My Week at the Casa da Calcada by Dinah Stocken, September 2016
In many respects a September week in Amarante, Portugal was going to be a first: a five star hotel in the middle of the town, having sole occupancy meant a larger than usual group and food cooked by the acclaimed chef, André Silva, the youngest in Portugal with a Michelin star.
The hotel, overlooking the Tamego river had everything: a bright and spacious bridge room, a relaxing pool by which to enjoy the glorious late summer weather, inviting places to sit in and out and palatial bedrooms.
Nothing was too much trouble for the staff, always on hand to please and by the end of the week we had been treated to many of the chef's finest creations, presented in a beautiful and appetising manner.
There was much to do from taking pedalos on the river, walking and bicycling round the town and golf a short drive away. A highlight was the trip up the Douro valley seeing rows of vines precariously terraced up the mountains. The port producer put us to work treading the newly harvested grapes in bare feet, allowed us to taste his most prestigious bottles and then gave us a delicious lunch. Another trip to historic Porto completed our understanding of port production over the centuries; both accompanied by very knowledgable guides.
None of this can eclipse Zeb and his bridge teaching, as always, delivered with great humour and panache. New tricks to learn, old ones to practice, making new friends and meeting old ones. Whatever else the week has to offer Zeb is the star of the show.
I just wanted to tell you what a really lovely time I had and to say a great big "Thank You" for your excellent organisation and the charming way you dealt with us all!
I thought Amarante was an excellent choice and really enjoyed it and would certainly go back again.
We had such a good time in Amarante, with a lovely family atmosphere. I greatly enjoyed meeting your Mum, and benefitting from her bridge tuition at our speed.
It was a thoroughly enjoyable holiday and I really fell in love with Amarante.
Thank you for a great, great week. I am ready to book if you go back there.
Thank you for such a happy holiday, we had a lovely time. I really enjoyed being by a little town.
A big thank you for all the effort you put into organising these holidays so well. You will see us again, it is only a question of when and where.