When we were first planning our trip to Portugal, I knew that we had to hit up the Douro Valley. Rolling green hills, picturesque vineyards dotting either side of the landscape, home of the only region legally allowed to produce port and the world’s ‘best road to drive on’ (the N-222 highway). Fuck yeah. It was a no brainer. Thank god I got my license, because it almost didn’t happen.
We had booked our manual car (Europe being notorious for no automatic car rentals), Hartley was all set to drive, I had booked a night at a charming 100+ year old family working vineyard estate. I spent weeks researching the itinerary, at one point contemplating a set of instructions from a NY Times article which had no actual road names. I was pumped, and it was going to be romantic AF.
On the way to Porto from Lisbon, Hartley suddenly realized he had left his license back in New York. Although inconsequential in my head, it was a pretty major setback. I was not privy to the soul-crushing experience of renting a car which comes hand in hand with being an adult. I had zero clue.
Turns out that you’re unable to rent a car without a physical license…and in the case that you happen to need to rent an automatic car on the day of, there won’t be any available. Hopefully you’ll never have to sit in a Europcar for hours – just bring your license.
It was the most awful feeling sitting in Europcar, knowing that my Asian-flush dreams of frolicking on the hills of the only region in the world allowed to create port was so close yet having to stare down the harsh reality of license problems. When was I ever going to come back to this random ass part of the world? We came back the next day and accidentally rented yet another manual car somehow (we were definitely the worst customers of the month). They told us yet again that they were no automatic cars available day of, but wait! There’s a $400 Mercedes sports car of some sort that is the only automatic car available. I decided to throw out any idea of budget or common sense, knowing that this was probably the only chance Hartley and I would get to do this road trip. So I agreed. To the $400 sports car. Only to find out five seconds later that it’s illegal for me to rent that car anyway because I’m under the age of 25. Womp womp. Miraculously, someone had returned a car earlier that morning that was both an automatic and below the price of $400, so we were fine in the end.
It was a deeply traumatic experience and I’m happy to stand (/lie in bed) here knowing that I managed to drive down the N-222 (this ridiculously windy, cliff-side road) all by myself! I rented a car! I drank so much port! I’m an adult!
We bought cheap tins of sardines and tuna alongside a fresh baguette and it made for the most memorable meals we had in Portugal.
The road from Regua to Vila Real
Taking in the beauty at Quinta de La Rosa (the working vineyard we stayed overnight on) – the experience of dining at their restaurant was incredible. It’s a family-style dinner set at four massive circular tables in their wine cellars (when the weather is warmer I believe its outdoors). We had three courses of home-cooked, hearty food with matching wines and ports from the vineyard and exchanged stories with a bunch of incredible people. I may have been tipsy from the port but my heart was singing all night. Quinta de la Rosa is super affordable, and for what you paid it was an incredible travel experience.
More illegal views from Quinta de la Rosa
Checking out the port-making process at a few vineyard tours (we went to Quinta do Bomfin, Quinta do Seixo, Quinta do Vallado)
Quinta do Bomfim, where Dow’s, Taylor’s, and a bunch of other well-known port houses harvested their grapes.
Quinta do Vallado, one of the first stops on the road trip and probably the best in regards to wine + port tastings.
The tasting room at Quinta do Vallado.
The sunset from Quinta do Seixo, the vineyard behind Sandeman’s.