Convento do Seixo João Pedro Silva Although Americans cannot visit Europe these days, we can all dream. I share some of my favorite new discoveries in Portugal as inspiration for future trips whenever it is safe again. There are many hotels in historic buildings. There are far fewer hotels that feel steeped in history. Convento do Seixo, opened about a year ago in the remains of a 16th century convent, is one of them. This testifies to the sensitivity and the reflection of the restoration, but also to the depth of the history which unfolded here in this obscure corner of Portugal. Convento do Seixo is located just outside Fundão in the Beira Beixa region, about two hours from Lisbon. Foreign tourists rarely visit, and even my Portuguese friends said: “Have fun in the land of cherries”, a reference to the only claim to fame of the region. The breakfast room Jorge Simão The convent was a place of intense prayer and contemplation – dating from the time of the heyday of religious orders in Portugal – and a place where a Nossa Senhora do Seixo appeared. (The exact location of this apparition is kept under glass in the dining room.) The granite walls and the shaded corners of the cloister (now the breakfast room) still have a certain sanctity, and the main hall of the he old chapel – now the bar and dining room – feels exhilarating with its soaring ceiling and magnificent arches. There is an awareness of the miracles and legends of the convent. Now, of course, pleasure pilgrims come to the hotel in search of the touchstones of today. There is comfort in 20 spacious and elegant rooms and suites in the main building (many with large tubs on the window side in their living rooms) and 4 family-friendly apartments in a new building outside. There is wellness, surrounding nature and serious spa, with a salt cave. A guest room João Pedro Silva And then there is gastronomy – this restaurant in the old sanctuary is called Pecado (Portuguese for “sin”), clearly possessing the mortal of gluttony. The menu, overseen by chef Hugo Nascimento, who has worked closely with Vitor Sobral at the popular Tasca da Esquina in Lisbon, and executed by resident chef Eduardo Martins, emphasizes the meat and game specialties of the region. (Although this health-conscious pescatarian was more than satisfied with the food when I was welcomed as a guest earlier this year.) But the best way to appreciate Convento do Seixo is to go in search of history . It is near the center of a circular system of roads to enjoy the oldest villages in Portugal. (And, yes, beautiful cherry orchards.) The 12 historic villages that have officially organized into Aldeias Históricas de Portugal have a magnificent, timeless, sometimes medieval, air. Sortelha Aldeias Históricas de Portugal The stone structures are proud. Or sometimes they have collapsed a bit but look even more atmospheric. The terracotta roofs shine under the inclined sun. Exploring them is a kind of satisfying time travel. Castelo Novo, the closest to Convento do Seixo, is a good introduction to these historic villages. The stone walls contain more than 800 years of history. Belmonte is particularly interesting for its Jewish community, the descendants of those who managed to go underground during the Inquisition, and its thoughtful museum that explains this story. Sortelha is a pure fairy tale, especially at sunset, and Monsanto is probably the best known. It comes with medieval themed bars serving mead (and during my visit in the strange uncertainty of early March, “anti-virus” shots, which were obviously vodka and which obviously did not work) , but above all with an ancient soul. The mead, in the end, was actually pretty good. And lunch among the towers of Monsanto village was delicious. It’s hard not to appreciate sitting at the top of this story. Adega 23 Nuno Almendra 2017 PS: if you want to drink something better than mead, Adega 23 is a very worthy stop on the way from Lisbon to Convento do Seixo. The wine is delicious, and the elegant and modern cellar is a very pleasant place to spend a

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