“I suppose one does” was the answer to my foolish question as to owning the Roman site near one of England’s stately homes. In Portugal “one” is the state, and some of the grandest stately homes are now pousadas: luxury hotels. One does have the right to visit them, however, and my experience is that reception and service are courteous to even a humble coffee order or request to look around.
Near Guimaraes the pousada is a former convent; at Setubal it’s part of a medieval castle built for defence against pirates: as it was in danger of falling down the cliff we thought it better to order a light lunch with wine – splendid. Of the three so far, we have been bowled over by the sheer “chutzpah” of Estoi.
The viscount was obviously not afraid to flaunt his wealth. The whitewashed village is of the kind that gathered outside castle walls to benefit from protection and the trickle down of money. Finding a way in from its little square is still a bit labyrinthine, though. We almost gave up, but seeing a couple inside that we recognised from the bus journey it was clear a way in could be found.
Asking if we could look at the garden we were told, “Of course.” It is formal, as expected, emphasising verticals amid herb gardens and parterres. There are also large beds that can be appreciated from the terraces. The topmost terrace has tables for service from the bar: where else to go?
Two glasses of wine in blazing sunlight (fortunately under a generous parasol) left us ready to glance around the public areas. The staff are obviously accustomed to visitors as well as well-heeled residents. It may not seem gentlemanly to photograph the gents’ but the decor including ceiling was clearly meant to be seen. Who knows what function the room originally served?
Furnishing and decor of other rooms – salons, one should say – is grand, and there are two small pavilions facing one another on a terrace that are a riot of stained glass.
Had we not really come for the Roman villa and a bus back to Faro we could have spent much longer (and no doubt much money) on a meal and further wanderings. Perhaps the lottery will help one day.