We’ve had a marvelous time in Spain, Portugal, and Bordeaux….so we wanted to share some images and a few of the highlights of the trip with you. Returning to familiar haunts in Portugal was an emotional experience for Debra and I. But taking good friends, old and new, along for the journey made it very special for us. Of course the horses are always at the top of the list of things to see. We visited the Portuguese School for Equestrian Art, right across from our Pousada (Dona Maria I) at the National Palace in Queluz. This was our first activity of the trip and it did not disappoint. Walking through the Palace Gardens to find the old riding ring was delightful….and the horses were gorgeous, putting on a lovely performance in the Portuguese tradition.
After a delicious lunch on the beach at Quincho, we journeyed to the top of the mountain above Sintra to visit the Convento dos Capuchos. It’s a mysterious place with all the cells built into the rocks of the mountain…..all cork-lined (to prevent some of the cold and moisture from seeping through), totally secluded and wonderfully peaceful. From there we made our own pilgrimage to the Manege of my Mestre, Nuno Oliveira. Over 25 years have passed since Debra and I had been there. While much has changed with a succession of owners, the heart of the place remains. I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to return.
We finished our first day by going into the Alfama district of Lisbon to hear some Fado. It was a perfect ending to a day filled with beauty, poetry, mystery, and emotion. Fado is all those things and more. So this was only our first day and as you can tell it was filled to overflowing with sights, sounds, smells, tastes…..a feast in every way.
We traveled to Santarem for a Portuguese bullfighting exhibition, we visited my friend Luis Valença’s home to watch his students and performers in his renowned Appassionata equestrian spectacle, we traveled to Golega to meet the esteemed breeder of some of the finest Lusitanos in the world, Mr. Manuel Coimbra. We slept in a castle at Pousada de Palmela, played on a beautiful beach in the Algarve region on our way to Jerez, watched gorgeous handmade tiles (azulejos) being created by amazing artisans in the same way that they have been produced for over 500 years.
And thanks to our amazing driver and guide, Marco Sousa, we learned much of the history of Portugal and Spain as we made our way from one stop to the next. Did you know that Lisbon experienced a terrible earthquake and subsequent Tsunami? It happened on November 1, 1755 (All Saints Day) and caused such widespread devastation and loss of life that the philosophies of leading scholars were completely altered … religious thought was forever changed. The naive belief of God as a benevolent power was irreparably changed.
In Spain we were treated to spectacular Flamenco performances on three different nights in three distinct styles, we visited the Terry and Domecq Bodegas to see how fine Sherry has been produced for several hundred years (in the very same barrels and using the very same methods). We enjoyed a performance at the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art and a behind the scenes look at the training and structure of the school. We went to A Campo Abierto (The Open Fields) to watch a beautiful show illustrating the history and culture that exists around the horses and the bulls, and then went to Yeguada de Cartuja to watch a different exhibition that told the story of the Andalusian horses that were saved by the monks of Cartuja. Before that we had the opportunity to briefly visit the monastery that housed the Order.
All these activities (and many that are not listed) were knit together by fellowship and amazing meals. The quality of the food, almost always the freshest bounty of the sea, was spectacular. I think all our guests would agree that this was a once-in-a-lifetime trip. The opportunity to experience a new culture as an extended family member is the best way to travel. Come with us next time and you’ll enjoy the same rich experiences.
We’re grateful that our entire trip was documented by Keron Psillas, our friend and photographer. We hope you enjoy the extensive gallery.