Mrs. O’s Travel Tips

The most touristy photo you will ever find on this blog. Yes, we have all done it ;)

When it comes to travelling, I am a planner, and quite risk averse. I like my holidays and I like them a lot – and I will pretty much do everything I can to ensure I make the most out of them.

Being organised could be one of my *best* personality traits. I say “could be” as sometimes it doesn’t work brilliantly – but more about it later!

I spread my holiday allowance throughout the year, making the most of bank holidays, pretty much like everybody else – and in order to be able to travel at those times, one has to book early.

By definition, we never travel in August – we save our 2-week super holiday for early September (which I understand it is not very practical if you have children, but for the time being, I don’t really have to worry about that!).

Arriving in Moorea, French Polynesia

It’s then when we start playing one of my favourite games: “where should we go next year?”

We have no set formula, but like a bit of sun after Christmas, a bit of skiing in March, a bit of sun (again over Easter or early May, usually in Miami).. then a top-up in July and a fab break (usually in California) in September. Oops, I guess we have a formula after all!

My mother always said that if you are leaving your house, you need to go somewhere better than where you live. She also says that she loves camping.. in 5 star hotels. I am a good girl, and do as I am told.

The issue with that is that it can be costly – and I hate the idea of paying twice as much for my airplane seat than the person next door to me… hence why being prepared and organised works for me. I can totally understand the appeal of last-minute trips – but to be honest, I am not prepared to risk them on a regular basis.

So *finally*, where are some of the things I always do which hopefully can be of help to anyone who loves travelling as much as I do.

Getting there

Book Early – there is no other way around this. If you want to travel at busy periods, I have found that 8-9 months prior is when to book. I also like a bit of pampering, and this is the only chance you have to get some upgraded seats with miles. That said, if you can’t get one, I have found some upgrades on British Airways 48 to 24h before departure – this is the cut-off time for getting your miles seats cancelled and refunded and, inevitably, some people have to cancel. I have only found this recently and it is possibly the best tip someone has given me!

Where to stay

There is some wriggle room here, namely with last-minute possible savings. I try to book a refundable rate (which will be reasonably priced compared to the pre-paid rate). I then check every now and then and usually 48h before I can bag some considerable savings. Also found that booking directly with hotels works – it may be linked to the fact that you won’t get hotel points otherwise, which is important to me!

Moving Around

99% of the times I travel I hire a car, except when on an urban destination for obvious reasons – I can’t think of staying put in a resort, eating at the hotel all week and not having a peek at what’s going on in town. Hiring cars can be quite tricky as price changes. I always try to book fully refundable rates so I can check on them later. On a recent booking with Avis, I found that the rate had come down €100 for the same car type.. so it was easy to cancel my reservation and make a good one. It will be the exact same car.. why pay more?

Taking Risks

No insurance, no skiing!

I don’t travel light, I admit it. I am known to use my extra luggage allowance (thanks to loyalty cards) to exhaustion and take extra empty suitcases with me. You know, I like helping other countries’ economies.

The idea of having my bags lost terrifies me – and if you like Tumi suitcases like me – the average compensation does not even pay for the bag handles or wheels. What to do? Insurance, insurance, insurance! Adding £50 or whatever it costs is worth it, as the things you have in it can easily add up to thousands of pounds, euros or dollars. Especially when I come back from one of my epic trips to the States…

I ensure I am covered by my credit card (with which I paid for the ticket), by my bank (which covers automatically any travel I do, even if I don’t use their card, which I don’t) and take out luggage insurance just in case. This can be serious stuff.

 

Staying Connected

Smartphones are brilliant, but data roaming and call bills can be horrendous. Data roaming is now capped for Europe-based travellers, but obviously doesn’t apply elsewhere – so turn data roaming off!

My mobile operator gives me a daily data roaming allowance per day – in the countries they cover, which are quite a few, and that saves me a lot of money, but finding FON (www.fon.com) has been a life saver, as it gives me access to 6 million wi-fi hotspots worldwide, using my internet home provider log in. That is excellent value for money from something you already pay and can really use abroad. For calls, I use Justvoip.com which lets me use my phone (when connected to wireless) anywhere and charges me €0.07 per minute for mobile numbers anywhere in the world and just €0.05 per landline call. This meant for example, that after a 2 week holiday in Rio, I only paid £5 in roaming.. and not the usual £200! These tips are based on my personal experience and I can vouch for them – I hope you find them useful and that they help you on future travels. It is all about the experience, which should begin way before you board that plane!

Happy Travels,

Mrs. O

PS: I went to Rio de Janeiro earlier this year and planned the whole trip 8 months before. Just 2 days before travelling and whilst printing all the reservations, I realised I hadn’t booked all the internal flights, which I could swear I had… They were then too expensive to book as it was around new year and we ended missing up on a great couple of days in the south-east.. but that meant we got some extra time in Rio, which wasn’t  a bad thing (as I managed to convince the hotel to extend our stay at the same rate. Could have hurt otherwise!!)

The post Mrs. O’s Travel Tips appeared first on Mrs. O Around the World – a luxury travel blog by Ana Silva O'Reilly.

My favourite places in Palm Springs and Palm Desert

My love for California isn’t news to anyone. I LOVE it! People sometimes ask me why I keep going back year after year, and there is surely some type of magnet that attracts me to this place. I love San Francisco, Santa Monica and San Diego, but the Desert Cities, located a little over an hour from Los Angeles, have a special place in my heart.

California is one of Mr. and Mrs. O's favourite places in the world. Glad we found it by mistake!

California is one of Mr. and Mrs. O’s favourite places in the world. Glad we found it by mistake!

We first went to the area, to Rancho Mirage, to be more specific, by mistake, in 2008. I say by mistake because I was planning that year’s trip to go to San Diego for the first time and whilst exploring Google Maps, I couldn’t resist zooming in, and in and in!I think I must have been to “the desert” a good 10 times ever since and just got back last week.. and already looking at the best dates to go back in 2013. The interesting thing about this place is the variety of places one can go to – restaurants, shops, golf courses, you name it!

Looking healthy at the top of the San Jacinto Mountain (accessed by Palm Springs Aerial Tramway)

First things first – let me explain a little bit about the place. Everyone has heard of Palm Springs – and undoubtedly associate it with Hollywood, “in the good old days”. Streets have indeed been named after Frank Sinatra, Ginger Rogers and the like, who I am sure were regular visitors to the area. But Palm Springs is just one of the “desert” cities. Others include Palm Desert, Rancho Mirage, Indian Wells, La Quinta and Cathedral City and are not far from 2 slightly larger towns – Indio and Coachella.

As you drive around the place, you keep getting in and out of each city – interesting, but strange. I am making this up, but one could almost say that, for example, Rancho Mirage (which borders with Cathedral City and Palm Desert, for example) is 8 blocks by 8 blocks. Surely there is a reason for this, but I am afraid I do not know the answer.

