Lisbon: Hotel Real Palácio

We didn’t expect to get a Downton Abbey-feeling when I booked a hotel in Lisbon. But room 135 in the old part of  Hotel Real Palácio unexpectedly provides us one. The hotel is divided in a recent and old building. Our room for tonight is room 135, in the old part. Luckily this ancient city palace, with a beautifully tiled staircase, has survived the vile earthquake of 1755.


The room is styled in a way we tend to see in series like Downton Abbey and gives us a royal feeling. I have no idea of the rooms in the newer, bigger building are styled in the same way. But our room provides us a pleasant feeling of being part of ancient history.




Staircase to breakfast

From the hotel you walk easily to Park Eduardo VII, the Gulbenkian museum, the shopping mall of El Corte Inglês, michelin star-rated restaurant Eleven and Marquês de Pombal. And from the round about of Marquês de Pombal you walk along the Avenida da Liberdade to downtown Lisbon (A Baixa).

And those who don’t like to walk: metrostation Parque is not far.


We choose to walk from the top of Park Eduardo VII (magnificent view over Lisbon) to Marquês de Pombal on this sunny December evening and to have dinner at the new hotspot near Cais de Sodré: Time Out Market (Mercado da Ribeira).

Marquês de Pombal is a hub in the metrosystem of Lisbon. There we buy a ticket which is valid for 24 hours from the moment you start travelling (costs 6 euros). Before going to Mercado da Ribeira we stop at Baixa Chiado. We want to visit the old bookshops in Rua Garrett (one of them is the oldest in the world!). Besides that, Rua Garrett is a nice place. You can always change plans and decide to have dinner in Bairro Alto!

Rua Garrett (metro Baixa-Chiado): the oldest bookstore in the world. Those who read Nighttrain to Lisbon will recognize the name of the street!

But first we take a picture of Fernando Pessoa. He is waiting, in bronze, for a coffee at Café Brasileira and look around. On this lovely December evening buildings are beautifully illuminated.

December in Lisbon: Rua Garrett

After this short stop we continue travelling to Cais do Sodré. Opposite this train/metro/boat station is Mercado da Ribeira, the foodcourt in an old market hall. It’s called Time Out Market and there is plenty of food for every taste. But more on that in a next blogpost!

Pastéis de Nata: famous Portuguese custard cakes. Opposite the hotel, at the corner, you can eat a warm Pastel de Nata!
1,80 euro for two delicious Pastéis de Nata!

Useful information:

Link to the hotel: Hotel Real Palácio Lisbon
Rua Tomás Ribeiro 115, Lisbon
E: Email:
T:  (+351) 213 199 500

Short vlog on room 135 in Hotel Real Palácio:

And no, I wasn’t paid to write about this hotel. The stay in Lisbon was a Christmas gift of my mother and coincided with the celebration of our wedding day.

Vindima: grape picking season

The weather was particularly dry this year. Since the beginning of March it hardly rained, leaving farmers rather desperate. Those who irrigated the vineyards in August were able to save most of their harvest luckily.

Failed harvest

The grape picking season normally starts mid September and goes on to half October. At our family farm, ‘quinta‘ as we say in Portuguese,  we start picking grapes in one of the last weekends of September. But not this year. The grapes matured much earlier, so the ‘vindima’ was in the second weekend of September.


Grape picking at our family farm is hard work, but the ambiance is gay and pleasant. Especially during lunch, of course! Working on both sides of the row helps a lot: it makes talking easy and we hear a lot of gossip and news while picking.

Franciso helps us harvesting every year. He is 80!

Grape pickers

But you have to be careful and pay attention not to make deep cuts in your fingers or in the palm of your hand. That’s why we tell friends and family who help us during the harvest not to start picking putting their fingers at the grape stalk. No, the best way to do it, is to hold the bunch with your left hand from underneath and to cut with your right at the top of the stalk.

Picking Alicante Bousquet

Some varieties of grapes leave your hands coloured as if they are bleeding. When I am picking the Alicante Bousquet it looks like I have been slaughtering a pig. I easliy fool my friends on Facebook showing my fingers!

Picking grapes

While the pickers on the field are filling one basket after another, a tractor collects full baskets bringing them to the ‘adega’, the wine grange. White grapes are pressed immediately. The juice goes into barrels, where later on the fermentation takes place.

Wine press

Sugar in juice

The success of the winemaking process depends greatly on the amount of sugar in the juice. So when we see a percentage of 14 before the juice goes into the barrels we feel quite happy actually.

Mouse drinking abafado

In the Silver Coast region farmers produce a kind of Port called ‘Abafado’. This little mouse (left on the photo) is extremely found of the Abafado in the oak barrel. She came out every night to enjoy drops falling from the tap. Little mouse was so addicted that she didn’t bother having people watching her.

