Archive for September, 2006

Portugal’s Pousadas

Wednesday, September 6th, 2006

Estremoz Pousada One of my favorite experiences when traveling around Portugal, is staying at a Pousada. A Pousada is a chain of luxury hotels (not as expensive as you’d expect), built in renovated castles, monasteries, or palaces. There are different types (historical, charm, nature, or historic-design), and all offer excellent restaurants with the best of Portuguese cuisine.The first Pousada I stayed at was that of Estremoz, and what a great introduction that was! This is a former royal castle filled with history and the staff make sure you do feel like royalty. It is a “historical” pousada, so it is filled with antiques that wouldn’t be out of place in an art museum.

I later stayed at the historical-design pousada of Arraiolos nearby, also in the Alentejo region. The view towards Arraiolos castle and surrounding plains from my room were wonderful, as is the combination of the ancient and the modern in the architecture and decor.

I later chose another historical-design pousada in the small town of Belmonte. The views of the hills close to Serra da Estrela from my room’s balcony were stunning, and the blending of the old architecture with stylish modern design is impressive. I also liked the idea of the rooms having the names of friars who once lived there instead of numbers. It is quite an unique pousada, which you can read more about here.

My only experience in one of the “Charm” pousadas was that of Condeixa, somewhere between Coimbra and Conimbriga. It lacked the memorable architecture and design of the other pousadas, but its peaceful location was charming indeed.

Finally, in August I stayed at a historical pousada in Mesão Frio. I can’t imagine a better view to the World Heritage Douro Valley and River, and the dinner and breakfast (also with views from the terrace) were just as pleasant.

In all of these pousadas the service was flawless, which is why I am sure I will be returning to many more in the future. They are more than hotels — they are destinations in themselves, offering a memorable cultural experience. For more information see our Pousadas section.

Leitão in Mealhada

Tuesday, September 5th, 2006

In the Aveiro district, the town of Mealhada lies just 17km from Coimbra, in the centre of the Bairrada wine region and is famous all over Portugal for leitão à bairrada, or crispy suckling pig. This delicious dish is roasted in large brick wood-fired ovens, served with potatoes and roast peppers and is the speciality served in almost all restaurants here.

Eating leitão in Mealhada is almost an obligation for travellers passing by this area. Visitors have many restaurants to choose from, the oldest and most famous being Pedro dos Leitões, established in the 40’s.

In August, I ate in the Restaurante Meta dos Leitões, a large restaurant catering for almost 300 people. The suckling pig was really succulent and we accompanied this traditional dish with a full red wine from the area. Definitely a detour to be recommended for any travellers driving along the main Lisbon-Porto road.

Restaurante Meta dos Leitões

Estrada Nacional 1 Km 234 – Mealhada
3050-347 MEALHADA. Tel: 231209540