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For a long time, we wanted to visit Vila Nova de Gaia, in a unique opportunity to take a beautiful walk, learn History, have a gastronomic and wine experience, and enjoy a top-class accommodation. To combine these experiences during a single weekend, our choice fell on The House of Sandeman Hostel & Suites. In one of Gaia's most iconic buildings, the space previously occupied by Sandeman's cellars and offices now houses the world's first branded hostel, recently opened but already internationally renowned, namely with the Global Award in the category of accommodation of Best of Wine Tourism 2019, granted by the Great Wine Capitals.
The silhouette of "The Don", with its black Coimbra student cape and the typical Spanish sombrero of Jerez, welcomed us and we were greeted with a very friendly service at the hostel's lounge bar in the former wine tasting room. The common area is cozy, with a long table and a living room with sofas, and an interior atrium with a vineyard and skylights, you have access to the dorms on one side and the suites on the other. The dorms occupy the spacious spaces of the former cellars, featuring bunks with custom metal framings imitating the hoops of barrels that once filled these rooms. Our suite had a decoration that combines modern and traditional designs, and we were immediately taken by the balcony’s view, facing the Douro River and Porto’s Ribeira.
At Sandeman's cellars, literally next door, in a cool, damp environment, the famous Douro nectar is aged in vats, barrels or bottles, resulting in the ruby, tawny or vintage Port Wine that delights us in the wines tasting.
At 7:00 pm, it’s time for the welcome drink at the hostel, to get together and enjoy a cocktail with Port Wine. During dinnertime, it's like family getting together. The table is filled with guests, who talk and exchange travel stories and stories about Portugal. The food is tasty and has a familiar taste. For dessert, a custard served, of course, with a glass of Port.
In the morning, the sounds of seagulls reminded us that we were just a few steps from the waters of the Douro River and a few minutes from the Atlantic Ocean. After a refreshing shower, we had breakfast in the lounge, and were good to go. The bicycles, one of the hostel’s decoration elements, can be rented, so as to take a ride on Gaia riverside, but you can also go up by cable car to Serra do Pilar, enjoying fabulous views over the rooftops of the Port Wine cellars, the Douro River and the D. Luiz I Bridge.
We had lunch at The George Restaurant & Terrace, where Douro's flavors and wines, with the personal touch of chef Pedro Limão, recreate the time when wine was transported by boat along the Douro River, from Pinhão to the Gaia cellars. For starter, "O Melhor de Bragança", with ham, olive bread, Arvólea olive oil and honey butter. For main course, a delicious "Peixinho Fresquinho", fish fillet on a sizzling plate, fish and seafood rice, red pepper foam and coriander, served with white wine. For dessert, a voluptuous "Pera Bêbada", poached pear in Port wine. Sublime!
When we left Sandeman's building, we knew we had made the perfect choice. We explored the city, stayed in a hostel full of history and memories, we go to know the famous Sandeman cellars and the history of Port wine, and we tried the regional cuisine with a contemporary twist. Gaia and The House of Sandeman Hostel & Suites have exceeded our best expectations.