Picture Porto, Portugal
How do we judge a trip? How do we remember a journey? I choose to believe the overall success of any vacation or business travel has a direct relationship with the authenticity of a location and its people. This I learned in Portugal. Growing up with no close friends of Portuguese nationality or any knowledge of this European gem, I never had the reason or thought of visiting. But surprises usually make the best gifts.
Porto, known as Oporto in English, is Portugal’s second largest city and definitely one of Europe’ best-kept secrets. Founded by the Romans at the mouth of the river Douro, it’s a city ripe with old-world charm and respectful of its rich seafaring past.
Port Wine, ultimately the reason why I was there – to participate in the autumn grape harvest – also plays a significant part in Portugal’s global reputation. Names of Port companies spelled out, Hollywood-like, in huge white letters atop the roofs of port lodges along the Douro, symbolize this city’s identity.
A slow, winding train journey up the ‘river of gold’ to winemaking country, touring many of the Quintas and in every instance being welcomed as an extended family member further add to my belief that the bucolic charm of Portugal is the reason for its quiet success. Long live the rustic, easy lifestyle and hope that it remains as so for as long as it can.
Roasted chicken and chips served on a metal plate, eaten standing up at the bar surrounded by hungry truck drivers and city labourers and washed down with unlabelled house red wine stands out as the most memorable experience while there. To this day, that simple lunch continually ranks as one of the best meals I’ve ever eaten.
Only upon beginning the trek back home, when boarding the plane and reflecting back on the past 10 days does the realization that the people I met, the experiences I had, and the quality of life one leads in Portugal made my time there seem much more like a holiday than a business trip.
Ipanema Park Hotel, Rua de Serralves, 124, Porto
Taylor Fladgate & Yeatman, Rua do Choupelo, 250, Villa Nova de Gaia
Vargellas Estate (Taylor Fladgate)
Dom Tonho Restaurant , Cais da Ribeira, 13
22 200 4307
Cais de Gaia (Avenida Diogo Leite)
Guest Travel Editor, Kevin Brauch
In his former years as a bartender, Kevin Brauch spent days and nights in Toronto’s busiest restaurants and bars making a name for himself. Today, he’s better known for having one of the best jobs imaginable: travelling the planet drinking the world’s finest spirits and wines while indulging in delectable international cuisine as host of The Thirsty Traveler, a series that airs in over 75 countries. The often-nominated Gemini award-winning presenter also hosts MegaWorld, CheF*OFF! and Iron Chef America.