Design & Wine Hotel nominated in European Hospitality Awards 2015

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The Design & Wine Hotel, located in Caminha, in Northern Portugal, has been nominated for two categories in the European Hospitality Awards in 2015, including for "Best Use of Technology" and "Innovative Service of the Year.”

 

This is the third annual of European Hospitality Awards that recognize hotels and services they provide. The awards ceremony will take place in November in London.

 

The Design & Wine Hotel is the only Portuguese property nominated the competition. The categories in which it was selected, alos recognized hotels in Madrid, London, Amsterdam and Budapest, among others.

 

Opened in 2012, the Design & Wine Hotel retains an original facade from the eighteenth century. The 23 themed rooms overlooking the Minho River with original interior design with inspiration from comics and video art. They are equipped with air conditioning, LCD screen, iPad and Wi-Fi. But the greatest technological innovation is the building in which many are located - which rotates twice a day, 35 degrees to better enjoy the view from the mouth of the Minho River and Mount Santa Tecla.

 

Enoteca offer selection of Portuguese wines. The cuisine is inspired by the traditional recipes of Alto Minho with a modern touch in line with the spirit of this hotel.


Portugal's Sainted Queen Isabel

The king D. Dinis (1261-1325) was a renaissance king long before the Renaissance. He was the first European leader to drop Latin as the language of the court in place of vernacular tongue. He empowered dozens of towns with charters, built a string of innovative castles to defend the frontiers, invested in improving agriculture, and planted a vast pine forest near the royal palace in Leiria that still stands to this day. But a great king deserves a great queen, and D. Dinis was to wed a princess from Aragon, whom he had never met.

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It was Isabel’s overwhelming generosity and concern for the poor that D. Dinis most admired. From their palace, perched high above the Mondego River in Coimbra, she could look down at the Poor Clair’s Convent, built at the river’s banks. In winter, the river would flood the convent, causing damage and discomfort, and the queen would quickly pay for repairs. The level of her help reached a point that the royal treasurer had to protest to the king that his ambitious plan to refortify the frontier was endangered because of the expense the queen was throwing at the convent. D. Dinis knew he had to rein her in, and rehearsed a long stern talk, but when the time came to tell her, he found himself muttering something about the treasury, and to stop spending money on rebuilding a convent that should never have been built on a riverbank in the first place.

Months passed, Isabel heeded his words, and then a winter flood in January washed through the convent of the Poor Clair’s nuns. Isabel knew she couldn’t use royal funds, so she took her own gold and jewels in a box, and walked down to the convent to offer it to help the nuns. Dinis sat at his window and when he saw his bride holding a box under her cloak and walking to the river, he followed her progress, and then realized what she was doing.

The king called for his horse, and made off to the river.

He caught up with his wife at the gate of the convent. For the first time she saw anger in his eyes. He dismounted, walked to her and demanded to know what she was holding under her cloak.

Isabel knew she had no way of explaining this to her husband, who was beyond reason. She prayed for assistance.

“I bring roses, my lord.”

“Roses?!? Do you think I would believe that any rose could bloom in this cold month?” he scoffed.

“But, they are roses!” She exclaimed and opened her cloak, to reveal divine roses.

The king knew this was a miracle, and dropped to his knees, asking her forgiveness.

D. Dinis was man of his word, and he granted his wife the revenue of several towns so that she would have her own funds to help the needy. The first town he granted her was Trancoso, the second was Obidos – a charming town near Lisbon.

And not too many years past, Isabel was canonized, and become the patron saint of Coimbra. Every June the city celebrates her with a  huge parade bringing her statue from the New St. Clara Convent (yes, they moved it to the top of hill!), where the queen’s remains are buried, across the river to the city for a blessing. And from the Azores to the North, Rainha Santa Isabel remains Portugal’s favorite saint.


António Vieira and the Cult of the Lost King

 

This is the 400th anniversary of the birth of the Jesuit poet, António Vieira (1608 - 1697). Vieira is credited for taking the myth of a dead king and giving it new life.

He wrote of a new millennium in which Portugal's lost king would return to the world. For that, he was condemned by the Portuguese Inquisition, forbidden to preach, and kept a prisoner for three years.

