Portugal is no stranger to the post covid, revenge travel boom.
Lisbon and Porto, the two main cities located on the west coast of Portugal, are now once more streaming with tourists from all over the world. The Algarve on the south coast with its beaches, golf courses and countless nightclubs, is the typical haunt of these travelers.
While the two big cities may be attractive to mainstream visitors, that’s not what I was looking for when I decided to come to Portugal with some family friends. Revenge tourism is fine, but I did not want to be among the masses. I’d heard good things about the interior part of the country, in particular the Dão, a region that doesn’t commonly attract a lot of tourists.
Why is this area still so untrammeled?
For one, there’s no oceanfront here. And also, as I learned, it simply hasn’t been hyped. So, I thought this would be a perfect time to go off the beaten track and learn something new about a country I’ve come to love.
I zeroed in on the Dão, because it’s the oldest established wine region in the country. My friends and I like wine and it seemed a natural choice.
I discovered this place through Kurt Stewart, a Hawaii Reporter contributor who moved to this area a few years ago and purchased a home. He wrote about this experience in a series of articles.
He coined the name Voupormontes, a reference to his wife Teresa’s ancestral home in the Tras-os-Montes region of the country. They have converted that home into a B&B and at his suggestion, I decided to check it out. Built in 1793, it’s typical of the stone-built structures found in and around wine producing region of Viseu. They value this history and have maintained the original style of the home. Wooden beams, hardwood flooring throughout and the fireplace in the kitchen are characteristic of the traditional features found in the house.
The house itself has three floors with five bedrooms and can handle up to seven guests. This worked out well for our group of five adults.
I found it comfortable and cozy with a country-style feel. It was authentic, not some phony “lap of luxury” villa. This was exactly what I wanted. The view is spectacular with the valley and mountains as a backdrop. There’s a covered deck area to eat alfresco and a north-facing veranda looking over the hamlets in the valley below.
The “adega”, a room once used for wine making, has been converted into an ensuite living area complete with a jacuzzi, shower and a treatment bed. It was created specifically to offer therapies such as reiki, aroma therapy and massage which can be purchased separately.
Wi-Fi is available throughout the house.
Fresh Eggs and tomatoes
One of the big attractions for me was the fresh veggies and eggs that came right out of the garden. I was able to go into the chicken coop and gather a few eggs for my morning omelet. The kitchen is fully outfitted with a gas range so you can do your own thing.
Management also offers the services of a local chef who will cook your lunch, which is what our group opted for. Mayuko, who comes originally from Japan, offers vegetarian-centric dishes using ingredients from the garden. These included the aforementioned eggs, but also tomatoes, eggplant, green pepper, celery, beets and an assortment of herbs and fruits such as persimmons and oranges, depending on
If you need groceries, there are several excellent supermarkets a ten-minute drive away.
There’s a multitude of things to do. These include bird watching, visits to local wineries and hiking trails. (There’s a local app for your phone, with GPS, that will direct you to hiking trails).
Archeological sites are also close by. The town of São Pedro do Sul with its wonderfully preserved Roman baths, is short drive away. People come from all over Portugal to bathe in its healing waters. We went to visit a nearby “Dolmen”, a 6000-year-old Celtic burial ground that remined me of the famous Stonehenge with its enormous standing stones.
We also strolled through the nearby town of Vouzela, a sleepy medieval town known for its local pastry, “pastel de Vouzela” and “vitela de Lafões” a veal dish that Portuguese foodies come for from all over the country.
One caveat. There is a long list of things to do and you’re going to need a rental car to get a around.
Rooted in Portugal
Kurt said that he gets guests from around the world but has noticed a trend from the American market. “When we set up shop about a year ago, we started getting inquiries from Portuguese Americans interested in tracing their “native” roots. We’ve had more enquiries since and welcome those looking to discover more about their family history”.
Although they’re not experts in DNA testing or tracking your family tree, they can help you uncover some of the hidden treasures in the area.
“In our region,” said Stewart, “life is really traditional–totally different from what you’ll find in the large cities.”
Stewart said he will assist visitors tracing their Portuguese ancestry by introducing them to life in the countryside. That includes sampling local cuisine and of course spending time in his centuries’ old home. “You can’t go back in time,” he told me, “but by eating traditional food and meeting local people you’ll come away with insights into how your ancestors may have lived.”
Visit Voupormontes for more information.