Ceridwyn Parr writes in Porto, Portugal: In my first year at University, I discovered the delights of a glass of port and a cigar at the end of a day. The cigars are long gone, but I still love a little port from time to time.
Imagine my delight in looking out from our apartment window across the langorous Duoro river, right over to old warehouses dating back several centuries. The beautiful skyline of Vila Nova de Gaia, opposite Porto, is punctuated with grand signs redolent of gentlemen’s clubs and English country gardens- Sandemans, Croft, Offley Forester, Calem, Barros, AA Ferreira. We promise to go to tasting some of the varieties.
Looking down a little from the apartment window, I could see the barges or barcos, used to carry the barrels downstream from the cellars. Below most buildings are curved entrance ways for the rolling barrels to be stored.
This apartment has to be one of the most magical places to stay. I found it on the marvelous website http://www.ownersdirect.co.uk/. Our most helpful host, Ferdinand Almeida, met us by the Igreja dos Carmelitas, ornately decorated in blue Portuguese tiles. He guided us through increasingly narrow World Heritage lanes , to park the car then he even trundled our suitcases to his artistic and stylish apartment in the Ribeira area, just by the bridge called Ponte de Dom Luis 1.
We fall in love with the deep maroon of the sitting room, the dark tangerine of the hall way, the ochre of one bedroom and the saucy pink of the other. We are impressed that a previous guest was the NZ ambassador to Vietnam. Ferdinand has a bottle of port waiting for us with some snacks.
Strains of the poignant Portuguese fado music drift in on the breeze, as we riffle through the selection of ‘what’s on’ booklets Ferdinand has collected, and sip the rich port. We sink into the armchairs and resolve to stay forever.
Sadly we had only two days to enjoy Porto, so it was out of the apartment to the riverside to book a tour up the Duoro River to see the hillsides where the famous grapes are grown. The boat travelled through productive vineyards, pretty villages and impressive rock formations, rightly designated a Unesco World Heritage Site. We were served the most delicious lunch washed down with plentiful wines to soothe the anxiety of two terribly deep locks. The late autumn sun cast a gold sheen on the quaint medieval buildings along the riverbanks, every bit as beautiful as the more familiar Florence.
The city of Porto rambles down to the river in narrow streets, elegant corner churches and generous squares. We would love to come back again for a much longer visit, to explore the history, the architecture, the music, the people and of course the many kinds of port.
Ferdinand’s apartment can be seen on http://www.ownersdirect.co.uk/ ref P4551