Hello, Marilyn! (Palm Springs)

Why do I like this place? The weather is stunning. Dry heat (easier for me), warm when it’s still cold in Europe, and super warm when it is not. I like it.

If you don’t like playing golf or lounging by the pool, I would say this isn’t the place for you. Also, if you are looking for late night partying, I would suggest other places. Having cleared this up, here is my California Desert Address Book:

Restaurants:

It kills me when people say that food in the US isn’t good. I love eating out (pretty much anywhere) and have had some of my best meals in this country. In this area, one is spoiled for choice!

– Morgans in the desert – La Quinta – my most recent discovery and a new favourite. Quite smart, yet relaxed. Loved the steak, short ribs and had possibly the best dessert of the spring – salted caramel and popcorn sundae. Seriously good.The Living Wine Menu at 3rd Street Corner

– 3rd Street Corner Bistro – Palm Desert – love the living wine list… basically you get up, and from a selection of 800 bottles or so on display, you choose the one(s) you want! Great value (you are charged at retail prices, not restaurant prices, plus $5 corkage). Special 3-course $30 menu with wine pairings included on Sundays only.

Mrs O likes her cocktails

– Pacifica Seafood – Palm Desert – as the name indicates, not a place for meat. Always have oysters and crab cakes (not together!). And great cocktails (Georgia Peach is usually my choice).

– Roy’s – Rancho MIrage – this was a good surprise. I have never been to Hawaii, so not quite sure what Hawaiian Fusion means. But I love the lobster sushi, the macadamia nut crusted mahi-mahi and let’s not talk about desserts (chocolate, chocolate, chocolate).

For a bit of post dinner fun (and think that most people have dinner early – and I mean early!! – we end up trying our luck at the Agua Caliente Casino, which is actually really nice and has a good selection of bars. I am terrible at gambling, and possibly why they want me to go back every time.

Shopping:

Now this is where it gets serious.. you are spoiled for choice and obviously it is one of my favourite “post-pool” and “pre-dinner” activities. We always try to squeeze in a little hour every day, so we don’t get tired.

I love this part of the world

Downtown Palm Springs is the place to go for vintage boutiques, and most shops have been around for a long time. If you fancy some glamour, well then you can’t miss the desert’s own Rodeo Drive, in Palm Desert. El Paseo, as it is called, is a very nice street which combines art galleries, boutiques, designer shops and some of my favourite American chains such as J Crew (with its own concept, not regular store), Williams Sonoma (makes me want to have 110v power sockets so I can use all their cooking gadgets) and of course, an Apple store.

Lastly, but not the least, one of my favourite places in the world – Desert Hills Premium Outlets. Not going to make any comments, but has a great selection and it is worth joining their VIP Club online before going and printing out the discount coupons. It may become ridiculous. Seriously.

Accommodation:

The view from our villa at the Westin Mission Hills

In terms of accommodation, I can only recommend the only place we have ever stayed at – the Westin Mission Hills. This was the hotel we found by “mistake”, and one of our favourites in the world. It is not the most luxurious place I have ever stayed at, but I love it. It’s spacious, super comfortable and quite understated. Oh and with its 2 PGA golf courses, it keeps Mr. O wanting to go back. We call it out home away from home.

There are plenty of choices in the area for every budget, but as always, I can only recommend places I have been to.

Getting there:

Palm Springs International Airport is around the corner, but the area is served by all Greater Los Angeles airports, which are around 1-2 hours drive away.

On this trip we drove from Scottsdale in Arizona to the desert, and from there on to San Diego in our rental car. We flew into Phoenix, AZ and out of San Diego, CA with British Airways.

I always say a gin tastes better with a view!

Our 2012 trip came to an end, but as I said before it is time to start planning our restful week for 2013. Anyone wants to join?

xo

Mrs. O

The post My favourite places in Palm Springs and Palm Desert appeared first on Mrs. O Around the World – a luxury travel blog by Ana Silva O'Reilly.

5+1 reasons why I love the UK

Why I love the UK

When people find out I am originally from Portugal, a question usually follows: “Oh, and you moved to England?”. I think people get even more surprised when I respond something along the lines of “Yes, and I love it”!

Yes the weather isn’t the same as in Lisbon – and not to say that I don’t love Portugal, I do – but there are some amazing things in this country. I have been thinking about this for a while and decided to share them with you.

1. The British are not cold and distant

It may take a while to break the ice, but if my experience is anything to go by, the Brits are possibly some of the nicest people I have ever met. Polite, kind and with a dark sense of humour. Once you take the step from being an acquaintance to becoming a friend, these connections last forever. People value them and will go out of their way to help you out. I have met some incredible people everywhere in the world, but there is something about the Brits..

The British sense of humour

The British sense of humour

As as a tourist, people will stop and give you the right directions more often than not!

2. It doesn’t always rain

I may be crucified but global warming has been OK, i.e. not in the general sense, but in the last couple of years, England has had nicer summers (but also colder winters). That means that summer can be actually a season, and a heatwave lasts more than 2 days (I love it when they call them heatwaves, or when they say “It is hotter today in London than in Havana”.

Nonetheless, there is no sense of entitlement and it is incredible how happy people become when the trees start blooming and you don’t need a coat anymore.

As a Portuguese, I will not wear sandals just because it is sunny – it can be slightly weird when in March, with 18C, everyone starts wearing shorts and flip-flops!

3. I love English food

Yes, there is such thing as English or British food and I love it. Everyone that has visited, no exception, has enjoyed the wonders of British cuisine with me – from chicken liver parfait, to pork belly, the sunday roasts and don’t get me started on the desserts.

The perfect Sunday Roast - photo by blog.mutewatch.com/tag/sunday-roast/

The perfect Sunday Roast – photo by blog.mutewatch.com/tag/sunday-roast/

I may start campaigning for British restaurants abroad. And overall, the Brits enjoy foreign and continental food so much on their holidays, they demand the same back home, so great ingredients are easy to find.

Thank God for sticky toffee pudding (my sister's favourite)

Thank God for sticky toffee pudding (my sister’s favourite)

4. The system works

When someone commits to a date or a deliverable, they mean it. You can count on it – and I like that. That means, of course, you are expected to do the same, which is more than fair. Customer service in the UK is second to none in Europe, there is such thing as a service industry and in my experience, if we exclude Asia, it is light years ahead from anywhere except the United States. If a company fails you, they apologise and more often than not, they try to make it right.

Say it when you mean it

Say it when you mean it

If you need to go to the doctor, you get an appointment on that day or the next day. They apologise if they run over 20 mins late – and this is the public health service. In Portugal, it drives me crazy when I pay €80 for a 15m appointment and the consultant is late and it is supposed to be OK. I really don’t get it.

5. Yes means yes, no means no (as it should)

..and that matters when a friendship has been started. One thing that drives me crazy is when you try to make dinner plans with someone in Portugal, they say yes and have no intention to actually commit to a particular dinner date. I try to go to Portugal regularly and with limited time, I like to book these dinners and meals early – this is difficult for people to actually understand that I won’t “wing” them. Whilst in England, with various groups of friends, we are completely used to make plans with a couple of months notice if need be. I have a busy social life and if you want to spend time with me, get it in the diary and I will honour it – I won’t cancel a dinner with someone because I got or am hoping to get a better offer.

