A few years later Quinta Regaleira was sold and my cousins moved to a beautiful house built on the side of a steep hill in Eugaria, every room was on a different floor.
My uncle Fernando d’Orey, was a true gentleman and a wonderful man. One of 18 children, he was a Geologist and met my Aunt Tisha in London in the 60’s, they then lived in Mozambique before settling in Sintra. He exemplified a Portugese academic, when we visited in the summers, he’d sit with my parents on the terrace for hours talking about all manner of historical and cultural subjects that he seemed to have an encyclopedic knowledge of. Breakfast often seemed to merge into lunch. My older cousins made the most of their long summer holidays, afternoons at the beach, dinner with the family, out until dawn, then rudely awoken by us in the morning!
Then there was the driving – I’m sure my cousins (and my Aunt) ingrained some bad habits into me! The roads around Sintra are notoriously thin and windy, my cousins knew every stretch that was, or was not, wide enough for two cars, they would navigate these roads at breakneck speeds, normally whilst smoking a cigarette and talking on the phone, swerving to the edge of the road if a car came in the other direction. I still remember my cousin telling me “in Portugal you get nowhere on the roads if you’re not aggressive” something for some reason I carried with me to England, much to my wife’s dismay! Other bad habits that were potentially seeded from my childhood trips to Portugal were an enjoyment of cigarettes and strong coffee – the former of which I finally stopped when I launched Seventy Ten Travel.
On a deeper level, perhaps my childhood holidays to Portugal were the seed for my love of foreign lands, cultures and people. Whenever in Portugal, I was lucky enough to be staying and socialising with locals and we just slipped into their easy going way of life. Still today, what I love most about travel is meeting people and getting a feel for their everyday life.
I’m thrilled Portugal is getting its time in the spotlight, it’s such a wonderful country, rich in culture and history with great ties to the UK; and the nicest people you are likely to meet anywhere in the world. The Algarve is great if you want a beach holiday in a resort hotel, but for the real Portugal start with Lisbon, Cascais & Sintra, then perhaps the Alentejo or Douro regions.