Harvest in Portugal: See the most Beautiful Wine Country in the World

Portugal is one of the most innovative wine countries in Europe.  The charming Alentejo region is a fast emerging wine region that is known for its vast cork oak forests, rolling landscapes, not to mention its bold wines.


The USA TODAY had this to say about Alentejo:



#1 - Alentejo, Portugal

"When most people think of Portugal, they immediately think of Douro," says Kerry, "but head a little further south to Alentejo and you won’t be disappointed. Boutique wineries, full service hotels, great restaurants and of course terrific wines (mostly known for hardy red wines) make for a great wine travel experience."




An ancient tradition:


For more than 2,000 years, before the time of the Romans, the Portuguese have celebrated the fall harvest. In protected valleys, where microclimates have nurtured grapes, the fall is a time to reap the benefit of months of hard work. From the plains of the Alentejo, to the Valleys of the Dão and Douro, the harvest is a unique event that only now visitors can take part in, and in high style and local color enjoy this ancient rite.


Experience the excitement and history of winemaking, and participate in numerous activities and celebrations throughout the 20 distinct wine regions of Portugal. Lose yourself in the stunning landscapes of the wine-making regions: from the charming, verdant Minho where the vinho verde grapes grow on trellises, to the terraces of the Douro, the oldest demarcated region in the world and home of the famous port wine.


Centro de Portugal region, the wine routes do not run through the countryside, but through towns. Each is brimming with history. Venture further south and the routes near the capital have a close connection to water. Along the River Tejo, the Ribatejo Route travels through fertile fields irrigated when the river bursts its banks.


Harvesting a Celebration:


Many of Portugal’s centuries-old estates have now opened their own inns to welcome travelers, especially during the fall harvest, when the world is invited to share the traditions, tastes and colors of this ancient industry with modern overtones. Visitors can enjoy overnight stays or just simply tour the vineyards and take part in grape crushing or tasting dinners while enjoying the sweeping views over the river valleys and fields of Portugal’s wine country.


When the month of September comes around, all over the north of Portugal you will find people celebrating the ritual of the wine harvest, a tradition that is an important part of the identity of the northern folk, especially in the regions of Douro and Minho.


Synonymous in people’s minds with times of festivity, but also one of hard work, the grape harvest has become a spectacle attracting more and more visitors each year: all along the slopes of the valley, men can be seen walking through the vineyards carrying baskets of grapes on their backs, whilst the women sing popular songs linked to this festive period.


Portugal has the oldest appellation system in the world, the Douro Valley. This region, Vinho Verde, Alentejo and the Dãos region, in the Northwest produce some of the world's most unique wines. Portugal has two wine producing regions protected by UNESCO as World Heritage: the Douro Valley Wine Region and the Pico Island Wine Region in the Azores.


What makes Portugal special is the variety of native varietals, producing a wide variety of wines with distinctive personalities. The Oxford Companion to Wine describes the country as having "a treasure trove of indigenous grape varieties." This may be attributed to 8% of Portugal dedicated to vineyards.


For more information, visit www.winesofportugal.info


Why is this Portugal’s time to shine? And why the Alentejo?


The winemaking in the Alentejo is closely tied to the region’s development and can be traced back to the Roman occupation.


The country has steadily invested in its winemaking industry for the past 20 years by adding modern equipment, careful cultivation and improving on techniques. Wine experts say that Portugal is now making the best wines in its long history.


In recent decades, the Alentejo's winemakers have ushered in many modern advancements, earning critical acclaim for its full-bodied, fruity reds and light, oaky whites. On the border of Spain, this arid region is a rural place of rolling plains covered with large agricultural estates, and dotted with whitewashed homes and cork trees. The Alentejo climate of hot summers and cool winters helps create flavorful grapes that transfer into characteristically ripe and complex wines.