Oh.. I forgot to mention I get to wear hats in England :) and I love them!

Oh.. I forgot to mention I get to wear hats in England 🙂 and I love them!

I saved the best for last of course, I love England even more as Mr. O is, guess what, British! In his own words, he is very continental. And apparently, I’m the reverse which it is why it works so well.

Time to end the rant. I really don’t know why England gets such bad press sometimes. I have felt welcome by everyone every time I moved here  – from the lady in the supermarket, to the doctor, the MBA teacher or my colleagues at work. I am Portuguese and a very proud one – don’t get me wrong, but that doesn’t mean I cannot live in a different country and also feel at home.

And there is no other place where people call you “love” all the time, I love it! “Alright, love?” “Can I help you, love?” You already have. Thank you for making me feel at home.

Mrs. O

The post 5+1 reasons why I love the UK appeared first on Mrs. O Around the World – a luxury travel blog by Ana Silva O'Reilly.

I feel like dancing the Charleston

A little while ago, one of Mr. O’s best friends announced he was getting married, which is always a happy moment. We thought it would be a destination wedding, as the lovely bride was American, but were we surprised when we heard where we were headed – the lovely city of Charleston, in South Carolina.

First things first, and a bit of Google Mapping was required – found it! How to get there? Atlanta seemed the closest option, and with a little help from BA, off we went.

Atlanta is a bit of a strange place – but it has grown on me! The home of many large corporations like Coca Cola and CNN to name the few, it is located in Georgia, the peach state (this bit of information will be important for later!).

The World of Coca Cola in Atlanta, Georgia

The World of Coca Cola in Atlanta, Georgia

We stayed downtown, which is strange as it has many skyscrapers but no shops, many conferency-type hotels.. and the lovely Centennial Park, where you can find an incredible attraction.. the World of Coca Cola! The Westin Peachtree was our home for the night – the tallest building in town, it offered incredible views of the city’s skyline. The fact that the hotel upgraded us to the Presidential Suite, may have helped a little (we only found the extra bedrooms before we left!!)

When I go to the USA, I always use Open Table to book restaurants – and wasn’t I surprised when I found Boston’s Legal Seafood right there? I was suddenly hungry for oysters, clam chowder and crab legs with a side of.. a Georgia Peach cocktail 🙂

The next morning, bright and early (thank you, Mr. Jetlag), we set off east towards Charleston. En route, we couldn’t ignore the giant billboards which kept telling us that we should have peaches. One of my favourite fruits, I had no choice but to oblige! They were sweet and delicious as expected.

Lovely sweet peaches

Lovely sweet peaches

Having done a bit of research, I “accidentally” found out that we had to make another pit stop en route.. hum.. a little of shopping at the Tanger Outlets in Commerce, GA was necessary!

By 5.30pm we arrived and checked into our grande dame hotel, Charleston Place, close to King Street, on the “fashion mile”. Despite being a small city, Charleston has all the big-name shops and quirky boutiques you could want.

Charleston Place Hotel - photo by Charleston Visitors Bureau

Charleston Place Hotel – photo by Charleston Visitors Bureau

What is so special about this small city in South Carolina? Well, it’s postcard pretty; the people are pretty lovely – “y’all from England?” – and, best of all, British accents are few and far between.

We left the hotel and walked towards East Bay Street, where the trendiest bars and restaurants can be found.

Market Pavillion Pool

Market Pavillion Pool – photo by Market Pavillion Hotel

We headed to the Pavilion Bar, on the rooftop of the Market Pavilion Hotel, where we enjoyed views of historic Charleston and the city’s spectacular sunsets, a cascading pool and signature cocktails, the perfect place to start the night, and I did so with the local speciality – a sweet tea martini. Made with local Firefly sweet tea vodka (definitely the find of the trip) and topped with southern lemonade, it was destined to be the drink of the night. And the first of many, naturally.

East Bay Street - photo by blaineharrington.photoshelter.com

East Bay Street – photo by blaineharrington.photoshelter.com

For dinner, we booked a table at Slightly North of Broad or SNOB, as the locals call it. Located in a 19th-century brick warehouse just north of Broad Street, it gave us a taste of some of the South’s best dishes: stuffed Caroline quail breast and seared grouper. And, of course, there’s another opportunity to try a variation of the tea martini, appropriately named the Charleston, which appears to be the same as the previous one, but now with a hint of mint.

Gotta love the Charleston

Gotta love the Charleston

The night was still young, and there were plenty of places to check out before 2am, when everything shuts down. We started at the Social Wine Bar, as we wanted to see if it really had 4,000 bottles of wine on display. It looks like it probably did, though time constraints mean we manage only to try a few. We ended the night at the Rooftop Bar at the Vendue Inn – but not before trying the other Firefly vodka flavours: peach, mint and lemon.

Isle of Palms beach

Isle of Palms beach

The next morning, a little bit light-headed, we woke up bright and early to get to the beach and top up our tans. We chose the Isle of Palms beach, less than half an hour away along the coast. There’s nothing like a sun lounger and a couple of dips in the sea to clear our heads.

 

Very strange sunlounger!

Very strange sunlounger!

The next day we headed towards the lovely Savannah… but that is a story to share later!

 

Funnily enough, we didn’t dance.. humm… we may need to go back 🙂 oh well, another trip to plan!

Mrs. O

The post I feel like dancing the Charleston appeared first on Mrs. O Around the World – a luxury travel blog by Ana Silva O'Reilly.

A luxury weekend in Barcelona

Barcelona welcomed me back

For over 4 years, I had the privilege of “having” to go to Barcelona for work every other week. During this time, I spread my time between Lisbon, Madrid and Barcelona – something I am incredibly grateful for, and despite tiring, was in fact, incredible. Could you pick 3 better places?

Barcelona - photo by ecoobe.com

This adventure ended in 2007 (when I traded the 2 Spanish cities for Istanbul just for fun) and I had not returned to Barcelona since. Why? I honestly don’t know. The memories I have from this place are fantastic – fell in love with this place, made amazing friends which I keep to this day and do not get me started on the food.. and shopping!

My birthday was approaching and, with the help of my friend Trudi (my travel partner in crime, together with Mr O and her husband), after a couple of drinks one night, we made a decision – we would go to Barcelona for my birthday (and don’t ask, a lady never tells).

The W Barcelona, a new landmark (photo by spg.com)

Staying faithful to my motto – if you leave home, it has to be better – there was only one place to stay – the fabulous W Barcelona. Flights booked with British Airways (of course, is there another way?), and we were ready to go!

With a few weeks to spare, a little preparation was required – should I try new places.. or should I go back down memory lane? It must be my age – I decided to go with the latter.

