There’s a place, deep in a river valley in northern Portugal, that is rich in natural resources and tended to by humble, dedicated people. It is called the Douro River Valley and is romantic, intoxicating and magnetic. Its fertility, along with a temperate climate, stirs up the perfect recipe for growing grapes. Steep, terraced vineyards rise up from the river grazing the clouds of mist that hang above. Quintas, or wineries, splash the landscape announcing their names on painted rocks, like the sign in the Hollywood hills. Dignified and enduring, the terroir has been producing wine since 2000 B.C.
I am exploring this river on a Viking Cruise where an outside deck becomes my viewing station for the spectacular scenery I experience. As our ship gently glides along the glassy Douro, the trees and small buildings reflect perfectly, like twins, along the river bank. I feel cozy and tucked in. Ducks emerge from the water ahead and flee upward to escape our approach. Is this the Tunnel of Love?
This fertile valley breaths freely without the clutter of freeways, big hotels or Starbucks to distract from its playground. Alluring villages cluster tightly together as if in solidarity to keep their heritage alive. The Douro valley communities share their unique gifts with each other offering specialities of pork, wine, cheese, bread, and olive oil.
White-washed quintas, olive groves, orange and persimmon trees deliver bursts of color amidst the wintery, avocado green landscape. The tranquility is profound, meditative. Only the lullaby of a soft breeze occupies the air. Clouds hang so low in an airbrushed effect that I feel like I’m part of a painting, a collage of all things artistic and beautiful. One cannot help but feel connected to Mother Earth, part of her roots, reaching into her soul.
Lazy dogs fall under her spell and sleep alongside the vines. They must feel the peaceful energy too. Yes, life here in the Douro Valley seems idyllic, although I’m sure the locals feel the same daily pressures we do. It’s just at a slower pace, in an environment that fosters the use of its nature-provided ingredients to serve up exquisite wine and port alongside other things good that present on a tapas plate. I long to return. It’s a love story not yet finished.
“What I do, and what I dream include thee, as the wine must taste of its own grapes.”
― Sonnets from the Portuguese and Other Poems
Ciao for now!