Porto & Douro Valley FAM Trip 24th-26th September
The DMC Advantage represents Portugal Travel Team who operate throughout Portugal and Madeira from their offices in Lisbon and The Algarve. Portugal Travel Team was established in 1996 by Eduarda Neves (MD) and is well renowned in the UK C&I market as a reliable, credible and financially stable company with a 12 strong experienced and friendly team. They enjoy an excellent reputation with their suppliers countrywide.
Porto is located in the north of the country and is the second largest city in Portugal. As the birthplace of port wine the city is a mecca for any wine lover! With it’s historical centre registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the romantic city of Porto features medieval relics, extravagant baroque churches and soaring bell towers all set against the backdrop of the Douro river where you can enjoy amazing views of the terraced vineyards. With it’s low rise beautiful buildings and quiet, laid back pace of life, Porto exudes charm. We experienced this beauty under glorious September sunshine and 30C temperatures!
We flew with Portugal’s national carrier TAP from Gatwick. Our flights were generously sponsored by our co-host Kathy Bradley of All About Flights. The flight time to Porto is a mere 2h 20min (there is no time difference with the UK) and we were processed through the modern Porto International airport quickly and efficiently. Easyjet, Ryan Air and BA all fly to Porto and there are good connections from Manchester. The transfer time to the city is only 20 minutes.
It was love at first sight with Porto and the Douro Valley. Our first stop was the 82 bedroom luxury Yeatman Wine Hotel & Spa, located in Gaia on the southern side of the Douro River with unrivalled views across to Porto. The Yeatman is 5 years old and is the perfect incentive hotel whilst also a great option for meetings an events with 11 beautifully appointed meeting rooms. The hotel offers a haven for wine lovers being located just a short walk from the world-renowned Port Lodges of Taylors, Graham’s, Croft and Cockburns, all evident of Britain’s long established relationship with port wine.
We toured the Taylors’ cellars and were educated on the origins of the White, Ruby and Tawny varieties and production methods. Dinner on our first evening was hosted by Porto Convention Bureau at a delightful restaurant called D Tonho Porto located in Ribeira, the enchanting old quarter. We also had a wonderful dinner at Graham’s on our final evening in the Vinum Restaurant polishing off the evening with a Graham’s 10 year tawny port of course. Needless to say we were hardly sober for much of the trip!
We stayed at the modern 5 star Crowne Plaza Porto, located in the upscale residential and business district of the city close to the Botanical Gardens and Porto’s beautiful beaches. The hotel has 232 spacious rooms with great views of the ocean and city and 1310sqm of newly refurbished meetings space. There are 11 multipurpose, brand-new meeting and banquet spaces making the Crowne Plaza Porto a popular choice for meetings, events and incentive groups.
A highlight for us all was our day in the utterly beautiful Douro Valley countryside. We took the train from Porto and enjoyed the scenic 2 hour journey tracing the Douro River.
September is the grape harvest season so our visit was perfect timing. What better way to learn about the wine making process than to get stuck in to having a go ourselves! We arrived at Quinta da Pacheca, one of the best-known wine estates in the Douro region and donning our straw hats we jumped into the harvest truck and were whisked away to the vineyards. Armed with a bucket and secateurs we got to work cutting the grapes off the vines and filling the boxes, working alongside the local harvesters. We then headed back to the ranch and were told our next job was to tread the grapes! So we all put on our special shorts and climbed into the Vat filled with grapes up to our knees and stomped the grapes whilst being serenaded by a trio band, it was hilarious and a great fun group experience! Quinta da Pacheca is open year round and offers a range of group activities such as segway wine tours, hiking, boat trips, helicopter rides and extreme activities. We enjoyed a delicious al fresco lunch in the beautiful gardens of the estate with stunning views over the vineyards, it really is a special place.
That evening we felt it important to explore the local Porto nightlife and we were not disappointed! There are a good variety of bars and clubs to choose from and we were amazed at how affordable the drinks were. A double G&T just EUR7.00! You would pay nearly twice that in many European cities.
The next morning we boarded modern electric Tuk Tuks for an orientation tour of the city. This certainly helped blow away the cobwebs and was a fun way to explore the coastline and the narrow, hidden away streets and sights. We then had a short Rabelo river cruise disembarking at the Pestana Palacio do Freixo, a luxury hotel and member of Leading Hotels of the World, located on the banks of the Douro River where we were hosted for lunch. The property consists of 2 buildings which are connected: that of the Palace where you can find the restaurant, the bar, the lounges and the meeting rooms, and the old Harmony mill factory which has a spa and 87 rooms some of which have magnificent views of the Douro River.
There is a variety of stand alone meeting and event venues. The Alfandega Congress Centre is located in the city centre. With plenty of hotels located close by such as the Crowne Plaza, Sheraton and InterContinental, the city is capable of handling large conferences, congresses, meetings and events as well as being a first class incentive destination. Another stand out event venue is the Palacio da Bolsa which is the old Stock Exchange building. It is the property and headquarters of the Commercial Association of Porto and can cater for events up to 800 pax.
Porto is a charming, hidden gem of a destination that has a huge amount to offer so we hope you will consider it for you next event!
Written by Simon Burleigh