The Legend of Dom Sebastião is a prominent theme in Portuguese culture and literature. As we said above, Sebastião was the young king that many hoped would restore the nation. But Sebastião wanted to lead a crusade, not a commercial empire. He invaded Moroccan territory and was totally defeated. He never returned, though no one ever saw the king fall in battle.  Back in Portugal, hope rose that he would return and save Portugal from what became 60 years of domination by Spain.  The legend grew--the king would return on a foggy morning and reclaim his throne.  Over the years, many came to shore claiming to be him.  The king--as a youth and as an old man--is a powerful image in Portugal to this day.

At Lisbon's Museum of Ancient Art, you can see a painting of the lost king with your own eyes.  In it, the king, not long before his final battle, looks too young, and awkward in his gilded armor. His left hand clutches a sword; a dog licks his other hand. His red hair, empty eye, and puckered mouth make him look insane.

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That image would be one of the most powerful in the poetry of Pessoa in Mensagem:

"Mad, yes, mad for wanting greatness

The type that Luck does not give.

Without insanity what is man?

Nothing more than a sadistic beast,

An advanced cadaver that procreates?"


Luxury for kids? Algarve Resort offers a new concept: a luxury hotel for the whole family

 

 

 

Sagres, Portugal--Martinhal Beach Resort & Hotel, in the Western Algarve, Portugal, is on an innovative new trail in hospitality: a seaside hotel designed specially for families, with 5-star luxury and service.

 

“The whole resort was envisioned as a luxurious child-friendly destination. Martinhal has all the luxury service and design elements, with special activities for families and kids – and by that we offer lots of option of things for kids to do that are seamless –and fun,” says Chitra Stern, owner and founder member of the resort.

 

Just a 2.5-hour drive south  from Lisbon, Martinhal has a wide range of accommodation with views of the Atlantic Ocean and the nearby fishing town of Sagres. Families can choose from 37 spacious and designer rooms in the hotel -- some with interconnecting rooms -- or the 150 Village Houses and Villas, from 1 to 5 bedroom houses and with or without private pool. Other family friendly amenities included are maid service, iPod docks, satellite TV and video on demand, free Wi-Fi and access to all resort facilities and leisure activities. Parents can also pre-book a baby concierge service and find baby supplies at the resort’s convenience store.

 

All of the restaurants have a kids’ menu and a special area where children can play while parents enjoy their meals. At Martinhal Beach Resort & Hotel, children of all ages are catered for differently.  The resort has different clubs and day care centers, and activities are also fine-tuned to make the most of the seasons and the children’s ages. Baby-sitting service is always available.

 

Families can also spend some time together at one of the three outdoor pools or the indoor one. And while the children enjoy the Kids Club, parents can pick between a range of activities: a game of tennis, a bike tour, surf lessons or golf. The Finisterra Spa offers spa treatments, massages and facials.

 

Martinhal Beach Resort & Hotel is a luxury family resort with a playground of possibilities and more than 365 different things to do all year-round. Located close to the historic village of Sagres, in the Western Algarve, Portugal, this region as temperate climate all-year round. The 100-acre beachfront resort is surrounded by the Costa Vicentina National Park and was recently awarded a Gold Award for Best Landscaping Design Concept Worldwide at the Homes Overseas Awards. For more information about booking or the Martinhal Beach Resort & Hotel visit www.martinhal.com or call +351 282 240 200.

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Get lost in the Bussaco National Forest

The Bussaco National Forest offers many trails and sights that seem to replicate what the lands were prior to human settlement. On the trails one can see a wide range of trees and plants, fountains, and valleys. The Bussaco Forest also holds military and religious landmarks such as the Military museum, built in memorium of the Battle of Bussaco fought during the Napoleonic invasions, and the Convent of Santa Cruz. These trails vary in degree of difficulty, from easy to intermediate, and trekking footwear is recommended.

++ Visits in Buçaco

Visit 1: The Convent of Santa Cruz - In 1628 the Diocese of Coimbra donated a large piece of land to the Order of Discalced Carmelites. On the piece of land the Order constructed the Convent of Santa Cruz, which was an active monastery for two centuries, until the abolition of religious Orders in 1834. Some parts of the convent still remain from the early days, including paintings, sculptures, and tiles.

Visit 2: Convent and Gardens of the Bussaco Palace Hotel - One of the main places of interest in the Bussaco National Forest is the historic, and royal, Palace Hotel. Originally built as a hunting lodge for the last kinds of Portugal, the architecture is both romantic and representative of the nationalist culture. Additions have been made to property, including buildings, ponds, and gardens.

