Lisbon is famous for its ‘Pasteis de Nata’, or more simply described as a much perfected and sumptuous type of custard tart. An emblematic sweet, these delicious little pastries can be enjoyed on every block and locals stop several times a day to indulge. The hilly cobbled streets work off the calories! The recipe dates back to the 16th Century, when the confections, like many other Portuguese sweets, were made by nuns in convents.
Pasteis de Nata’ Lisbon, Portugal
In 1837 Pasteis de Belem began making the original Pastéis de Belém, following an ancient recipe from the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos. That secret recipe is recreated every day in their bakery, by hand, using only traditional methods. The beautiful district of Belem is home to the grand Jeronimo Monastery, renowned for its immaculate gardens and magnificent views across the Tagus River and the famous Pasteis de Belem patisserie. The “pastel de nata” is Lisbon’s best-known cake, best served hot with powdered cinnamon and, preferably, in pairs.
Paper thin layers of buttery crisp pastry are filled with a rich custard of egg and sugar. The pastry surface blisters in high heat, adding a toasty taste of caramel to the savory sweets.
Best savored at the counter with a shot of espresso. There is a sweet shop or two on every block, Lisbon locals love their savories.
During my leisurely overland Journey between Lisbon & Porto, through the coastal village of Cascais-Estoril, just west of Lisbon, I found the scenery to be enchanting, with a plethora of locations to stop and savor. Palace hotels in the countryside and the cities, port tasting at every turn of the road, olive oil tasting in the hilly countryside. Portugal is a striking picturesque country, the light in Lisbon was extraordinary, the traditional sweets in every village or town were scrumptious. Castles, lively nightlife, the Pena Palace in Sintra is also close to some extraordinary gardens, a glorious year around climate lends itself to tourism.
My two-week sojourn concluded in Porto, a fascinating and vibrant city that is one of Western Europe’s most respected and visited holiday cities. Porto is a historic and varied city, from the warren of narrow streets that make up the ancient Ribeira district to the grand plazas of the Avenida dos Aliados. The region is famed for the production of Port, which is still stored in the vast cellars that stretch along the banks of the mighty Douro River. The Ribeira district is the oldest district of the city filled with ancient houses, narrow cobbled streets and numerous family owned restaurants, cafes and bars.
I stayed in a few hotels and loved the British owned and inspired Yeatman, a Relais & Châteaux property. Located on a hilltop in Vila Nova de Gaia above the Douro River, a scenic backdrop to Porto which is crisscrossed by stunning bridges. After visiting both Lisbon and Porto, I decided I prefer staying a bit away from the city centres – the distances are short, the view and quiet pace away from the bustling crowds is worth a short transfer or stroll.
The Yeatman revolves around wine with a decanter shaped pool, grape seed treatments in the spa and a 25,00-bottle cellar, oh did I mention the Michelin star restaurant? Many hotels describe themselves as wine hotels, don’t let the pool description detract, it is actually quite elegant. The family behind the hotel is also the owner of Taylor’s and other fine powerhouse port labels.
Located on a high slope south of the Douro River, it is plopped barely above the red-tile roofed old-line port merchants. A steep amble down a twisty cobblestone lane lands you at a prime tasting room, the colorful riverside promenade and the stunning Dom Luis bridge which crosses to the old town. The bridge is a car and pedestrian bridge, easily navigated by foot. Or board a people mover hanging cars that dangle above the river, water taxis also ply the Douro. The hotel also offers a shuttle, which is a welcome service if you don’t want to walk back up that hill!
A seven-acre hillside encompasses the six story terraced rooms reflecting the terraced Portugal vineyards, thus every room has a patio with a stunning river view, the floor to ceiling windows provide a magical night time view of the twinkling lights of Old Town across the banks of the Douro. Seventy spacious rooms and 12 suites, enormous bathrooms decorated in traditional Portuguese tiles. The décor reflects the family wine production, hallways are lined with wine related artwork, and many of the rooms have been designed by one of the hotel’s wine partners. Built-in bookcases are lined with titles about the Portuguese wine trade, comfy chairs and sofas provide a bird’s eye view of the Douro River.
All the rooms are tasteful, some are a bit over the top like a bed that is cocooned inside a wine barrel in the Taylor master suite or Bacchus which has a copper bath and revolving bed. Again, don’t let the whimsy dissuade you from staying at The Yeatman, it is quite elegant.
The Caudalie spa has a gym, sauna, hammam and indoor infinity pool-with-an breathtaking views of Porto, especially beautiful in the evening. Vinotherapy treatments are available in the spa. The bar (open 24/7) and lounge are comfortable and scattered with inviting sofas, and there’s a serene library as well.
The cellar, with its 29,000 bottles of mostly Portuguese lineage, is open for private tours every afternoon. You may request wine pairings with your meals. The famed, Michelin star Restaurant, besides serving refined elegant dinners also has stunning views of Old Town. But who needs a view with the divine menu? The Yeatman is the ideal stop for a wine buff and foodies who collect Michelin star reservations.
The city has an extensive history reflected by its World Heritage protected old town, baroque churches, distinctive winding streets and a wealth of visitor attractions. The city is very proud of its celebrated sweet alcoholic drink and Port is still matured and bottled in the vast cellars located along the riverside, we can recommend the best locations for tastings with or without lunch.
While the city itself is located inland from the Atlantic, there are also glorious beaches just a short train ride away.