When we entered the Pousada dos Loios in Évora, we stepped on grounds that have seen war and peace, creation and destruction. The Arabs built a castle on this site that was destroyed by fire during the Portuguese war of 1383-85. In 1485, a local noble built a convent for the order of Loios on top of the castle ruins.
The villagers called the members of this order the blue monks because of the color of their robes. These religious men lived an austere life, working and praying in silence. Their serenity and wisdom led the royal family to choose them as confessors.
The convent was severely damaged by the 1755 earthquake and later rebuilt through the efforts of an enterprising priest. In 1834, Portugal abolished religious orders and the convent was closed down.
In 1963, the ancient building was converted into an historical hotel. The cells of the monks were turned into comfortable rooms and elegant suites. The courtyard became a spacious breakfast room.
The Pousada is in the center of Évora and yet inside its thick stone walls the clatter of the city vanishes. Staying here for a few days felt like a long vacation. We were content and at ease in the convent of the blue monks.
The Pousada dos Loios in Évora is located on Largo do Conde de Vila Flor, tel. 351 266 730 070. Click here for the pousadas’ website and here for a large collection of photos of the hotel.
Lisbon has a wonderful new historical hotel: the Lisbon Pousada, located in the old royal-palace courtyard known as Terreiro do Paço.
Until the middle of the 18th century, ministers, nobles and other power brokers constantly stamped the soil of this courtyard with their footprints. But, after the 1755 earthquake destroyed the royal palace, the king moved to Ajuda and the courtyard lost its illustrious traffic.
In the 20th century, Terreiro do Paço regained its status as the walkway of power. The new hotel occupies the Ministry of Internal Affairs building. It was here that Salazar, the man who ruled Portugal from 1926 to 1970, had his office.
The pousada is decorated with numerous historical artifacts, including models for many of the statues that adorn the city. The rooms are elegant and comfortable with windows that frame beautiful views of downtown Lisbon: stucco buildings, ancient tiles, pink roofs, the walls of St. Jorge’s castle, and the northern margin of the Tagus river. Salazar’s old office is now a spacious bedroom suite.
It is said that in stressful times, Salazar avoided the main entrance of the building, using instead a discreet back door. This back door is now closed. Surrounded by elegance and comfort, pampered by the hotel’s well-trained staff, stress is the last thing on the mind of the guests of the Lisbon Pousada.
The Lisbon Pousada is located at 31, Praça do Comércio, tel. 351 21 040 7640. Click here for the pousadas’ website and here for a large collection of photos of the hotel.
If words could describe how great it is to stay at the Caniçadas pousada in Gerês, you would not need to drive up the Gerês mountain to find this hotel ensconced in the woods, overlooking the Cávado river. But even poets would have trouble putting into words the feeling of starting the day sitting in the hotel’s veranda, our eyes feasting on the spectacular vistas.
The origins of the hotel go back to 1951, when temporary accommodations were built for a group of engineers working on a dam on the Cávado river. Naturally, the engineers chose a location with an amazing view. In 1968, the building was converted into a hotel and an annex was built to house the chauffeurs of the wealthy patrons who came to Gerês to recharge their energies.
The staff of the pousada gave us wonderful recommendations for what to do in Gerês: trails to hike, rivers to swim, horses to ride, traditional villages to visit, and culinary specialties to try.
We greatly enjoyed these activities, but we also loved returning to the pousada at the end of the day to sit in the veranda and watch the sun bid farewell to the Gerês mountain.
The Caniçadas hotel is part of a network of hotels called pousadas. Click here for the pousadas’ website and here for a large collection of photos of the hotel.
The first king of Portugal, Dom Afonso Henriques, laid siege to the Óbidos castle for two months, but the moorish population resisted his attack. One moonless night, a beautiful lady came down from the castle to speak to the king. She told him that, even though she lived in the castle, she was not moorish. And that she had a recurrent dream she had to fulfill. The king was to attack the castle’s main door. At the same time, he would send a small group of soldiers to the back. There, the lady would leave an open door to let them in. Their surprise attach would secure the victory of the Portuguese troops.
The king of Portugal feared falling into a trap. But something about the lady’s demeanor convinced him to adopt her plan. The next day, the castle back door was indeed open and the Portuguese conquered Óbidos. The king looked everywhere for the beautiful lady, but she had vanished.
The castle of Óbidos was converted into a beautiful historical hotel. After entering though the front door, the one the king attacked, you find a romantic place with wonderful views of the countryside. One of the best views is just outside a door painted red. It is the door the lady left open.
In the dining room two beautiful windows, the sun and moon windows, give us a choice between seeing the sunset and the moonrise. This choice between astral spectacles is one of the many enchanting details that makes a stay at the pousada so memorable.
The pousada is the perfect place to stay at Óbidos. After all, who wouldn’t want to be treated like royalty in a medieval town?
Click here for the Pousadas’ website and here for more photos of the Óbidos Pousada.