Wonderful Portuguese historian as escort, local cooking class, outstanding wines and foods, friendly locals, picturesque villages and great historic cities, the real Portugal. With a charming native Portuguese historian as our guide and companion, we are going to see some fascinating, out-of-the-way sights that represent the true Portugal so little known—the least explored corner of Western Europe. From the rolling plains of the Alentejo to the mountains and romantic castles of the Beiras; from the Douro River Valley with its famed port wine to the rural green hills and valleys of the Minho region of Northern Portugal—we will see Portugal as it has changed through the centuries. We will meet today’s vineyard owners, olive farmers, and craftspeople creating beautiful azulejos ceramic tiles as they have been made for centuries.
We’ll learn about yesterday’s kings and queens and explorers. We will see beautiful Manueline-style palaces and monasteries and tiny Baroque churches. Hearing stories of Portugal’s fascinating history, we’ll explore medieval castles and fabulous palaces. We’ll see ancient cities and tiny hilltop villages. We’ll learn about (and taste) Portugal’s best wines and dine on her most delicious regional specialties and freshest fish. Staying in elegant Pousadas and wonderful regional manor houses, we’ll travel by minivan with a small, friendly group. Each evening dinner is a special occasion that will feel like a delightful dinner party of friends. Throughout our two-week gourmet travel adventure, you will be pampered, wined and dined, and treated as our guests. You’ll see a Portugal you will never forget!
Day 1: From the Lisbon Airport we drive north to the lovely town of Tomar, which stretches along the banks of the Nabão River at the foot of a wooded hill crowned by a fortified castle built in 1160 by Gualdim Pais, Grand Master of the Order of the Knights Templar. While there, we take a tour of the impressive Convento de Cristo. Dating from the 12th century, this outstanding group of buildings represents a museum of different Portuguese architectural styles. We continue on to Constância, where we check into our 16th Century manor house, our home for two nights.
Day 2: In the morning our guide, Carla, takes us to visit the site of the miracles of Fatima. We then continue on to explore the famous monastery of Batalha, a masterpiece of Portuguese Gothic architecture. We enjoy lunch and free time at the seaside resort of Nazaré before heading back to our manor house for dinner and a relaxing evening.
Day 3: Today we head north to the city of Coimbra, birthplace of six kings and home of Portugal's oldest university. A local guide leads our tour and takes us to his favorite pub for lunch. Next, we take an excursion to the colorful city of Porto, Portugal's second largest city, named for port wine. After a tour of the historic center of the city, we visit the a Port winery for a tour and tasting before continuing on to our charming Pousada inn in Guimarães. Tonight, we have a wonderful dinner at our inn.
Day 4: Today we have a guided tour of the historic town of Guimarães, Portugal's first capital and home of the first King of Portugal, D. Afonso Henriques. On the way back to Guimarães we visit the spectacular Baroque monument, the Santuario do Bom Jesus do Monte. The "Stairway of the Three Virtues" is an amazing sight--and to think pilgrims used to climb it on their knees! We have dinner tonight in Guimarães and spend a second night at the Pousada.
Day 5: This morning we depart Guimarães for Pinhao, stopping in the picturesque town of Amarante for free time and lunch on the way. We drive along the beautiful Douro River and check into our luxurious river-front hotel in Pinhao, where we enjoy a gourmet dinner.
Day 6: Today we visit the Vila Nova de Foz Côa archeological site, the largest Paleolithic open-air site in the world, where we see 20,000-year-old prehistoric rock drawings. In the afternoon, we take a cruise along the Douro River in a “Rabelo”—the traditional wooden sailing ship used in days gone by to transport barrels of port up and down the river. We stop along the river at a quinta for a port wine tasting. Back at our hotel we enjoy a chocolate-and-wine-tasting “class” to learn which port wines go best with the world’s finest chocolates.
Day 7: A visit to the flamboyant Solar de Mateus shows us an excellent example of Portuguese Baroque architecture. The palace is surrounded by gardens, tree covered walks, and allegorical statues. After lunch in Vila Real, we head back to our hotel for free time and perhaps to relax with a glass of port before dinner.
Day 8: Today we drive south through the Beiras, Tras-os-Montes, and Estremadura regions into the Alentejo. Our fabulous Pousada for the night is in Marvão, a fortified medieval village perched high on top of a granite wall on a peak of the Serra de São Marmede mountain range. Marvão is exciting to explore, with its narrow streets and covered alleys climbing up to the 13th century castle. From the castle the view of the surrounding countryside is outstanding. We can easily see across the border into Spain.
Day 9: In the morning we visit the charming village of Castelo de Vide and then the famous royal stud horse farm of Alter do Chão. After lunch, we visit the Vila Viçosa Ducal Palace, the former residence of the Dukes of Braganza from the beginning of the 16th century. In Portel we check into our lovely villa, our home for the next two nights. Elegant but rustic, this manor house is also a cooking school. We enjoy a gourmet dinner at our villa.
Day 10: Today we take an excursion to visit the medieval walled town of Monsaraz, perched high on a hill above the River Guadiana. A tour of the Herdade do Esporao wine estate is followed by a tasting of excellent Alentejo wines. We return to our villa in Portel to enjoy a wonderful gourmet dinner of regional recipes.
Day 11-12: In the morning we’ll visit the Roman city of Evora with its perfectly preserved Roman temple, its unusual cathedral, and the macabre Chapel of Bones before driving to Sintra. We spend the next two days in beautiful Sintra, an enchanting hillside village of castles, quaint streets, and beautiful villas and palaces. On our last night we have a grand farewell dinner in an outstanding local gourmet restaurant.
Day 13: We drive to the Lisbon airport for the return flight home.
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