The Queluz pousada

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Once upon a time, there was a prince called Pedro who was calm and handsome. As the younger brother of the king, he did not expect to have to perform royal duties. So he devoted his energies to the construction of a palace in the village of Queluz where he could host hunting parties.

The king died and his daughter Maria inherited the throne. Her volatile temperament made many fear for the future of the kingdom. Pedro was asked to marry his niece, so that he could help rule Portugal. The prince accepted this arranged marriage as an obligation. But the queen fell in love with her dashing prince and her devotion was such that he fell in love with her.

The Queluz palace became a royal project, financed by the river of gold and diamonds that flowed from Brazil. A French architect, Jean Baptiste Robillon, was hired to build a palace that would rival Versailles. The original plan was inspired by the harmonious royal marriage: it included two symmetrical buildings that complemented each other.

After the first edifice was built, the royal couple spent as much time as they could at Queluz. They lived a blissful life, surrounded by their six children in one the world’s most graceful palaces.

Before the construction of the second building began, these happy times came to an end: Dom Pedro died of a stroke. The queen never recovered from this loss and her elder son replaced her as the prince regent.

In 1819, to mark the birth of a granddaughter of the old queen, the royal family built the watch tower of the second building planned for Queluz. Later, a private theater and servant quarters were later added to the tower.

In 1995, the watch-tower building and the old palace kitchen were converted into an historical hotel called Pousada Dona Maria I.

If you’re planning to divide your time between Lisbon and Sintra, Queluz is a superb location. You can wake up in the morning to the singing of birds, enjoy a wonderful breakfast, and walk to the Queluz palace before other visitors crowd in. You can drive or take the train to Lisbon (12 km) or Sintra (16 km). And return in the evening to this enchanting place that preserves the romance and splendor of an age gone by.

 

The Pousada Dona Maria I is located at Largo do Palácio Nacional, Queluz, tel. 351 21 435 6158. Click here for the pousadas’ website and here for a large collection of photos of the hotel.

The first sunset

The Romans marked each new year by hammering a nail into the door post of the temple of Jupiter. We prefer to photograph the sunset on the first day of the year, hoping it holds a clue for what the year will bring.

Today, the sun slept all day behind clouds. But at the last moment, it spread its rays and lit the sky, as if to reassure us that there will be many beautiful sunsets in the New Year.  We hope you’ll come to Portugal to share some of these sunsets with us. Happy New Year!

 

12 wishes

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A thin line separates the year that was from the year that will be. In Portugal, we prepare for the magical moment when time crosses this line with 12 raisins in our hand. With each of the 12 clock strokes, we eat a raisin and make a silent wish.

This year we’ll save a raisin for you, dear reader, to wish that you’ll come experience the radiant beauty of Portugal.

Happy New Year!

Sea dance

DCIM103GOPRO Like a child who can’t wait, the sea brought its gifts today. It asked the clouds to dress in white, lavender and yellow. It convinced the sun to warm up the salty air. And then the waves danced. Arabesques of water, pirouettes of foam. We wish you were here to share in the indescribable beauty of the Portuguese sea.

The art of seeing

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We can be artists without drawing, painting, dancing or playing music. All we need is to see the world with child-like wonder. Here’s how Lourdes de Castro, a great Portuguese artist, demonstrates the art of seeing:

“When the tide is low, I hear the sound of the waves pouring over the stones, rolling them day and night, for years, centuries until pieces of basalt become smooth. A pebble is a work of art!”

Portugal’s landscape is an immense canvas inviting you to become an artist. Come and see!

A romantic proposal

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Perhaps you found your true love and would like to propose in a romantic, unforgettable way. If, after watching numerous black-and-white movies you still have no ideas, we have a suggestion.

Invite your loved one for a weekend in Lisbon. Without revealing your intentions, drive to the location in the photo in the end of the afternoon, an hour or two before sunset. Take a bouquet of flowers tied with a ribbon that has two pieces of lead (one to use and the other to keep as a memento). Each piece of lead should have your two initials carved.

Find the perfect moment to say: “When ancient Greeks made eternal vows, they threw a piece of lead in the ocean and promised to keep their vows until the lead floated. I want to do the same; I’ll love you until this lead floats.” Throw one of the pieces of lead in the ocean with a dramatic gesture. Take some beautiful photos and celebrate with some great Portuguese espumante.

The gazebo in the photo is part of the Casa do Gato Cinzento estate, located between the Consolação and the São Bernardino beach. It is private property, so please ask the caretaker permission to let you in. 

Writing your story

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Peter Mayle, a British advertising executive, moved in the 1980s to Ménerbes, a tiny village in Provence. There, he wrote “A Year in Provence,” an entertaining account of his experiences that became a global bestseller.

Frances Mayes, an American writer, moved in the 1990s to the Tuscan country side to renovate Bramasole, an old villa. She told her story in the inspiring, bestselling “Under the Tuscan Sun.”

The success of these writers reflects their ability to put the reader on location, feeling the thrill of living in a place where every day is a new adventure.

There are currently so many Portuguese houses in great locations selling at very affordable prices. These beautiful homes are waiting for the right person to come along and make them part of their story. Hurry up!