Oh how we hated to leave Por do Sol! With our departure planned like a tactical mission, we pulled ourselves up by the flipflops, executed the final activities, stood on the balcony and prayed – with thankful hearts for a time of rest. We climbed into the convertible more confident than we arrived, and My Beloved, the Navigator got us on the highway northbound to the Douro Valley and Porto, Portugal’s second city and home to the world’s port wine industry.
For the most part, this was an easy highway drive, not unlike a roadtrip we might take to Michigan or Pennsylvania – five hours, highway, lots of time to chat and enjoy the scenery. It is a dramatic change from desert grasslands to lush green and magnificent mountains – this is the gateway to Porto.
Our resting place for the next two nights was Sol Verde Wellness and Spa in Vila Nova de Gaia, across the Douro River from Porto. We had a gorgeous Atlantic ocean view from our comfortable room. The air was breezy, fresh – so different from our beachy, arid Algarve. Here people gathered around the pool in the 28.5 degree and shivered. Yes, you read that correctly. The salt water pool called me and I found it so luxurious to unwind. It is 15 km from Espinho (Gaia) to Porto – all connected through the most incredible ocean front boardwalk. This is not ‘in your face’ tacky commercial – this is a walker/runner paradise. The portuguese in general seem to be very fit – no matter where they live – so many people on foot. We both agreed that the best part of our overall experience was on foot, no matter how tired we felt at times. To see, smell, touch, hear is the only sensible way to access life in Portugal, in my opinion.
Once we finished swimming, we explored, decided dinner would be best at the hotel and went with the plan. Thursday night is ‘Fado’ music night – we were treated to a delicous buffet while watching the golden orb in the sky fall behind the ocean and move along to our loved ones in Canada, and in the background two Portuguese guitarists (Fado musicians) played beautiful traditional music. The evening was a dream – My Beloved, a romantic place, palm trees bending before a golden sky and lyrical Fado.
The dining room manager kept referring to the entertainment as ‘typical Fado’ – but for someone like me who was lost in the moment – typical is the opposite of how it really seemed. Bliss might begin to convey my feelings.