The second place we stayed in Portugal was a few hours drive North of Lisbon and about half an hour’s drive from the University town of Coimbra.
We arrived quite late in the day having attempted and sadly failed to go and see the fairytale palace at Sintra. Visiting Sintra had been at the top of my list of things to see and do in Portugal and we had not planned well, in fact if I had done my research properly I probably would have known not to even attempt visiting in the Summer without staying closer the night before. We met a lot of frustrated and disappointed people that day and this is as close as we got:
It was a very hot day and the road to Sintra was at a stand-still the whole afternoon. (At least I now have an excuse to go back to Portugal!)
We counted our losses and went wearily on to our next destination. As we knew we’d be arriving later in the day we thankfully had the fore-thought to book dinner in the hotel restaurant that night and wow, we were so glad we did:
It was like going to a long-lost (slightly eccentric) friend’s house for dinner. The food was so wonderful – cooked from the heart and served with a smile (there is no menu you just pre-order whether you want meat, fish or vegetarian). We took ages to sit down because we were so distracted by all the Portuguese curiosities and fun interior objets:
It was an absolute delight and one of our most memorable nights in Portugal.
Another particular favourite of mine was the Moroccan-style terrace:
Villa Pedra is a real labour of love – the owners have re-built what was an abandoned village. The restaurant is in one house and ten others are available to rent for a remarkable minimum stay of 2 nights mid-week and 3 nights over a weekend. Needless to say, they are all different. We stayed in Loureiro/Laurel’s House which I believe is their largest:
We couldn’t believe how much space we had! A lovely sitting room, fully-equipped kitchen, light-filled atrium, downstairs twin-room with ensuite shower-room for the boys and upstairs a huge bedroom, changing room and beautiful shower-room for us. On top of which we had our own private garden complete with table football.
The cherry on the top for me was housekeeping coming everyday to clean and stock our fridge with ‘breakfast’ for the following day. This consisted of local cheeses, yoghurt, meats, fresh eggs, homemade jams, honey – it just seemed to keep coming, along with a wonderful delivery every morning of freshly baked bread (including the most delicious gluten-free rolls) and the occasional cake, pastries or fruit bread. Everyday there was a surprise treat.
The shared saltwater pool was essential and a great place to meet and share tips with other guests:
You do need a car here. We mostly self-catered but did have a few outings, most notably to nearby Coimbra and we also had a fun day’s kayaking trip on the Mondego River.
We went kayaking with O Pioneiro Do Mondego. The scenery is stunning and although there was a large group of us, the team running it were efficient, laid-back and fun. We were allowed to go at our own pace and the river is so big the group soon dispersed so we could really enjoy some peace and tranquility.
Visiting the city of Coimbra was another highlight. This was the country’s former capital and is home to an historic university (unfortunately we didn’t get a chance to go inside) which was built on the grounds of a former palace. It’s quite breathtaking:
We left Coimbra feeling relaxed and ever so slightly smug that we’d made the effort to drive North of Lisbon.
For further details and to book Villa Pedra click here.
My next travel post on Portugal with be on an amazing gem in the Algarve.