Though only a short flight away, Portugal offers so many worlds to taste, and autumn is the perfect time to visit.
Lisbon is, of course, a great old city, full of the flavours of the Mediterranean – just think of the delicious pastel de nata, the delicious little custard sweeties! Its picturesque old town with ancient Fado clubs, reminiscent of old blues bars, makes the heart sing. What passion in those voices! If you have ever heard Amalia Rodrigues you will never forget, just like her many ardent fans in the mainstream music industry, like Juliette Greco and Charles Aznavour. Often reminiscent of Malouf, this Arabic music style made famous by Umm Kulthum, who is still revered may years after her death, hits you right in your heart, much more than any techno beat ever will.
But the brilliant sun invites one to head to the seaside, where a super stylish new hotel beckons. The Oitavos in Cascais is an astonishing place, a giant glass palace that seems to have transparency as a mantra. Right up to having glass bathrooms! Jose Amaral creates architecture for the 21st century indeed. To build this airy, futuristic outpost half an hour from Lisbon required courage. The Champalimaud family had already proven theirs; they started planting and building here generations ago, but to hire such a modern architect and let him design this building was a great act of faith.
The facilities offered for your pleasure are mind-boggling, and include the most amazing 18 hole links golf course I have seen anywhere outside of Scotland, windswept greens, heathland and parkland – exactly what a real golfer needs. If you like challenges with your golf, you’ll find them here on the number one rated course in Portugal.
A few minutes away is a giant racquet club, and the immaculately presented equestrian centre is 10 minutes away. Providing seven riding schools with hundreds of beautiful Spanish horses, and indoor and outdoor teaching arenas, the hotel makes it easy to take advantage of these amenities.
A dreamlike, airy spa with treatments galore, an indoor saltwater pool, and Irish seaweed products by Voya and treatments galore; what else does one need? A good restaurant, Ipsylon, of course, and again, the Oitavos scores. Local ingredients cooked with infinite care and savvy deliver a clever take on a traditional Portuguese dishes. Memories of the fish with rice still make my taste buds tingle.
If all this luxury gets to be too much, refresh your memories of traditional Portugal in the nearby town of Cascais. Pay a visit to the Cascais em Fado Club, where you just might hear the next Amalia Rodrigues or Mariza, whose name is Sarah Paixao. You heard it here first!
And if you – like me – can’t bear to leave sunny Portugal, pop down to the Algarve and refresh the rest of you with a week’s juice fasting at the peaceful Villa Mimosa in Galle. It’s not as wild as the western coast, with less wind and more Bougainvillea and Oleander, but a little soothing might just be perfect after your walk on the wild side. And that’s what Mimosa does so well, which might explain its many repeat customers – myself included.