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Staff Blog: The Portuguese Pousadas

Praia do Guincho Beach

We write enough about travel. Time to sample it.

So when a fantastic line-up including Radiohead and Arcade Fire were announced for the Nos Alive music festival in Lisbon, we did just that.

The Pousada experience (which is one of our new Inspire Me suggestions) involved bookings for Pousada do Cidadela on the coast in Cascais, moving to Pousada do Lisboa in the heart of the city during the festival.

The flight was a pleasant two-and-a-half-hours, and arriving at lunchtime gave us a chance to take a relaxed taxi into the busy, central Cais Do Sodre area. From there we picked up the train to the pretty town of Cascais famed for its beaches, restaurants and elegant shops.

The Pousada Cascais

On leaving the railway station and heading on foot up towards the marina, first impressions reminded me very much of a smaller Côte d'Azur. The Pousada of Cascais is a beautifully restored hotel set within the walls of the 16th century Citadel, located in the art district that tastefully combines ancient and modern.

Our room was large and spacious with all mod cons, our only slight disappointment being just one relatively small window located quite high (especially for us shorter types) which meant we didn’t have much natural light and no view of the marina below and the ocean beyond.

Hotel facilities are splendid with good service. We enjoyed breakfasts, a very pleasant outdoor area for lounging and enjoying the sunshine and there are both indoor and outdoor pools.

The heart of town is a very pleasant five to ten minute walk depending on your route with an opportunity to stop at a small beach area, eat an ice cream and watch some local volleyball before heading to the square and its restaurants, bars and shops.

We fell in love with the delightful House of Wonders, which Jo had found from a bit of online research.

It's a cosy and relaxed bohemian place with a lovely rooftop terrace with a great view, lots of tables and scattered cushions. The personnel are friendly and the vegetarian fare - special juices, healthy cakes, mezze plates, exotic cous-cous and so on was top drawer. We went back twice.

Os Bordallos restaurant

We also highly recommend the Os Bordallos restaurant for a splendid burger and fries. We were excited by the dessert options too though a small fire in the kitchen meant we were denied that pleasure. Thankfully no one was injured and the lovely manager, embarrassed by events (including the arrival of firefighters), didn’t want to take any payment from us or the dozen or so other diners. Everyone insisted on settling up.

With the weather gorgeous for a final full day in Cascais we decided to hire bicycles and follow the 5km cycle route to the famous Praia do Guincho, a popular blue flag beach famously featured in On Her Majesty's Secret Service.

The waves were spectacular and it was fascinating to watch surfers do their thing. We stopped for food on the way back and then met with some friends also out for the festival and staying nearby to watch the Wales v Portugal Euro semi-final at the recommended Irish Bar. There was of course much local excitement and celebration following the game.

The following afternoon it was back to Cais do Sodre station, already busy with festivalgoers, so we purchased a multi-journey ticket to cover us for the following days' back and forth to the site in Alges (four stops away).

The Pousada de Lisboa is a member of the elite Small Luxury Hotels and is located in a prime position on the corner of Terreiro do Paço – the Palace Square, one of Lisbon’s most famous plazas, positioned on the edge of the Tagus estuary.

The boutique city centre hotel is tasteful to its origins and surroundings and was a good base for us, less than ten minutes' walk from the Cais do Sodre station with another impressive breakfast offering to ensure a fine start to the day.

On heading for the first evening’s entertainment at the NOS Alive festival, we decided to stop on route and grab a bite at the Time Out Mercado da Ribeira, a large indoor food market with a buzzy vibe and a huge choice of food for all tastes including several local specialities.

The Nos Alive festival, Portugal

European music festivals usually guarantee great artists and good weather. This was no exception. Although a little crowded at times in the main stage area we enjoyed sets from John Grant, Chemical Brothers, Pixies, Radiohead, Foals, Tame Impala, Band Of Horses and Arcade Fire over ensuing nights.

We lazily wiled away Saturday afternoon with lots of local families and tourists at the popular Carcavelos beach before the festival’s conclusion that night. Would definitely return to this lovely city and nearby Cascais and recommend both Pousadas for a welcome and hospitable stay in great locations.


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