combined with a paradoxical joy and hope for the yet distant future.
The afternoon and evening are for you to enjoy at leisure, but should you need some suggestions – such as a private cultural tour of Lisbon’s famed Belem district – we’re more than happy to lend a hand!
This morning, your private English Speaking driver will meet you in the hotel lobby to bring to the Lisbon Oriente Train Station where you’ll embark on your journey to Porto. This relaxing 3 hour ride is a fabulous way to see Portugal’s stunning coast and lush rolling hills covered in ancient grapevines.
Upon arrival to Vila Nova da Gaia, enjoy a leisurely lunch on your own, though we’d suggest Mercado da Ribeira Restaurante, a renovated market offering a vast number of flavors to choose from. This afternoon, your 8 day cruise begins with a welcome cocktail on a sleek and innovative ship that has all the facilities of a true luxury hotel. Tonight you’ll stay port side with a breathtaking view of Porto, a UNESCO Heritage City.
As dawn breaks, you’ll awaken to the gentle sound of water lapping against the hull. With natural beauty surrounding you, enjoy a gourmet breakfast with a vast array of regional foods, stunning omelettes, freshly squeezed juices and Portuguese coffee. This morning is yours to relax, take in the vistas, and partake in any number of high-end services this luxury ship has to offer.
Come late morning, the ship will approach its first port of call in the quaint village of Peso da Régua. After a leisurely lunch, you’ll take a short drive to historic Lamego, home of Portugal’s sparkling wine, Raposeira, and one of the first places to be reclaimed from the Moors in the 12th century. Situated atop the hill overlooking this lovely town is the ancient Sanctuary of Our Lady of Remedies church, its stairways adorned with attractive azulejos, the country’s characteristic and colorful painted ceramic tiles.
Tonight’s dinner will be at one of the region’s best port quintas, or estate-vineyards, to learn how the legendary fortified wine is produced. This experience culminates in a much-anticipated dinner and tasting before heading back to the ship.
Overnight in Pinhão
Today, your journey will take you into deeper into the Douro heading towards the Spanish border where the river is at its most majestic. Weather permitting, it’s the perfect time to take a refreshing dip in the deck pool, sip upon a glass of vinho verde, or simply enjoy a book while taking in the vast scenery.
After lunch, you’ll visit Castelo Rodrigo, a delightful 12th-century walled village tucked away in the picturesque highland ranges bordering Spain. Its church was a resting place on the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela and it is said that Saint Francis himself stayed here. The views are simply stupendous, stretching across almost-deserted ochre hillsides.
This evening is the Captain’s Dinner, a truly memorable experience featuring exquisite regional specialties.
Overnight in Vega de Terrón
Today we visit historic Salamanca, one of the many UNESCO World Heritage Sites on this journey, regarded by many Spaniards as their nation’s most beautiful city. Perched on a hill on a bend in the serene River Tormes, the city is a picture of tranquility but its history is turbulent, having been successively fought over by Hannibal, the Moors, then the Duke of Wellington and Napoleon.
Over lunch you enjoy a traditional flamenco show, then you are free to explore Salamanca as you wish. You may choose to linger, admiring the ornate interiors of its cathedrals – the more recent dates from the 16th century – or explore its tiny streets, medieval squares, traditional shops, gardens and marketplaces.
Dinner and overnight stay in Barca d’Alva.
After a relaxing morning at the spa or sipping a cafe from the comfort of your room, you’ll take a trip to one of the most emblematic wineries in Portugal: the Mateus Palace. Anyone familiar with Mateus Rosé and its characteristic basket lined bottle will recognize the palace from the label. It’s an impressive 18th-century Baroque edifice, its granite wings shelter a lichen-encrusted forecourt dominated by an ornate stairway and guarded by rooftop statues. Surrounding the palace is a fantasy of a garden, with tiny boxwood hedges, prim statues and a fragrant cypress tunnel that’s blissfully cool on even the hottest days. (Don’t miss the fanciful 5m-tall curved ladders used to prune the tunnel’s exterior branches!)
This evening after dinner, head up on to the sun deck to listen to the unmistakable sound of crickets and breathe in the scents from the surrounding valley slopes that pervade the warm evening air.
Overnight in Régua.
As you’re nibbling on delicious croissants, creamy egg tarts and fresh fruit, your ship will cruise back down to Vega de Terrón. Here you’ll disembark to have a leisurely wine tasting, lunch and tour at Quinta da Aveleda.
The Guedes family have been producing wine on Quinta da Aveleda since 1870 but the main building dates back to 1671. Although they don’t live there year round, the family still make use of their splendid house and grounds for family weddings and functions. The gardens are captivating, not just for their blooms and foliage but for their quirky structures. Take, for example, the helter skelter goat shed or the elaborately carved 15th century stone window from which Dom João IV was proclaimed King of Portugal. Originally part of the house where Prince Henry the Navigator was born, it now sits, surrounded by flowers, on one of three islands in a lake. You can admire it from the unusual summer house that overlooks the lake, its fountains and swans.
This evening will be a truly unforgettable experience featuring exquisite regional specialties, followed by a colorful performance of traditional Portuguese folk music by a local cultural group.
Overnight in Entre-os-Rios
We arrive in Oporto this morning, passing under the city’s spectacular seven bridges. Strategically sited overlooking the Douro as it empties into the Atlantic, Portugal’s second largest city was originally a Roman town, but its wealth is derived from its knowledge of the sea routes to India, with fortunes made from trading spices, silks and other fine goods. Porto is also synonymous with Port Wine, so a visit here wouldn’t be complete without a tour. You’ll learn about this fortified wine’s fascinating history and its close British connections. Port is made from grapes still pressed in the traditional way – by feet – then lovingly matured, sometimes for decades, before you can enjoy its subtle flavors. Of course, you’ll get the chance to sample various port styles at the end of our visit.
After lunch on board, you’ll experience a historical and cultural tour of Porto. Set aside the Douro River, Porto—Portugal’s second city—is one of the most eclectic destinations in Europe. With its Medieval architecture, it’s defining Dom Luis I Bridge (designed by the engineer and disciple of Gustave Eiffel, Teófilo Seyrig) and Art Nouveau cafes, there’s something for everyone.
This evening, enjoy a final dinner on board, while taking in the sparkling lights of the city.
After breakfast, and a heartfelt goodbye to your shipmates, enjoy a light lunch on your own. Your private driver will then bring you to your boutique hotel that enjoys vast views of the Douro River, and is situated just a stone’s throw from the UNESCO World Heritage Ribeira and the D. Luís I Bridges. It’s idyllic positioning provides easy access to historic downtown Porto where a wide variety of culinary treasures await.
This afternoon, you’ll experience a delicious food tour that’s much more than a culinary experience, it’s a love letter to Porto highlighting the city’s history, architecture and culture every step of the way! It’s a rare opportunity to tantalize your tastebuds with northern Portuguese flavors, explore narrow cobble streets and meet the locals that bring Porto’s gastronomy to life.
Tonight, enjoy dinner on your own, or take in Porto’s vast nightlife with a concert at Casa da Musica, live jazz at Hotfive, or a DJ at Breyner 85.
With a belly full of flavors and a heart full of memories, your private driver will bring you to the airport. If you’re needing some gifts to get at the airport, here are some fabulous ideas, or try a few Portuguese recipes among friends. Whatever you choose, make sure to come back. We’ll miss you!