Port & Barco Rabelos
22 - 25 June 2007
On the eve of Sao Joao (St John, the patron Saint of Porto) this normally subdued and hard working city goes wild. From the magnificent iron bridge built by Eiffel’s pupil, a breathtaking display of fireworks cascade at midnight. In the old twisting streets below, the locals all act out a bizarre and unexplained ritual, rubbing each others faces with herbs or garlic flowers or hitting each other on the head with soft plastic hammers which beep on contact! It’s all good natured fun, and, along with the grilling of juicy sardines and general carousing, makes for an unforgettable street party atmosphere.
As well as taking part in these celebrations, we will be out on the river Douro for the annual Barco Rabelo race. The barco rabelos are old wooden sailing boats which once carried the port down to Oporto from high in the Douro valley, where it is made. Each Port Lodge still owns a barco rabelo and the traditional old boats are kept just for nostalgia and the midsummers race. This is now about the only occasion that they are out under sail, somewhat chaotically- so it’s quite a race.
We take the opportunity to visit both centres of Port production. The Quintas (farms) are situated in the upper Douro, are surrounded by beautiful vineyards. We visit the armazens (lodges) situated in Vila Nova da Gaia where the Port is matured. Discover the delights of many guises of Port, from the unassuming ruby Port, to the tawny – matured in oak casks for anything up to forty years to achieve the splendid colour and perfume. Although the English market favours the vintage style of Port, we also taste the lesser known colheitas, LBVs and the elegant aged tawnies.
We stay in the intriguing city of Porto, and from there we travel up the stunning Douro Valley on one of Michael Palin’s “Great Railway Journeys”, to Pinhão.
This is a very special tour, offering a unique insight into the life of the Port shipper. The atmosphere in Porto on the evening of Sao Joao is an experience not to be missed for the welcoming flood of good will that abounds on the streets and combined with the fireworks makes it a night to remember. For those interested in Port and in discovering this little known corner of Portugal this is a unique opportunity.