By Melba Allen
The longest part of my trip to Oporto, Portugal, wasn’t the air flight, but the getting up for a 7 o’clock flight, which I feel is kind of early to be catching a plane. Especially when you live at least an hour from the nearest airport. O.k, an hour doesn’t really seem so far, but far enough to make me grumpy and not want to get out of bed at 3:00 am; to get dress and be in the car at 4:00 am; be at the checkout counter two-hours in advance (because it is an International flight), and in the plane by 7:00 am. So, my day has started, and I’m ready to go back to bed!
|The Palacio do Freixo|
Once in Oporto, and after feeling a bit of sun on my face, my ‘spirits’ gave me courage necessary to wonder out of the airport terminal and find a taxi. I found a high-spirited little old man at the front of the taxi line, so I felt safe. We put my slightly heavy bags into the trunk of the car and I pointed to the sheet of paper with the directions to the Palacio do Freixo hotel were I was staying for the night. After a few words with his colleagues taxi drivers for directions, he came back to the car where I had confidently nicely installed myself in the back to be whisked off. And boy, did he whisked my off! I felt like I was chauffered by Schumarcher. I didn’t get see much of the paysage, but I was glad to arrive at the hotel still alive…
Now that I’ve arrived and checked in at this beautiful old Palace converted into a hotel, I no longer thought about sleeping. My curiosity got the better of me, so I went in search of the indoor pool, the sauna room, the outdoor pool overlooking the river Oporto and the well-kept, cosy gardens. the day was so pretty that many people where out with their loved ones strolling along the banks of the river and enjoying the view from the gardens. although it was bright and sunny, there was still a slight wind-chill factor. So it was better not to take off my coat, at least not just yet.
Back to my room, I decided to take a nice hot bath, read some of the publicity brochures on the hotel table, do some finishing touches on my speech for tomorrow in the International Wine Tourism Conference to be held here at the hotel, and finally, prepare myself for the evening events at Sandeman’s Port (read the wine doctor).
To join the rest of the group who’ve arrived the day before, I had to go to another remarkable Hotel, the Yeatman.
Here the view from the terraces overlooking a beautifully landscaped pool into the Historical center of the city, as well as some of the major port loges just in front of river is magnificent. The Yeatman boast of being the only 5-star wine tourism hotel in Oporto with 82 luxury rooms and suites, a wine therapy spa by ‘Caudalie’ and sauna, beautiful indoor and outdoor pools, a gastronomic restaurant and can organize for you visits to the wineries.
After the group and Anthony Swift, the organizer of the Conference had arrived, we quickly bustled off to our visit of Sandemans’ cellars with tastings. The distinguished Mr.George Sandeman was present to explain his family history and the story behind the silhouette of a caped figure holding a wine glass. We got to visit the small family Museum, the cellars where the ports were kept and taste several of his ports. We didn’t get to taste any Port before World War II, but we did get to try those of 40 years directly from the barrels.