What do you give the lady who has everything, especially when that lady is your mum, and it is a milestone birthday? Like many mums if you ask them, all they want from their grown up kids, is quality time with them. With that in mind I decided to whisk her away to Porto for the weekend, leaving my dad and husband to fend for themselves.
Porto is a great choice for a weekend break at just a little over two hours from London. We stayed at The Yeatman in Vila Nova de Gaia on the south side of the Douro river. The hotel is widely regarded as one of the best in Porto, it certainly has the best views, from every room.
The swimming pool is shaped like a decanter, it has a fabulous cellar and the spa treatments centre around wine pips. The restaurant is Michelin-starred and the staff charming, you could spend the entire weekend in the hotel, but you would be missing out.
Porto is Portugal's second most poulated city, and yet it seems small, manageable on foot, assuming of course that you have suitable footwear. Ladies, save the high heels for the hotel bar as the cobbed streets won't do your shoes or ankles any favours.
Did you know that J K Rowling lived in Porto for two years and it is said that the Lello Bookshop (you must buy a ticket to enter and the queues are lengthy), was the inspiration behind Flourish and Blotts, was it? Harry Potter fans should take a look at the staircase and see if it reminds them of anything.
Apart from a visit to Lello, coffee and pasteis in the Belle Epoque Cafe Majestic is another one for your to do list. Bow tied waiters, polished wood interiors and linen napkins transport you back to another time. The pasteis are divine and, in my opinion, worth the wait.
You might think November a bad choice to travel to Europe and indeed the night that we arrived, the rain was torrential. The following two days were bright and clear with brilliant blue skies, perfect for sitting outside and enjoying a long lazy lunch overlooking the river.
The wine was surprisingly good, I tend to be rather choosy with my wine, but in each case, the red house wine that I had at lunch was delicious, so much for just one glass..!
Porto is fast becoming a destination for foodies, indeed every meal we ate was wonderful, food and drink aside though, it is a great place to wander the hours away, the red rooftops and cobbled streets make for excellent photos, and for something more sedate you might enjoy a boat ride on the Douro river.
Interesting places to visit, apart from Lello and the Majestic, are the Palacio da Bolsa (stock exchange), the numerous galleries, churches and museums, the Botanic Gardens and, on a warm and sunny day, the coast.
Contact me to talk more about Porto or to book your visit, I would be deligted to hear from you.