Updated 10.03.2019: If you love traveling through winding vineyards, tasting fresh bread, and sipping sweet wine, well, this post is for you. Our guest writer, Judy Freedman from A Boomers Life After 50, is here to take us on a lovely European River Cruise excursion to Favaios—one of Portugal’s most charming villages.
“If I ever write my memoir, I’m going to go live in Favaios,” I told my boyfriend “L” upon returning from one of our excursions during a complimentary Viking River Cruise along the Douro River. It was one of my favorite towns situated high up in the hills of Portugal’s wine country.
Exploring the village of Favaios, Portugal
It took us an hour to drive to our destination from where the boat docked in Pocinho. The mountainous terrain covered with vineyards was breathtaking.
According to our Viking guide, it’s one of the most scenic roads you can find along the Douro, although a 2017 forest fire has partially damaged the view. At the very top sat Favaios— a tiny village of about 1500 inhabitants—known for Muscatel wine and Four Corners Bread.
Tasting the sweetness of Muscatel in Favaios
“Welcome to my home,” said wine expert Maria, as we entered one of the town’s cooperative wineries. Wine has been produced in Favaios for 200 years. “Muscatel grapes are very sweet,” said Maria.
She explained how the wine is aged in oak and chestnut barrels to bring out different aromas from fruity honey and citric to caramel chocolate.
Although it was early morning, I couldn’t resist a sip. I also bought a few small Favito wine bottles wrapped in pretty pink gift bags to give as gifts.
On the way to our next food stop—a traditional Favaios bakery—we toured the downtown area. Maria’s brother Mithun joined us for our walk.
Along the way, he shared tales about the old school house and introduced us to Favaios’ oldest man who was celebrating his 105th birthday. (Wonder if it is the wine, bread, and fresh Favaios air that provides for a long life?)
Four Corners Bread fresh from the oven
As Mithun led us through cobblestone streets and narrow alleys, the smell of fresh baked bread began to rise in the air. It was almost as though our noses provided a pathway to one of the few remaining traditional bakeries in the Douro Valley.
The bakery is teeny-tiny, with just two rooms—one room for rolling the dough with a big wooden table and one room for baking the bread with two stone ovens to produce 1000 loaves a day.
The ingredients are simple—water, yeast, flour, and salt. But the bread, shaped in four corners like the cross—is simply delicious, especially warm from the oven. At only .50 euro a loaf, I could have eaten quite a few loaves.
“This is the best bread in Favaios,” said Mithun. “Some towns folk bring their meats each day to have baked into the bread.” (Maybe I will do that if I ever decide to live in Favaios during my life after 50—that is when I write my memoir.)
The Bread and Wine Museum
After the bakery, we made a visit to the Bread and Wine Museum. Patricia, the museum’s director, offered a tour in her native Portuguese, while Jerome, our guide translated by her side.
On the lower level of the museum are the wine exhibits. The upper floor displayed the history of the wheat used to make Four Corners Bread.
“These two products are very important to us,” said Jerome. “We are starting a new business of tourism. When you return to your homes tell everyone to visit.”
Before we left the museum, Jerome played a lovely film created by grade school students in Favaios. The students playfully encouraged us to “observe, feel, taste, smell, buy, play, enjoy, learn.”
I followed the students’ advice in Favaios. And I highly recommend you do too, if and when you decide to make the journey.
It’s well worth adding Favaios to your travel bucket list. Go see for yourself why I fell in love with this picturesque village situated near Portugal’s River of Gold. Maybe you’ll want to live there during your second act, too.
More Douro River shore excursions:
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Disclosure: Viking River Cruises provided Judy with a complimentary press trip river cruise on the Douro.