A very enjoyable trip to Porto and the Douro valley took place from Thursday, 21 September to Sunday, 24 September. The trip was organized by the Society and included members from Lisbon and Porto. Highlights of the visit were tours of the British Factory House, a talk and dinner at the Oporto Cricket and Lawn Tennis Club, a Rabelo cruise on the Douro, and a rail excursion along the valley. Returning from the Douro valley, a stop was made at the ancient town of Amarante.
The tour began on Thursday with a pleasant trip from Lisbon to Porto. Thursday evening was spent at the Oporto Cricket and Lawn Tennis Club, and featured an illustrated talk on the life of Joseph James Forrester, followed by an excellent buffet dinner. The talk was given by Alan Dawber, with input from Richard Delaforce (who spoke partly about his father John as the author of the authoritative 1992 book on Forrester). As part of the talk, quiz questions were asked in order to hold the audience’s attention. Insight was provided into Forrester’s role as an important member of the British community in Porto in the early 19th century. He was the first foreigner to be created a Portuguese baron, for life, by King Ferdinand II, in 1855. Forrester’s travels throughout the Douro region made him the most knowledgeable person of his era about the river and its wine. He was a cartographer, an author, an agricultural innovator, an artist, a photographer, and a social activist. Tragically, he died at a relatively young age, drowning in the Douro in 1861 at the Cachão da Valeira rapids (photo above), when the boat he was travelling in capsized. His body was never found.
The following day, the group visited the British Factory House and had the privilege of a guided tour by Nick Heath (above, right) of the beautiful Palladian building, constructed in 1791. The British Association, the organization of the British exporters of Port wine, is headquartered in the building, which features an impressive library, maps made by Forrester, historic documents, and paintings, as well as a wonderful cellar of vintage Port wines. Free time on Friday allowed for visits to other attractions in Porto and Gaia, including the Bolsa, the Sao Francisco church, the Ribeira area, The World of Wine (WOW), the cable car up to the Nossa Sra. de Pilar monastery, the Sao Bento railway station, the outstanding Museu Nacional Soares dos Reis, and other sights. In the evening there was a group dinner in Vila Nova de Gaia.
On Saturday, the group travelled by coach to Pinhão and boarded a Rabelo-type boat for a cruise on the Douro to the small village of Tua, where lunch was served at a restaurant with a view of the beautiful valley. This was followed by a short return journey by train from Tua to Pinhão, enabling us to view the river and valley from a different angle. At the wonderful Pinhão station, we rejoined the coach to continue the picturesque trip back along the valley, following the south bank as far as Régua. We then went north to the small city of Amarante, with its bridge dating from 1763, where the Portuguese heroically repelled the invading French for 14 days in April 1809. On Sunday, the group enjoyed a leisurely return to Lisbon with a lunch at a restaurant near Pombal and arrival in Lisbon in the afternoon.
Overall, the trip provided a wonderful opportunity for members to meet and enjoy hospitality over some excellent food, view some beautiful parts of the north of Portugal and learn more about the intricate and long-standing historical relations between Portugal and Great Britain. It also offered a chance for members from our Porto and Lisbon branches to get to know each other, which has rarely been possible in the past.
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