Relaxing on top of the mountain

4 Jul
Me, my niece and the mountain

Me, my niece and the mountain

All the taking care of the kids, living to the beat of their drum, entitled us to a break from the hustle and bustle of the daily routine. I came to visit my favourite niece and had hardly had time to talk to her. With a little help of the (grand)parents (my sister taking over the kids for the weekend) we escaped to a mountain resort with spa. This was ‘us-time’ with mountain walks, fancy food, massage and lots of catching up.

We found a hotel in the Caramulo

We found a hotel in the Caramulo

It doesn’t happen too much that my niece can indulge in luxury, on a Portuguese salary that’s about one third of mine (and I have the lowest salary compared to my closest friends in Brussels!) and with two kids around. So I decided to take her for a little (re)treat in the mountains and pamper myself a bit too ;-)

There’s not all that much of spa & massage places around here in ‘rustic’ Portugal (maybe I was too spoiled by massage in Asia) and searching the internet was a bit cumbersome as it involved 45 minutes by bike or 1h15 by foot (one way) to get online. Ringing them to make reservations was a challenge too, partly because the mobile network only works in the garden, and because the staff of the resort did not speak too much English. But I managed with my shreds of leftover Portuguese.

Caramulo mountain village - up up up

Caramulo mountain village - up up up

So off we went to the “Serra do Caramulo” mountain, near Tondela (map here). There was a quaint little village “Vila do Caramulo” on top of the mountain, a little museum “Museu do Caramulo” and a four star hotel called – guess – “Hotel do Caramulo” (see pics below). We had booked a room with a valley view, which at times was hidden from us by the clouds, since we were so high up. There were 2 swimming pools (in & out), jacuzzi, sauna, steam bath, etc. That should do the job of ‘relaxing us’ and it did.

But to make sure we also went for massage in the hotel’s spa. I was longing for the heavenly massages I had in Cambodia and Thailand… so I asked if they had 2 hour massages (like I love them). I was quite surprised that they had to go and ask the ‘technico’ (literally ‘the technician’, as they call a masseuse in Portuguese). “Unfortunately we cannot do 2 hours massage as it would be too much strain on the body” they told me… What??? Do they think I’m a feeble sissy? Do they not know how to fill the 2 hours? What do they have against earning double the money? I’m sure in Thailand or Cambodia you can even book an 8 hours massage if you’d want to.

Luckily there was a pool, jacuzzi and sauna

Luckily there was a pool, jacuzzi and sauna

Anyway, better one than none. I got one hour of ‘Swedish massage’, which for me was a bit too fast (the hour turned out to be 45 minutes) and too hard. The masseuse knew where the muscles were and how to push and pull them, but it all felt a bit too technical (so I do agree with the Portuguese term of ‘technico’ for the massage I got here). My technician was also a smoker, so I could hear her asthmatic breathing while she was doing her thing – not my idea of relaxation and wandering off to another world. How I was wishing for my Cambodian masseur… (Asia does spoil a man)

Fancy food in a fancy hotel

Fancy food in a fancy hotel

But the sauna made up for the disappointing massage (and it was free for hotel guests), and after some sizzling I was ready for a nice dinner with ‘a glass’ of wine. This also turns out to be a problem in Portugal, as they only sell bottles (so each time I have to drink a 375cl bottle on my own, cuz my niece doesn’t drink, hick). One night we had a stylish candle-light dinner in the hotel’s restaurant with a view. While dining we could observe the thousands of little lights going on in the village down below, and the waiters filling our glasses ad infinitum. The culinary experience was pushed to perfection by the eat-as-much-as-you-can dessert buffet. That night we could only roll to our room and switch off the light. (and the diet always starts ‘tomorrow’)

Did you ever eat baby goat?

Did you ever eat baby goat?

The next day we were ready for a more local eating experience: goat! Goat meat turns out to be a specialty from the mountains there (cows probably roll off the mountains). There’s choice between tender little goat ‘cabrito’ (like lamb) or the old, female but savory goat ‘chanfana’ served in the typical black pottery from Portugal’s interior. The meat was rather dark, the taste was ok, but what bothered me were the bones. As I never had eaten goat before, I didn’t know where the bones, fat, tendons would be in the meat, which made it difficult to cut and eat (and I don’t really like food that I have to operate on).

  • It was a bit like kissing an Asian girl/guy for the first time – I was confused because the nose (my main point of orientation in kissing) was sooo small, so half of the time I did not know where i should be kissing…

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