The Portuguese often refer to the Alentejo Region in the southern third of the country as its own nation because it retains its own dialect, has a strong Moorish flavor, boasts a unique musical tradition and has towns full of white-washed buildings not seen commonly elsewhere. An hour’s drive from Lisbon, this region accounts for one third of the mainland--extending from the southern bank of the Tejo River to the mountains of the Algarve region just to the south.


The Alentejo is a mystical place of gliding plains, sudden mountains and the largest cork forests in the world. The Alentejo’s Cork Country is a lightly populated region with open horizons, where the rhythm of life follows the rhythm of regional songs. It’s known in some circles as “the breadbasket of Portugal.” One-story farmsteads dot the hillsides, while its cork forests have supplied cork to the world for centuries.


Things to do in Harvest Time:

And for those who don't like working... why not consider spa treatments dedicated to the wine



Martinhal Quinta Family Resort reopens to offer Family Vacation Deals for Fall 2015 at the new Martinhal Quinta

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Sagres, Portugal --The Martinhal Sagres Beach Family Resort has acquired and relaunched a 4-star villa resort, previously known as Monte da Quinta Club. This resort is located in the upscale Quinta do Lago, in the Algarve, an expansion of Martinhal's brand, after the success of its flagship hotel in the Western Algarve.


The new Martinhal Quinta Family Resort is an exclusive 4-star resort of independently owned luxury villas, comprising 2 and 3 bedroom townhouses, and 3 and 4 bedroom villas (each with a private pool). The new management will add new facilities such as a pool hangout at the swimming pool, an "MBar" with a Gelataria (ice cream shop), pool side dining, a "Blue Room" with a games for teens and pre-teens, and a Deli & Bake store with a wide variety of take-away breakfast options with freshly baked bread, croissants and pastries, coffee, tea, and a range of daily basics for families.

Martinhal Lago


There will be dedicated indoor and outdoor play areas for children, as well as supervised kids care for children from 3 to 8 year sold, and a babysitting service. And there will be further renovations to come.

Quinta do Lago offers award-winning golf courses, newly built mini-golf for kids, and sophisticated restaurants and shopping areas. The new Martinhal Quinta is the ideal spot to experience these premium golf courses and is now offering special packages with golfing and accommodation for this coming fall:

For more information about booking or the Martinhal Family Hotels & Resorts visit www.martinhal.com or call +351 282 240 200.

Follow Martinhal on Twitter @MartinhalNews

Opening offers for this coming Fall:


September 2015: Prices start from 247€ (around US$290) per night, for 7 nights in a two bedroom townhouse.

October 2015: Prices start from 161€ (around US$190) per night, for 7 nights in a two bedroom townhouse. Prices are subject to availability at the time of booking.



The Portuguese Versailles: Queluz Palace (Lisbon)


Queluz is just six miles from Lisbon. In the early 18th century it was the country setting of the royal family's estate and hunting lodge, which the Prince Dom Pedro, son of King Dom João V, decided to have converted into the Summer Palace.



The conversion work between 1747 and 1760 was supervised by the architects Mateus Vicente de Oliveira and the Frenchman Robillion, who added a west wing to the initial plan, known as the Robillion Pavilion, and worked on the decoration of the finest spaces such as the Throne Room, the Music Room and the Ambassadors' Room.

The palace, predominantly in the  Rococo style, contains an important collection of decorative art, Portuguese furniture, paintings, carpets, porcelain and tiles. The geometrically designed gardens, too, are very beautiful, surrounding the palace and concealing lakes and sculptures, and in the park there is a tiled canal through which a stream used to flow and where the royal family would take boat trips. The annexes to the main building have been converted into a Pousada.

The palace salons are open to the public for classical music concerts and every Wednesday there are performances by the Portuguese Riding School in the open-air riding arena.