Tinta Roriz
The winemaking of the red grapes is different. Next harvest I will explain how we make red wine out of the Tinta Roriz-grapes . This grape variety is also called ‘Aragonês’ and related to the Spanish Tempranillo from which Rioja is made. I do hope you visit my blog again next harvest!

‘Do you like Portugal’is the English version of ‘Zin in Portugal’ (Dutch). Do you have a particular interest in Portugal? Wanting to visit Portugal?  Follow writer’s Esa Caldas blogs by subscribing (right, in the corner you see a ‘follow/volg’-button). And no, you won’t get any spam.
Or like 
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Why don’t you go to Mafra?

Everybody goes to Sintra. But why don’t you visit Mafra? From Lisbon Airport it’s only a bit more than a half an hour drive. And by the way, Mafra is close to Sintra. So go to this little town! Mafra welcomes you with a breathtaking view of a huge palace.

Mafra Palace

Bride in Mafra

Besides that, in Sintra it’s overloaded with tourist, in Mafra you walk through the palace like you are the king and queen yourselves, without having to share the rooms with tenths of others. I particularly enjoyed the many photo-opportunities in the Royal Palace and Convent of Mafra.

Mafra Palace

Mafra Palace

Mafra Palace

Mafra Palace

The baroque building accomodated not only kings and queens, but monks, as well.

Royal Concent of Mafra, infirmary

Many Franciscan monks lived and died in this Royal Convent. Luckily the areas, such as the infirmary, kithchen and pharmacy are open to the public.

Royal Convent of Mafra; kitchen

The royal convent : pharmacy

But the most impressive part of the Royal Convent is still to come: the magnificent library. The monks possessed over 36.000 books.

The Royal Convent of Mafra

Wandering through the palace and convent you understand why I recommend Mafra vividly. Sintra is just a smaller sister. The massive building of Mafra with 1200 rooms, 4700 doors and windows, 156 stairways and 29 inner yards and courtyards left me astonished. And I am not the only one. Nobel Prize -winner José Saramago wrote “Memorial do Convento”, explaining the origin  of this eighteenth century building. “Memorial do Convento” became “Baltasar and Blimunda” in the English version. The love story of Baltasar and Blimunda is set in a period Portugal suffered severely from the Inquisition.


But nowadays nothing reminds us of the pain the Inquisition inflicted. Mafra is a lovely town with rows of pastel coloured and tiled houses.



In front of the main entrance of the palace you can have lunch at the square. The bakery on the corner, Polo Norte, has excellent pastry, bread and a simple lunch menu (sandwiches, quiche, soup). Try also the ‘macarons’. They are delicious!

Polo Norte, Mafra

Close to Mafra you will find a 800 acres wildpark: Tapada de Mafra. In ancient time Portuguese kings used to spend days hunting in the forest. Nowadays visitors run, walk, bicycle in the park. And if you want to become a falconer, you follow a workshop learning how to train a bird of prey.

Meet the boss: eagle owl Safira.

But perhaps you are not interested in falcons, but in bees. In that case,  you choose the apiculture-workshop and learn all about bee-culture. Or you rather want to learn to shoot like a medieval warrior? Then go to archery. Horselovers perhaps want to explore the park on the back of a horse. Possible, as well. And in case you are thinking of getting married: the surroundings are magnificent for a wedding. Wanting to leave the urban stress and sleep in a forest? Rent one of the rooms and wake up in the park.

Still not convinced? Stay in Sintra and don’t go to Mafra…


Important information:

Palácio de Mafra 

Opening hours:
9.00h -18.00h (latest entry 17.00H)
closed on Tuesdays!

Terreiro D. João V, 2640 Mafra, Portugal
Telephone: +351 261 817 550

Free parking in the neighbourhood of palace

Do go to the site of Palácio de Mafra for up-to-date information about festivals, opening hours etc.

Website:  Palácio de Mafra

Wild park Tapada de Mafra

Opening hours:
9.00h – 17.00h
as far as I know, open all week

Tapada Nacional de Mafra
Portão do Codeçal
2640-602 Mafra

38.964797, -9.302733
N 38º 57.884, W 009º 18.162

Offices – +351 261 817 050
Reception – +351 261 814 240

Website: Tapada nacional de Mafra

In case you want one of the workshops: make a reservation in advance! Other activities (like exploring the park on the back of a horse) are scheduled as well. At the site Tapada Nacional de Mafra you can find this information.

View from a window at Hotel Borges
View from a window at Hotel Borges, Lisbon

‘Do you like Portugal’is the English version of ‘Zin in Portugal’ (Dutch). Do you have a particular interest in Portugal? Wanting to visit Portugal?  Follow writer’s Esa Caldas blogs by subscribing (right, in the corner you see a ‘follow/volg’-button). And no, you won’t get any spam.
Or like ‘Do you like Portugal’ or ‘Zin in Portugal’ on Facebook. So you won’t miss any new tips, stories or places to see and to stay in that lovely country in Southern Europe: beloved Portugal!