São Vicente, Lisbon, Portugal. “This is where our friendship begins”. This is the message we sent on WhatsApp to the owners of the Santa Clara 1728 hotel during our travels. That morning we were leaving Lisbon, driving over the Vasco de Gama bridge towards Arraiolos in the Alentejan countryside, to reach their farm for a few days…
Leave behind the covered market in Placa da Ribeira and its chaos, go up to the first floor, and sit at one of the tables embraced by the light of a Lisbon sunset. For once, you do not have to open the menu: you can trust the tips of the staff, welcoming you with bowls of olives, fritters, mouthwatering bread, olive oil and smiles. Pap’Açorda is the second life of a historic restaurant in Barrio Alto. Save room for the chocolate mousse (cit.)
Whitewashed ranches surrounded by golden fields and filled with black and white souvenirs have seen a family passing the baton to the next generation for two centuries. Here, old tools and yellowed boxes are upgraded to decorations. Every morning (freshly roasted) boiling coffee is served in flagons made of iron and glass. Handmade ceramic sets are painted in the perfect tone of light blue and the small bazar can be compared to our favourite concept stores in Paris…
We remember every detail of our stay at Pensão Agrícola. First of all its geometry, the typical essential and fascinating one of Olhão’s houses, with their white walls combined together to create perfect angles. Then comes the fragrance of granola just taken out of the oven and let on a tray to cool down slowly. There is also Maria, so elegant in her pale grey dress, giving us squeezed melon juice to alleviate the hot summer in Tavira (and that robust cotton napkin with a tiny fringe on one edge)…
Lisbon is: white churches, steep steps, chipped colourful tiles, tropical gardens and fruit, the smell of cream and cinnamon, terraces over the Tago, generous portions of bacalhau with onions and potatoes, delicate people, sunlight, small yellow trams, daring taxi drivers, the sound of bells, homemade lemonade and the smell of fresh laundry…
From the airport it’s only a short ride to the Baixa district, downtown Lisbon. Along the orthogonal streets of the neighbourhood are vintage hat shops, pastelerias (patisseries) and small yellow trams. You can smell the ocean and hear the sound of the cathedral’s bells in the background. We stop in front of a shiny green door and look up to see this VIII century building all covered in blue azulejos. The Baixa House entrance hall is fresh and dominated by a wooden spiral staircase that goes up five floors interrupted only by white landings and multicolour windows. Our apartment, 4b Campo Grande, is inundated by the day light. The whole white rooms are warmed up by the light brown wooden floor and the pops of colour: industrial lamps, fresh flowers, the folk patterns of cushions, artisanal rugs and ceramics. The apartment overlooks the derelict roofs of the neighbourhood and the blue sky over Lisbon…
You will fall in love with Villa Extramuros. As you approach it, it appears like a magic white cube against the green countryside in Arraiolos. François and Jean-Cristophe have chosen a land surrounded only by olive fields, orange orchards and meadows where sheep flock grow as the ideal setting for their contemporary villa. Rooms combine locally sourced materials (marble, cork, white limestone), traditional colourful rugs from Monsaraz (Mizette’s mantas alentajanas) and views over the medieval castle and the infinity pool with crafted details and furniture from a modern and stylish Parisian house. Breakfast is served in terracotta plates and is a divine blend of traditional French, Mediterranean and Portuguese specialities…
We were told that no matter what we’d ordered it would have been delicious. If you travel to Antelajo, this restaurant and gourmet supermarket is a culinary stop not to be missed. The journey to get here takes you through meadows tinted of violet and yellow where cows graze freely, olive fields and oak forests and lands populated by storks until you get to the beautiful and timeless city of Estremoz, another gem of inland Portugal. Gadanha’s kitchen uses the same ingredients you will have so often tasted in this country: fava beans, aged ham, prawns, potatoes, fresh mushrooms, salted codfish, garlic, coriander, rice, tangerine, extra virgin olive oil and herbs. Yet the combinations are so refined the food here is an authentic work of art, modern and delicious at the same time. There is something traditional yet fresh in the decor of the terrace and the dining room. You leave Estremoz and Gadanh with your heart full of beautiful landscapes, villages and flavours that belong to Portugal’s most intimate tradition.
In the narrow and quieter streets of the famous Evora ask the locals for Luar de Janeiro and they will point you in the right direction. The restaurant glass door opens onto a small square room with a glass door fridge full of typical homemade desserts, one big round table and a long bar separating from the open kitchen where the chefs cook traditional chicken pies and other local specialities. The main room is very quiet and the elegant people at the tables look like regular customers. After you’ve taken your seat they bring you some mixed antipasti to start with: aged goat cheese, olives beans and tuna salad, mushrooms with coriander, bread baked in the wooden oven, white melon and Iberico ham. The menu is a triumph of grilled meat and fish, prepared according to ancient local recipes and served in abundant portions. Lisbon is not short of juicy tropical fruit (mango, pineapple and melon), which give this typically continental meal the exotic taste of far away islands.
Bunk beds that make you nostalgic of summer camps and suites with views on the Tagus River that would seduce poets and romantics. The Independente is the great invention of three brothers from Lisbon, globetrotters and visionary.
It’s the Caribbean just one-hour away from Lisbon. Four thatched huts sitting on the sand. The floor of this unexpected eco-lodge is a beach that smells of ocean. Simple elegance.