For our trip to Portugal, I knew that I wanted to stay somewhere else besides the capital city of Lisbon. While it was easy to book the city portion of our trip (I did a hotel and air package through Expedia), it took me a while to research lodging options. Originally I had wanted to stay in the Algarve, the Portuguese equivalent of Spain’s Costa del Sol and France’s Cote d’Azure. However, as I had no interest in renting a car (now that I’m back I can attest that Portuguese drivers are incredibly scary with how fast they drive), and flights between Faro, the main airport in the Algarve, and Lisbon were somewhat expensive, and bus and train travel somewhat lengthy for only a week’s trip, I looked in the general Lisbon vicinity. Thanks to TripAdvisor I came across the Colina Flora, a small bed and breakfast located in the Sintra area, a town overflowing with castles, palaces, and other historic buildings in addition to gorgeous views of the coastline and mountains. I should mention that it is rated number one of bed and breakfasts and inns on Trip Adviser in Colares (the village where it is located) and for good reason.
The Colina Flora is run by a German, Aasta Schneider and her American partner James Robb, and is their first venture in the bed and breakfast business. From the start when I was initially sending out email inquiries, communication was always prompt even with the five hour time difference between us. James explained that they had purchased the quinta from a former NATO worker. Originally the quinta had been a private family residence, as were many of the quintas we saw in the area.
The bed and breakfast does offer transfers between the airport for any guests who don’t rent a car and we opted for this. This service was 45 euro but I thought it worth it since it was door to door service and we didn’t have to worry about carting out luggage through various public transportation mediums. After flying on an overnight transatlantic flight from the United States, we arrived in Portugal about 8:30 AM local time. James was there to meet us in the arrivals area and from there we proceeded to the inn. Since check-in normally isn’t until the mid-afternoon, James took us on a more scenic drive to the inn along the coast which allowed us to view some gorgeous scenery; he also made two quick stops, one of them being at Praia do Guincho, one of Portugal’s most famous and prettiest beaches. After arriving at Colina Flora, we had to wait for our room to be cleaned as a couple was checking out that morning, but we were able to rest and relax on chaise lounges by the pool which proved ideal for our jet lagged bodies.
There are four rooms available to stay in, each named after a flower and each with its own unique charm. I debated between the marigold and camellia rooms, but ultimately settled on the former as I liked the fact that it featured a private terrace. The room was extremely spacious and in addition to the bed, there was a small table with chairs as well as a dresser, satellite television, and Wi-Fi. As is the case for most of Europe, with the exception of a small window, none of the windows in the room had screens but flying insects were far and few. There was a mosquito net for the bed but after the first night in which it seemed to become tangled amongst the bed and less help than it was worth bothering for, we did without. There is a wall plug in provided which we used every night to help with any mosquitoes. As the property is on the older side, there were some plumbing “quirks” that we were made aware of, but nothing when compared with some bathroom facilities I’ve encountered in Mexico and Central America.
The colina is about a 20-25 minute walk (or more like 35-40 minute walk if you took some wrong turns) from the village of Almoçageme. It’s an extremely steep hike going down from the inn but doable all the same, provided you’re wearing suitable footwear. The village is not at all big but does have a a produce market and a couple of restaurants. It’s also only a five minute walk from a bus stop which takes you to such popular sites as Sintra, Cascais, and Cabo da Roca, the most western point in occidental Europe. The colina is situated approximately halfway between Sintra and Cascais, so the bus rides were only about 30 minutes, and featured some spectacular scenery. Thankfully non-rental car guests do have the bus option, otherwise the colina is somewhat remote.
One of the best parts about a bed and breakfast stay is the breakfast and the colina was no exception. Each morning, a beautiful spread of cereals, including homemade granola made by Aasta, cheese, tomatoes, fresh fruit, toasts, rolls and muffins was laid out, in addition to the option of eggs and omelets or pancakes which Aasta prepared as well. A couple of nights a week home cooked dinners are available for 16 euro a person and include a soup, salad, entree, and dessert and wine. We partook on our last night at the colina and it was a wonderful night as we dined with the colina’s other guests, a delightful family from England and a Dutch couple who had arrived that day.
Our stay at the Colina Flora was enjoyable with Aasta and James being wonderful hosts. The cooking was memorable, James’ advice and help on getting around excellent, just a wonderful stay with lovely people from all around the world. While the ratio of American guests to European guests at the colina is quite small, I hope that this post will help spread the word for my American readers about the wonderful charms that await you at the Quinta Colina Flora. Although one can certainly visit the Sintra region in a day, you will miss a ton of sites, but a stay at the Colina Flora will certainly help to see so much.