Eat local: Quinta da Pacheca, Lamego, Douro Valley, Portugal

Vineyards in the hills of the Douro Valley, Portugal

Vineyards in the hills of the Douro Valley, Portugal

 

“The Douro Valley could as easily be called the enchanted valley, such is the beauty and magic that its landscapes offer.  Departing from Porto, where the river flows into the sea and where the Douro wines (table wines and Port wine), produced on its hillsides, also end up, there are various ways to get to know this cultural landscape, listed as a [UNESCO] World Heritage Site: by road, by train, on a cruise boat and even by helicopter.” – www.visitportugal.com

“For centuries Portugal’s Douro Valley, the world’s first officially designated wine region, has drawn people for not only its port but also for the postcard-pretty landscapes — steep terraced vineyards carved into mountains along the Douro River and whitewashed quintas [wine estates] atop granite bluffs…While the traditional way of touring the Douro has been on day trips from Porto, there are now several ways to fully experience the valley.  Douro Azul offers yacht trips with vineyard stops, Helitours goes via air, and Viking River Cruises’ third Douro River ship, Osfrid, launches in March.” — Anja Mutić, Travel+Leisure Magazine

 

Waiting in the first lock for the gates to close behind us (and the larger day-cruise boat) to be lifted 25 meters (77 feet) on the Douro River, upstream from Porto heading to the Douro Valley, Portugal

Waiting in the first lock for the gates to close behind us (and the larger day-cruise boat) to be lifted 25 meters (82 feet) on the Douro River, upstream from Porto heading to the Douro Valley, Portugal

 

A small group of us chartered a small yacht for the five hour cruise up the river (and through two locks at two of the five dams on the Douro River in Portugal).  Our destination was a quinta where we had a tasting and luncheon overlooking the vineyards in the Douro Valley.

“Fifteen dams have been built on the Douro to regulate the water flow, generate hydroelectric power, and allow navigation through locks. Beginning at the headwaters, the first five dams are in Spain…the next five downstream are along the Portuguese-Spanish border…The Douro’s last five dams are in Portugal, and allow for navigation: Pocinho, Valeria, Regua, Carrapatelo and Crestuma-Lever Dams. Vessels with a maximum length of 83 metres (272 ft) and width of 11.4 metres (37 ft) can pass through the five locks. The highest lock, at Carrapatelo Dam, has a maximum lift of 35 metres (115 ft). The waters of Pocinho lake reach 125 metres (410 ft) above sea level.” – Wikipedia

 

Waiting for the gates to open to sail into the second and highest lock on the Douro River in Portugal at Carrapatelo Dam, which has a maximum lift of 35 metres (115 feet), heading to the Douro Valley, Portugal

Waiting for the gates to open to sail into the second and highest lock on the Douro River in Portugal at Carrapatelo Dam, which has a maximum lift of 35 metres (115 feet), heading to the Douro Valley, Portugal

 

An ultra-modern hotel contrasts with centuries old architecture along the bank of the Douro River, heading upstream to the Douro Valley, Portugal

An ultra-modern hotel contrasts with centuries old architecture along the bank of the Douro River, heading upstream to the Douro Valley, Portugal

 

An old aqueduct and vineyards seen from our yacht sailing up the Douro River, heading upstream to the Douro Valley, Portugal

An old aqueduct and vineyards seen from our yacht sailing up the Douro River, heading upstream to the Douro Valley, Portugal

 

Some of the wines tasted at Quinta da Pacheca, Lamego, Douro Valley, Portugal

Some of the wines tasted at Quinta da Pacheca, Lamego, Douro Valley, Portugal

 

From the yacht, we were met by a van that drove us up to Quinta da Pacheca in the town of Lamego where, after a brief tour, we enjoyed a late afternoon traditional luncheon of Portuguese cuisine prepared in a contemporary approach by Chef Carlos Pires, using Douro typical ingredients.

 

The vineyards of Quinta da Pacheca, Lamego, Douro Valley, Portugal

The vineyards of Quinta da Pacheca, Lamego, Douro Valley, Portugal

 

A selection of appetizers (baked chorizo, blood sausage, empanadas, cod fritters, chorizo sandwiches, cheese, bread, and olives) at Quinta da Pacheca, Lamego, Douro Valley, Portugal

A selection of appetizers (baked chorizo, blood sausage, empanadas, cod fritters, chorizo sandwiches, cheese, bread, and olives) at Quinta da Pacheca, Lamego, Douro Valley, Portugal.jpg

 

One main course – duck fried rice and spinach -- at Quinta da Pacheca, Lamego, Douro Valley, Portugal

One main course – duck fried rice and spinach — at Quinta da Pacheca, Lamego, Douro Valley, Portugal

 

An alternative main course – roasted pork and potatoes -- at Quinta da Pacheca, Lamego, Douro Valley, Portugal

