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Spanish Secrets: It’s A Game Of Two Halves – Second Half

…A heavy wooden door at the entrance stood slightly ajar, a thin sliver of sunlight arrowed across the polished wooden floorboards. Inside it was cool and dark. Old framed photos of ancestral family members hung proudly on the walls and antique furniture lined the hall…

Craig Briggs and his wife Melanie stay in a splendid Portuguese manor house, part of which dates back to 1679.

For more of Craig’s delightful columns please click on Spanish Secrets in the menu on this page.

Arriving at Quinta do Burgo heralded the second half of our adventure. The old manor, part of which dates back to 1679, nestles amidst 40 acres of its own vineyards. Beyond its grandiose entrance lies a quiet courtyard, shaded in part from the mid-day sun. Dark shadows from the surrounding buildings cast angular lines across the paved floor. At the far end of the courtyard a huge chimney, from the grill of an alfresco kitchen, towered skyward like the stack of an ocean-going liner.

We called out and waited for a response.

Seconds later a slim lady in her late thirties stepped from the darkness of a doorway and warmly greeted us. She followed this with a guided tour of the estate. The benefits of an out-of-season booking meant that we had the entire estate to ourselves.

We began the tour by strolling back through the gates and across the lane. A wide pathway ran between the tennis court to one side and the private gymnasium opposite, complete with Turkish bath and a Jacuzzi large enough to swim in.

The pathway ended at a small stable block. A grey-white mare popped her head through the stable door as we approached. Beyond the stables, fields of dormant vineyards stretched down to the banks of the river Cavado. In the distance, a line of white water stretched across the river as it tumbled over a low weir. The air was filled with the sound of rushing water.

We turned and headed back towards the manor. A large lounge, complete with an open fireplace and full-size pool table was accessed from the central courtyard. A stone pathway led from here to the gardens, the open-air swimming pools and the front of the manor house. Ancient stone steps climbed to a covered walkway and the main entrance.

A heavy wooden door at the entrance stood slightly ajar, a thin sliver of sunlight arrowed across the polished wooden floorboards. Inside it was cool and dark. Old framed photos of ancestral family members hung proudly on the walls and antique furniture lined the hall. We ducked through a narrow stone doorway and into a short hallway. At the end of this was our room.

The large double room featured shuttered doors leading to a Juliet balcony. This shady terrace overlooked the pool and gardens. Overhead an intricately designed wooden ceiling completed the rustic splendour.

By now it was time for lunch. Our host recommended a cosy restaurant in the nearby town of Amares. A Portuguese meal is characterised by the quantity and quality of the appetisers. Here we feasted on some of the best.

Firstly, the busy waitress brought an oval platter on which were thin slices of cured ham surrounding a large slice of Gala melon. This was accompanied by an overflowing basket of light and airy white rolls and thick wedges of homemade wholemeal bread. Moments later she brought a bowl of mixed leaf salad smothered in mayonnaise and finally a plate of spicy sausage, all washed down with a lively glass of Vinho Verde.

Unfortunately the waitress didn’t speak a word of English and our Portuguese is very limited. We’d noticed diners at another table tucking in to what we thought were meatballs, so we requested same. Imagine our surprise when we were presented with a large terracotta bowl containing two octopus tentacles, complete with suckers. Whilst I nibbled on the tentacles, Melanie contented herself with the vegetables and an ample portion of chips.

After lunch it was time to visit the Estadio Municipal of Braga and buy our tickets for the evening football match. It was now my turn for an unwelcome surprise. Ticket prices for English supporters were 75 euros not the expected 20. For us the game was off, but even this news had its benefits.

We went back to the hotel and consoled ourselves with an hour long relaxing Jacuzzi. Soothing jets of warm water and bursts of bubbled air combined to massage ever muscle. That evening we visited the city of Braga a place we’d been intending to explore for years. The city is described in many tourist guides as a Little Rome, on account of the high number of churches.

Later we returned to the manor to be greeted by the blazing log fire we’d requested. We sat around the fireplace sipping Portugal’s finest red wine and dreaming of a return fixture.

A famous football manager Bill Shankly, once commented that for him, football was more important than life and death – he’d obviously never stayed at Quinta do Burgo.

email address
craigandmel@msn.com

Copyright © 2007 Craig Briggs


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