Welcome to Sintra: A buzzing former royal playground on the Portuguese Riviera, where villas in ice-cream shades are bejewelled with cerulean tiles, and the boutiques are full of trendy cabbage-leaf tableware.
The Tivoli Palácio de Seteais lies a 15-minute amble from the town centre. This palatial retreat was built in 1787 for a Dutch consul, and later became home to the Marquis of Marialva, a renowned host whose party guests included King João VI and Queen Carlota Joaquina, who local folklore says invented the caipirinha cocktail.
Upon entering the palace, I’m struck by its old-world splendour. Frescoes and Flemish silk tapestries cover the walls, chandeliers hang from the ceilings and every quiet corner boasts an ornate artefact, be it a Steingraeber grand piano decorated with hand-painted pastoral scenes or a gilded jewellery box that belonged to Queen Carlota.
In the blissful hours that follow, I languidly shuffle from a poolside cabana – where I enjoy a glass (or two) of port and the views of the Atlantic – to the restaurant terrace for a crunchy Caesar salad and even crunchier prawn tempura, served by white-gloved waiters. After lunch, I make my way to the small but superb Anantara Spa that’s hidden among the topiary gardens and mazes.
This region is known for Colares wine, produced at vineyards that date back to the 12th century, so I opt for the hydrating organic-wine body wrap: the products used are infused with the skins, seeds and leaves of these heritage grapes.
The treatment starts with a foot bath of sea salt with fresh lavender and lemongrass from the gardens. It’s immensely relaxing. Next, I’m rigorously rubbed with a wine-infused body scrub, slathered in warm mud and cocooned in plastic wrap to allow the antioxidant and ultra-hydrating properties of the mud to work their magic. Finally, after a refreshing shower, I get a firm full-body massage.
Through my dreamy, post-treatment haze, I’m aware that my skin has never felt smoother. As I gather myself to leave, in true vinotherapy style, I’m handed a glass of Colares wine. Now I’m officially in heaven.
For more information, visit tivolihotels.com
This article was originally published in the February issue
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