“If you can look, see. If you can see, take notice." This sentence comes from Portuguese King D. Duarte's "Book of Teachings", and it was included in the back cover of Literature Nobel prize winner José Saramago's "Blindness". It could apply to the new Pousadas of Portugal program. Places that have always been in plain sight now make themselves noticed by being members of Pousadas Authentic Venues, a series of locations where you can have lunch, tea, dinner or even watch the Champions League final, in couples or in groups, in private or corporate events - with prices varying according to the number of patrons and the selected menus. Here are the current Authentic Venues.
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Best "Pousadas" in Portugal
Going to the Castelo de Palmela Pousada is like travelling in time without driving the DeLorean. The former home of the Order of Santiago is in such a vantage point that you get a view of the Serra da Arrábida Nature Park, the ocean and some of Portugal's most famous vineyards (including properties such as Ermelinda Freitas, José Maria da Fonseca or Bacalhôa). The Pessegueiro ("peach tree") Courtyard is sheltered within the castle, and you can discover it while enjoying a meal serving for up to 30 people; the menu includes the famous "caramela" soup (a strong mix of potatoes, cabbage, sausage, beans and carrots) and partridge pie, or an equally fulfilling alternative, game meat broth with watercress "farófias" and roast pork leg.
This small luxury hotel is located in Portugal's cradle, the city where the nation's founder, D. Afonso Henriques, cut the umbilical cord to the kingdom of Leon and promptly went conquering southwards, in a journey of personal and national independence. The Mosteiro de Guimarães Pousada occupies the former monastic home of the Order of Saint Augustine, built in the 12th century by Portugal's first queen, D. Mafalda. The Main Hall is now open for meals, for parties up to 100 people, and two menus are on offer: one with breaded black pork cutlets or cod loins, the other with octopus carpaccio or beef tenderloin steak.
Here, when you wake up, you will be greeted with a view of Évora's most famous monument: the Roman Temple of Diana. A few steps away you will find the Gothic Cathedral, the Cadaval Palace and the renowned Giraldo Square. Smack in the middle of Évora, part of a World Heritage museum-city, the Convento de Évora Pousada keeps some of the minimalism of the S. João congregation of secular canons (the first to inhabit it), despite undergoing major renovations after a fire and the 1755 earthquake. Get ready for dining in one of the Pousada's most beautiful places, the D. João V Suite. The suite is covered in colourful frescos, and it has furniture so gorgeous you will hesitate before sitting on it.
If you want to spend the night and have a time-travelling meal - skipping from past to present -, discover the Palácio de Queluz Pousada, set inside the palace's clock tower, and its Cozinha Velha restaurant, where a fine dessert table pays tribute to Portuguese traditional convent sweets. Now you can add to that the D. Maria Theatre, where, once upon a time, plays were staged for the namesake Portuguese queen, a jealous type that allowed only men as performers, even in female roles. The theatre has a capacity of up to 30 people, and is both adequate for lunch and "to watch the Champions League final", says Pousadas de Portugal manager Frederico Costa. In this former thespian haven, you can try stewed partridge, lamb carré and orange pie with a citrus and mint micro-salad covered in chocolate flakes.
This small luxury hotel in Estoi, 10 kilometres away from Faro, has a rococo pastiche style unique in the region, with a French-style garden, rigorously designed in geometric shapes. The Palácio de Estoi Pousada is like a fairytale come to life, with walls painted in sugary colours such as marshmallow pink or watery green (like your dream refrigerator). The ceiling has embossed wooden motifs, contrasting with the modern rooms. The Main Hall, which could feature in a Lewis Carroll story, is now available for dinners. Don't forget to take a dip in the tropical showers or the heated indoors pool.
Sleeping in a castle is nowadays much more comfortable than when buildings had battlements instead of balconies. A night at this castle - built by Portuguese king D. Dinis for his "Holy Queen" Isabel - is a demonstration that love conquers everything, even giant boulders. The rooms in the Castelo de Estremoz Pousada, in Alentejo, maintain a classical decoration, with their four-poster beds, but added contemporary luxuries such as TV and wi-fi. Then there's the imposing castle keep, now open for private meals for groups up to 12 people, with three menus to choose from: one has a traditional tomato soup, sausage and poached eggs, and Brás-style cod; another comes with partridge and mint soup, black pork loins and fava bean stew; and a third includes Serpa cheese on crispy crackers and roast lamb.
The former São Teotónio Hospital in Viseu underwent a renovation by architect Gonçalo Byrne to become a boutique inn. The Viseu Pousada has 84 rooms, a spa, a gym, an inner pool and an outer one. There are also three options for dining: light meals at the Grão Vasco bar, breakfast and occasionally dinners at the Dão Lafões restaurant, and the hardy Viriato, offering the best of local cuisine. Actually, make that four options, since there is a new, more intimate venue: the Wine Lounge. The Pousada cellar became one of the Pousadas Authentic Venues, holding up to 35 people. There are two menus on offer: one with roast cod or roast kid goat, the other with a choice of brill and small cockle risotto or lamb carré.
Best of Lisbon
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