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Going back in time on Portugal’s ‘presidential train’

Built in 1890, this train once carried Portugal’s kings and presidents, not to mention other guests like Elizabeth II or Pope Paul VI, before it was taken off the rails in 1970.

Now, after a one-million-euro ($1.2 million) restoration, the luxury, electric blue “presidential train” is taking passengers again — though only on 25 days a year, when it leaves its home at the National Railway Museum to criss-cross the picturesque Douro valley for a 500-euro gourmet trip.

This new lease of life was brought about by Goncalo Castel-Branco, a 37-year-old businessman who saw the six-carriage train in the museum and fell “in love”.

“I was determined to do something with it,” he tells AFP.

“My daughter suggested turning it into a restaurant. I found that idea brilliant.”

So he had the train restored in 2010 and launched “The Presidential,” a culinary travel experience that takes passengers on a nine-hour journey which includes a gourmet menu and winery visit.

Every spring and throughout the grape harvesting season, it departs from the northern city of Porto to weave through the Douro, taking in the famous vineyards of the region.