Interview with Madeleine Virag, Away by TTI Travel Advisor
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THIS DESTINATION?
Portugal has always been high on my list of places to visit and this year was a perfect occasion to pair it with Spain & Canary Islands.
WHAT WERE YOUR HIGHLIGHTS?
This was a relatively long holiday so the highlights are many…
First, the Bairro Alto Hotel in Lisbon. In the Bairro Alto neighborhood & centre of historic Lisbon; it has been the bohemian, artist centre for centuries and here you will find the fado music, bars and restaurants. The hotel has been just renovated; 2 new wings have been added to the historic building but the architecture is such that you do not sense this while in the hotel (or outside). You must go to the roof top bar – it is very popular with locals & offers spectacular views of the bridge over the Tejo River & downtown Lisbon. Breakfast a’la carte is spectacular & service throughout is exceptional.
Lesser known but a real must see along the Silver Coast of Portugal is Nazaré. Famous of the biggest waves ever recorded; it’s hard to describe the unique feel as the huge waves slam into the Gibraltar – size rock, and any beach person would enjoy spending long walks along the beaches sprawled for miles at end.
In Southern Portugal we really enjoyed Estoi, 20 minutes outside of Faro in the Algarve. While known for its beaches, in here you can enjoy wonderful walks, horseback riding and fishing. We really enjoyed staying at Pousada d Estoi, once a Royal Winter Palace, today it is a regal little gem of a hotel with many of its original 18th century elements.
Crossing to Spain we stayed at the lovely Finca Cortesin. Known as a luxury golf resort and just 9 years old, it boasts old European luxury. The minute you drive in you have this sense of escape: spacious grounds overlooking the golf course, 2 grand swimming pools surrounded lush gardens and the rooms and bathrooms….some of the most spacious I have ever seen. They have a beach club with regular shuttle so you can treat it as a beach resort but then you escape back to sheltered elegance.
Finally, Granada and Cordoba. A must-see in Cordoba is the Moorish Mosque –Cathedral (La Mezquita) The Mosque was built in 784 and was the most important and largest Mosque of the Arab World; in Granada, The Allhambra dazzled all of our senses. In both towns we stayed at the same lovely luxury boutique chain, Hospes Hotels. The Palacio de Los Patos in Granada & The Palacio del Bairo in Cordoba. Both were extremely well located, 5* luxury hotels in historical buildings with super attention to detail.
MOST MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE?
Getting into a local and very authentic Fado Club in Lisbon and watching Flamenco singers and dancers on the streets of Seville.
WHAT SURPRISED YOU THE MOST?
How lovely people were everywhere we went & how did we ever travel without gps? Local lovely food that was all very affordable.
Photo courtesy of Madeleine Virag