Why not stay over? The Pousada de Queluz - D. Maria I is set  in the clock tower building, next to the National Palace of Queluz and the permanent residence of the royal family from 1794. The building of the Tower is by the architect and staff sergeant Manuel Caetano de Sousa, and served as a warehouse and as the quarters for the staff in service to the palace. Cozinha Velha Restaurant is set in the ancient kitchens of the Palace of Queluz and offers delicious delicacies, according to the most traditional recipes of Portuguese cuisine. Here you will find the ideal environment for a romantic dinner for two, and the strength of character for a successful business lunch.

Like marmalade? The roots of the word and the sweet are to be found in Portugal

Ever grab a quince thinking it was an apple? Not a fun surprise... The Ancient Greeks knew quinces that were slowly cooked with honey would be a wonderful treat when cooled. They called them melimēlon, or "honey apple." A few thousand years later, the Portuguese word for it became "marmelo."


This time of year, the fall quinces are ripe in Portugal, with a sweet flood scent, they are ready for marmalade-making. Enter marmelada, a think brick of goodness that Portuguese love at tea time - mixed with cheese and fresh bread.  A match made in heaven! 

Yes, the word "marmalade," meaning a quince jam, comes from "marmelo," the Portuguese word for this fruit.

In Portugal, there are  quince groves in from Lisbon into the interior of the Centro and Norte..

Our friends at he Oxford English Dictionary tell us that "marmalade" appeared in the English language around 1480, borrowed from French marmelade which, in turn, came from the Portuguese  marmelada. The Portuguese word is to be found is Gil Vicente’s 1521 play Comédia de Rubena-

Temos tanta marmelada
Que a minha mãe vai me dar um pouco

We have so much marmalade 

That my mother will give me a little





Grand in every measure: Mafra (Lisbon)


Mafra, near Lisbon is known for its  imposing Palace-Convent, the largest edifice in Portugal, built by order of King Dom João V in the 18th century. A recent renovation inside and out as brought back its luster.



King Dom João V, who still had no children three years into his marriage to Dona Maria Ana of Austria, promised the Franciscan monks that he would build them a convent in the Mafra area if his prayers for an heir to the throne were answered.

So, on the occasion of the birth of his daughter Dona Maria Pia, he began the building, the plan for which was initially quite modest. After the German architect Ludwig was contracted, however, the plan underwent considerable changes as a result of the luxury Portugal was experiencing at the time on account of the wealth coming from Brazil. Hence this grandiose monument was built, (including a convent for 300 friars, a basilica and a 666-room royal palace), in a record time, from 1717 to 1730, to be inaugurated on the king´s 41st birthday.

The Mafra Game Preserve that adjoins the Convent, acquired by King Dom João IV in the mid-18th century to enhance the value of the set of buildings, was used as a game reserve, and is now open to the public.

This Fall: Activities for the whole family in the Algarve!

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If you are looking for a family destination this fall, the Algarve is the place to be.

Warm, safe and authentic are words that are usually associated with Portugal. And, since 2010, when Martinhal Sagres Beach Family Resort Hotel opened, the southern region of Portugal can also say it is as family-friendly as it gets.

Martinhal is the ultimate cocktail for families who enjoy luxury and relaxation, but who also want to be active during their vacations. This coming fall, the resort is offering exclusive packages:

Healthy eating for children
The resort has teamed up with children’s food expert Fiona Faulkner, founder of the renowned Toddler Chef program, and author of “25 Foods Kids Hate and How To Get Them Eating 24”. Fiona, known as the "Harry Potter of Vegetables" will be working wth children 2-13 in cooking workshops, where they will learn the games and techniques that helped Fiona transform her own family's eating habits. Over the course of a week (October 26-30), children will be divided into age groups (2-5, 6-8 & 9-13) and will learn a variety of cooking skills, using 20 different fruits and vegetables. At the end of each 1-hour session, kids will eat their own dishes and be rewarded for their achievements! Fiona will also offer a demonstration for parents, and will be available for Q&A.

