2022: Douro Cruise and Wine harvesting & Tasting – 9th to 11th September
What a lovely group of people we were for this Eurojumelages event! Participants came from 5 different countries:
7 from Germany, 3 from Malta, 1 from Poland, 8 from Portugal and 5 from France. The atmosphere was really one of friendship and everybody had the chance to get to know all
Day 1: Arrival - 9th September
The organizers provided transportation from the airport to Inatel Hotel in Santa Maria de Feira. Transport consisted of 3 CDCR dos CTT people carriers which were available for our sole use. Since arrival times were different, the organizers had prepared a tourism programme in Porto for those persons that arrived earlier than others. By the time that everyone arrived at the hotel it was nearly 7.00pm. Before dinner, Rui Cabaco welcomed all participants in the hotel bar and explained the programme. The hotel was basic but comfortable and the dinner consisted of a big variety of antipastos, followed by a good selection of meat and fish. Dessert and coffee was also served. As is the tradition, wine flowed freely during the dinner and was always offered by the organizers.
Day 2 – River Cruise and tour of Vila Real
We woke up early as the group had to board the river cruise at 0800. It was a short drive to the banks of the Douro River in Vila Nova de Gaia. By the time we boarded and found our reserved places at table, everyone was looking forward to breakfast. The ship left a few minutes after we boarded and we could admire the magnificent buildings and monuments of Porto, including some which are World Heritage sites. Soon after breakfast was served and it was wonderful to sit down, eat and drink and look at the scenery floating past. The weather could not have been better: a glorious sunny day with blue skies that contrasted beautifully with the greenery of the wine slopes also reflected on the surface of the river. We could wander around on the deck and talk, take pictures, discover each other and make new friends. During the course of the morning the ship had to enter 2 “locks” which raised us to the next level of the river.. It was an interesting experience. Lunch consisted of a 3 course meal and was once again served with wine and coffee. By the time the lunch was over we were in rather higher spirits and were really enjoying each others’ company. In the afternoon the ship was cruising along some of the most spectacular vineyards of the Douro Valley and we could admire the rows upon rows of vines which descended from the hills right down to the riverbanks. It was truly memorable!!
The ship berthed in Piodao at about 1530. After disembarking with our bags, we got on our coach which was punctually waiting to take us to Vila Real, at the Hotel Mira Corgo. This turned out to be a luxurious hotel with a lovely view over the Corgo river. After checking in and relaxing a little, the organizers had prepared a short tour of the city. This was quite interesting and apart from admiring some of the historical buildings and monuments, we also visited the local cemetery where despite the somber surroundings one could still appreciate the works of art in marble and stone. The walk ended in the centre of Vila Real where most of the participants sat down in bars and cafes for a drink.
In the evening dinner was served in the hotel’s main restaurant. This was another event that entirely satisfied our palates: the food was of different varieties and quite plentiful. Once again, we had the opportunity to drink excellent Portuguese wines. After dinner we were at liberty to take a walk and experience the town of Vila Real in a totally different environment: silent and shadowy. The little narrow streets of the old part of the town were full of atmosphere and one could almost feel being transported to a different era.
We all slept soundly that night! It had been a day full of different experiences, topped off with delicious food and wines.
Day 3 : Wine harvesting and tasting
After breakfast we once again boarded our coach which transported us to the middle of the Douro Wine-growing region. We arrived at the Quinta d’Avessada where we were immediately ushered to a beautiful courtyard and offered a tasting of 3 different wines. Of course, we were invited to re-fill our glass as many times as we wished, but we were also warned that we were going to have to work for our lunch! After the wine sampling each person was given a bucket and a pair of secateurs. We all walked in line to the vineyards, accompanied by merry music from an accordion-player. We were shown how to cut the grapes without cutting off a finger! The grapes of the Muscatel variety were in different shades ranging from straw-yellow to red – they were all delicious and sweet! I think that I probably ate as many as I harvested! We had to fill our bucket and then empty the grapes into a bigger container. This work continued for some time and we were enjoying ourselves tremendously.
After the harvesting experience, we were taken to a big barn where the grape-crushing took place. Participants were invited to take off their shoes and socks and after washing their feet (important!!!!) they could experience the crushing of the grapes, dancing in lines and linking their arms, once again to the accompaniment of the accordion. Again, this was a novel experience to many of us and thoroughly enjoyable! Afterwards, we were invited to pass through to another huge barn where the fermentation process of the grapes is carried out inside enormous barrels. We were given an expert explanation of the fermentation process up to when the wine becomes drinkable and is bottled. Afterwards, we were invited to sample excellent Muscatel wine. Lunch was served on site in the Quinta d’Avessada. Apart from the usual hors d’ouvres, we were offered traditional dishes from the region.
After lunch we once again boarded our coach and after a journey of about 1.5 hours, we arrived back in Porto where we transferred to the CDCR mini-vans and went to our hotel in Porto.
The programme for the evening consisted of a drive along the littoral of Porto, at the river’s mouth (the Foz). We were able to see many typical houses which were previously inhabited by fishermen. At the end of the trip we were taken to the CDCR Club in Porto (CDCR has 16 delegations around Portugal and they all have their club). The club was quite spacious and there was a very interesting section that houses the trophies and memorabilia of several decades. There were also rooms where the members of CDCR can play indoor games and also an office and a conference room. The billiards and table-tennis tables were however covered with such a vast number of dishes containing traditional Portuguese delicacies which included meat, fish, shellfish, prawns, shrimp, suckling pork etc. We were all amazed at the feast that our Portuguese friends had prepared for us. At the end a big cake with the Eurojumelages emblem was brought in. Our president, Peter Backes made a hort speech where he thanked the organizers on behalf of all of us and also on behalf of Eurojumelages. Peter also presented some gifts to the organizers as a token of friendship and appreciation. Rui Cabaco thanked the participants for choosing to experience a little bit of Portugal and the traditional Portuguese hospitality. Rui said that for CDCR, membership in Eurojumelages is very important as it gives the opportunity for many thousands of members of CDCR to have new experiences with friends in Portugal and in many different countries of Europe.
Day 4: Departure
The organizers had prepared transport for all participants either to the airport or, in the case of persons staying longer in Porto, to their new hotel. Everyone was assigned a time of departure and the organization was perfect. So, after breakfast we started to say our goodbyes! At this point the weather changed and we had our first experience of light rain during our event.br>Final comments
It was evident that CDCR dos CTT have the infrastructure and the experience to organize events. Nothing was too much for them and they were very proud to show their traditions and culture. Portugal is a small country in comparison to other European countries, but the people have a big and generous heart.