An alternative main course – roasted pork and potatoes — at Quinta da Pacheca, Lamego, Douro Valley, Portugal

 

Eat and drink local: The Yeatman Hotel, Vila Nova de Gaia (across the Douro River from Porto), Portugal

The Yeatman Hotel is a haven for wine lovers and the prime destination for those wishing to explore the pleasures of Port, Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal

The Yeatman Hotel is a haven for wine lovers and the prime destination for those wishing to explore the pleasures of Port, Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal

 

Following our extensive and educational tour and extended port wine tasting at Taylor’s lodges and offices in Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal (across the Douro River from Porto), we walked up the hill a short distance to The Yeatman Hotel, also owned by Taylor Fladgate & Yeatman.

Located in the heart of Porto, Portugal, one of Europe’s most important wine capitals, The Yeatman Hotel is a haven for wine lovers and the prime destination for those wishing to explore the pleasures of Port, the great classic wine for which the city of Porto is famous.  A member of the Relais & Chateaux group, the Hotel has cellars of with one of the most comprehensive collections of Portuguese wines.  The Yeatman has established partnerships with many of Portugal’s finest producers who actively participate in The Yeatman’s program of tastings, seminars and wine dinners.

Taylor’s Managing Director, Adrian Bridge — son-in-law of Alistair Robertson, the late-20th century chief executive of Taylor’s — conceived of the idea of a leading hotel in the Porto area (on the hillsides of Vila Nova de Gaia on property adjacent to the Taylor’s lodges and corporate offices).  “Named The Yeatman, in celebration of the family’s historic link with the city, it draws on its owners’ expertise in both fine wine production and luxury hotel management to become one of the world’s leading wine hotels.  Opened  since August 2010, it became Oporto’s address of choice, the hotel which defines the city.” – www.the-yeatman-hotel.com

We began the evening with canapes and sparkling wine on the terrace (see photograph, below), overlooking Ponte Dom Luis I (Dom Luis I Bridge) which spans the Douro River, connecting Porto (the top side of the photograph) with Vila Nova de Gaia, the location of all the port houses’ (companies’) lodges (warehouses) for aging port wine.  Our superb dinner was upstairs at the Michelin one-star and Relais and Chateaux Yeatman Restaurant, under executive chef Ricardo Costa.  Our wonderful hosts for the evening were Alistair and Gilyanne Robertson, “proprietors” of Taylor Fladgate & Yeatman, members of the family who have owned Taylor’s for over 300 years.

 

The Yeatman Hotel (adjacent to Taylor’s lodges) overlooks Ponte Dom Luis I (Dom Luis I Bridge) which spans the Douro River, connecting Porto (the top side of the photograph) with Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal

The Yeatman Hotel (adjacent to Taylor’s lodges) overlooks Ponte Dom Luis I (Dom Luis I Bridge) which spans the Douro River, connecting Porto (the top side of the photograph) with Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal

 

“The extraordinary panorama of the River Douro and the historic center of Porto guarantee the most spectacular scenery, combined with a Michelin star award in the 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 Guides.  Aiming to deliver Porto’s most inspiring dining experience, The Yeatman’s Restaurant led by Chef Ricardo Costa, offers imaginative cuisine in which the traditional flavours of Portugal are interpreted and presented with contemporary flair.  It showcases Portugal’s huge range of fish and other fresh produce as well as its diversity of regional specialties.” – www.the-yeatman-hotel.com

 

Our appetizer at our Yeatman Hotel private dinner was "Cuttlefish with Ink" -- cuttlefish cannelloni and roe of fried cuttlefish, Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal

Our appetizer at our Yeatman Hotel private dinner was “Cuttlefish with Ink” — cuttlefish cannelloni and roe of fried cuttlefish, Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal

 

The wine accompanying the appetizer course was Quinta do Soalheiro Alvarinho Primeiras Vinhas 2014, Minho, a light white wine made from Albarino grapes grown in Portugal.

 

Our fish course at our Yeatman Hotel private dinner was "Povoa Hake" -- roasted hake with octupus and salicornia sauce, Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal

Our fish course at our Yeatman Hotel private dinner was “Povoa Hake” — roasted hake with octopus and salicornia sauce, Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal

 

The wine accompanying the fish course was Quinta do Monte D’Oiro Madrigal 2012, Lisboa, an excellent white wine that paired well with the seafood.

 

Our main course at our Yeatman Hotel private dinner was "'Marinoha' Beef" -- grilled fillet of beef, potato cream, morel mushrooms and meat jus, Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal

Our main course at our Yeatman Hotel private dinner was “‘Marinoha’ Beef” — grilled fillet of beef, potato cream, morel mushrooms and meat jus, Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal

 

The wine accompanying the main course course was Quinta do Passadouro Touriga Franca 2013, a hearty red made from one of Portugal’s primary red grape varietals (Touriga Franca).

