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One thing I knew I wanted to do with our time in Porto was a tour of the Douro Valley. We chose a tour with Oporto Tours which picked us up near our Airbnb and took us on a tour to really get to know the Douro region, its history, and what makes their wines unique. Our guide, Tiago, expertly navigated the steep, twisty roads of the Douro while telling us all about the region.
The Douro Valley is a World Heritage Site and is the oldest demarcated wine region in the world. People have been expertly growing grapes in terraced vineyards for generations. Many of them are still harvested by hand with the grapes being stomped by feet. The annual grape stomping has become a tourist attraction at many Quintas with stomping having to be booked months in advance.
The first stop on our tour was at Viera de Sousa, a 5th-generation family-owned and operated winery, growing grapes on 4 quintas in the Douro Valley. The current generation running the winery are women which is uncommon in Portugal. Here we learned a lot about the difference in Portuguese wines. Traditional Port is a sweet, fortified wine made of a blend of grapes (common Port Wine grapes include Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz (AKA Tempranillo), and at least 50 others). White port is typically more fruit-forward and less sweet than other port varieties. Tawny Port is aged at least 2 years in barrels before going into the bottle and typically has flavors of caramel and nut on top of the fruit flavors. Ruby Port is fruit-forward, sweet, and meant to be drunk young. After the wine ages in a barrel for two years, a sample can be sent off to the Institute of Douro and Porto Wine for an assessment, and if a wine is of high enough quality it can be declared for a Vintage where it will be aged in bottles for at least 15 more years. Therefore, Vintage Port is the most expensive and distinguished wine of the Douro Valley. At Viera de Sousa we sampled some of their still wines as well as a white port (which I had never had before), a Tawny, and a Ruby. Their wines were wonderful and their ports were very different than the mass-market port we have in the U.S.
After our first wine tasting, we headed to Pinhao to board a typical rabelo boat (right) for a tour of the Douro River. These boats were used in the past to get the wine from the vineyards along the Douro to the Port Wine houses in Ville Nova de Gaia. Before the installation of dams along the river, the Douro was treacherous many small chapels were built along the riverbank to protect the sailors from the river’s wrath. Nowadays with other ways for the wine to reach Porto, the rabelo boats are purely for tourists. I was really excited about our boat ride and while the views were amazing, the boat itself was crowded with groups from other tours. Since the tour, people have asked if I would recommend a ride on a rabelo as part of a tour of the Douro and I am really torn, because while it wasn’t the highlight of my day in the Douro, I think I would have regretted it if I saw the boats and I didn’t get to go on it. That is probably the least helpful advice I have ever given on this blog, but it is the only way to describe how I feel. It is possible to ride a rabelo in Porto for a tour of the 6 bridges that is only $16 for 50 minutes on Viator.
After our boat ride, we had a great Portuguese lunch in Pinhão. with a choice of beef or fish. After lunch, our tour guide Tiago took to us the Pinhão train station to see the beautiful Azulejos depicting early life in the Douro (above).
From there, we made our way to our final stop of the tour at Quinto do Jalloto (above) in Casal de Loivos. Besides, wonderful wine this quinta had the most breathtaking views of the “sharks” across the river (AKA the Dow’s estate, top). We learned that just like in Mexico, grapes and olives grow together in the Douro and their olive oil was amazing! Here we sampled three still wines, honey, and the delicious olive oil. The wine here was very unique and not like anything I had ever had back home.
Our tour concluded with the beautifully scenic drive back to Porto. If you have plans to visit Porto, definitely take some time to explore the Douro. It is an amazing place unlike anywhere else I have ever been. I can’t say enough good things about our tour from Oporto Tours. Our tour was pricey but absolutely worth it.
Thanks for stopping by! Be sure to check back next week when we take a free tour of Porto! To read more about this trip, check out Cruising the Atlantic to Portugal and Spain trip report. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! For my list of gadgets to make your travels easier, click here. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.
Locating in northwestern North Dakota, Theodore Roosevelt National Park is one of the least visited National Parks in the United States. It averages about 600,000 visitors a year which might sound like a lot, but if you compare it to the 4 million that visit Yellowstone or Yosemite each year, 600,000 is not much at all. Coming from Glacier (which averages about 3 million visitors), the difference is very noticeable.