Friday Night

Dinner at Tragaluz was a staple, and I couldn’t not go back. Some changes took place (for the better), but the place remained trendy and the food, creative and delicious. It would be wrong not to try one of my favourite local wines – Priorat is very close to Barcelona and home to one of my favourite winemaking regions in the world.Les Terrasses and Vichy Catalan sparkling water.. when in Rome..

We checked-in at the hotel (quite late, but of course not a problem for a hotel whose concierge service it’s called “Whatever Whenever”) and boy, were we surprised!

Cool as any W, the Barcelona property isn’t black.. it is red. Fiery like the Spanish, yet warm and inviting. It would be the understatement of the year to say that our room was comfortable. A cool corner suite (thank you!), and views to die for. It was dark.. but we still found the mini bar. Is this the real thing of what?

This is what I call a mini bar

Nonethess, no rest for the wicked and time to check out Eclipse, the cool roof top bar. Want stunning views and like cocktails? This is the place to come.

Eclipse @ W - photo by spg.com

 

Saturday

This is what I call a room with a view (photo by SPG.com)

A little light-headed (those watermelon martinis were delicious), what better way to get rid of any pain other than a brisk walk? I took Mr. O and friends to one of my favourite places in Barcelona. Yes it is touristy, but there is something special about it -we started our (late) morning at the Boqueria or St. Josep market.

Any flavour of freshly squeezed juice you want - and no they weren't my birthday cake candles!

The rest of the morning was spent shopping (where to start.. humm… Portal de L’Angel, followed by Passeig de Grácia) and all of a sudden, it was time for lunch!

Barcelona equals fish and seafood to me.. so we had to go to Agua not far from the Olympic port, where we toasted the birthday girl with some nice Cava.

You couldn't get any closer to the water - photo by www.grupotragaluz.com

We needed to burn some calories, so decided to walk by the seafront towards the hotel. My friends, aka the tourists couldn’t resist taking photo after photo of this new landmark.

My favourite tourists

We then spent a lazy afternoon at the hotel – so many things to do, and it would be a shame not to enjoy the views from as many windows as possible!

Dinner took place at La Barceloneta, which was a short walk from the hotel. Give me gambas, ibérico and a good glass of wine and I’m a happy girl.

Some ibérico bellota - absolutely the real thing

Throw in a tasty dessert and you pretty much have me. Who said life isn’t easy and simple?

The evening ended with yet another delicious cocktail, this time at the W Bar over a competitive game of knots and crosses. Who knew how addictive this could be?

 

Sunday

Sunday in Spain means no shopping, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. We started the day with this view.. I was a year older after all, and with age comes the appreciation of small things… orange juice (which, like gin & tonics always taste better in Spain).. and the beach.

Orange juice always tastes better with a view

I have actually never been to the beach in Barcelona, but *could* be persuaded to come back and try the new beach club the W is opening once the summer season starts… this could be the ideal weekend break!

The W Barcelona is the only hotel in Barcelona with direct beach access

Time for (yet) another meal and meet some very special local friends. You know you have something special going on when despite not seeing them for 5 years, you hug and it is as if you were never gone. The difference is that now they are both mothers – and I have Mr. O 🙂 amazing or what?

Barcelona makes me happy!

And what was the last meal? Paella, arroz negro and fideuá at el Merendero de la Mari at Palau de Mar. I can’t choose one, so had to persuade everyone to order the 3.

Good things come to an end, as they say, and it was time to go. But I may be back before the year ends.. who knows?

Hope you enjoyed reading my "postcard" from Barcelona

Like my friends, I felt that Barcelona never forgot me and certainly made me feel welcome. So welcome, I could stay forever.

Gracies for the best birthday ever!

Mrs.O

The post A luxury weekend in Barcelona appeared first on Mrs. O Around the World – a luxury travel blog by Ana Silva O'Reilly.

A wine tasting weekend in Piemonte, Italy

Wine? Check. Italy? Check. Fab food? Check. A wine tasting weekend in Piemonte, Italy away with Mr. O and our closest friends? Absolutely! I love our wine tasting weekends organised by Rebecca sooo much.. I had to ask her to write about our most recent one. When are we going back? Very soon, I hope! Enjoy! Mrs. O

We were delighted to be accompanied by Mr. & Mrs. O and friends, on one of our weekends away in the Langhe, in the wine region of Piedmont, probably best known for its wonderfully complex Barolo wines.

The Langhe, Piemonte

The Langhe, Piemonte

The Langhe hills are in a small basin at the foot of the Maritime Alps (Piedmont meaning ‘foot of mountain’), where we met for a gastronomic weekend visiting local Barolo and Barbera d’Alba producers to taste and learn about how they make their wines and sample the local cuisine.  It was a tough gig, but someone had to do it!  The region is famous for its hearty mountainous cuisine that goes so well with their full-bodied red wines and excellent lesser-known whites.

Friday Evening – Day One: 

Our first dinner was at a local Enoteca (Vinoteca Centro Storico) in the Barolo commune of Serralunga d’Alba or, Alessio’s as it is also known.  Famous locally for its food and wine list (Alessio also has a stunning Champagne list, but we were not here to taste Champagne!).  Here we were greeted by Alessio himself and joined by winemaker Nicola Bianchi of Le Vigne di Cà Nova, a talented up and coming young producer based in Roddino, to taste some of his wines over dinner, all introduced by our generous hosts.

Our Hosts, Alessio and Nicola Bianchi

Our Hosts, Alessio and Nicola Bianchi

An aperitivo to start things off – we drank Rocche dei Manzoni’s, Brut Zero 2002, a superb vintage sparkling made in the classic method.

Le Vigne di Cà Nova’s Le Marne Chardonnay 2009 – a stunning example of an unoaked Langhe chardonnay, was lightly honeyed, fresh, fruity and floral complemented and enhanced by the fresh basil aromas permeating the air from Alessio’s wonderful antipasti, which was a deliciously light airy cross between a souffle and a flan infused with basil accompanied by perfectly seasoned local vegetables Sformato con basilico. 


It is traditional in Piedmont to drink Barbera with the pasta course, so Nicola’s award winning Barbera d’Alba ‘Bric de Maschi’ 2007 with rich full black fruit on the nose combined with gentle spices, and a palate that’s smooth and elegant balancing rich dark fruit and acidity – superb (!) was the perfect accompaniment to the first delicious pasta course of our weekend Tajarin al Pomadoro, (home made by Alessio’s wife that morning) this simple pasta dish with tomatoes (Tajarin is a Piemontese variation on Tagiatelle, with finer ribbons of pasta).

Dining at Alessio's

Dining at Alessio’s

Then the secondi, a rich local dish of Coniglio (rabbit) simply cooked with potatoes and vegetables and to accompany it Nicola’s Acclivio Pinot Noir 2008 – a lovely intense ruby red colour and on the nose there is the classic scent of rhubarb and red berries as well as hints of cinnamon and rosemary (an almost Burgundian Pinot Noir from Piemonte!) the palate was rounded and structured – simply sumptuous with an elegant and full rich red fruit finish!

