Royalty (for a night)

Luso, Portugal

Today’s goal was to make our way northward — but not without several pit stops along the way. Cruising up the A2, we learned why this country’s roads are so well-maintained: exorbitant (and frequent) tolls. Our first was about 4 euros, which at the time seemed like a lot, although it wouldn’t once we had some more kilometers under our belt.

About an hour north of Sabugo was Obidos, a small village of about 3,000 residents sitting inside the remains of a castle wall. There were lots of whitewashed houses, accented with vibrant blue and yellow paint. Unfortunately, the town itself caters largely to tourists, with most overpriced shops offering porcelain, lace and Portugal shot glasses.

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We headed to walk those 13th century castle walls — which without hand railings and its uneven cobble-stone paths, meant balancing precariously close to the edge.

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Thirty minutes later, we were in Alcobaca, home of the country’s most prominent Unesco World Heritage Sight. The Mosteiro de Santa Marie was founded in 1153 by the first king of Portugal.

The surprisingly quiet cloister offered a momentary respite — no tour groups — and for a minute, we could almost envision the silent monks shuffling around among the soaring carved archways and weighed-down orange trees.

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After a light lunch, it wasn’t much further on the A2 to Batalha, with its own impressive abbey (Mosteiro de Santa Maria da Vitoria) that dates to 1434. Here, we found the stained glass windows were the real draw.

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Feeling a bit mosteiro’ed out, we cruised another 90 minutes north to Luso. In the middle of the Bussaco Forest, we arrived at the Palace Hotel do Bussaco, a palace originally built in 1907 as a royal summer retreat on the site of a 17th century monastery. Now, it’s been converted into a hotel, complete with rose garden, period furniture, spires and turrets.

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Outside, our Opel Corsa fit right in. Can’t you imagine it next to a horse-drawn carriage a hundred years ago?

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We splurged on dinner at the hotel’s restaurant — an absurd 7-course affair complete with a salad trolley and grilled wild boar with garlic and rosemary.

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We felt like royalty. At least for a night.

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