Visit 3: Convent and The Bussaco Woodlands - The Bussaco Woodlands is home to a wide range of plants and enormous trees. It is one of the richest natural forests in terms of natural, architectural, and cultural heritage. The area is divided into three different landscapes, including the Arboretum, the Gardens and Valley of the Ferns, and the Relict Forest. Today it is a living laboratory and an important subject of study for several Portuguese universities. Trekking footwear advised.

Visit 4: The Bussaco Woodlands - A beautiful landscape with many landmarks and natural formations. Trekking footwear advised.

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The visits and walks are subject to prior booking.

Visits are provided in English, Spanish and French for groups with a minimum of 15 persons. Bookings for smaller groups are accepted subject to the payment of the fee applied for a group of 15 persons. For information and booking please call (+351) 231937004 or email: atividades@fmb.pt

 


Fatima- the altar of the world

Portugal’s Sanctuary of Fátima is a symbol of the Virgin Mary and one of the world's most important religious sites. A major tourist attraction for pilgrims from all over the world that come here every year, especially between May and October.

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Former Pope Benedict XVI visited the shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in May 2010 and presided over ceremonies May 13, 2010 the date of the first apparition of St. Mary to three shepherd children in 1917. As a cardinal, Pope Benedict led an international pilgrimage to Fatima in 1996.

It all began back in May and October of 1917, when three shepherd children, Jacinta, Francisco and Lúcia - witnessed apparitions of Our lady of the Rosary, (the Virgin Mary), at the site of the sanctuary.

Initially regarded with suspicion by the Church, but greatly cherished by the people, the miracle was only officially recognized in 1930 by the Bishop of Leiria.

On the May 13, 2000 the Vatican beatified Jacinta and Francisco, because it is said they could miraculously cure illness after their visions.

The fame of the Sanctuary of Fátima has spread throughout the world, especially during the papacy of John Paul II, who was a devout worshipper of Our Lady of Fátima.

As well as the famous Sanctuary, you can also visit Fátima Parish Church, the small Chapel of the Holy Way and the Calvary. At Local do Anjo in Valinhos, you can see the shepherd children’s’ houses and their local well. Trips to the Museum of Sacred Art and Ethnology, the Wax Museum, and the Casa-Museu de Aljustrel, as well as the Museu Fátima 1917 Aparições all shed light on the history of Fátima.


Sagres, Portugal--Martinhal Beach Resort & Hotel, in the Western Algarve, Portugal, is a seaside hotel designed specially for families, with 5-star service. But one of its "cool" factors is that the hotel offers surfing for kids and families.

 

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Surrounded by Atlantic beaches perfect for surf, Sagres is a real surf destination. So, the kids can spend a full or half day learning how to surf with professional instructors who can show them the ropes! And of course parents can go too - Lession can be group or private, and they include lunch.

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Just a 3-hour drive south  from Lisbon, Martinhal has a wide range of accommodation with views of the Atlantic Ocean and the nearby quaint town of Sagres. 

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All of the restaurants have a kids’ menu and a special area where children can play while parents enjoy their meals. At Martinhal Beach Resort & Hotel, children of all ages are catered for differently.  The resort has different clubs and day care centers, and activities are also fine-tuned to make the most of the seasons and the children’s ages. Baby-sitting service is always available.

 

Families can also spend some time together at one of the three outdoor pools or the indoor one. And while the children enjoy the Kids Club, parents can pick between a range of activities: a game of tennis, a bike tour, surf lessons or golf. The Finisterra Spa offers spa treatments, massages and facials.

 

Martinhal Beach Resort & Hotel is a luxury family resort with a playground of possibilities and more than 365 different things to do all year-round.  The 100-acre beachfront resort is surrounded by the Costa Vicentina National Park and was recently awarded a Gold Award for Best Landscaping Design Concept Worldwide at the Homes Overseas Awards. For more information about booking or the Martinhal Beach Resort & Hotel visit www.martinhal.com or call +351 282 240 200.


Portugal's Saint Vincent and the Crows

If you have ever seen the seal or flag of Lisbon you cannot help but notice the ship with two ravens on either end, and the motto "MUI NOBRE E SEMPRE LEAL CIDADE DE LISBOA" (most noble and always loyal city of Lisbon). There we have a tale….