 

Alistair Robertson, non-executive Chairman of Taylor Fladgate & Yeatman, sets up a 1994 Taylor’s Vintage Port for “opening” at The Yeatman Restaurant, Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal

Alistair Robertson, non-executive Chairman of Taylor Fladgate & Yeatman, sets up a 1994 Taylor’s Vintage Port for “opening” at The Yeatman Restaurant, Vila Nova de Gaia, PortugalTEXT –

 

Before the desert course, our host, Alistair Robertson, brought out several bottles of 1974 Taylor’s Vintage Port.  This is an exceptional wine, rated 100 out of 100 points by both Robert Parker in The Wine Advocate and by the Wine Spectator magazine.

In order that the cork be removed intact, rather than a traditional wine bottle opener, Taylor’s has developed a special technique to remove the cork AND the top several inches of the glass of the bottle.  Somewhat akin to “sabering” a Champagne bottle to remove the top of the bottle, this technique removes the glass by heating a ring that goes around the neck to heat the glass intensely, followed by  the pouring of ice water around the heated area to “crack” the glass.  With a towel, it can then be carefully removed.  When done correctly, about ¼” of the cork is still IN the bottle below the “cut line” and then the entire cork is removed still inside the top piece of the glass bottle.  The following pictures illustrate the technique.

 

The Yeatman Restaurant Sommelier, Elisabete, removes the “iron” from the heating flame and prepares to “score” with heat the neck of the port bottle, Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal

The Yeatman Restaurant Sommelier, Elisabete, removes the “iron” from the heating flame and prepares to “score” with heat the neck of the port bottle, Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal

 

A closeup of the hot “iron” used to “score” with heat the neck of the port bottle, Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal

A closeup of the hot “iron” used to “score” with heat the neck of the port bottle, Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal

 

Successfully opened with the cork intact and no bits of cork in the bottle, the Taylor's 1994 Vintage Port was delicious and clearly still very young;  Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal

Successfully opened with the cork intact and no bits of cork in the bottle, the Taylor’s 1994 Vintage Port was delicious and clearly still very young; Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal

 

Noted for their elegance and poise as well as for their restrained power and longevity, Taylor’s Vintage Ports are blended from the finest wines of the firm’s three own quintas or estates.  The Taylor’s 1994 Vintage Port was truly remarkable, and clearly still very young.  It was a superb ending to a wonderful afternoon and evening at the Taylor’s estate.  And we conclude with a toast to the Robertsons to thank them for their warm hospitality.

 

Alistair and Gilyanne Robertson, “proprietors” of Taylor Fladgate & Yeatman, enjoying a delicious 1994 Taylor’s vintage port with our small group with dessert at The Yeatman Restaurant, Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal

Alistair and Gilyanne Robertson, “proprietors” of Taylor Fladgate & Yeatman, enjoying a delicious 1994 Taylor’s vintage port with our small group with dessert at The Yeatman Restaurant, Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal

 

Taylor Fladgate, Porto (Oporto), Portugal

Taylor’s, an archetypal Port house, was established over three centuries ago in 1692 and is one of the oldest of the founding Port houses, Porto (Oporto), Portugal

Taylor’s, an archetypal Port house, was established over three centuries ago in 1692 and is one of the oldest of the founding Port houses, Porto (Oporto), Portugal

 

“For many, Taylor’s is the archetypal Port house and its wines the quintessential Ports. Established over three centuries ago in 1692, Taylor’s is one of the oldest of the founding Port houses.  It is dedicated entirely to the production of Port wine and in particular to its finest styles.  Above all, Taylor’s is regarded as the benchmark for Vintage Port. Noted for their elegance and poise as well as for their restrained power and longevity, Taylor’s Vintage Ports are blended from the finest wines of the firm’s own quintas or estates, Vargellas, Terra Feita and Junco.  These three iconic properties, each occupying a distinct geographic location and with their own unique character, are the cornerstone of the company’s success and the main source of its unique and inimitable house style.” – http://www.Taylor.pt

 

Taylor’s holds one of the largest reserves of rare cask aged wines from which its distinguished aged tawny Ports are drawn, Porto (Oporto), Portugal

Taylor’s holds one of the largest reserves of rare cask aged wines from which its distinguished aged tawny Ports are drawn, Porto (Oporto), Portugal

 

“Port is a fortified wine.  Fortified wines are made by adding a proportion of grape spirit, or brandy, to the wine at some point during the production process.  Port is arguably the greatest of all fortified wines and its paramount expression, Vintage Port, ranks alongside the finest produce of Bordeaux or Burgundy as one of the great iconic wines of the world.  In the case of Port, the addition of the brandy takes place before the wine has finished fermenting.  This means that the wine retains some of the natural sweetness of the grape, making it rich, round and smooth on the palate.

