Guest House Douro is a historic B&B located in Porto, Portugal. It was named one of the Top 10 International B&Bs in the 2011-2012 Best of BedandBreakfast.com Awards. Innkeepers Carmen and Joao kindly took the time to answer several questions for us about their B&B's history and why they love being innkeepers.
1. What do you enjoy most about being an innkeeper?
All of it! Joao and I talked about it on our first date I think, 26 or so years ago. "One day, we will have a little guesthouse of our own," and here we are now! Meeting all the guests, making sure they are happy, that they don't miss the nice spots, just seeing them smile encourages us to continue and makes us realize we did the right thing. Because it was not easy leaving Montreal, leaving our family and friends, crossing the ocean and buying this little house in Porto, Portugal. But when we open our door to guests, and they give us a big smile and say they feel they are home, it makes all the hard work worth it!
2. How long have you been an innkeeper?
We opened our guesthouse in April 2009, so not very long!
3. What was your inspiration for your inn? Did you have a certain vision for it?
When we traveled, we always looked at every detail and enjoyed staying at little places like ours. It was easy for us in a way, because we wanted to open a place that we would like to go to ourselves. We figured that if it pleased us, it would please most of our guests. And through the long years waiting to open it, we had time to figure it out.
4. Why did you choose this inn and this city?
It was a difficult choice, moving from Montreal. We considered Portugal for family reasons, first looking around Lisbon and decided to hop on the train and come to Porto for the weekend. This house was for sale, just staring at us, so we called and visited. We stood on the balcony of what is now room 202, and in 15 minutes we told the owner that we wanted it. Yes, it is true, just 15 minutes, back in January 2005. Funny now, but many tears between then and now, trust me! It was just the perfect house, just big enough, just small enough and the view of the River; the magnificent view made it all clear.
5. What sets your B&B apart from others?
I think it is the quality of the service, the attention to every detail, making sure the guests are happy and really enjoy this beautiful city. We like that they feel at home, that they enjoy themselves, and that they leave happy and relaxed. It's a very personal and special place for us, and we want guests to feel the same way.
6. Why do you think travelers should choose B&Bs over hotels?
The answer is obvious: the attention to the guest. In a hotel, you are a number, all rooms are the same, etc. In a B&B, you are taken care of in a more personal and attentive way. When we open our door to a guest, they are walking into our house, sharing our space, sharing stories, and hopefully a lot of laughs!
7. Does your B&B have any special history?
UNESCO classified this historical neighborhood as a World Heritage Site back in 1996, so there is plenty of history. There are Roman beaches under our house; at least that is what the archeologist told us when we had to do some excavations for the renovation of the house. Behind us is the house where Henry the Navigator was born--just imagine! Our house is also classified National Monument because a famous fisherman was born here and invented a famous codfish dish that has his name, "Gomes de Sà."
8. What makes your town worth visiting--are there any interesting local attractions or activities?
Porto is a magnificent city, full of history, wonderful architecture, lots of art deco, art nouveau, etc. There are too many to describe them here. Across the river are all the Port Lodges to visit; the Douro Valley, also classified World Heritage Site, is a couple of hours away. The beach is just 10 minutes away; it is a very small city to visit--so wonderful to discover without getting lost. I find it very safe and easy going, which is a definite plus. People here are also wonderful, very warm, and friendly. They will do everything to help you.
9. Do you have any food specialties?
For breakfast, we try to serve only Portuguese products. The bread arrives fresh every morning from a local bakery, the cheeses and cold cuts are all Portuguese, and the fruits are just wonderful in Portugal. We get them from the oldest market in the city, the Bolhaõ Market, itself a great place to visit.
10. Do you have any special offers?
It is low-season until March, so it is a great time to come over!