And then first of our Barolo for the weekend, to go with the rabbit, and also to accompany the cheese course as is traditional in Piemonte.

Piemonte has a rich selection to choose from when it comes to cheese (Slow Food alternates with Cheese, every other year) with each town making its own – we had local cheeses – including a Toma and Castelmagno – from the region.  Both Barolos were from Giacomo Brezza, a traditional producer with vineyards in Monforte d’Alba, made in the traditional style, so matured in old oak botti grandi for 3 years, then a year in bottle before release onto the market.

Piemontese Cheese

Piemontese Cheese

The first was a young Barolo from 2007 Brezza Barolo ‘Bricco Sarmassa’ from their cru Sarmassa vineyard, which although young had an elegance and soft tannins, with full rich red fruits – beautiful – then we moved on to the 2001 Brezza Barolo Castellero all red fruits, roses and hints of aniseed with a full rounded finish – drinking beautifully…

To finish off our feast a dolci – a rich creamy, yet light panacotta followed by a local digestif, or a grappa for the boys, and it was time for us to bid farewell to our generous hosts for the journey back to Brezza for a well earned rest – a perfect end to our first evening in the Langhe!

 

The view from Alessio's

The view from Alessio’s

 

Saturday – Day Two in the Langhe: 

Another stunning day greeted us in the Langhe and after a relaxing breakfast at Hotel Brezza we hit the bus again and back to Serralunga d’Alba to visit Schiavenza’s Cantina and Trattoria.

Schiavenza, Serralunga d’Alba

Schiavenza, Serralunga d’Alba

Walter (the winemaker) is making beautiful Barbera and Baroli in the traditional way, so no temperature control, traditional concrete vats and only using large oak botti from Slavonian oak to age their wines. They are a small family producer and make just 35,000 bottles per annum.  We learnt first hand how they make and age their wines and the passion that lies behind every bottle, on our cantina tour and tasting, followed by a superb lunch in their trattoria.

Schiavenza's Cellar

Schiavenza’s Cellar

Walter then led us through a tasting of six of his wines from his Barbera d’Alba 2008, to Barolo from his two-cru vineyards, Broglio and Prapo (2007 and 2006) from Serralunga d’Alba, this commune is known for its powerful structured Barolo. Our tasting culminated with his most recently released Barolo Broglio Riserva 2004 (only made in the best years).

Barolo Broglio Riserva 2004 – aged for 5 years in Slavonian oak and up to 2 in bottle.   This classic vintage for Barolo with its “bloody lovely nose” (thank you, Miss O’Reilly!). Had a beautiful nose of red currants and hedgerow fruits mixed with cinnamon, which leads to an elegant and smooth rich palate of dried figs, cherries and subtle Indian spices – a structured and rounded Barolo with a long and elegant finish – stunning!

For lunch just a quick four courses…

Schiavenza Lunch with Walter, our host

Schiavenza Lunch with Walter, our host

Two beautiful antipasti – a fresh salad with chicken (a rare thing in the Langhe!) followed by risotto in deep-fried Zuccini flowers, accompanied by a 2010 Roero Arneis, a fresh fruity traditional varietal from Piemonte.

Schiavenza’s Barbera d’Alba 2008, with just a little oak ageing, an elegant Barbera with black cherries and spice on the nose the combination of fruit, spice and acidity complemented the primi perfectly – agnolotti with butter and sage, made that morning by our host Enrica.

Pasta Primi – agnolotti with butter and sage

Pasta Primi – agnolotti with butter and sage

Then, of course, a little dolci… this was gelato served with a chocolate torte, on the side, and Barolo Chinato from Schiavenza over the ice cream, (Chinato is a speciality local digestif made with the bark from the South American chincona tree, steeped in Barolo and each producer has their own secret recipe of herbs (passed down from generation to generation) that are used and guarded closely) – washed down with a glass of Chinato – just perfect!

A brief stop to admire the view over Serralunga d’Alba from the terrace, then a quick hop back on the bus to Brezza, for some relaxation before the evening’s activities.

View from the terrace at Schiavenza

View from the terrace at Schiavenza

 

Saturday evening – dinner and perhaps another glass of wine, or two! 

In the evening we were back on our bus for a longer trip out to Serravalle, in the Alta Langhe, a long steep drive up through Roddino, but worth the wait – we went to simply the best restaurant in the region, Trattoria La Coccinella where we were in for a culinary treat.  We were greeted by the three brothers who run the restaurant, Massimo, Alessandro and Tiziano and we were joined by Alfio Cavallotto from the famous Cavallotto estate in the commune of Castiglione Falletto.

For our aperitivo upon arrival we tasted the Rocche dei Manzoni, Brut Zero Rose 2005, a crisp dry vintage sparkling made in the traditional method.  85% Pinot Noir and 15% Chardonnay.  A wonderful salmon pink colour and on the nose it has wild strawberries, citrus and orange zest with hints of toasted almonds on the palate and a wonderful creamy finish – also paired with the first of our antipasti which worked very well – Antipasti Crema di Pane e Pomodoro con Pescatrice e capesante – a soup with tomatoes, scallops and fish with a cheese amaretto – beautiful.

Our second antipasti was a roasted and stuffed cipolla, or onion, – unexpected and quite delicious! 

Antipasti - Oven roasted and stuffed cipolla

Antipasti – Oven roasted and stuffed cipolla

Primi  “Plin”di Coniglio al suo sugo d’Arrosto for the pasta we were served agnolotti, plin, meaning ‘a pinch’ a smaller version of ravioli stuffed with rabbit.   To accompany this we were treated to Cavallotto’s Barbera d’Alba ‘Bricco Boschis Cuculo 2005 & 2006.   Both superb expressions of this wine – rich dark fruit, floral notes and spice – smooth elegant and beautifully balanced wines – exhibiting the harmony between fruit, tannin acidity, rounded and elegant with a long full elegant finish.  Stunning.   The 2005 was drinking to perfection (I believe the cry from Mr O was “nice” – high praise indeed!) the 2006 superb, but another year needed as it was still a little closed.

Then time for our fourth course of the evening (and a little surreptitious belt loosening) for the Rolata di Capretto dell’ Alta Langa con Patate e Cipollotto goat sourced locally, cooked to perfection, served with potatoes and roasted onions and to accompany it a sublime Barolo:

Rosie enjoying the Magnum of Cavallotto Vigna San Guiseppe Riserva

Rosie enjoying the Magnum of Cavallotto Vigna San Guiseppe Riserva

Cavallotto’s 2004 Barolo Bricco Boschis Vigna San Giuseppe Riserva, en magnum.  As Alfio explained this Barolo spends five years in wood and a minimum of a year in bottle before release – on the nose rich red fruit, dried flowers and more ethereal notes of tobacco and liquorice, as layers of ripe dark fruit blossom on the palate in this powerful expression of Barolo.  Simply stunning!

La Coccinella’s stunning dolci!

La Coccinella’s stunning dolci!

