Ho Hum – We’re Visiting another Palace (It’s Still Good to Be Queen)

26 03 2013

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Guest post by Janet

We have two objectives today: (1) Eat at DOC Restaurant (a 2-star Michelin restaurant) and get to Vidago Palace for our overnight accommodations. But first we must have a proper breakfast. Once again, Mama has put out a spread . . . breads with jams, various cakes, cheese with quince, and fruits. We follow the “eat now so you’ll be hungry later” philosophy once again. As we are commiserating with two of the other houseguests about having to leave this wonderful inn, one of them pulls out a guidebook that contains a review of Casa Cimeira. Mama wants to know what it says but doesn’t speak/read English. Janel translates on the spot, assuring Mama that the reviewer found Casa Cimeira “charming” among other things.

IMG_7329 Mama listening carefully to Janel’s translation

We have no need/desire to rush away from our wonderful accommodations since we only need to travel about an hour to get to our lunch destination. We lounge about in the Great Room, passing the time contentedly checking emails, reading, relaxing.

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We finally say our goodbyes to Arturi and Maria and assure them we have more than enjoyed our stay and will tell others about their warm Portuguese hospitality.

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The day is overcast but the scenery is still beautiful. A match for our mood leaving Casa Cimeira.

We follow the Douro River and enjoy the waterfalls and vineyards. One of the popular activities we have considered (but abandoned due to the rain) was taking a river boat trip. We spy one of the boats, and it looks to be full in spite of the inclement weather.

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Maybe next time

We still have some time to spare before our lunch reservation, so we pass by DOC and go into the town of Regua to wander a bit. Janel has previously told of us of her brief adventures in the Douro region with two of her friends, Sean and James. When she spied an “I douro you” sign, she remembers passing this exact spot on their travels!

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Deja Vu

Finally, it is time for our much anticipated DOC experience. We had hoped to sit on the terrace overlooking the Douro River, but the weather precludes that.

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Although we would have preferred to dine al fresco, the inside of the restaurant is almost as beautiful. We quickly adapt, especially when we see that there is a live view of the kitchen on a television we can see from our seats!

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This is a GREAT idea, and we enjoy watching the chefs prepare our food.

We quickly decide to partake of the multi-course tasting menus . . . Linda and I will have the Menu de Azeite (Olive Oil Menu), and Janel will have the Menu de Degustação (Tasting Menu). We are pleased that there are different tasting menus available so we can try different things. Janel and I will have the wine parings but Linda as the designated driver will only have sips of ours!

The menus

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The sommelier pours Janel’s first wine pairing.

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Linda can’t resist getting a glass of sparkling wine after tasting Janet’s.

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Lunch starts with an amuse-bouche of quail egg atop Portuguese sausage.

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Octopus Carpaccio with Parmesan Tile

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Foie Gras in Port Wine (the winner of this course)

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Green Asparagus Cream with Scallop, White Truffle Olive Oil and Mushroom Ravioli

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Crayfish Soup with Lobster (the winner of this course)

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The Crayfish Soup again because the photo was so beautiful!

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Salted Codfish with Country Corn-and-Rye Bread (a tie for the winner of this course)

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Sea Bass Sandwich with Molluscs “Porridge” (a tie for the winner of this course)

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Intermezzo: A trio of olive oil treats (the winner of this course)

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Intermezzo: Apple with foam

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“Maronesa” Tenderloin Beef with Mushroom Risotto (the winner of this course . . . oh the risotto!)

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Crispy Suckling Pig with Galette Potatoes and Turned Vegetables

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“Pre-Dessert” – This had “exploding rocks” that raced around your mouth when you bit into it!

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What fun!

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Apple Pie with Goat Cheese and Olive Oil Ice Cream (the winner of this course)

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Tasting Trilogy

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It’s not over yet . . . a selection of chocolate candies

We have thoroughly enjoyed our leisurely 3-hour lunch at DOC. It has stopped raining for the moment, so we exit via the terrace and admire the view from there.

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We decide to take the highway (gasp) to Vidago so we can get there before dark. The ride is uneventful, and we soon pull into the town of Vidago as the day is turning to dusk. We’ve all seen the photos on the Internet of Vidago Palace and are eager to experience it ourselves. We are NOT disappointed . . .

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We’re here!

Commissioned by King Carlos of Portugal in 1908, Vidago Palace was originally conceived as an opulent holiday residence for His Majesty and his entourage, who, since the late 1800s, had been regular visitors to the region in order to enjoy the therapeutic effects of Vidago’s famed mineral waters. Assassinated later that year, King Carlos never saw his project completed. Nor, in an ironic twist of fate, did his son and successor, King Manuel II, who was deposed in the Republican Revolution that swept across Portugal on October 5, 1910 – the day before Vidago Palace was meant to open.

Although it never hosted its intended royal residents, we’re here now!!! We quickly hand over the car to the valet and enter Vidago Palace. The grand staircase that is featured prominently on their website beckons.

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This is probably one of millions of photos taken from this vantage point!

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We arrive at our splendid rooms. Nel immediately tries out the bed.

Because we are celebrating Janel’s birthday, their is a lovely birthday cake waiting in her room.

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The views from our rooms are awesome.

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While there remains a bit of daylight, we each select a bicycle and take a quick spin around the area (some quicker than others).

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We have discovered that we can access the spa facilities (indoor pool, gym, outdoor vitality pool, steam room, sauna, and specialty showers) until 9 and decide we simply must partake. We don our swimsuits and descend into the vitality pool. The water is toasty and is a nice contrast to the light rain that is coming down. There are several “stations” in the vitality pool . . . one with a lounge bed where the water feels like a typical whirlpool; one where you are enclosed in a small cylinder while water bubbles around you; and one that is like a shower but the water comes out in force and beats down on your shoulders. Ahhhhh.

Janel and I take advantage of the ice crystal fountain to cool off after having been in the water. Linda wimps out. Unfortunately that was a bad decision on her part, because she felt ill after returning to her room. We think it was because her body had gotten too hot and she didn’t cool off properly. She decides to take to bed while Janel and I dress up to go to the bar for some wine and a bite or two.

We choose a sitting room that appeals to us (there are multiple choices of rooms in which to sit and enjoy the rest of the evening).

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A sparkling wine seems appropriate and is enjoyed

Janel and Janet enjoy a quiet evening, chatting with our server and enjoying a charcuterie platter with our sparkling wine. We’re sorry Linda wasn’t feeling up to joining us, but we make the most of it.

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A lovely end to a lovely day.


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