Do we really have to check out?
Janelas Verdes stand for Green Windows, but what you see from the balcony of this gem of a hotel is a whole world.
The triumph of the Lisbon Heritage Hotels is that, even if they are a group of hotels, each one of them has the character and charm to stand alone as an unique boutique hotel. Take As Janelas Verdes, for example. My daughter and I arrived on foot from Praça do Comércio. A fairly long walk for a ten year old. But the best way to discover a place too, everyone agrees with it. We walked along the "Cais", with the majestic Tagus river by our side, spotted Mercado da Ribeira Time Out, a very cool warehouse space with delightful Portuguese produce that is very much worth a visit, and entered Lapa / Santos district. If you have not been to Lisbon before, try to divert from the main roads and head up to the infinite number of cobblestone little roads up one of the many hills. You will see what many people consider to be an authentic side of the city. Narrow streets made of beautiful façades decorated with the stunning Portuguese tiles and people's washing lines. (Have I told you I am desperately in love with Portugal?) Once we took one of these quaint roads we reached this rather unassuming traditional building. "As Janelas Verdes" it read. No grand lobby, but a doorbell. We were welcomed by Ana, a very friendly lady that was in charge of the reception and clearly passionate about all things from her country.
Ana explained a little about the hotel, gave us a map with all our questions answered promptly. One of them was how to get to Belém Tower from the hotel. (714 bus stops right outside the hotel and it takes you to Belém district without any fuss or difficulty. Pay inside the bus directly to the driver and enjoy Lisbon at its best from the window.) and a free entry ticket to the mesmerising Arte Antiga Museum, next door. After debating a little on the Portuguese custard tarts and its origins and secrecy, Ana gave me an important piece of advice: in my room there would be a bottle of Port wine. Never go to bed without drinking a little. It is good for the heart. I couldn't agree more with Ana and, naturally, followed her precious recommendation.
But perhaps the most charming thing about As Janelas Verdes was a sense of staying in someone's home. In fact, this magnificent Portuguese mansion was the house of a countess in the 18th century and, astonishingly, Eça de Queiroz, one of the most important Portuguese writers of all times, is said to have lived in this address whilst writing "Os Maias" one of his masterpieces. If you, however, prefer a more contemporary association, Madonna, the queen of pop, lived a few doors up at number 92 in the historical and glorious Ramalhete house.
We could not be any happier with our room. Spacious, comfortable, full of traditional charm, we had a little balcony from where the river Tagus majestically appeared when we opened the curtains. Surrounding the exterior walls this vigorous climbing fig plant. Beware, however, they are poisonous and are there for their beauty. Do not eat them! The bathroom reflects History and character. My daughter was confused about what a bidet was, whereas I was rather amused to see a piece that took me back to my childhood in Brazil, a country heavily influenced by Portugal for Historical reasons.
We would need much more time to fully enjoy As Janelas Verdes. It is not fair to have to rush through their rooftop space with loungers, gorgeous plants, the library with a telescope and an honesty bar from where you can taste Portuguese wine as it also offers complementary hot drinks. How could we be happy to leave the Mediterranean looking patio garden in the ground floor where we would have had breakfast at if the mornings weren't a little too chilly, enjoying the freshly baked custard tarts and the delicious orange juice if you don't want the champagne also offered as you start your day?
I guess the downside of staying at As Janelas Verdes is the sense of knowing you will, eventually, have to leave. It is just too easy to love this place, its traditional charm, History, the river Tagus that sparkles not far at all from your balcony reflecting the generous Portuguese sun whilst you, G&T or green wine in hand, think of how lucky you are.
An absolute gem of a place.
As Janelas Verdes
Rua das Janelas Verdes, 47