From Japan to Peru, 2017 seems to be the year of the train. Not to be outdone, Portugal is upping its game, with the Douro Valley’s Six Senses hotel offering three-night trips aboard vintage train The Presidential.
The train dates from 1890 and transported heads of state, ministers and royalty before it was retired from service in 1970, but now after a serious refurbishment in 2010 it is back on the tracks, delivering an exceptional experience to gourmands rather than governments. The packages (available in May, from €5,000 per person) will take in Portuguese culture, cuisine and heritage, with private tours of Porto’s highly regarded modern art museum the Serralves and the city’s architecturally acclaimed concert hall Casa da Música, and an arrival dinner at Michelin-starred Pedro Lemos.
After a first night in the historic heart of Porto at the Intercontinental Palacio das Cardosas (where the nearby Baroque Clérigos Church, with its characteristic bell tower, is a must-see), travellers will depart from the magnificent São Bento railway station. Around 20,000 early-20th-century blue and white azulejo tiles cover the station walls, depicting scenes from Portuguese history, and are a sight in themselves.
Aboard The Presidential a four-course locavore lunch will be served, showcasing the region’s bounteous produce. The train will meanwhile make a three-hour journey to Quinta do Vesúvio, a port wine estate owned by the Symington family, for tasting sessions and insights into the production process.
The next stop will be the Six Senses Douro Valley, an ochre 19th-century house set among vineyards and boasting a hugely impressive spa, an interactive wine library and beautiful gardens. Expect field-to-fork cuisine for dinner and a brilliant wine list from the extensive cellar, while lunch the following day will be at DOC restaurant on the banks of the River Douro, where Rui Paula serves his own particular blend of authentic regional cuisine.
The package ends with a return trip to Porto, another night at Palacio das Cardosas and dinner at one of the city’s most famous traditional fish restaurants, O Gaveto.