We drove east from Valladolid, through the small towns of Peñafiel and Roa, the even smaller town of Gumiel del Mercado and its Bodegas Arrocal winery, entering the city of Burgos just after dark. The streets were alive with activity as we drove towards the center of the old city and its cathedral this Wednesday evening. This is how to spend a most worthy evening and a day here.
Valladolid has long been on my list of venerable old cities to visit. One evening is not nearly enough, but it's what we had to work with as we ventured from the Toro to Ribera del Duero wine regions. Yes, Valladolid is particularly well situated as an operating base for wine drinkers. Here's how to get the most of your day there.
It's all about the river here. The city rises from its banks: festively colored buildings in seemingly ancient repose, crowned by the twelfth-century cathedral atop the hill, a stately contrast to the carnival of wine and revelry down at the waterfront. In times past the rabelos, cargo vessels native to this river alone, hauled Port wine to this the only port from it could be shipped. This is Porto, Portugal's second city and the source of the the fortified wine that has made the country famous in the hearts and palates of generations of connoisseurs around the world. This is what we found to do -- and, critically, what not to do -- when visiting.
Night falls on Rua Augusta. White tiles -- polished by age beneath the feet of throngs who have walked here -- reflect the yellow street lamps as if we were standing atop the water of a reflecting pool. We've descended the hill above us, from Sé de Lisboa down to this pedestrian avenue animated by the energy of diners and evening revelers. Lisbon, Portugal, is the oldest in Western Europe, eclipsing Rome by nearly five centuries, and the other great capitals by at least a millennium. This is how you spend 48 hours here.
Sweden is a wonderful country to which I plan to return next year. I am a big advocate of modern city dwellers taking the time to get out of the city and into the beautiful country the world has to offer; thirty-six hours in Sweden certainly fits the bill, though is not nearly long enough. Grundsund on Skaftö is about as far away from tourists as you'll find. You'll be pleased with the quiet, the people, and the sea.