“One of the fascinating aspects of Port wine is its variety of different styles, each with its own characteristic flavours, from the intense berry fruit flavours of a Reserve or a Late Bottled Vintage to the rich mellowness of an Aged Tawny or the sublime complexity of a Vintage Port.  More than any other wine, Port offers endless opportunities for pairing with food.

“Traditionally it is served towards the end of the meal with cheese, as a dessert wine or as an after dinner drink although some styles, like white Port, can also be enjoyed as an aperitif.  Many creative chefs also enjoy pairing Port wine with main dishes and it is one of the best wines to enjoy with chocolate or a fine cigar.  Port is regarded as one of the most civilised and sociable of wines which will help to make any occasion special, whether a quiet evening by the fireside, an informal gathering of friends or a sophisticated formal meal.

“Port wine is produced in the mountainous eastern reaches of the Douro Valley in northern Portugal, one of the world’s oldest and most beautiful vineyard areas where wine has been made for at least two thousand years.  In 1756 the Port wine vineyards of the Douro became the first vineyard area in the world to be legally demarcated.  Like other great classic wines, Port owes its distinctive character to a unique association of climate, soil, grape variety and wine making tradition.  The unique terroir of the Douro Valley and its remarkable wines cannot be replicated elsewhere.” – http://www.Taylor.pt

 

Taylor’s is also known as the originator of Late Bottled Vintage [Port], a style which the firm pioneered and of which it remains the leading producer, Porto (Oporto), Portugal

Taylor’s is also known as the originator of Late Bottled Vintage [Port], a style which the firm pioneered and of which it remains the leading producer, Porto (Oporto), Portugal

“Taylor’s is respected as a producer of wood aged ports and holds one of the largest reserves of rare cask aged wines from which its distinguished aged tawny Ports are drawn.  The house is also known as the originator of Late Bottled Vintage [Port], a style which the firm pioneered and of which it remains the leading producer.  Above all, Taylor’s is an independent company in which some family members play a leading role in all areas of the firm’s activity.  The firm’s long and unbroken family tradition has provided continuity and clarity of purpose, essential attributes of any great wine house.  It has also allowed the skills and knowledge required to produce the finest ports to be constantly refined and added to in the light of experience as they are passed down from one generation to the next.  Based in Oporto and the Douro Valley the company is closely involved in all stages of the production of its Ports, from the planting of the vineyard and the cultivation of the grapes to the making, ageing, blending and bottling of the wines.” – http://www.Taylor.pt

 

Taylor’s lodges (warehouses for aging port) and tasting room overlook Ponte Dom Luis I (Dom Luis I Bridge) which spans the Douro River, connecting Porto (top side in photograph) with Vila Nova de Gaia; Porto (Oporto), Portugal

Taylor’s lodges (warehouses for aging port) and tasting room overlook Ponte Dom Luis I (Dom Luis I Bridge) which spans the Douro River, connecting Porto (left side in photograph) with Vila Nova de Gaia; Porto (Oporto), Portugal

 

After our tour of the lodge’s aging cellars, we had an extensive tasting of Taylor’s different types of Port, starting with a White Port and ending with a rare, 50-year-old 1965 Tawny Port;  Porto (Oporto), Portugal

After our tour of the lodge’s aging cellars, we had an extensive tasting of Taylor’s different types of Port, starting with a White Port and ending with a rare, 50-year-old 1965 Tawny Port; Porto (Oporto), Portugal

 

Alistair Robertson [see our next blog post for our photograph of him] was born in Oporto into a family with close connections with the Port wine trade.  As Managing Director of Taylor Fladgate & Yeatman, he came up with an idea to expand the appeal of Port wine to drinkers around the world – without the need for consumers to purchase and then age a Vintage Port for best drinking.  “Alistair’s idea was to produce a Port wine of a single year that had been fined and filtered so it could be drunk by the glass, without decanting, as soon as it was bottled.  This was achieved by allowing the wine to remain longer in the wood than a Vintage Port, in other words by ‘late bottling’.  Taylor’s Late Bottled Vintage was launched in 1970 with the 1965 vintage.  Although initially met with a measure of scepticism by some members of the Port wine trade, LBV was a resounding success and gradually other Port houses launched their own versions.

