Ahhhhh WINE! What better way to step into your 40s? One of the world's lesser credited capitals of vino was our choice destination to celebrate one of my best friend's big 4-0. Our itinerary: Douro Valley, Porto, and Funchal, topped off with a stop in the Canary Islands. Once we got past the intoxication of the landscapes and the sweet buzz of vinho verde, we sank right into Portugal's sneaky charm and warmth.
We stayed at Douro's 5-star oasis Six Senses, tucked amidst rolling vineyards and perched just above the Douro River. There is no better way to follow a transatlantic flight that with this tranquil spa resort with hospitality you simply want to put into your pocket.
We were keen to properly experience Douro's finest product and got recommendations for a few top tasting picks, including Quinta da Pacheca and Quinta do Vallado. What we learned: most tastings automatically include a tour of the grounds and winemaking facilities, and it's best to book appointments a couple of days in advance. While we were technically visiting during low travel season, there were plenty of like-minded visitors at both wineries.
After some legit R&R in Douro, we drove the hour and change to Porto, the country's coastal mecca and 2nd largest city after Lisbon. We immediately fell in love.
Porto, like Douro, is perched right upon Douro River. The riverfront is adorned with hotels and cafes, with the city sprawling up San Francisco- and Lisbon-esque hills into its center.
Along one of our walks into the center, we were pumped to find a wine and tapas truck. Wine + shopping is our jam.
Sample riverfront spread, with a tease of the uphill stroll into town.
Cobblestone walkways and street art steal my heart...
I personally do not consume much red meat or pork, but jamón ibérico seems to always get a pass by me.
This view of the promenade along the Douro River from our hotel (Eurostars Porto Douro) is reason enough for anyone to visit or return to this gorgeous city.
We took the 90-minute flight from Porto into Funchal, Madeira, which is a Portuguese island just north of Spain's Canary Island. We were greeted by incredibly cozy weather as we arrived at Quinta da Casa Branca's lush grounds.
We dipped back into our Douro vibe by lounging by both hotel pools and getting massages by the hotel's outstanding therapist. Everything about this place whispered tranquility.
For our last night in Funchal, we moved to the Belmond Reid's Palace just minutes away. Perched just over the Atlantic, this hotel made me feel a lot like I was in Côte d'Azur. This snap above is from the Palace's lobby sitting area.
Our last few days were spent in Gran Canaria, home to one of the Canary Islands' two capitals (Las Palmas). We started in the marina of Puerto Rico on the southwestern side of the island. The vibe was very relaxed, with lots of families squeezing in their fall holiday.
My personal pièce de résistance was our beachfront loft in Las Palmas.
Waking up, daytime drinking, and sunset sipping to Las Canteras's peaceful corner of the North Atlantic was a fine way to close this trip.
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Stay. Six Senses Douro Valley. I would stay at the InterContinental my next visit to Porto, set right in the thick of town with views of the river and surrounding areas to boot. I recommend Reina Isabel for a funky but fun retro vibe along Las Canteras.
Shop. Porto: hit up The Feeting Room for a generous variety of Portuguese fashion goods. Armazém is a funky and fun vintage venue - even if you walk out empty handed, it's worth the riverside walk to explore. Las Palmas: Calle Triana is a pedestrian-only strip along which you'll find the usual suspects of a European city's shopping center. It's off this beaten path you'll find charming boutiques, such as Casa del Perfume Canario. There was once a bikini shop where I stocked up on swimwear from locally-made Lenita; it has since shut down, but I am sure there are plenty of alternate sources!
Savor. Douro: Vale de Abraão Restaurant at the Six Senses for regional farm-to-table, DOC for more of the same deliciousness, known for their tasting menus. Porto: Cantinho do Avillez Porto for a modern twist on traditional cuisine. Las Canteras: La Bikina was a repeat stop for us; the locally-inspired dishes with an organic twist and legit margs left us satisfied!