I can smell the tarts before we’re inside. My mouth waters as the scents of cinnamon and powdered sugar drift into the street. The walk to Belem has been worth it, and now I’m ready for my reward: the renowned Pastéis de Belém. I’ve come all the way to Portugal to taste them, and no weekend in Lisbon would be complete without one. Or ten.
It’s not often that I travel just for a hotel. Most destinations trump accommodations. But every once in awhile there’s a hotel so special that I will take a trip just to stay there, and today that hotel is the new Six Senses Douro Valley in Portugal.
It’s not often that I’m awed when I travel somewhere new. Over the years, the threshold for a destination to elicit a “wow” feeling from me has steadily risen. But sometimes I’m pleasantly surprised by a place, and the Douro Valley in Portugal was one of them.
I like wine. I won’t lie; it’s one of my favorite things to drink. When I travel to a country that produces it, I like to go to the source and taste the offerings. From Australia to South Africa, New Zealand to California, I have done the wine regions of many countries. But while my knowledge of wine has grown over the years, my knowledge of Port has not. As such, when I was invited to Portugal to spend four days learning about the Portuguese wine and Port industry, I gladly accepted.
When most people visit Portugal, they head south for the sunshine. The Algarve region is packed year-round with tourists from sun-starved latitudes, all of them seeking the ever-elusive vitamin D. But there’s more to Portugal than just the beaches, and more sun-blessed regions in the country than just the Algarve. One particularly sunny off-the-beaten path destination is Porto.
My journey from northern to southern Portugal continued for another day in Lisbon, during which my boyfriend and I traveled out to Lisbon’s Belem district. There we came face to face with the crazy Manueline Mosterio dos Jeronimos. The church was decorated from dome to kneeler with nautical-themed decor, and housed the tomb of Vasco da Gama. Although smaller than I had anticipated (the last church I saw in England had the longest nave in Europe, after all), all of the uniquely Portuguese aspects of the design were fascinating.
Just days ago Portugal was one of the few countries in Europe I had yet to visit. Yesterday I set out to change that. I sleepwalked over to Stansted airport at 4am for a 0.01GBP Ryanair flight to Porto. I arrived in the city at 9am, excited to start exploring.