“The firm’s extensive reserves of fine cask aged tawnies, built up over the years, also came into their own.  In 1973 the Instituto do Vinho do Porto (IVP), the trade’s governing body, created new rules allowing producers to state the age on the labels of old tawny Ports.  Taylor’s was the first major house to take advantage of this, launching a full range of 10, 20, 30 and 40-Year-Old Tawnies which it continues to offer to this day.” – http://www.Taylor.pt

 

Taylor’s logo on one of the five glasses we each received in our tasting, Porto (Oporto), Portugal

Taylor’s logo on one of the five glasses we each received in our tasting, Porto (Oporto), Portugal

 

Our absolute favorite was the rare, 50-year-old 1965 Tawny Port, Porto (Oporto), Portugal

Our absolute favorite was the rare, 50-year-old 1965 Tawny Port, Porto (Oporto), Portugal

 

Porto (Oporto) — part 2, Portugal

Mercado do Bolhao (Bolhao (central) Market) in the Baixa neighborhood, Porto (Oporto), Portugal

Mercado do Bolhao (Bolhao (central) Market) in the Baixa neighborhood, Porto (Oporto), Portugal

 

Porto (Oporto) is a coastal city in northwest Portugal, the second largest city in the country, known for its stately bridges and Port wine production.  In the medieval Ribeira (riverside) district, narrow cobbled streets wind past merchants’ houses and cafes.  Catedral Sé do Porto (Oporto Cathedral), the fortress-like, Romanesque hilltop cathedral is generally recognized as the site of Infante Dom Henrique of Portugal, Duke of Viseu (Prince Henry the Navigator)’s baptism and the nuptials of King John I and English Princess Philippa of Lancaster in the 14th century.

 

Livraria Lello (Lello Bookstore) since 1906 the most beautiful bookshop in the world, Porto (Oporto), Portugal

Livraria Lello (Lello Bookstore) since 1906 the most beautiful bookshop in the world, Porto (Oporto), Portugal

 

Since 1906 Lello has housed men of letters and of arts, has been the inspiration for acclaimed authors, the place for social gatherings, performances and a serene library for many of Invicta’s avid readers.  “Rumor has it J. K. Rowling was inspired by Livraria Lello while writing Harry Potter (and teaching English) in Portugal. It doesn’t take long to appreciate Lello’s potential as muse: a stained glass atrium puts the spotlight on the bookshop’s deep red staircase, spectacular enough to stop you in your tracks” – Time Magazine

 

Torre dos Clerigos (Clerigos Church Bell Tower) -- the iconic landmark of the city, Porto (Oporto), Portugal

Torre dos Clerigos (Clerigos Church Bell Tower) — the iconic landmark of the city, Porto (Oporto), Portugal

 

Estacao Sao Bento (Sao Bento Train Station) with 20,000 ceramic tiles making it one of the most beautiful stations in the world, Porto (Oporto), Portugal

Estacao Sao Bento (Sao Bento Train Station) with 20,000 ceramic tiles making it one of the most beautiful stations in the world, Porto (Oporto), Portugal

 

Typical older residential buildings in the Barredo district, Porto (Oporto), Portugal

Typical older residential buildings in the Barredo district, Porto (Oporto), Portugal

 

Catedral Se do Porto (Oporto Cathedral), Porto (Oporto), Portugal

Catedral Se do Porto (Oporto Cathedral), Porto (Oporto), Portugal

 

Tiled roofs and distant churches viewed from the plaza of Catedral Se do Porto, Porto (Oporto), Portugal

Tiled roofs and distant churches viewed from the plaza of Catedral Se do Porto, Porto (Oporto), Portugal

 

Older residences in the Ribeira District overlooking the Douro River, Porto (Oporto), Portugal

Older residences in the Ribeira District overlooking the Douro River, Porto (Oporto), Portugal

 

Port aging lodges (warehouses) in Vila Nova de Gaia, viewed from Porto's Ribeira District, Porto (Oporto), Portugal

Port aging lodges (warehouses) in Vila Nova de Gaia, viewed from Porto’s Ribeira District, Porto (Oporto), Portugal

 

Porto (Oporto), Portugal

Ponte Dom Luis I (Dom Luis I Bridge) spans the Douro River, connecting Porto (left side in photograph) with Vila Nova de Gaia; Porto (Oporto), Portugal

Ponte Dom Luis I (Dom Luis I Bridge) spans the Douro River, connecting Porto (left side in photograph) with Vila Nova de Gaia; Porto (Oporto), Portugal

 

As Portugal’s second largest city, Porto (Oporto in English) is the birthplace of the county’s name and home to acclaimed Vinho do Porto – port wine.  Still aged in the lodges (long, narrow warehouses) of the city of Vila Nova de Gaia, just across the Douro River, it can be tasted there or at the wineries in the Douro River Valley (about a 2-hour drive uphill, to the east) of the numerous producers of port wine (many of whom also produce still wines – both red and white wines).  Porto has wound its narrow streets up the hillsides since the fifth century, imbuing the city center with charm.

Ponte Dom Luis I (Dom Luis I Bridge) is an iconic, two-tier metal arch bridge that spans the Douro River, connecting Porto (Oporto) with Vila Nova de Gaia.  Designed by Teofilo Seyrig, the bridge (spanning 1,264 feet / 385 meters) opened in 1886 and was regarded at the time as having the world’s longest iron arch.  Currently the city’s metro trains run along the bridge’s upper level and cars use the lower level, which also has narrow pedestrian walkways.

