May 042017 0 Responses

Above Porto and the Douro Valley lies Portugal’s first capital city.  It’s population is only around 10-15,000 depending on which set of statistics you use which makes it an easy base to come and go from.

Guimaraes soon became our favourite town.  A perfect blend of old cobbled streets, tree lined avenues and many shaded Squares.  An abundance of eateries and first class shops, plus a wonderful Palace, castle and multiple churches. We stayed at Guimaraes for four nights which gave us time to shop and go into the National Parks for a couple of days.

On the last day it decided to turn decidedly cool so we hopped on the train and were in Porto in just over an hour. Whilst in Guimaraes we stayed in Hotel Toural which I couldn’t recommend highly enough.  A family business with the most attentive staff.  Most accomodation in Portugal includes breakfast and Toural was no exception.  The Portuguese also offer a light cake for breakfast – we had managed to abstain until Gentil offered us their Orange cake.  Light as a feather with a coconut topping.  Along with this was a beautiful small pastry case filled with an egg cream mixture.  Well I’m sorry, but that was the end of muesli for breakfast for the next few days.

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May 042017 0 Responses

The Douro Valley Drive

No trip to Portugal would be complete without a few days in the Douro. As we live in Hawkes Bay and love our wine, the Douro was a definite on the itinerary from the very beginning.  Many friends, and indeed customers at the Green Door had told us how beautiful this part of Portugal is. They were certainly right and we were glad we had given ourselves three nights to enjoy the upper end of the Douro – the Alto Douro. We chose Tabuaco as our base as it is not far from Pinhao but set above the river with great views across to the other side.   How many pictures of the terraces does a person need I thought after the second day.  The terraces of grapes are a bit like the sea.  People who live by the sea often say that no two days are the same.  Well, the same could easily be said about the terraced hillsides of the Douro.  Every hour the scene changes as the sun moves over them placing  shadows at different angles throughout the day. Both sides of the upper Douro are smothered in vines with pockets of olives to help with land stabilisation.  However, as it appears that the vines grow practically in rock! – the land is very stable.  So much more than in NZ.  There’s no way we could terrace hillsides like they have here for hundreds and hundreds of years.  It is indeed quite a sight and a taste or two of 25yr old Porto certainly helps it along.

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May 042017 0 Responses

Mini Daffs in the mountains

Lucky us – we found some tiny Daffodils still in flower on the top of the hills en route to Manteigas, Portugal – growing at 1450m in practically pure rock.  Growing with them were tiny alpine bluebells.

It just goes to show that when all the books tell you to put grit underneath your bulbs when planting  – it’s because they really like very good drainage and choose to grow right on PURE grit given the chance!  In NZ the best thing to use in your pots or garden would be small, sharp gravel or pumice.

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Apr 272017 0 Responses

The NZ connection – Gardens of Monserrate

Whilst in the magical town of Sintra we visited three Palace gardens – all had quite different styles.  I’ve chosen to write about Monserrate as it had some wonderful plant collections as well as having a very beautiful palace.

Lots of information can be found on the internet regarding the palace and its various owners so I won’t go into detail here but would like to point out the important placement of two New Zealand native trees – the Pohutakawa and Rimu.

The nearest tree to the Palace is an enormous Pohutakawa – too wide to get into a photograph – all I can glean from books is that it must have been planted between 1863 and 1875 when plants were brought in from NZ and Australia.

The enormous Rimu is given centre stage in the middle of the only large lawn area in the garden. (Pohutakawa top left, Rimu mid-right in the photo above)

Throughout the garden there are also many giant tree ferns from Australia and New Zealand and these look magnificent from the various viewpoints.  The terraced gardens containing Mediterranean shrubs and many of the old rose beds are being replanted this spring – it is great to see that this magnificent garden is still being renovated and improved.

For more pictures of the Palace and wonderful garden see the Green Door Face Book page – click on the link in the far right green column.




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