29th September – 4th October 2021
Following very successful tours to Lisbon, where the overall sentiment was of delighted surprise, Porto and the Douro Valley comes as an equal yet different pleasure. Porto itself is a busy place, where Portuguese trade has forged ahead. One only needs to think of Port itself. Set a little inside the Douro estuary, its vertiginous streets and wonderful architecture make this a city of mediaeval, renaissance, baroque, neoclassical and eclectic architecture. Both contained and various, Porto is simply beautiful.
By contrast the Douro valley is magnificent to behold. Again, steep valley walls cut through granite over millennia, terraced and clipped into shape since before the Romans, this is a landscape at which to wonder. On our last night we will go north to Guimaraes, a wonderful mediaeval city and to Braga which too is full of history.
This is a tour of great variety; elaborate baroque, glorious sculpture, wine and port, tiles and landscape – please join us.
Wednesday 29th September
We will arrive in Porto in the afternoon and take our private bus to the hotel. The Hotel Portobay is a newly renovated old palace with additional buildings which are beautifully brought together. Once settled in we will have a relaxed introduction to this beautiful city with a walking tour of the old town, Ribeira, taking in the Cathedral in particular. We will set out again in the early evening for a wander along the Douro River and dinner.
Thursday 30th September
This morning we will set out for a more thorough exploration of Porto. Close to our hotel is the Museo da Misericórdia, at one time Portugal’s most important charitable organisation, which has some important paintings. Nearby is the Church of Saõ Francisco, whose measured gothic exterior belies the extraordinary opulence inside and it also boasts with a small museum of wonderful polychrome statues. A fire destroyed the adjacent monastery, and in its place was built is the impressive Palácio da Bolsa, or stock exchange, where we remind ourselves that Porto was an important place for trade in the nineteenth century. In the courtyard we will find ‘O Comercial’ an impressive restaurant which will provide us with a welcome lunch.
One of the greatest aspects of Portugese art are the decorated tiles. We will have seen them everywhere. In the early afternoon, we plan an optional session of tile painting (tbc). Nothing illustrates more the skill that lies behind such decoration. It is enormously enjoyable too. Later in the afternoon we will cross the splendid Dom Lius I Bridge, designed by a pupil of Gustave Eiffel to Gaia, where the great port houses are found and where we will spend the early evening tasting wonderful ports. Supper close by at Cantina Avillez.
Friday 1st October
We will start the day with a spot of church hopping, taking us to the Clerigos Church with its wonderful Baroque tower – designed by the painter-architect Nicolau Nasoni – as well as Our Lady of Carmo, and the immediately adjacent Carmelitas – built for monks and nuns respectively. We will end the morning at the Livraria Lello, ranked among the the most beautiful bookshops in the world, sitting somewhere between neo-gothic and art nouveau. A brief light lunch, hopefully alfresco.
Returning to the middle of town we will take a train up the Douro Valley, pausing to take in the wonderful tiles in the station. The journey up the Douro, (13.20 train, direct, taking 2 hours 22 minutes) hugging the north bank much of the way, has to be one of the more impressive rides in Europe. When we arrive at Pinhão we will be met by taxis to take us to the Quinta de la Rosa where we will stay for two nights. The Quinta, which is perched on the north bank of the river, is a working winery where we can have a tasting before an excellent supper. The rooms are well appointed and spread over several farm buildings. Some of the rooms are a short pleasant walk through the vines to the dining room for breakfast.
Saturday 2nd October
It is always nice to get onto the water so we have chartered a boat privately to take us up river. Then, in the late morning, we will board a private bus for Lamego, arriving in time for lunch. Lamego is a busy little town, full of Baroque palaces and dominated by the pilgrimage church of Nossa Senhora dos Remédios. The town museum in the former episcopal palace contains a series of panels by Grão Vasco. We will also visit the cathedral, a largely Renaissance building with a Romanesque bell tower.
Sunday 3rd October
Leaving our Quinta after a leisurely morning, we will travel north to Guimarães, known as the historical capital of Portugal and a charming town. The Hotel Olivero is in the middle of town and after lunch we will explore the well-preserved medieval quarter with its cobbled streets and old town houses. Supper at Guimarães.
Monday 4th October
This morning we will travel to Braga, which once competed with Santiago de Compostela in Spain in terms of power and importance and remains to this day one of Portugal’s main religious centres with the oldest cathedral in the country. After lunch we will visit the Museu dos Biscainhos, which is a smart 18th century palace with a charming garden before driving to the airport which is an hour away.
Nicholas Ross and Richard Stemp will lead the trip. Nick has taken many tours to Portugal and is excited for this new venture.
In Porto we will stay in the 5 star Hotel Portobay do Flores located on a pretty pedestrian street with an inner courtyard and an indoor pool, we have booked superior rooms. In Pinhão we will stay outside the town in Quinta de la Rosa. The Quinta (farm or estate) has a stunning location with rooms spread along the riverside. We have seven rooms in an old farmhouse with a small swimming pool. It is about 300 meters from the dining room and breakfast room. The remaining rooms are close to the reception. In Guimarães we will stay at the charming 4 star Hotel Oliveira located in the centre of town.
We do not book the flights thus allowing you to travel to suit your budget, use airmiles, travel between different airports or on different dates. We recommend buying the following flights out with TAP and return with Ryanair.
29th September London Gatwick 12.00 – 14.20 Porto TP1331 TAP
4th October Porto 20.15 – 22.35 London Stansted FR8348 Ryanair
Please note, originally in order to maximise our time in Porto the flights chosen are from different London Airports. Ryanair have now introduced new flights, so if you wish, you can also take a Ryanair outbound from Stansted at 09.20 – 11.40 FR8343 and make your own way to the hotel by taxi.
There will be a private coach for the airport transfer to meet the recommended flights. We will take the train to Pinhão and there will be a boat trip. We will mostly walk in the towns.
There is quite a bit of walking on this trip, as well as uneven terrain and steep slopes. As is the case for all our courses, there is a lot of standing while we discuss the works we are looking at.
The fees are £2000 which includes accommodation and breakfast, all lunches, transfers for the recommended flight, transport when connected with teaching, boat trip, entrance fees, wine-tasting, reading lists and local advice. The single room supplement is £210 (double room for single use). Please state on the form if you would be happy to share. Not included are the flights, all suppers and travel insurance. The group will not exceed 16 people.
The application form should be returned with a deposit of £600.00. Please call 01379 871800 or email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any queries.
NB you must buy your own flights.