Port in Porto on a rainy day

Trish, drinking port in Porto!
Trish, drinking port in Porto!

TRISH TAKES FIVE: By Trish Burgess

A few weeks ago I was complaining that the process of booking a holiday is much more complicated than it used to be. There are so many decisions to make and hours are wasted on the internet trying to choose accommodation, transport and what to do when you get there. The more options available, the harder it is to narrow them down.

Last week Dougie and I went on holiday to Portugal and the booking process, as well as the holiday itself, was so relaxing. How did we do it? We let someone else do the hard work. I had come across the Inntravel website some time ago, intrigued by the notion of ‘slow’ travel. The idea is that whether you walk or cycle you will be given detailed trails which help you uncover the heart of a place. Rather than strive to visit the top ten attractions in a 
region or city, you are invited to explore some of the hidden treasures along the way.

I had always wanted to visit the west coast of Portugal and found the perfect package which involved stays in Porto, Coimbra and Lisbon, with rail travel linking each city. Hotels were chosen for us, train tickets purchased on our behalf and we were given a folder of walking tours and restaurant suggestions.

It took a while before Dougie adjusted to following 
instructions. I was much happier, treating the experience as a treasure trail. Hubby, however, was not always best pleased with my directions. I told him we should “take the left-hand cobbled street” and then, once we’d reached the bottom, advised him belatedly “half-way down, take a narrow walkway on your right.”

What were the highlights of the week? In Porto we made the most of a very wet day drinking, you’ve guessed it, port. Along the south side of the river Douro you can see all the famous port lodges, with their names emblazoned on the terracotta-tiled roofs. Most of the companies offer tours and tastings. You can sip it at Sandeman’s or taste it at Taylor’s but we guzzled it at Graham’s. In Coimbra, a city famous for its ancient university, we were following our walking guide when we chanced upon an honorary degree ceremony for the President of Greece. Police and security were everywhere and there were road blocks across the city but Dougie and I happily wandered into the courtyard just in time to see all the dignitaries file out of the library wearing black gowns and the most extraordinary brightly-coloured head gear.

In Lisbon, we booked a table at the castle’s restaurant after visitors had left for the day. The guard let us in and pointed the way. We were the only diners, until a whole crowd of conference attendees arrived as we were leaving. Until then we had the best table in the house, with a view of the city lights beyond. Private dining in a castle on a hilltop in Lisbon. Unforgettable.

• You can follow Trish on Twitter @mumsgoneto and read her blog at www.mumsgoneto.co.uk