 

Catedral Sé do Porto (Oporto Cathedral) is generally recognized as the site of Prince Henry the Navigator’s baptism, Porto (Oporto), Portugal

Catedral Sé do Porto (Oporto Cathedral) is generally recognized as the site of Prince Henry the Navigator’s baptism, Porto (Oporto), Portugal

 

Catedral Sé do Porto (Oporto Cathedral), the fortress-like, Romanesque hilltop cathedral is generally recognized as the site of Infante Dom Henrique of Portugal, Duke of Viseu (Prince Henry the Navigator)’s baptism and the nuptials of King John I and English Princess Philippa of Lancaster in the 14th century.  “The current Cathedral of Porto underwent construction around 1110 under the patronage of Bishop Hugo and was completed in the 13th century, but there is evidence that the city has been a bishopric seat since the Suevi domination in the 5th-6th centuries.  The cathedral is flanked by two square towers, each supported with two buttresses and crowned with a cupola.  The façade lacks decoration and is rather architecturally heterogeneous.  It shows a Baroque porch and a beautiful Romanesque rose window under a crenellated arch, giving the impression of a fortified church.” – Wikipedia

 

The former central city market is now a concert venue, Porto (Oporto), Portugal

The former central city market is now a concert venue, Porto (Oporto), Portugal

 

Statue of native son Infante Dom Henrique of Portugal, Duke of Viseu (Prince Henry the Navigator), Porto (Oporto), Portugal

Statue of native son Infante Dom Henrique of Portugal, Duke of Viseu (Prince Henry the Navigator), Porto (Oporto), Portugal

 

Infante Dom Henrique of Portugal, Duke of Viseu (Prince Henry the Navigator) was an important figure in 15th-century Portuguese politics and in the early days of the Portuguese Empire.  Through his administrative direction, he is regarded as the main initiator of what would be known as the Age of Discoveries.  [See our recent previous post on Lisboa (Lisbon) Landmarks, featuring the statue of Henry the Navigator at the front of Padrão dos Descobrimentos (Monument to the Discoveries).]

 

Igreja de São Nicolau (Church of St. Nicholas) with the facade covered in historic blue Portuguese ceramic tiles, Porto (Oporto), Portugal

Igreja de São Nicolau (Church of St. Nicholas) with the facade covered in historic blue Portuguese ceramic tiles, Porto (Oporto), Portugal

 

Nightime view of Igreja dos Congregados and Estação de São Bento (São Bento Train Station), Porto (Oporto), Portugal

Nighttime view of Igreja dos Congregados and Estação de São Bento (São Bento Train Station), Porto (Oporto), Portugal

 

 

Palácio Nacional da Pena (Pena Palace), Sintra, Portugal

The beautiful Palácio Nacional da Pena (Pena Palace) is the standout monument of Sintra with an exterior painted in vivid colours, decorative towers and battlements and statues of mythological creatures, (near Lisboa-Lisbon), Portugal

The beautiful Palácio Nacional da Pena (Pena Palace) is the standout monument of Sintra with an exterior painted in vivid colors, decorative towers and battlements and statues of mythological creatures, (near Lisboa-Lisbon), Portugal

 

The beautiful Palácio Nacional da Pena (Pena Palace) is the standout monument of Sintra. This 19th century palace was designed by King Fernando II who was passionate about the arts and wished his royal retreat to reflect the staging of an opera.  The exterior is painted vivid colors, with decorative towers and battlements and statues of mythological creatures.  The interior of the palace is as equally fascinating, as it has been restored to how it was left in 1910 when the Portuguese nobility fled from Portugal with the fall of the monarchy.  Queen Amelia spent her last night in Portugal in the Pena Palace before leaving in exile.

On a clear day Palácio Nacional da Pena (Pena Palace) can be easily seen from Lisbon and much of its Metropolitan area.  It is a national monument and constitutes one of the major expressions of 19th-century Romanticism in the world.  The palace is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal.  It is also used for state occasions by the President of the Portuguese Republic and other government officials.

 

The historic monastery of the Hieronymite monks of Our Lady of Pena makes up the Palácio Velho (Old Palace), Sintra (near Lisboa-Lisbon), Portugal

The historic monastery of the Hieronymite monks of Our Lady of Pena makes up the Palácio Velho (Old Palace), Sintra (near Lisboa-Lisbon), Portugal

 

In 1838 King Fernando II acquired the historic monastery of the Hieronymite monks of Our Lady of Pena, which had been constructed on the summit of the Serra of Sintra in 1511 by King Manuel I, but had been abandoned following the state’s extinction of the Religious Orders in 1834.  The monastery consisted of a cloister with its adjoining rooms, together with the chapel, sacristy and bell-tower, and also a guesthouse.  These buildings together make up what is today the northern nucleus of the Palácio Nacional da Pena (Pena Palace) or Palácio Velho (Old Palace).