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The story behind this coat of arms refers to Saint Vincent, patron of the city (Saint Anthony was “simply” born here). According to a legend, our founding King, D. Afonso Henriques, made a vow to protect the remains of St. Vincent if he would guide the king's outnumbered forces to victory in the siege of Lisbon in 1147. Well, the Portuguese took the city, and the king was a man of his word. He dispatched his agent to find the bones of the saint, and bring them to the city. St. Vincent had been martyred by the Romans, and his bones hidden in a cave in the Algarve when the Moors later invaded the Iberian Peninsula. The saint’s bones were protected by a flock of crows. And the crows, bones, and all were taken by ship, from what we now call Cape St Vincent to Lisbon. The crows perched on the ship all the way. The bones were buried in the Cathedral, and they say the crows still watch the building to this day.


A travel secret: Top 10 free things to do in Portugal

Portugal is a true delight with so many diverse and unique attractions that make for the perfect vacation. And lots of them are free! So take a look at our top 10 things to do for free (or almost free) in Portugal -

#1 Castles – we have a lot… and they are super cool! In fact we have more per capita than any other nation, and the vast majority are free. For example, the Castle of Guimarães in a dominant position, overlooking the Campo de São Mamede, this monument is connected to the foundation of the Country of Portugal and the struggles of the independence of Portugal, popularly known as the cradle of nationality. Among the many free castles are the fortifications of Palmela, Lousã, Evora, Marvão, Castelo Bom, Penela, Almeida plus many others. Portugal in the Middle Ages was a crossroads of cultures, with hostile Moors to the south and rival Spanish kingdoms to the east. Today, Portugal’s more than 150 forts and castles are persisting monuments to the nation’s will to be independent. While larger and mightier countries were absorbed by others, Portugal, with its proud castles and the soldiers who defended them, evolved. Portugal’s castles are unlike their European counterparts. The Portuguese learned the art of fortification from the master builders of the Romans and the Moors.

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#2 Cathedrals – The house of God is free, so the hundreds of historic churches and cathedrals across Portugal are free (some may charge to see the cloisters or sacristy). Here you can see a 1,000 years of architecture with rich gold and silver, amazing woodwork and sculpture, and the tombs of priests, warriors, kings, and everyday people. Manuel I was crowned king of Portugal in 1495, during which his reign kicked Portugal’s economy and expansion into high gear. Just two years later – the same year that the explorer Vasco da Gama set sail for India – King Manuel sealed his legacy with the construction of a church in Setúbal. This project is seen as the birth of the Manueline architectural style for which Portugal has become famous.

#3 Festivals - Festivals in Portugal are a popular way to celebrate Portuguese religious and general holidays. From Lisbon’s Popular Marches, to Coimbra’s celebration of the Saint Queen Isabel in July, to the Sao Pedro Festival, late spring to fall, these ancient festivals and celebrations are free to all. Attending a traditional festival (festa) is a great way for any visitor to absorb some Portugese popular culture and get to know the locals better.

Coimbra holds one of the biggest student parties in Europe. The Queima da Fitas (burning of the ribbons) lasts for 8 days, one for each University of Coimbra's colleges. There are open-air concerts, parades, and many cultural events, for the public to enjoy.  All this culminates with a massive burning of the ribbons, symbolizing the end of the student’s stay at the old university. The finale is held in a square in front of the Romanesque city cathedral, with hundreds of students signing and celebrating their entrance into the professional world. This ancient academic festival is held to celebrate graduation at the nation’s oldest university (founded in 1288). It takes place at the end of the second semester, in early May.

In June, Lisbon celebrates its popular saints. Fun parades and festivities liven the city’s nights in its historic center and neighborhoods such as Castelo, Mouraria, Graça , Alfama, Ajuda and Bairro Alto. Decorated with lanterns, colorful arches, and costumes, the streets are filled with singing and dancing. Grilled sardines are served on every street corner and basil pots are decorated with verses dedicated to Saint Anthony, the city’s patron saint (and unlikely matchmaker).

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#4 City Parks – From the sweeping vistas of the Sao Pedro de Alcantara Park in Lisbon, to the charming and stylish paths of the ancient Mata de Santa Cruz in Coimbra, to the breathtaking Garden of the Episcopal Palace in Castelo Branco – Portugal’s hundreds of city parks rich in heritage and monuments, are free. The handsome Garden of the Episcopal Palace in Castelo Branco has a renaissance plan with baroque decorations. It is one of the most beautiful baroque gardens in Portugal and contains statues of allegories, kings and zodiacal signs, arranged around ponds, terraces and staircases.

