One of my most memorable encounters on our trip through Porto, was a truly beautiful one with Hugo, our tour guide’s grandparents, Ana and Manuel. I am going to back up a little to give some details. Jamie, my younger sister, had spent all night the night before stressing about finding the perfect and most authentic “Porto Wine Tour”; we were cautious of being duped, spending lots of money for little in return. We had had this happen before. So after researching many of the available options and getting herself into a spin, I said, “go with the first one, you loved it off the bat, just go with your gut”. And so she booked. And we won!
We were picked up at our hotel at the crack of dawn by a confident and smiley HUGO, who immediately put our mind at rest. Jamie had nailed it. He introduced us to the rest of our crew, a wonderful American couple from Texas and a photographer from Tripadvisor. We all immediately clicked, started sharing stories of where we were from and our Portugese Experiences. Thanks heavens for that, because it was a LONG drive to The Duoro Valley – 2.5 hours, with no chance for a morning coffee 🙂
Hugo was amazing and he had so many great stories to tell. At the age of 23, he was confident, he had such a good history of the area and was so interested in the stories I was sharing about my travels. Poor guy had me in the front seat quizzing him on EVERYTHING! He grew up in the small parish of Provesende with his family and which he was kind enough to take us to on our first stop. He had sussed out that our group wanted “off the beaten track” and he had just the trip for us.
As we descended on the parish, Hugo said to us, I bet you as we pull into the square there will be three old men sitting on a bench, not talking, just looking, into the distance. We all chuckled, as we came down the road, past the tiny church and along the cobbled street into the town’s old square. There, exactly as he had described were 2 of the 3 men, sitting on the bench, in the sun, staring off into the distance, as they did, apparently every day.
Provesende is tiny, 9km squared in total, around 300 inhabitants and with only 1 beautiful bakery, run by Antonio Jose. Hugo had brought us there to experience the delicious freshly baked bread that fed the village. Every day Antonio, the head baker, pictured below, bakes 180 loaves of bread, for the parish, in a wood oven. The inhabitants come to the bakery and collect their bread, paying 1 euro a loaf. Every now and then, when they feel like a change, the locals will collect some ingredients and Mr Jose will add some flavour to the bread loafs, olives etc.
We were lucky enough to meet Mr Jose and get shown the procedure and most importantly taste the delicious bread as it came, steaming out of the oven. My mouth was watering and I couldn’t get enough of the melt-in-the-mouth deliciousness as I felt the rogue bits of flower collecting on my cheeks, my nose, my forehead. All 6 of us, stood together, breaking bread excitedly and with full appreciation as we felt the morning sun heating up the streets and lighting up the autumn colour of the beautiful valley below us.
Hugo had a glint in his eye, as he turned to us and said, “I have to phone the office and asking them for permission to take you guys for another surprise, are you game?” Every single one of us nodded our heads vigorously – standing above the parish’s small football pitch, with flour dusting all around our mouths!
He excitedly rounded us up back into the van and drove up the tiny roads towards the outskirts of the parish. It was beautiful. As we piled out the car, like an excited kid, he told us we were at his grandparents house. His grandfather had his own vineyard and made his own Port and he wanted us to meet them.
My heart did flips of excitement. I have such an affinity toward elderly people. I can sit and listen to their stories for hours! I think my connection with my own grandfather was so unique and made me appreciate the history, experience and stories they have to tell! As we got to their front door, Hugo’s grandmother, Ana came outside, still in her pajamas, she excitedly enveloped Hugo in a hug and then saw the rest of us. Hugo told her what was happening and she exclaimed to him in Portugese that she was not dressed, she didn’t have food for us 🙂 but all with a generous and kind smile as she welcomed us in to her beautiful kitchen. Their home exactly as I would have pictured it, stone, farmhouse style, small and surrounded by chickens, a few vines and a warm inviting ambience.
Ana was quick to make us feel all at home, inviting us for coffee, breaking open packets of crackers, while Hugo went to try to find his grandfather. I was in awe, as we went out the backdoor, the vista opened up onto the quaintest vineyard I have ever seen. I wandered off a little on my own, only to come across Manuel, tending to his vines. he excitedly reached out and said hello as Hugo came, filled with love, towards his grandfather with a warm embrace.
As we stood amidst the vines, Hugo told us this great story about the football pitch that we were previously at and could see clearly from where we were now standing. He said he used to get so embarassed, because when he was younger and him and all his friends were playing football, his grandmother would call him from the top of her house, all the way down to the village, telling him his lunch was ready. She would only stop when he made his way up to the house 🙂
Hugo wanted to share with us his grandfather’s Porto and Manuel was equally excited. With wonderful warmth and no language for us to share, everything was shared with gestures, smiles and Hugo’s translations. Ana made us coffee, while Manuel poured us all a glass of the most delicious Porto I have ever tasted. My heart was overflowing with love for this beautiful interaction between Hugo and his beautiful grandparents and the hospitality they were showing us, complete strangers.
I couldn’t walk away without seeing if I could take a bottle of this Port away with me to share the story and remember this moment in the warmth of my own home. And so I asked Hugo if we could take a bottle. Which we did, a delicious 20 year old bottle of Port made it all the way back to South Africa with us and we shared both the story and the port with our family at Christmas this year.
It was magical.
As we drove away, after sharing this beautiful experience, we went parallel to the house on the other side of a river and Hugo told us to look for Ana. She would be standing outside the house, on the balcony, waiting for his car to pass, waving like crazy until the car disappeared out of sight.
And once again, just as promised, there she was, waving wildly until we all disappeared from each other’s sight.
Wine Tour: @CoolTour_Porto
Tour guide: Hugo from @wineonice
Photos: All mine ❤