We started our exploration of Theodore Roosevelt in the North Unit which was closer to where we were staying. Of the two main units, the South Unit gets most of the traffic so when we arrived in the evening, we only saw a handful of other cars in the whole north unit. The north unit has a 14-mile one-way scenic drive that showcases the unique geological features of the park. There was plenty of parking at each of the overlooks and fresh air to breathe.
The South Unit of the park is larger than the north and is much busier. The South Unit has a 36 mile scenic loop drive that allows you to see the highlights of the park. Four miles of the road is closed indefinitely due to a landslide, although the area is open to hikers and bicyclists. Right where you have to turn around for the road closure there was one of the biggest prairie dog towns we saw on the trip.
Wildlife is the highlight of a trip to Theodore Roosevelt. Muledeer, antelope, bighorn sheep, wild horses, bison, and prairie dogs can easily be seen in the park. When we were in the Black Hills we were SO excited to see a bison. By the end of our week in North Dakota, we were begging them to get out of the road so we could go home!
We had planned to do some hiking during our time at Theodore Roosevelt but with heat spell that was going on this summer, we determined it wouldn’t be safe. One day we stayed at the park until the sun went down and the temperature didn’t get below 90. Theodore Roosevelt National Park is on our list to return to outside of the summer or when Chris isn’t working so we would be able to hit the trails before the heat of the day.
If you are looking to visit a national park and get away from the crowds, definitely head to Theodore Roosevelt National Park, especially the North Unit. If I were to do this trip again, I would shorten the amount of time we had here, though. Unless you are doing a lot of hiking, you can see this whole park in two to three days.
Thanks for stopping by! Be sure to check back next week when I detail our experience at the Elkhorn Ranch Unit. To read more about this trip, check out the Epic National Park Road Trip. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.
After an amazing few days in Glacier National Park, it was time for the longest drive of our three-week road trip. We had ten hours ahead of us on US 2 to get from western Montana to North Dakota. In planning this trip, I utilized RoadTrippers to find interesting places to stop along our way to break up the driving. Unfortunately, there wasn’t to be found on this route once we got away from Glacier. The drive was not nearly as bad as I was anticipating, although it was rather boring, audiobooks and podcasts made up for that.
Theodore Roosevelt National Park is divided up into three distinct units: The North Unit (near Watford City), The South Unit (near Medora), and The Elkhorn Ranch unit which is between the two. We had planned to spend the first three nights at the Roosevelt Inn in Watford City and then move to a hotel near Medora. We loved the Roosevelt Inn so much that we canceled our other hotel and spent the whole time in Watford City. Chris was working from the hotel this week and our suite had a real kitchen (not the microwave and mini-fridge “kitchenette” that some of our other hotels had) and a separate bedroom so I was able to stay out of his way while he worked. The hotel had a good hot breakfast too. It was the perfect hotel for this part of the trip and we didn’t want to risk switching to a different one that wouldn’t work as well for us.
Now, Watford City is not a tourist hub like some of the other places we had stayed on this trip. There are a lot of oil fields in the area and most of the people at our hotel worked in the oil fields. When Chris went down for breakfast early, he got stared down by tough oil field workers. If this would bother you, this is not the place for you. But, if you are looking for clean, comfortable accommodations close to the north unit of the park, I cannot say enough good things about the Roosevelt Inn.
Theodore Roosevelt National Park is named after the 26th President of the United States who is often referred to as the Conservationist President. While president, Roosevelt signed into law five National Parks and 18 National Monuments along with the first 51 bird reserves, four game preserves, and 150 National Forests, totaling 230 million acres.
The future present first came to North Dakota in 1883 to hunt bison. After his wife and mother died on the same day in 1884, Roosevelt returned to the badlands of North Dakota to heal. He was known to say that if it wasn’t for his time in North Dakota, he would never have been president. The area on the Little Missouri River was first set aside for preservation in 1935 before becoming a National Park in 1947.
Be sure to stop by next week when I detail our experiences in the North Unit of the park! To read more about this trip, check out the Epic National Park Road Trip. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.