#5 Beaches – with more than 500 miles of clean Atlantic coast, Portuguese beaches are great, and beyond the swimming, surfing, and sun – they’re free to the public. The Blue Flag is a symbol of environmental quality and is awarded annually to beaches and marinas that present themselves to be assessed against a strict criteria that includes water quality; environmental information and education; environmental management; and equipment, safety and services. Of course, Portugal has more than 300 miles of sandy beaches, and some of the best weather in Europe to enjoy them by. From the warm water of the Algarve, to the healing sands at Porto Santo, Portuguese beaches are welcoming.

#6 The Cacilheiro (95 cents) -  These orange boats that go from Lisbon to Cacilhas cost a mere 95 cents, and offer some of the most breathtaking views of Lisbon from the river – they may not be free, but for that kind of money, they might as well be.

To quote an old song: Sailing on a trail of foam,... there, the cacilheiro goes by on the Tejo in freedom... and the Lisbon's streets, without a hurry,... took a round-trip ticket to it.

Alfama, Madragoa, Bairro Alto, here and there, sailing in a toy-like boat Half of Lisbon waits on the margin's asphalt,... but the longing, in advance, drifts away.

#7 Museums on Sunday and Holidays until 2 p.m. – Many public museums are open at no charge on Sundays and Holidays – here are just a few, but check out this site for a full list. Plus children under 14 years old free and there is a 50% discount for seniors.

Museum Abade de Baçal - Bragança

Museum Alberto Sampaio - Guimarães

Museum de Aveiro

Museum dos Biscainhos- Braga

Museum of Ceramics- Caldas da Rainha

Museum de D. Diogo de Sousa- Braga

Museum Ethnographic Dr. Joaquim Manso - Évora

Museum de Évora

Museum de Francisco Tavares Proença Júnior - Castelo Branco

Museum Grão Vasco -Viseu

Museum of Guarda

Museum of Lamego

Museum Monográfico de Conímbriga - Condeixa- a-Velha

Museum da Terra de Miranda - Miranda do Corvo

#8 Lisbon’s historic trolley #28 - Trolley 28 runs its way through historic Lisbon beginning in Graça then diving to the river. Cost is a mere 2.50 Euros (or buy a one day Carris/metro ticket for 3.95 Euros) and you pay the fare directly to the driver.  Lisbon’s #28 trolley crosses the city from east to west, climbing away from the center through the narrow cobbled streets and steep gradients of the Bairro Alto, Baixa, and Alfama districts. The small vintage trolley navigate tight turns past markets, restaurants, and churches and the like. You can get off in the Graça neighborhood and catch a #37 bus to the Castelo de São Jorge, where you can enjoy views of the whole city.

#9 Running of the bulls on Terceira, where the popular “touradas à corda” that are held in the streets. Part of life on this Atlantic isle since the 16th Century, the “touradas à corda” (literally “bullfights by rope”) are held by local Terceira villagers from April/May to late September. In these events, similar to the “Running of the Bulls”, a bull is let loose from the town’s square (or other open space) with a very long rope around its neck. Courageous people then attempt to provoke the animal and get close to it while avoiding being gored (resulting in many examples of humorous provocations, fearless attempts and the occasional injury or mayhem). Some “touradas à corda” also do away with the rope entirely or become semi-aquatic (when the bulls chase the participants off a dock). Following these “games” the animal is eventually retrieved and a festival will begin.

#10 Levadas on Madeira - The Levada "Walks" are walking trails along the maintenance paths beside the Levadas. Although the Levadas were constructed primarily for agricultural/industrial use they are just as important for tourists and local people who want to enjoy outdoor adventure activities inaccessible by car.  Madeira levadas are famous worldwide and are one of the main reasons why people go there. And, they offer some fantastic scenery through the Laurisilva forests - indigenous to the island.

Madeira being a volcanic island is mountainous. This combination of tropical climate and mountainous terrain makes it a perfect location for all types of walks, hikes and trekking. Some easy, some more challenging and sometimes thrilling walks & Madeira hikes can be found all over the island.