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PORTO AND THE PESTANA PALACIO DO FREIXO HOTEL

James Andrew at the Pestana Palacio do Freixo

James Andrew at the Pestana Palacio do Freixo

Porto, the second largest city in Portugal, was also at the top of our list of places to explore in Portugal. With its magnificent Medieval flavor and rich heritage, the place is simply bursting with delights. We effortlessly hopped on an express train from Lisbon and two and a half hours later we were in Porto!

In keeping with the idea of exploring Portugal’s great houses and palaces via its palace hotels, we chose the splendid Pestana Palacio do Freixo as our base of operations in Porto. The Palacio do Freixo was commissioned by the Dean of Porto’s cathedral in the 18th century and designed by the Italian architect Nasoni, it stands as a marvelous example of Portuguese Baroque. The hotel consists of two buildings: the palace proper where one takes meals and/or enjoys cocktails in the grand sitting room; and a converted factory/mill building where the guests are situated in large well appointed rooms. We, ourselves, were given a really sumptuous suite of rooms with beautiful views of the Douro river.

After quickly settling in, McBee and I dashed off to lunch. As you know we were wild about chef Jose Avillez cuisine in Lisbon, and so we headed to Cantinho Oporto which is his new outpost in Porto. Needless to say, we were not disappointed.

With our bellies full, and despite some rather dreary weather (the saying goes, if you don’t like the weather in Porto, wait five minutes and it will change — thankfully the saying is quite true!), we pushed on to some of truly unforgettable sites!

Igreja de Sao Francisco is an over-the-top indulgent baroque fantasy of a church. The “Tree of Jesse” in the nave is a must see. A visit to the Sao Bento train station with its marvelous monumental azulejo mural panels is just sublime. Nearby, the Se cathedral and its cloisters provide more azulejo inspiration and beauty!

The Cloisters at Se cathedral, Porto

The Cloisters at Se cathedral, Porto

For a quick pick-me-up, the Cafe Majestic a Belle Epoque tea house is a must.

The lavish neoclassical palace, Alacio da Bolsa (the stock exchange), built with absolutely no expense spared is another awe-inspiring creation. Its Salao Arabe is an absolute dream.

Palacio da Bolsa Salao Arabe, Porto-

Palacio da Bolsa Salao Arabe, Porto-

The Museu Nacional Soares dos Reis, another Neo-Classical style palace, houses the most exquisite collection of decorative arts and paintings. It is another two for one experiences; not only does it house a marvelous collection, but the palace and grounds (replete with the most enchanting Camellia trees) alone are well worth the visit!

Museu Nacional Soares dos Reis, Porto

Museu Nacional Soares dos Reis, Porto

 Sao Bento Train Station Azulejo Panel - Porto

Sao Bento Train Station Azulejo Panel, Porto

We returned to our accommodations at Pestana Palacio do Freixo for a bit of luxury — and a couple glasses of port! — before heading off to dinner. We highly suggest dining at DOP which serves a fresh and innovative take on the cuisine of Porto and its region — despite a rather minimal setting, the food is fabulous.

I’m captured exploring the palace and gardens (top) at the fabulous Pestana Palacio do Freixo. I’m sporting a Tom Ford era Gucci white,black and saddle leather biker jacket, Etro silk paisley scarf, Turnbull and Asser red tartan cotton shirt with white contrast collar and cuffs, antique Victorian Scottish agate cuff links, uniqlo jean, Ralph Lauren red alligator belt with sterling buckle, Tom Ford era Windsor loafers in black leather, and vintage Rolex, Tom Ford London fragrance and Tom Ford Bronzing Gel.

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FAREWELL LISBON AND THE LOVELY PESTANA PALACE

James Andrew dressed for dinner at Pestana Palace.

James Andrew dressed for dinner at Pestana Palace.

Our last day in Lisbon was spent taking in a few more sites, catching up with a few friends in Lisbon and lounging about at the spectacular Pestana Palace. As we’ve mentioned, the accommodations and the staff there are absolutely top notch, it’s no wonder that Pestana Palace continues to be the hotel of choice for rock stars and royalty alike!

One never gets to see all that one wants to when visiting a new city. One really must resist the urge to even try! We support a leisurely pace, taking in the beauty of each moment, and making lasting memories.

Though a bit off the radar, we highly suggest taking a stroll through the Jardim Botanico Tropical. More aboretum than flower garden, parts of the garden seem to pay tribute to some of Portugal’s many historic conquests including Macau and Africa.

Jardim-Botanico-Tropical---Lisbon1

Jardim Botanico Tropical

Jardim Botanico Tropical

The lovely Jardim da Estrela with its marvelous music pavilion is also a must.

Jardim da Estrela

Jardim da Estrela

Don’t miss the Museu Calouste Gulbenkian, which has the very best of the best art and decorative art. It’s a magnificent masterpieces. We also suggest the Museu Nacional do Azulejo which houses an extraordinary monumental mural depicting Lisbon before the devastating 1775 earthquake.

We cannot wait to return to Lisbon and the Pestana Palace — there is so much more to do and see!

For our farewell Lisbon dinner, we were treated to an eight course tasting menu paired with the most divine wines at the Pestana Palace’s Valle Flor restaurant! Dressed for dinner (top) I’m wearing a Tom Ford black, ivory and claret checked wool/cashmere suit, black and white windowpane plaid cotton shirt, black and white silk pocket square and black and saddle leather loafers, Charvet black and ivory striped silk tie, Seaman Schepps black pearl cuff links, vintage Rolex, Creed Windsor fragrance, and Tom Ford Bronzing Gel to provide a healthy glow.

Next Stop: Porto!

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EXPLORING THE PALACES OF LISBON VIA PESTANA PALACE

James Andrew – Pestana Palace Hotel

James Andrew – Pestana Palace Hotel

After touring so many of the great houses of Lisbon, it was always so nice to seamlessly slip into our very own palace — one simply can’t help but feel like Windsor in residence as one enters the grand entrance rotunda at Pestana Palace.

On our many jaunts, the Palacio Fronteira certainly stood out. This divine country manor house built for the First Marques de Fronteira in 1640 and is still owned by the family (yes, this is the Old World!). The stunning use of Portuguese tiles throughout and the exceptionally glorious gardens all make for a highly inspirational visit!

Palacio Fronteira

Palacio Fronteira

Palacio Fronteira

Palacio Fronteira

Palacio Fronteira

Palacio Fronteira

The Jardim Botanica da Ajuda is also a must-see. These fabulous formal gardens in the Italian style provide a respite from the city and the roaming peacocks are truly one of those unforgettable sites!

Jardim Botanica da Ajuda

Jardim Botanica da Ajuda

Jardim Botanica da Ajuda

Jardim Botanica da Ajuda

Jose Avillez’s many restaurants score at the top of our list. His highly imaginative take on Portuguese cuisine with influences garnered from his many travels throughout the world will absolutely delight the senses! Belcanto, Cantinho de Avillez, Cafe Lisboa, Mini Bar…do try them all!

Dressed for a day of touring, I’m sporting a Tom Ford charcoal wool, silk cashmere tweed jacket, grey checked cotton shirt and gray cotton cashmere corduroy pant, Hermes gray silk pocket square, Ralph Lauren black alligator belt with sterling buckle, Tom Ford era Gucci black suede loafers, vintage Rolex, Seaman Schepps black pearl cuff links, my fragrance Tom Ford London and Tom Ford Bronzing Gel provide a healthy glow.