July 29, 2010

best kept secret

When I picked up the Travel section of the New York Times several months ago, featuring a serene picture of a vineyard in Portugal, I never dreamed we would actually go there. We knew we wanted to go to Portugal, but I assumed the beautiful bed and breakfast over-looking the Douro Valley would be way too expensive for our post-big-wedding budget. But that's what's great about honeymoons. You do crazy things. So I looked it up anyway online. When Jason looked over my shoulder and said, "Can we go there?", I had no choice. I booked it immediately.

But here's the secret: it wasn't expensive. After spending two nights at Quinta do Vallado, just outside of Regua in the Douro Valley (Portugal's Napa Valley), we looked at each other and knew that this place was about to explode. It's just too luxurious, too beautiful, too perfect...and too affordable. It was almost too good to be true. I mean, we had very decent bottles of wine delivered to us pool-side for about six euros. Six. Euros. Incredible. It was the kind of place where you feel like you could stay forever.

The other thing I don't want to tell you, but I'm going to anyway: the food in the Duoro Valley is the best I've ever had. At Castas e Pratos, I had a turnip bisque that I'm still thinking about. The next night, driving along the beautiful highway that curves around the valley, we found Restaurant D.O.C. sitting on stilts right over the river. 

This was the first of two very memorable birthday dinners (I'm kind of spoiled). Is it wrong that all I wanted for my birthday was amazing food? I don't think so. The whole experience at D.O.C. was darn near perfect.

I think the best thing about the Douro Valley is also the thing that makes me kind of sad: it's so undiscovered compared to Napa or Tuscany or Provence. I know it won't stay that way for long so I'm thankful we got a little piece of it when we did. Portugal stole our hearts, big time. We will definitely be back. 

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