Royale or Bust: It was Bond vs Floyd in Portugal.
We recently were invited out to Portugal, experiencing what Cascais and Lisbon has to offer asa destination for MICE and luxury groups. It was quite an experience for our Head of Luxury - Dave Page: "The hotels and landscape was beautiful, but what I think really made this so very special was all the people."
With a very civilised departure time from Heathrow, I was looking forward to flying to Portugal with TAP Air Portugal for the first time, and I wasn’t disappointed. I was pleasantly surprised with the comfort and space with the plane and, although it was only a short 2 ½ hour flight, it was a lovely experience.
When it was time to leave this beautiful city and country. TAP Air Portugal looked after us just as well as the way out. Again, it was a pleasant flight on a very clean and modern aircraft.
We checked into the beautiful Onyria Quinta da Marinha Hotel. Walking through the door I was greeted by a wide open space and lovely views of the well-kept, vibrant green golf course. The corridor towards the rooms was also bright with natural colour and I loved the indoor garden section at the heart of the hotel, which hosts the spa, swimming pool and gym areas.
The room had a few surprises waiting for me. I saw the display of snacks and Port, but then noticed a box with ‘In case of emergencies’ and my name on it. I was impressed.
As I looked around the room and checked out the bathroom, I noticed that the toothbrush and coaster was also personalised with my name and the company name. A great touch!
Palácio Estoril Hotel, just a short transfer from QdM and I wasn’t ready for the entrance - Breathtaking! We met the door attendant that had been in the first James Bond film and still worked there?! I Guess this speak volumes about how the staff are treated and how they enjoy working there.
Sounding obvious... it felt Palatial (hence the name I guess!), grandeur and exceptionally elegant. We walked through to the second hall and was in a room that wouldn’t look out of place in Kensington Palace. With its marble white features and high ceilings with lovely draping chandeliers hanging from it. Just to add to the room was a (check) piano at the back. Very impressive.
Along the walls of the walkways on the ground floor were pictures of royals that had stayed there, as well as memorabilia from years past, including a booking reference and receipt from the infamous Ian Fleming. The rooms were also in keeping with the theme and reminded me of some of the kept rooms in Leeds Castle from the time of Lady Bailey. Very classic and classy.
From the balcony there were views of the Casino, one of the largest in Europe, where the man that Ian Fleming based his character on used to frequent. A visit was in order after dinner.
Our last stop was with the Dom Pedro Lisboa Hotel. The entrance lead to the reception and a very grand, golden staircase. It was a real mix and great for corporate events with large meeting rooms on the first floor. The spa was a nice addition to the hotel, which I visited twice on my visit.
We had lunch in a private part of the restaurant at the back. Lunch started with chefs amuse-bouche, then it was smoked dop cachena loin, pine nuts, black truffle and mustard ice cream and then Sea bass, Jerusalem artichoke puree, bimi, asparagus and baby carrot. What a great meal. I have to say, the amuse-bouche was my favourite.
The rooms in the hotel were homely and very comfortable, especially as we were in the heart of a major city. As we were on the 18th floor, we had access to a VIP room on the 19th floor which had sofas, coffee making facilities and fridges with many drinks and some snacks too. With large windows around the room, the views were superb.
We ventured up to the penthouse and had a walk around the impressive area. Without a doubt you could get lost with all the adjoining rooms and multiple doors to choose from in every room. Again, the views were absolutely unbeatable, overlooking all of Lisbon from its outdoor areas around the apartment.
Out and about in Cascais:
Our first evening we had dinner at the Four Seasons Restaurant within Palácio Estoril Hotel. We had some very nice seafood for starter and then a Fish and Shellfish Cataplana for main. It was great, as was the company and wine.
A 2 minute walk, past the huge water fountains in front of the casino grounds and we are at the Casino Estoril entrance. On walking in you are greeted with a large open area, with a bar in the centre of the room. This is where I decided to camp and have a couple of lovely cocktails.
The next morning, I decided to go for a stroll. I walked to the Onyria Marinha Boutique Hotel, which is on the other side of the grounds. The walk was perfect with many walking their dogs and people playing golf, a very relaxing environment. I passed a lake house on the way, which has been used for corporate events, weddings and parties. A nice, peaceful area with a large open wooden building.
Onyria Marinha Boutique Hotel is a very modern looking structure, mostly wood and has a luxurious ambiance about it, even the smell. The spa is really very good. Well lit with natural light and plenty of space. The gym is quite small, but fine for a cardio workout.
Lunch was in the centre of Cascais. We had a platter of cheeses to start, which I personally much prefer than as a dessert, and steak, which was cut on the table in dramatic fashion. It was a brilliant lunch and filling. Fun fact - The floor design of the walkway around Cascais was replicated from the walkways in Copacabana, Brazils. With its wavey patterns in a Mosaic design. Very nice.
Lisbon to finish!
We transferred to Lisbon and started with a visit to the Monte Mar Lisbon Restaurant for dinner. You can’t miss the building, it has a huge model of a fish going through the side of the building.
We had 4 courses, with starter, sharing platter, sea bass in crust of salt, and a selection of desserts. One of my favourites was the stuffed brown crab, which was the chefs signature dishes. The lights went out all of a sudden and I thought it was a power cut, but then the waiters brought out a large platter that was on fire. I then thought it was someones birthday. But this wasn’t the case, it was our mains, the sea bass in a salt crust that was lit. Quite a striking way to serve the food. It was then cut and served. It tasted so good.
Right by the sea, and with such great views across the water, it’s a place to go if you are a seafood buff. This place will not disappoint.
The following day we went to have a look around the AV company, Europalco. I was blown away at how large the premises was and the equipment they had. So much was made in-house, bespoke for their clients needs. I was in awe of the way everything was so meticulously worked out and run. It was how all companies should be. I was told about the owner, Pedro, and how well he looks after his staff and takes an interest in all aspects of his company. It really did show, and the attention to detail was impressive. In fact, it was the most impressive companies I have ever seen, not just in AV.
For the evening we headed off to the Altice Arena to see Pink Floyd's Roger Waters concert. We were treated to the ‘Special Guests’ entrance to avoid all the queues. We met with Jorge - CEO of the arena and Maria - events manager. We had a private dining experience at the back stage of the arena via a private entrance. The dinner and company was awesome. What a way to start the evening at a concert!
We were guests in the private box, owned by Europalco, for the concert. It was such great acoustics and the visual effects of the concert were spectacular. With a few drinks, we enjoyed the performance, which was very political, but I expected nothing different from Roger Waters. Some powerful and important messages at times.
The whole experience was magical, it really was. The food was superb, as was the wine. The hotels and landscape was beautiful, but what I think really made this so very special was all the people. They were like a family. So much pride in their country, their traditions and the Portuguese way of life. I really felt like I was a part of that for the time I was there, it didn’t seem like a visit to a strange place at all. I felt very relaxed and enjoyed every moment of this trip. A very special place in my heart has Portugal in it.
Special Thanks to:
TAP Air Portugal – Cindy Santos
Onyria Quinta da Marinha Hotel & Onyria Group – Francisco Capote da Silva, Paulo Cabral, João Pinto Coelho
Dom Pedro Hotels & Golf Collection – Miguel Moura, Pedro Ribeiro
Europalco - Pedro Magalhães, Liliana Bandeira
Palácio Estoril Hotel, Golf & Wellness - André Araújo e Sá
Transalpino Viagens – Nuno França
Altice Arena - Jorge Vinha da Silva, Maria João Pires