 

The Palácio Nacional da Pena (Pena Palace) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal, Sintra (near Lisboa-Lisbon), Portugal

The Palácio Nacional da Pena (Pena Palace) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal, Sintra (near Lisboa-Lisbon), Portugal

 

King Fernando II began a program of repairs to the ancient monastery which, judging by the contemporary reports, was in a poor state of repair at that time.  He remodeled the whole of the upper floor, keeping intact the vaulted ceiling but converting the 14 monks’ cells into rooms with more generous dimensions.  About 1843 the King decided to enlarge the Palace by constructing a new wing (Palácio Novo or “New Palace”) with considerably more spacious rooms, an example of which is the Saláo Nobre (Great Hall), and finishing off the construction with a circular turret next to the kitchen block.  The construction work was directed by Baron von Eschwege.  The restoration work which took place in 1994 involved restoring the exterior of the Palace in its original colors: red for the ancient monastery and ochre for the New Palace.

 

King Ferdinand II’s designs for The Palácio Nacional da Pena (Pena Palace) predate Disneyland and Star Wars by more than a century, Sintra (near Lisboa-Lisbon), Portugal

King Ferdinand II’s designs for The Palácio Nacional da Pena (Pena Palace) predate Disneyland and Star Wars by more than a century, Sintra (near Lisboa-Lisbon), Portugal

 

King Ferdinand II also incorporated a lot of Moorish architecture and design elements into The Palácio Nacional da Pena (Pena Palace) predate Disneyland and Star Wars by more than a century, Sintra (near Lisboa-Lisbon), Portugal

King Ferdinand II also incorporated a lot of Moorish architecture and design elements into The Palácio Nacional da Pena (Pena Palace) that predate Disneyland and Star Wars by more than a century, Sintra (near Lisboa-Lisbon), Portugal

 

In transforming a historic monastery into a residence more akin in style to a castle, King Fernando was strongly influenced by German Romanticism, and, in fact, probably drew his inspiration from two castles on the Rhine, Stolzenfels and Rheinstein, as well as the residence of Babelsberg in Potsdam.  The work on the Palácio Nacional da Pena (Pena Palace) was completed by the mid-1860s, although various exercises in interior decoration were subsequently carried out.

 

The Atlantic Ocean (on the horizon) can be seen from the top of Palácio Nacional da Pena (Pena Palace), Sintra (near Lisboa-Lisbon), Portugal

The Atlantic Ocean (on the horizon) can be seen from the top of Palácio Nacional da Pena (Pena Palace), Sintra (near Lisboa-Lisbon), Portugal

 

King Fernando likewise ordered the planting and landscaping of the Park of Pena, in the areas surrounding the Palace, in the manner of the romantic gardens, replete with winding pathways, pavilions, and stone benches at intervals along the various walks, as well as trees and other plants from many parts of the world, taking advantage of the humid climate of the Serra de Sintra mountains.

 

The town of Sintra and the Moorish Castle (on the hill) can be seen from the top of Palácio Nacional da Pena (Pena Palace), Sintra (near Lisboa-Lisbon), Portugal

The town of Sintra and the Moorish Castle (on the hill) can be seen from the top of Palácio Nacional da Pena (Pena Palace), Sintra (near Lisboa-Lisbon), Portugal

 

Three-dimensional tiles decorate the exterior façade of portions of Palácio Nacional da Pena (Pena Palace), Sintra (near Lisboa-Lisbon), Portugal

Three-dimensional tiles decorate the exterior façade of portions of Palácio Nacional da Pena (Pena Palace), Sintra (near Lisboa-Lisbon), Portugal

 

A sinister gargoyle guards one of the upper level entrances to the Palácio Velho (Old Palace) at Palácio Nacional da Pena (Pena Palace), Sintra (near Lisboa-Lisbon), Portugal

A sinister gargoyle guards one of the upper level entrances to the Palácio Velho (Old Palace) at Palácio Nacional da Pena (Pena Palace), Sintra (near Lisboa-Lisbon), Portugal

 

Old, hand-crafted original design tiles decorate the exterior façade of portions of Palácio Nacional da Pena (Pena Palace), Sintra (near Lisboa-Lisbon), Portugal

Old, hand-crafted original design tiles decorate the exterior façade of portions of Palácio Nacional da Pena (Pena Palace), Sintra (near Lisboa-Lisbon), Portugal

 

 

The former Refectory of the Hieronymite monks was converted by King Ferdinand II into the private Dining Room of the Royal Family at Palácio Nacional da Pena (Pena Palace), Sintra (near Lisboa-Lisbon), Portugal

The former Refectory of the Hieronymite monks was converted by King Ferdinand II into the private Dining Room of the Royal Family at Palácio Nacional da Pena (Pena Palace), Sintra (near Lisboa-Lisbon), Portugal

 

The former Refectory of the Hieronymite monks was converted by King Ferdinand II into the private Dining Room of the Royal Family.   The room is covered in Manueline rib vaulted arches (16th century) and lined with tiles by Fabrica Roseira (19th century).   The oak furniture was commissioned by King Ferdinand II from Casa Barbosa e Costa in 1866.

