Quinta dos Bons Cheiros: Your Home Away from Home in Sintra, Portugal
Portugal might be one of the least-known go-to destinations in Europe. A few seasoned travelers might talk about the beauty of the Azores or the gastronomy of Lisbon, but aside from that, there’s little talk about this tiny and hidden destination. Hopefully that trend ends soon because Sintra, Portugal has something to offer everyone.
If you’re a history buff and enjoy shooting pictures of castles, palaces, and old churches, the historic city center offers nearly a dozen spots that are photo and story worthy. If you find the right guide, you’ll be deeply impressed with the history of this region.
My favorite spot was the Convento dos Capuchos. The Franciscan monks used to inhabit this convent and led remarkably interesting lives. Their three vows included celibacy, poverty, and devotion to God. They took the concept of minimalist and simple living to extreme levels. Each day was divided into eight hours of prayer, eight for work, and eight for sleep. They found meaning and purpose in life serving and helping others. These selfless ideals are often the goals of many regular people, but I can’t imagine anyone in modern times taking on such a lifestyle, making the Franciscan monks that much more remarkable.
Driving around Sintra is an attraction in and of itself. Forget the roads and head off through the hills and forests of the region. But you’ll need a well-equipped Humvee to handle the trails.
The scenic landscapes of the Sintra coast offer several beaches, bays, and cliffs that each have their own look and personality. You’ll want to meditate at some and grab some lunch at others. Whether you’re having a cup of local coffee or sitting on the sand and admiring the waves, each beach in Sintra will leave a lasting impression.
Sintra also offers travelers boutique countryside accommodation options to decompress and unwind. The thing about small boutique properties is the property invariably takes on the personality and energy of the owner. And if that is the case, then Bons Cheiros is destined for great things. It all starts and ends with Elisabeth Arias, the property’s owner and creative visionary.
From the moment you walk in you are treated with levels of hospitality you should only expect from five-star resorts, not a B&B. Speaking of which, Bons Cheiros is categorized as a bed and breakfast, a classification that certainly merits further adjectives to do the property—and experience of staying there—justice. Throw in words such as luxury, boutique, getaway, and escape and you’re getting closer to reality.
The experience begins when you actually feel the stress and tension of everyday life dissolving as you pull up to the property and realize you’re in the Portugal countryside, completely disconnected and surrounded by gorgeous rolling hills. You’ll actually be surprised at how peaceful and tranquil it is, since it’s only 30 minutes outside of Lisbon.
The rooms are a unique combination of art, comfort, and luxury. Each and every piece has meaning and purpose and was placed there as a result of Elisabeth’s creative mind. See if you can spot all the subtle touches in each room. That might be hard because as soon as you lay on your bed, you’ll likely fall asleep instantly.
If B&Bs were in the running for Michelin stars, then Bons Cheiros would have two. I’m still not sure how Elisabeth manages to get so many fresh fruits and vegetables, but she seems to have the system nailed. Good food and great cuisine begins with incredible raw ingredients. Elisabeth seems to intuitively understand this and even refuses to serve her guests anything less than the best possible foods for the day. If it’s not fresh, it won’t show up on your plate.
I really couldn’t have asked for a better experience at Bons Cheiros, except maybe sharing the experience with another person, since the property is continually identified as a top getaway destination for couples year after year. Elisabeth even arranged a local tour of the historic and cultural aspects of Sintra with Terra Azul Emotion Tours. At the end of stay I was recharged, decompressed, and perfectly content.
But wait, of course there is more.
Hosts like Elisabeth pride themselves on going the extra mile, and in this case, that extra mile took us on a journey to nearby Lisbon. Elisabeth wanted me to experience a hidden aspect of the gastronomical scene in Lisbon, which is, in fact, huge in Portugal. While oysters may be popular in other parts of the world, they are only beginning to catch on in Portugal. We got to eat delicious and fresh local oysters at a place called Champanheria for a very reasonable price. The best part was being educated by the passionate owner, who is single-handedly bringing oysters into commercial prominence through his efforts both in the restaurant industry and in the scientific and research fields.
Elisabeth could certainly turn her B&B and everything she offers into a cash cow focused on moneymaking simply because it is such a gorgeous property. But true to her artistic nature and heart, she’s more interested in creating intimate, wholesome, and lasting memories for her guests. I am sure each and every one of her guests appreciates it. I know I do.