Queen—or King—for a Day
Of the forty-six government-owned pousadas (inns) scattered throughout the Portuguese countryside, the Rainha Santa Isabel, luxuriously housed in a historically significant edifice, is one of the most highly rated.
Sensitively integrated into this hill town’s 13th- century Estremoz castle (largely rebuilt in the 18th century, following a fire), the pousada was originally the home of King Dinis and his wife, the sainted Queen Isabel.
Vasco da Gama came here in 1498 to accept gifts from King Manuel for the ruler of Calcutta before sailing for India. The views that entranced Portuguese royalty remain, and visitors will find museum-quality antiques and tapestries and grandiose public areas with 22-foot ceilings, monumental staircases, wide marble corridors, and massive furniture.
The banquet hall is cavernous, warmed up by an attentive staff and the promise of an excellent meal of regional specialties, accompanied by offerings from the pousada’s well-known wine cellar. Rugs from nearby Arraiolos and canopied four-poster beds lavishly decorate the thirty guest rooms. The room where Saint Isabel died in 1336 escaped the fire and is now a small chapel open to the public.