Rob and I have been enjoying 15 days travelling through Portugal. We started in Lisbon, where I attended an academic conference. Although quite a bit of my time was taken up with the conference, we also had plenty of time to tour parts of the city that we hadn’t seen in our last visit here in 2011. In particular, we visited the Tile Museum and explored the Parque das Nacoes, which was the site of the World Exposition in 1998. We ate at many traditional Portuguese restaurants, as well as some featuring new cuisine, and enjoyed listening to fado singers.
From Lisbon, we went on to Sintra and then north to Porto. I will write about those parts of the trip in a separate post.
When we travelled to Portugal in 2011, we discovered Portuguese Pousadas, to our great delight. The pousadas are luxury inns throughout the country, situated in buildings that are national monuments, or that are significant because of their history or natural beauty. They are run by the Pestana group, but I believe that they were initially established as an initiative by the government of Portugal. In 2011, we stayed at Alcacer do Sal, on top of a hill at the mouth of a river where the Romans traded in salt. At various times it was a castle, a Moorish palace, and a Roman fort. There is an archaeological dig under the pousada with artifacts going back to the Bronze Age. Later in that trip, as we toured through the Alentejo region, we stayed at a pousada in Evora which had been convent and before that a beautiful Moorish palace. The third pousada that we stayed in was in Elvas, next to a fabulous walled city, and very impressive Roman aqueducts.
Our experience with the pousadas was outstanding. So on this trip, we decided to book a four-day tour of some pousadas in northern Portugal. (We were aware of their special offers because they have been sending us emails since 2011. If you become a Pestana member, you are eligible for discounts and special offers.)
We started our pousada tour at the Pousada Viana do Castelo. It is located on top of Monte de Santa Luzia in an elegant 100-year-old hotel. From the pousada, there are fabulous views out over the Port of Viana do Castelo. The pousada is decorated in the Belle Epoch style — very beautiful. We rode the funicular down to the city and spent an interesting day wandering around the city, looking at the busy modern port, and walking around the ruins of the old castle on the shore. Viana do Castelo is one of the places on the route of the Portuguese pilgrim’s way, on the Camino to Santiago de Compostela, nearby in Spain.
A lovely sitting room
The view from the window of our room
We also enjoyed the gardens of the pousada. I swam in the outdoor pool, although the water was very cold. We sat and enjoyed the view from the salon, read, and sipped port.
From Viana do Castelo, we left the coast and drove east. After a stop in beautiful Ponte de Lima, where we walked across a Roman bridge and toured through a Roman garden, we passed through the north side of Braga and headed up into the mountains. Our next destination was the Pousada de Canicada-Geres, a chalet style inn high in the mountains looking over the National Park Of Peneda-Geres.
A chalet in the mountains
View from the bar out over mountains and a lake
Now we have travelled to the third pousada— Pousada Mosteiro de Guimaraes, also called the Monastery of Santa Marinha. The monastery dates back to the late 9th century, although the building is older than that. It was founded by Dona Mafalda and named for the patron saint of women in childbirth. It is surrounded by gardens.
Me standing in front of the pousada.
The other thing that I haven’t mentioned are delicious breakfasts included in the cost of the room. A North American breakfast will never look the same after this. We also have splurged on several pousada dinners. I think my waistline is going to pay for it, even though we have been doing a great deal of walking, hill climbing, and clambering up many staircases inside of castles.
A final note. I have found a slow and tedious way to write this post using a tablet, and to import photos off my phone. However, writing on a tablet does not allow for for formatting options, and editing functions are limited. So please pardon any errors you find.