Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Palácio do Buçaco (Bussaco)

Late last month, I had the amazing opportunity to visit the Buçaco (or Bussaco) Palace. It was built in the late part of the 19th century primarily by the Italian architect Luigi Manini, although other architects also contributed to the project. The structure is built in the Neo-Manueline style and sits in the middle of an expansive forest.

The main tower topped by a Manueline orb.

It is surrounded by beautiful and well-kept gardens and also a so-called "Via Sacra", based on the Roman Via Sacra that was a path that wound up a hill past several religious sites, as that is what this path does. The path passes by depictions of Christ as he is crucified, and there are various points where there are "miradouros" (scenic points) where one can look out across the beautiful landscape. If you climb high enough on the path, you can even see the ocean in the distance.

The Buçaco Palace in the middle of the Mata (forest) do Buçaco, in the municipality of Mealhada. It looks like something out of a fairytale.
The shiny strip in the horizon is the Atlantic Ocean.

The area was originally occupied by a Carmelite monastery, where in fact the Duke of Wellington, when he was still a Viscount, spent the night. Later, the Palace was built as a hunting retreat of the last two kings of Portugal, Dom Carlos I and Dom Manuel II.

The Duke of Wellington stayed in this small monastery in September of 1810 after defeating Napoleon's troops in the Battle of Buçaco.
Neo-Manueline style can be seen behind me. Notice the ropey designs in the columns.

Now, the palace is a five-star hotel called the Palácio Hotel do Buçaco. It houses a wonderful restaurant which offers a dinner menu (the "full" menu offers an appetizer, fish course, meat course and dessert, and the "simple" menu offers the same minus either the fish or the meat course) for between 40-50 Euro per person. It is a splurge, but the food is wonderful. They have a house wine that is also nice.

More Neo-Manueline architecture. This was taken from inside of the Palace.
The main staircase inside the Palace. Unfortunately, I took this quickly (I didn't think that they would allow me to take pictures!) and it's pretty dark, but at least you can see the grand stained glass window.
There are various ponds and fountains in the gardens surrounding the Palace. This one housed a solitary swan. I felt bad for him and wished he had a mate.
Entry to the Palace.

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