Koen and I decided beforehand that we needed to visit at least two port lodges, so after some research we made reservations at Graham’s for a tour and tasting (visits are reservation only) in addition to Taylor’s. Grahams is smaller and a bit further away, but worth it! The tour is smaller and more intimate, and the tasting is great value for what you pay. We decided on the Super Premium Tawny Tasting and the Super Premium Vintage Port Tasting – which means we were able to sit in the Vintage Room for our tasting.
When we decided to visit Porto, Portugal, one of the first things I looked into were visits to the port houses! I love a glass of tawny port after dinner with some cheese and was interesting in learning (and tasting!) more.
One of the largest and oldest of the founding port wine houses is Taylor, Fladgate, & Yeatman – more commonly known as Taylor’s – founded in 1692. This was recommended to me by a client who had just been to Porto. So we made a reservation for the tour and lunch at their restaurant Barão Fladgate.
All over the island of São Miguel, you can’t help but find the white wrapped pastries with green ribbons – the Queijadas da Vila Franco do Campo. Koen and I had some time in the afternoon and decided to explore the namesake town! Our favorite way to start a city trip is with a cup of coffee at a local cafe. When I searched the best places for coffee, I was so excited to see that the Queijadas Bakery was open to the public!
Located just outside of Ponta Delgada is the A. Arruda Pineapple Plantation which you’re able to visit for free. You’re able to peak inside the greenhouses and see the different stages of the pineapple growth. Inside the gift shop we were also able to sample pineapple liquor and buy a few pineapples to take back with us. Yum!
I was really excited to learn that São Miguel is home to the oldest tea plantation in Europe – Gorreana. When we arrived I discovered that there is actually a second smaller tea plantation – Porto Formoso. The two are the only tea plantations in all of Europe! I was even happier to learn they both had free entrance and we could explore and sample the teas!
When researching the best restaurants on São Miguel, all lists include Restaurante da Associação Agrícola. Every list proclaimed you must try the “Bife à Regional” – steak topped with a fried egg, garlic and local peppers. Of course only Azorean beef is served in the restaurant. We were surprised to learn while on the island that cows outnumber humans in the Azores! That helps explain the abundance of delicious cheese! Because São Miguel is so green, there is a vast amount of fertile land and grass for the cows to eat. This results in rich, marbled beef for everyone on the island! As you may have gathered from the name of the restaurant, Restaurante da Associação Agrícola belongs to an association of farmers. Everyone on the island knows this is where you go for the highest quality beef – even the woman sitting next to me on my flight from Lisbon to Ponta Delgada recommended we go here!
The beautiful typical roadside hedgerow of hydrangeas
The village of Furnas was very high on my list of places to visit while on São Miguel. I was excited to see the beautiful Lagoa das Furnas, the bubbling hot springs, and go for a swim in the thermal pools at Terra Nostra!
After a week exploring Lisbon, we took a flight to São Miguel, aka “The Green Island”. São Miguel is the largest of the nine islands that make up the Azores. We were happy to have a week relaxing and enjoying nature! I spent a lot of time finding the perfect home for us and discovered this cute, rustic house with a view of the Atlantic Ocean. Most importantly we had a barbeque to do some grilling!
When looking up the best restaurants for seafood in Lisbon, you’ll find SEA ME – a Portuguese/Japanese fusion restaurant in Chiado. Because we love Japanese food, we really wanted to visit SEA ME! We discovered the restaurant a bit late in the trip, but luckily were able to secure a reservation our last night in Lisbon. I knew already a bit about the Portuguese-Japanese connection, because I watched a documentary about tempura in Japan, that it was introduced in the 16th century by the Portuguese living in Nagasaki.
Of course being in Portugal, we really wanted to spend some time doing wine tastings. Because Lisbon is a big tourist destination, we wanted to do some research to really find the best place and discovered Wine Bar do Castelo. If we didn’t know about it, based on its appearance and proximity to the São Jorge Castle, we most likely wouldn’t have gone inside – but what a mistake that would have been! Wine Bar do Castelo has an amazing wine selection and a really enthusiastic, knowledgeable staff. Before ordering a glass you’re able to have a discussion about what you’re looking for and receive a bit of history lesson from the sommelier. You’re also able to taste a few bottles before making your choice which we really appreciated! Definitely recommend if you’re in Lisbon!