 

Sintra, Portugal

Sintra is a picturesque Portuguese town set amidst the pine-covered foothills of the Serra de Sintra Mountains, near Lisbon, lined with pretty cobbled streets and traditional buildings filled with shops, cafes and restaurants

Sintra is a picturesque Portuguese town set amidst the pine-covered foothills of the Serra de Sintra Mountains, near Lisbon, lined with pretty cobbled streets and traditional buildings filled with shops, cafes and restaurants

 

Sintra is a picturesque Portuguese town that is set amidst the pine-covered foothills of Portugal’s Serra de Sintra Mountains, near the capital of Lisbon.  This slightly cooler climate enticed the nobility and elite of Portugal, who constructed exquisite palaces, extravagant residences and decorative gardens.  The variety of fascinating historic buildings and beautiful scenery has established Sintra as the most popular day trip from Lisbon.

 

The Moorish- and Manueline-style Sintra National Palace is distinguished by its dramatic twin chimneys and elaborate tilework, Sintra (near Lisboa-Lisbon), Portugal

The Moorish- and Manueline-style Sintra National Palace is distinguished by its dramatic twin chimneys and elaborate tilework, Sintra (near Lisboa-Lisbon), Portugal

 

Contained within Sintra are two national palaces, an ancient ruined castle, multiple grand houses and a series of challenging hiking trails.  The town itself is lined with pretty cobbled streets and traditional buildings filled with shops, cafes and restaurants, all with stunning vistas over the plains of central Portugal.

The Moorish- and Manueline-style Sintra National Palace is distinguished by its dramatic twin chimneys and elaborate tilework. The hilltop 19th-century Pena National Palace is known for its whimsical design and sweeping views.

 

The best, delicious Sintra-style custard tarts (pastel de nata) in town, according to our guide who took us to his favorite bakery in Sintra (near Lisboa-Lisbon), Portugal

The best, delicious Sintra-style custard tarts (pastel de nata) in town, according to our guide who took us to his favorite bakery in Sintra (near Lisboa-Lisbon), Portugal

 

The beautiful Pena Palace is the standout monument of Sintra with an exterior painted in vivid colours, with decorative towers and battlements and statues of mythological creatures, Sintra (near Lisboa-Lisbon), Portugal

The beautiful Pena Palace is the standout monument of Sintra with an exterior painted in vivid colors, with decorative towers and battlements and statues of mythological creatures, Sintra (near Lisboa-Lisbon), Portugal

 

The beautiful Pena Palace is the standout monument of Sintra.  This 19th century palace was designed by a king who was passionate about the arts and wished his royal retreat to reflect that of an opera.  The exterior is painted vivid colours, with decorative towers and battlements and statues of mythological creatures.  The interior of the palace is as equally fascinating, as it has been restored to how it was left in 1910 when the Portuguese nobility fled from Portugal with the fall of the monarchy.  Queen Amelia spent her last night in Portugal in the Pena Palace before leaving in exile. [More photographs and retails on the Pena Palace will be in our next blog post.]

 

Town Hall, Sintra (near Lisboa-Lisbon), Portugal

Town Hall, Sintra (near Lisboa-Lisbon), Portugal

 

The westernmost point of the European continent was considered in antiquity to be the place where "the land ends and the sea begins", panorama from Sintra-Cascais Natural Park (near Lisboa-Lisbon), Portugal

The westernmost point of the European continent was considered in antiquity to be the place where “the land ends and the sea begins”, panorama from Sintra-Cascais Natural Park (near Lisboa-Lisbon), Portugal

 

The westernmost point of the European continent was considered in antiquity to be the place where “the land ends and the sea begins” – the Cabo da Roca is one of the most spectacular locations in the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park.  Its vertical cliffs rise up around 100 m above sea level, offering spectacular landscapes.  The Sintra-Cascais Natural Park is one of the 13 Natural Parks of Portugal.  While only established in 1994 as a Natural Park by the Portuguese Government, it has been protected since 1981.

 

View of Cascais (on the right) and Estoril from Sintra-Cascais Natural Park (near Lisboa-Lisbon), Portugal

View of Cascais (on the right) and Estoril from Sintra-Cascais Natural Park (near Lisboa-Lisbon), Portugal