I Nostri Dolci – a trio of desserts – ice cream, berries, chocolate to die for – enough to tempt even those (like me) without a sweet tooth…

Trattoria La Coccinella once again stunned us with food that would not have gone amiss in a Michelin starred restaurant and the evening was rounded off with local digestif – before a quiet trip home contemplating the gourmet extravaganza of the last 24 hours…

 

Sunday – less than 48 hours in and just time for one last lunch and tasting! 

Time to relax and, for some, a chance to experience the historic town of Barolo and the museum… for others a gentle stroll and a caffé or two in the old town, enjoying the local scenery.

Vineyards from Brezza overlooking Barolo

Vineyards from Brezza overlooking Barolo

For our final lunch and tasting, not far to go this time, as it was with the Brezzas who own the excellent Hotel and Restaurant Brezza and Giacomo Brezza the winery where we stayed.  We had a lovely relaxed lunch sat outside on the terrace overlooking Barolo, with Enzo and Charlotte Brezza – Charlotte told us about the history of the estate – established 1885 with the first bottling in 1910.  Enzo’s father and Mama Brezza still both work every day in the winery and restaurant, respectively.  Enzo Brezza is another producer who likes to make wine in the traditional way, so that it reveals the true flavour of the grape, the climate and the soil, or terroir, not of the cellar.

It wouldn’t be a trip to the Langhe without a few last courses and a quick tasting to round off the weekend…

Enzo let us taste Barolo from his two cru vineyards, Sarmassa and Cannubi.  The 2005 Sarmassa was a rich silky terracotta in colour – full of rich fresh berry fruit, aniseed and balsam on the nose, leading to a rich, structured savoury palate with hints of tobacco and spice – 2005 was a more forward vintage so drinking beautifully already.

2004 Brezza Barolo Cannubi – 2004 was a classic vintage and this is also a classic Barolo.   I was surprised just how much this wine had opened up since I last tasted it some months ago – this is a beast of a Barolo – with rich black fruits on the nose and a strong sweet scent of violets and sweet hay. The palate is very full with gentle unaggressive tannins, which give a perfect balance to the fruit and spice with a long and full finish – a perfect wine to end our trip to the Langhe!

View out over the vineyards from Brezza

View out over the vineyards from Brezza

Then after some sad farewells to our hosts, Enzo and Charlotte, and we were off once again through the breathtakingly beautiful Langhe hills, to Torino airport, and then home to London and the UK.

Having been lucky enough to visited the Langhe quite a few times now, each time I visit I’m filled anew with wonderment at the warmth of the people, the richness and contrasts of the heritage, food and the wines, which like the vines run deep into the heart of this beautiful region.  All the producers, like their wines, have very different personalities and philosophies, but their passion for winemaking binds them together. 

As ever, it was very hard to leave and I look forward to seeing you all back in the Langhe again soon – “Bloody marvelous weekend” – to steal Miss O’s phrase!

Our Last glimpse of Barolo from Brezza Terrace

Our Last glimpse of Barolo from Brezza Terrace

 

Rebecca

 

The post A wine tasting weekend in Piemonte, Italy appeared first on Mrs. O Around the World – a luxury travel blog by Ana Silva O'Reilly.

Trying new places in Lisbon

My self-confessed love for Lisbon isn’t new to anyone, and admittedly, I confess I have been sticking to a comfortable routine on my monthly visits? Why? I hear you ask – because I miss these places and always want to go back!

Nonetheless, it was time to try something new and on a recent trip to Portugal’s capital city and my hometown, Mr. O and I did just that!

Where to sleep? I love the Sheraton, but recently new hotels have been opening up and I decided to try not one, but two!

The Altis Avenida and one of Lisbon's 7 hills

The Altis Avenida and one of Lisbon’s 7 hills

The chosen one for the first night? The Altis Avenida, bang on Avenida da Liberdade and Praça dos Restauradores. 5-star (of course) and reminiscent of its theatre heritage – the hotel building is back to back with Lisbon’s main theatre – Teatro D. Maria II.

For dinner, we tried and loved Bocca, where Chef Alexandre Silva works mainly with portuguese seasonal products and his menus feature foods of the country’s diverse regions. We thought that the menu was incredibly creative, the service very attentive and the food.. delicious!

 

The chef's amouse bouche at Bocca - now sadly closed

The chef’s amouse bouche at Bocca – now sadly closed

It is worth mentioning about its incredible wine selection (100 wines by the glass), chosen by the sommelier, Ricardo Morais. Never tried Portuguese wine? You are missing out! Sadly, thanks to the economic climate, Bocca closed down in 2012. I could have changed this post, but I really didn’t want to ignore this place. It deserves a mention here.

Saturday

We woke up bright and early to this view – seriously! We were delighted with this hotel and the simple but hearthy breakfast.

 

The terrace at Altis Avenida, Lisboa

The terrace at Altis Avenida, Lisboa

One of the advantages of being in Avenida da Liberdade is, of course, the shopping. I have been known to indulge every now and then, but this time I wanted to treat Mr. O. He was very sad when Labrador closed down, but delighted that Wickett Jones took its place. We loved the shop, the clothes and the stairs (which we are copying!)

 

Wickett Jones - Mr O's favourite shop

Wickett Jones – Mr O’s favourite shop

Time to check out and check into our new hotel – not ideal.. but I was promised it would be worth it…say hello to the Altis Belém!

 

The swanky reception at the Altis Belem

The swanky reception at the Altis Belem

Located near Belem, in the south-west of Lisbon – bang on River Tejo, it is on an idyllic location – it’s like you are on holiday in Lisbon. Look at the view of our room.

 

This is a room with a view

This is a room with a view

I think we just stayed the whole afternoon at the spa and at our balcony enjoying a bottle of champagne and the view – do you really need more? I don’t!

Time for dinner.. and cocktails! I stayed true to my promise and tried yet another new place – Pedro e o Lobo, also known for its cocktails, which I highly recommend!

Pre dinner cocktails at Pedro e o Lobo

Pre dinner cocktails at Pedro e o Lobo

Again, creative Portuguese cuisine at its best, and certainly worth a visit? My favourite out of the 2? Ask me!

 

Sunday

Not much time on Sunday as we slept til 12pm, something that doesn’t normally happen, but I couldn’t resist the beds! We had a lovely brunch at the hotel – and we really didn’t want to leave!

 

The bar at Altis Belem

The bar at Altis Belem

We just had a little bit of time to stop at El Corte Inglés, Lisbon’s only department store (which I love) and buy some interesting things.

As they say, good things come to an end 🙂 but there will always be Lisbon, right? Looking forward to my next trip in July!

Mrs. O

The post Trying new places in Lisbon appeared first on Mrs. O Around the World – a luxury travel blog by Ana Silva O'Reilly.

Tales from a weekend in Paris

Paris does not require a proper introduction. Considered by many the most romantic city in the world, it is a city that has grown on me over time. I think I must have visited a good 6 times, but Mr. O and I hadn’t ventured over the Channel for around 5 years, so it was great to go back for a weekend in Paris.