More about Fiona Faulkner: http://www.fionafaulkner.co.uk/

Book now at http://www.martinhal.com/sagres/offers/transform-your-fussy-eaters-with-fiona-faulkner-at-martinhal-this-october-half-term/

Best deal for Fall 2015!
In October, a 7-night stay at this award winning luxury resort, starts at 358€ (around US$440) per house, per night, for a family of 2 adults, 2 children under 12 and a baby, half-board on the Extended Summer Package. Book now!


Kings build a noble University: Coimbra


This center of learning at the University of Coimbra was founded in 1290 and is built on what was once a royal palace.

Founded by Dom Dinis,  the University was transferred between Lisbon and Coimbra during the reigns of several monarchs until it was definitively established in this city in 1537, by King Dom João III. Since then, it has continued to occupy the same buildings, the former mediaeval royal palace, acquired by the university in 1597.

The subjects studied here were theology, medicine and law until the 18th century when the Marquês de Pombal changed the educational system and introduced other subjects. Today, the University has seven faculties - Arts, Law, Medicine, Science and Technology, Pharmacy, Economics and Psychology and Educational Sciences.

Standing in a most privileged position overlooking the rest of the city, with a magnificent view over the River Mondego, the University is a complex building, constructed around a central courtyard in which a number of features stand out because of their artistic interest and symbolism. The entrance to the University is through the Porta Férrea (Iron Gate), an impressive Mannerist work (1634), where one can see the statues of the University´s patrons, the kings Dom Dinis and Dom João III.

In the center is the Via Latina, a Mannerist colonnade built in the 18th century and indicating that Latin was the "official language" formerly used inside this space. The entrance through the loggia leads to the Sala Grande dos Actos (the Ceremonial Hall), and in the corner is the famous Tower. Built in 1728, it can be seen from all around the city and has become its most distinctive landmark. It has four bells, which used to regulate the routine of academic life and that of the city itself. The tower has always been tenderly referred to by the students as "a Cabra" (the goat).


D. Afonso Henriques

Father, you were a warrior.
Today the vigil is ours.
Give us your whole example 
And the whole of your strength!


Give us, against the hour, when wrongly
When new infidels succeed,
Your blessing as a sword,
Your sword as a blessing!
MENSAGEM by Fernando Pessoa - D. Afonso Henriques

King’s Palace still reigns over Leiria


To founding King Dom Afonso Henriques, the conqueror of Leiria in 1135 and the founder of its castle, the town was the advance point for his strategy of conquering Santarém, Sintra and Lisbon from the Moors.


In 1254, Dom Afonso III held his first Cortes (royal parliament) here, attended by the representatives of all the kingdom’s towns, an event that was considered extremely important in the history of Portugal, for it was the first time that the common people had been allowed to express their opinions and make petitions to the king.

In the 14th century, King Dom Dinis and his wife, the Sainted Queen Isabel, lived in the castle because they enjoyed its sweeping views over the charming countryside all around.

The king’s reign was marked by the planting of the Leiria pine forest all along the coastal strip in order to protect the sand dunes from erosion. Its maritime pines were to provide the timber and pitch used in the building of Portuguese ships, especially during the period of the Exploration, and even today this immense patch of green is a very pleasant place for a hike.

During the 15th century by the order of King Joao I, the royal palace was expanded with arched galleries providing views over the city itself. The addition of these galleries two twin towers were added each. These towers were designed as bedrooms and private quarters for the royal family. The castle and the palace still stand and welcome your visit today.

PORTO WINS! USA TODAY's Readers' Choice Best Under-the-Radar Romantic Destination


Portugal has another winner on its hands in 10Best and USA TODAY's Readers' Choice contest for Best Under-the-Radar Romantic Destination.




Here is the full list of winners for Best Under-the-Radar Romantic Destination:

1. Porto, Portugal

2. Mackinac Island, Mich.
3. Rothenburg ob der Tauber
4. Lugano, Switzerland
5. Reykjanes, Iceland
6. Annapolis, Md.
7. Lucca, Italy
8. Guanajuato and San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
9. Budapest, Hungary
10. Cartagena, Colombia

All results are posted at