Don’t over­look dream trip to lovely Lis­bon

CHRISTINA BLANEY finds her­self en­tranced by the beau­ti­ful ar­chi­tec­ture and at­mos­phere of Por­tu­gal’s cap­i­tal

Macclesfield Express - - TRAVEL -

IT might be one of the city’s old­est ho­tels, but Tivoli Lis­boa in the heart of Lis­bon is still one of its most lux­u­ri­ous.

And my time there would be filled with mo­ments I wouldn’t for­get.

As if a stay there wasn’t enough, my time in Por­tu­gal would con­tinue with a visit to the town of Sin­tra to stay in Tivoli Palá­cio de Seteais. The name sounded fancy enough, but noth­ing would pre­pare me for just how be­witch­ing this ho­tel was.

Upon ar­rival in Lis­bon, I was whisked to the sky bar on the ninth floor of Tivoli Lis­boa. The view from here is sim­ply breath­tak­ing and widely re­garded as one of the best places to en­joy the warm night air, stun­ning views and in­cred­i­bly big cock­tails.

The first of­fer­ing as part of the ‘Ex­pe­ri­ence Lis­bon’ pro­gramme of­fered by Tivoli ho­tels was a vin­tage walk­ing tour of the city.

Is­lamic tiles cover most of the build­ings and houses, In­dian ele­phants are de­picted on the statue in Ros­sio square and the strong Catholic iconog­ra­phy is ever present in the many churches and monas­ter­ies.

The smell of cof­fee, cakes, cured meats and the sound of old trams chug­ging by fill the streets at ev­ery turn, it is the kind of place you could ex­plore for a week and yet still find things you missed at first glance.

As some­one who hates long walks, I have to say I couldn’t get enough of this.

I loved the re­laxed pace and the depth of knowl­edge from our guide as well as the fact that we could stop and wan­der around small shops, taste some pas­tries or have a glass of port.

You sim­ply wouldn’t get the same kind of ex­pe­ri­ence sit­ting on a bus or lis­ten­ing to a tape.

Lunch was pro­vided by Brasserie Flo Lis­boa, a French-in­spired Pater­rie in­side the ho­tel.

A se­lec­tion of mini pas­tries in­clud­ing crème brule, lime sor­bet and a shot of espresso was my ab­so­lute high­light.

Di­rectly be­hind Tivoli Lis­boa, Tivoli jardin was home to one of seven restau­rants owned by renowned chef Oliver de Costa. The unan­i­mous opin­ion of the food was that it was in­cred­i­ble – the oc­to­pus carpac­cio in par­tic­u­lar was just sen­sa­tional and some­thing I would never have tried be­fore, the beef welling­ton was cooked to ab­so­lute per­fec­tion, the wine was per­fectly matched, the whole ex­pe­ri­ence was just sub­lime and was made even more en­joy­able by a visit from the chef him­self.

The next day we em­barked on a tuk tuk tour of the city, which took us to sev­eral van­tage points to take in the stun­ning views and beau­ti­ful ar­chi­tec­ture.

The elec­tric buggy made short work of the rolling hills and wind­ing cob­bled streets.

This was def­i­nitely the best way to ex­plore the city, es­pe­cially if you de­spise long walks and steep climbs like my­self and we were still able to get off and ex­plore so this I would rec­om­mend as well as the walk­ing tour.

We had lunch at Pap’açorda in the Timeout Mar­ket. The meal was lovely but what I have to men­tion here is the choco­late mousse we had for dessert.

It looked rather un­ap­pealling as it was scooped from a metal bowl and slapped on my plate so I wasn’t ex­pect­ing much.

How wrong I was, this was the most epic choco­late dessert I have ever tasted, I just can’t put into words how good it was and I still have dreams about it.

The whole trip was worth it just to taste that mousse.

The sun was shining as we trav­elled to Sin­tra, only 20 min­utes from the cen­tre of Lis­bon.

We were told that Sin­tra has its own mi­cro­cli­mate, which meant that it could be sunny in the city yet misty and driz­zly in the lus­ciously green moun­tain town.

Lucky for us it was sunny and clear, it was like step­ping into a fairy­tale and yet was only a stone’s throw from the hus­tle and bus­tle of the city.

On our ar­rival at Tivoli Palá­cio de Seteais, the most lux­u­ri­ous ho­tel in Sin­tra, we were given a tour by a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of FRESS, the foun­da­tion re­spon­si­ble for the restora­tion of the 18th cen­tury palace.

I have to say that this was one of the most beau­ti­ful build­ings I have ever seen.

Home to 2,000 pieces of art in­clud­ing ta­pes­tries, en­grav­ings and fur­ni­ture, the ho­tel is like a gallery in it­self, each room mak­ing you look in ev­ery cor­ner at hid­den de­lights, in par­tic­u­lar a grand pi­ano dec­o­rated in gold leaf is sim­ply en­chant­ing.

The ho­tel is keen to pitch it­self as a ro­man­tic set­ting, cater­ing for pri­vate din­ners in the gar­dens and of­fer­ing the hire of the whole palace for up to 60 guests as a wed­ding venue.

Though I have never been de­scribed as a ro­man­tic, I could imag­ine get­ting mar­ried here and who I’d in­vite, where the pho­tos would be taken, what the food would be, what my first dance would be etc and so was in a bit of a dream world for the rest of the tour.

If you are a ro­man­tic then this place is pure par­adise, the ul­ti­mate cou­ples re­treat and be­yond el­e­gant.

Af­ter lunch we hopped in our wait­ing horse drawn car­riage to as­cend the hill on which the Pala­cio da Pena stood.

This palace was home to the last of the Por­tuguese royal fam­ily and was un­like any palace I had ever seen and was lovely to look around.

I spent a lazy after­noon swim­ming in the pool and soak­ing in the lux­ury of my suite, be­fit­ting the style of the ho­tel as a whole.

I en­joyed a sim­ple three-course din­ner and went to bed very up­set that I would not be here for longer!

In Lis­bon you can sit in a French themed pas­try shop which is cov­ered in Ara­bic tiles, drink­ing Span­ish wine, eat­ing cod from Norway then take a trip to the beach af­ter an after­noon shop­ping.

There is some­thing in this captivating city that would please any­one and ev­ery­one.

But what struck me most about Lis­bon was the peo­ple.

Ev­ery sin­gle per­son I spoke to was so grate­ful I was spend­ing time in their city and spoke about their home with so much pride, know­ing its his­tory in­side out, com­ment­ing on places we had vis­ited with such warmth and hon­esty.

But of course I could un­der­stand their love for their home, with its Mediter­ranean cli­mate (and mi­cro­cli­mates), glo­ri­ous land­scape, de­li­cious food and an abun­dance of bars, shops, restau­rants and at­trac­tions this idyl­lic place has it all.

Tivoli Ho­tels have made my stay feel more than just a few nights in a five-star ho­tel and stay­ing in Tivoli Palá­cio de Seteais was the clos­est to feel­ing like a mil­lion­aire I think I will ever ex­pe­ri­ence.

But the lo­ca­tion is what mat­ters here, Lis­bon is a city which begs to be ex­plored but is of­ten over­looked.

With flights from Manch­ester from £56 re­turn and the sun shining most of the year round, what bet­ter ex­cuse is there to ex­plore some­where new?

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