Our daily walk - just past the Arc du Triomphe

Our daily walk – just past the Arc du Triomphe

For the second consecutive time, we stayed at Le Meridien Etoile (Starwood had somehow a limited choice in Paris, but of course that now changed with the recent opening of the W – just the excuse I needed to go back). It’s located not too far from Etoile – Place Charles de Gaulle, possibly a 5 minute walk – and a quite pleasant one, I may add.

For our weekend routine, well, you know the drill. Walk down the Champs Elysées – not one of my favourite places in Paris as it is way too busy, say a little hello to Monsieur Vuitton (if there is no queue, which is pretty standard and ridiculous) and have a nice and pleasant walk down Avenue Montaigne.

This is where you see the impossibly chic Parisien ladies who lunch – and shop of course!

Plaza Athenée, Av Montaigne, Paris - Very Sex and the City

Plaza Athen̩e, Av Montaigne, Paris РVery Sex and the City

From there, we get to the river.. the Seine, of course, and start playing “Spot the Tower”. Have you noticed how in movies, the Eiffel Tower is always within sight? I love playing that game – we are in Paris, after all – and I have no intention of getting any closer to it. It’s Saturday, it is sunny.. and that means queues, which Mrs. O doesn’t care too much for.

It’s approaching noon and I haven’t bought anything yet… so time to catch a taxi and get to my favourite department store in France – Le Bon Marché in the Rive Gauche. It is not a touristic destination, which makes it way more appealing and obviously not so crowded, like Printemps or Galleries Laffayette.

Apologies, can't remember what this place is called...

Apologies, can’t remember what this place is called…

I love the theatrical displays and having a good look at all the best things money can buy, my favourite part being the homewares section. Paris is the home of Frette bed linen and it is really wonderful to see so much of it. Shame it isn’t much cheaper than at home! Oh.. and the shoes aren’t bad either 😉

Le Bon Marché department store

Le Bon Marché department store

From there, we walked down Rue des Sévres, a wonderful surprise on quite a few levels! I found one of my favourite shops in the world – Natura, a Brazilian beauty brand, Princesse Tam Tam (ladies, take note), Repetto (shoes!!) and the most beautiful Hermès store I have ever seen. It is so special, it has a flower shop inside. Sadly, I was too embarrased to take photos.

Hermès - Rive Gauche

Herm̬s РRive Gauche

From there, we kept on walking, all the way to St. Germain. I love getting lost in the side streets and finding a lovely bistro for lunch. We managed to find the place we went to last time, but I couldn’t tell you where it was, even if I tried. I know it is not too far from.. Ladurée!

Ladurée on Rue Royale

Ladurée on Rue Royale

We certainly needed to digest the stunning macaroons (coconut are still my favourites), and isn’t a walk by the River Seine the perfect place to do so?

Mrs. O by the Seine

Mrs. O by the Seine

We crossed a different bridge and loved seeing the love locks – almost gave in to temptation, but didn’t at the end – possibly the street sellers selling them by the kilo may have possibly put me off. But still sweet and a nice kodak moment.

Love is everywhere in Paris

Love is everywhere in Paris

And of course, we couldn’t not walk around the Louvre, could we? And yes.. I did it.. just for Mrs. O’s blog…

Not one of my proudest moments..

Not one of my proudest moments..

Writing about it makes really takes me back to very happy weekends. I always fantasized about spending a couple of weeks in the summer in this city, and get lost everyday.. hum.. that idea seems better and better… let’s see what Mr. O thinks.

Love Paris. Love travel. Love shoes.

xx

Mrs. O

 

PS. I went to Paris again in January 2013 – read about my latest trip here!

The post Tales from a weekend in Paris appeared first on Mrs. O Around the World – a luxury travel blog by Ana Silva O'Reilly.

The mountains are calling! Mrs O loves Val Thorens, French Alps

View from the top - Le Caron - Val Thorens (by Jim Newton)

It used to be a January tradition, but we figured out recently that in March.. a lot more sun can be found in this delightful ski resort, set in the French Alps, in – you guessed it – La France.

I think that 2012 is our 6th year in Val Thorens, the highest ski resort in Europe – standing proud at 2300m. Part of the 3 Valées, the largest ski domain in Europe, which includes Couchevel and Meribel, you are pretty much guaranteed the best possible snow in the area – and some of the most amazing views.

The hills are alive!

Val Thorens isn’t a huge resort, but has everything we need – fantastic accommodation, great restaurants and great ski-in ski-out access. Oh and have I mentioned great skiing instructors?

L' Oxalys

We have made L’Oxalys our home in the mountains – every year we treat ourselves to a lovely 4-bedroom chalet style apartment, and we always go back for more. One of the things we particularly like are the well-kept and stylish accommodation, the great access to the slopes and.. the private pool, spa and steam room that you can book by the hour – for just you and your closest friends. Can it get better than this?

The private spa room at L'Oxalys

Can it get better than this, I hear you asking? Well, how about a 2-star Michelin meal by the fabulous French chef Jean Sulpice? We splashed out for the 5 course menu – which turned out to be a 9 course menu… let’s just say I wasn’t hungry for a while…

The epic starter trio - Jean Sulpice - L'Oxalys

What else need to do to prepare your next skiing trip to Val Thorens? Get skiing lessons. We met David Mitchell, the only British skiing instructor with ESF last year and went back for more again this year. And of course we already booked for 2013! Besides being extremely skilled as an instructor, he is nice, attentive and extremely patient (which you need to be if you are attempting to get Mrs. O to ski). My 2 hours a day with David have gone a long way and I’m almost better than intermediate – but black runs will need to wait a couple more years!

A much deserved rest

One thing I am totally against of is “drink-driving” and really do not understand how people are actively encouraged to “drink and ski”, which seems even more dangerous than actual skiing. I would really like to see people’s behaviour change, as this phenomenon is really visible on the slopes, namely after lunch.

Great atmosphere (photo by Robin Knight)

We have stopped at 360, one of the busiest bars ont the slopes, and had a great time.. over a diet coke and a sprite. Don’t get me wrong, we sampled some of France’s finest wines (and may I add, the new word I learned – Gewurztraminer – from Alsace) , but without skis on, and I even took a picture of what will always be a memorable Gin & Tonic from our balcony:

A gin with a view

As always, good things come to an end. We had an amazing week with our great friends (thank you!!) and as David said, we now have 51 weeks to rest our legs.

Loved this quirky restaurant in Lyon

Loved this quirky restaurant in Lyon

 

For the second year running, we traded the usual flight to Geneva for Lyon, which has been an incredible surprise. A stunning city with great and very local food (we had lunch at the Café des Federations, a traditional bouchon Lyonnaise) and great shops. Well worth an extra night stay, which we are seriously considering in the future.As they say in France, “a bientot”

x

Mrs O.

PS. As always, a huge thank you to Mira Prostick for helping us book our stay at L’Oxalys. You can contact Mira here.

