Sacred woods

March 4, 2013 § Leave a comment

Bussaco

Bussaco is one of the most romantic places in Portugal. It was once a Carmelite monastery where only men were allowed. When, in the 17th century, Queen Catherine of Bragança announced a visit, the monks opened a special door for her. But the visit was canceled and the door was immured.

The monks called the lush woods around the monastery “boscum sacrum,” sacred woods. Some say this designation is the origin of the word Bussaco. It was in these woods that Portuguese and English troops led by the Duke of Wellington defeated Napoleon’s army.

By the late 19th century, the Bussaco monastery was in ruins. King Dom Carlos transformed it into a pavilion where the royal family could stay while hunting for wild boars. Later, the pavilion was converted into a fairy-tale luxury hotel that became a favorite with the European aristocracy. Dom Manuel II, the last king of Portugal, came here on vacation, not knowing that he would soon be forced into exile.

The Carmelite monks used to produce wine in the monastery grounds. The Palace Hotel revived this tradition in the early 20th century, making unfiltered wines with grapes from two regions, Dão and Bairrada. You cannot buy these legendary wines anywhere, so you have to travel to Bussaco to try them. It is a trip you’ll not forget.

Click here, for the Bussaco Palace web site.

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