Restored to glory- the fountains at Estoi Palace
One of my treats to myself on my visit to the Algarve was the Garden Fair, being held at Estoi Palace for the first time this November. When I came here 10 years ago, the palace was a down-at-heel ruin, but with enchanting grounds that cast their own spell. The past was cupped in the chipped and empty fountains, and breathed through the azulejos adorning the walls.
I was half delighted, but half concerned to hear of a proposed restoration that would turn the palace into a pousada, one of Portugal’s elite hotels. The transformation took many long years but, when the hotel finally opened its doors, I was hugely impressed. The grand salon was grace and elegance, with incredible ceilings, and the gardens had been given a modern twist, yet retained the features that had made them so beautiful. The new ‘add on’ for the hotel guest rooms was not so pleasing, but I was simply grateful that this lovely ruin had been given a life.
At this stage there was still much to do, and the ongoing work on the fountains and flights of stairs had placed them ‘out of bounds’. I remembered wistfully when I had been able to wander at will, conjuring with dreams. So it was, with a flutter of excitement, that I returned to Estoi for the Garden Fair.
The side gate to the palace- the lion is genially on guard
I didn’t expect that tiny Estoi would be playing host to so many people that day, but as the sun beamed with unseasonable heat, it became clear that this was to be a popular event. I was glad that I had arrived promptly for the 11am opening. As one of the wardens pointed out to me, this is the Algarve’s only historic garden.
What better to enjoy the sunshine than cacti?
Almost edible in their lushness
Full of flounces!
And delicate blooms
But with a hint of malice in the spikes
A swirl of colour caught my eye
And multi-hued chillis!
No idea what this beauty is!
But this is definitely a grapefruit!
I can never ignore a hot red!
I have to admit that I didn’t linger as long as I might, delightful though it all was. I could not wait to move on from the plant stalls and into the gardens. The former coach house had been transformed into a magnificent exhibition space, with gleaming floors and chandelier embellishments. Air plants nestled amongst the crafts, with potions made from herbs, and exquisite mosaics. I eased myself past temptation and out into the garden.
Dappled shade led to the grand staircase
The azulejos as beautiful as I remembered
The details quite beguiling
Looking back at my photos I don’t think I did the palace gardens justice, but you will have a general impression which I hope might tempt you to go there some day. The palace itself is beautiful. Perhaps I might take afternoon tea there one day and show you inside.
The palace and parterres
The fountains are trickling again
Alongside nymphs and ladies
Living a beautiful life!
In graceful harmony
A flight of fantasy!
The mosaics were beautiful too
Complementing the blue and white
The horses galloping with gay abandon
And the maidens hiding in their grottoe
It may not reflect quite the type of warmth that Paula was thinking of, but I think this post might sit nicely on her Thursday’s Special. Come with me and admire.