The post The mountains are calling! Mrs O loves Val Thorens, French Alps appeared first on Mrs. O Around the World – a luxury travel blog by Ana Silva O'Reilly.

A beginners guide to Port Wine by @TaylorsPortWine

Sunset at the Douro Valley, Portugal

Sunset at the Douro Valley, Portugal

Port Wine for Under 70s? You bet! I have recently fallen in love with this special grape juice, which comes in many shapes and colours. Obviously, I didn’t know much about it, and always keen to learn. A big thank you to Richard Bowden from Taylor’s who has volunteered to explain to Mrs O and her friends a bit more about Port – here is a beginners guide to Port Wine. Should we raise a glass? xx Mrs. O

With a variety of different styles, Port is the perfect aperitif, a delicious after dinner dessert wine or a fruity addition to a summer cocktail and, as one of the world’s great wines, Port is a must have for any wine lover’s cellar.

If you’ve never tried it or you’re not sure what you’re missing out on, here’s a 10 point beginner’s guide to enjoying Port.

Porto and the Ribeira area seen from Vila Nova de Gaia

Porto and the Ribeira area seen from Vila Nova de Gaia

1.       So what is Port wine?

Port is a sweet, fortified wine which begins its life much in the same way as other wines do, with the crushing of grapes. But it’s distinctive, sweet and fruit-filled taste comes from the way that grape spirit is added during fermentation process, which stops the yeast from turning the natural sugars present in the grapes into alcohol and at the same time, increases the alcohol content of the wine to around 20%.

 

2.       What are the different styles of Port?

Port comes in 4 main styles which suit a variety of occasions and different foods and it is the diversity of these different styles that is one of its greatest attractions:

 

Port goes well with fruit

Port goes well with fruit

Ruby Port

These full-bodied and fruit-laden Ports age for a relatively short period of time in large wooden vats (2-6 years), maintaining their deep red colour and intense flavours which are reminiscent of black fruits and cherry. Ruby Ports, which include Reserve Ports and Late Bottled Vintages, are the ideal partner for a cheeseboard, chocolate dessert and can be used to make a scrumptious Port wine sauce.

Tawny Port

Aged in wooden barrels, sometimes for decades, rich and mellow Tawny Port is lighter in colour and has a delicious nuttiness with aromas of butterscotch and mellow spicy aromas;  characteristics which intensify with age. Served chilled, a 10 year old tawny is a sumptuous aperitif. Alternatively, drink as the perfect accompaniment to crème brûlée, honey and almond cake or hard cheeses such as Parmesan and Manchego.

 

Fancy a bit of Vintage Port?

Fancy a bit of Vintage Port?

Vintage Port

The very best Port wine from a single year and only produced in years when the wine is deemed to be of excellent quality. It’s kept in barrels for only 2 years, and then bottled, unfiltered, where it continues to age and mature over time. The most long-lasting of Port, Vintage can be enjoyed when young and full of red fruits and tannins, or allowed to mellow to a subtler, more elegant finish. Pairs superbly with  Stilton or other salty blue cheeses.

White port on ice? I dare you!

White port on ice? I dare you!

 

White Port

A crisp, fresh Port made from white grapes.  Serve chilled or mixed with tonic water. The perfect aperitif or relaxer  on a hot summer’s day. Try it with almonds or olives for the perfect palate match.

 

I love Rose Port sangria!

I love Rose Port sangria!

Rosé Port

A relatively new style of Port, lighter in style and full of deliciously ripe cherry & raspberry fruit flavours. Serve chilled, straight up, on the rocks or mixed in a variety of refreshing cocktails. Superb with any fruit based dessert!

 

3.       At what temperature should I serve Port?

White and rosé Port should be served chilled (6ºC to 7ºC). Tawny slightly chilled (12º to 16ºC), whilst Ruby should be served at cellar temperature, or 16ºC to 18ºC. At temperatures higher than this, you will start to lose the elegance of the wine and the alcohol will become more noticeable.

 

4.       What’s the difference between Vintage Port and Late Bottled Vintage?

Both Vintage Port and Late Bottled Vintage, or LBV, are made with grapes from a single year. However, whilst Vintage Port is bottled after spending only 2 years in the barrel, LBV stays in the barrel for between four and six years before bottling, or in other words, it’s  bottled late, and hence the name. It is this extra maturation in the barrel that makes LBV more suitable for immediate drinking, whilst still maintaining some of its superior Vintage quality. Vintage Port, on the other hand, will continue to improve with age for years to come.

Taylor's Vargella Estate in the Douro Valley, Portugal

Taylor’s Vargella Estate in the Douro Valley, Portugal

5.       How long can I keep an opened bottle?

With the exception of Vintage Port, all other Ports once opened can be kept for between 2 and 6 weeks, although it’s unlikely you will be able to resist drinking it before that long! Keep it in a cool place out of direct sunlight, or even in the refrigerator to prolong this period and help keep the Port at its best. A young Vintage Port, on the other hand, should be drunk within 2 days to enjoy it at its best and an older vintage on the same evening. It is perfectly safe to drink after this period, but it will lose some of its vintage character.

 

6.       Where does Port come from?

Port only comes from Portugal, and more specifically, the mountainous Douro Valley in the north of the country. It takes its name from the beautiful and historic city of Porto, where Port has been traded for centuries.

 

7.       So it’s been around for a while then. How did it all start?

Wine has been made in the Douro Valley since Roman times, but the first records of the wine which we know today as Port began in the late 17th century. Thanks to the some trade disagreements between England and France, England started sourcing more of its wine from Portugal. To prevent the wine from spoiling on the long journey, shippers fortified it by adding grape spirit. To say the English liked the sweeter style of Port is an understatement and Port sales grew quickly. Port is now sold all over the world and is most popular in the UK, USA, France, Portugal and Canada.

 

8.       Do I serve it in a special glass?

Special glassware isn’t necessary, but do use a – quality glass to get the full Port experience. Giving the Port room to breathe in a glass will enhance the aromas and the taste of the Port. If you don’t have any specific Port glasses, a normal sized white wine glass is fine.

 

Taylor's Tasting Cellars in Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal

Taylor’s Tasting Cellars in Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal

9.       Porto sounds great! Can I visit the Port cellars?

Many of the Port cellars run tours, where you can get the full story on how Port is made, and try some Port too. If you’re looking for more information on Porto, check out this post, ‘Glass of Porto, anyone?’

 

10.   I’ve heard enough, where can I get some Port!?

Check out the following sites for more details on Port, where to buy it (Taylor’s Port has a store locator) and further tips and information on how to enjoy Port wine:

Taylor’s Port: http://www.taylor.pt

Fonseca Guimaraens: http://www.fonsecaport.com

Croft Port: http://www.croftport.com

Croft Pink: http://www.croftpink.com

By Richard Bowden, Taylor’s Port

The post A beginners guide to Port Wine by @TaylorsPortWine appeared first on Mrs. O Around the World – a luxury travel blog by Ana Silva O'Reilly.