Idea Lab – Portugal

At the heart of our office is an Idea Lab: a space in which we are constantly innovating, dreaming, and designing new ways to enhance your travels. It may be our network of contacts that allow us to bring all these ideas to life, but it is you – our clients – who keep us challenged and having fun. Whether your trip is straightforward, over-the-top, or anywhere in the middle, we are always in our lab and ready.

portugal-algarve

Food and Wine

If the secret about Spain’s position as a top culinary destination is out, then the food scene in Portugal is still our secret.

  • Face time and private kitchen tour with Portugal’s hottest chef at Lisbon’s only Michelin 2-star restaurant. The former chief restaurant critic of The New York Times listed his meal here as one of his top meals of the year.
  • Blend and produce your own wine in the world’s oldest demarcated wine region, under the tutelage of a master enologist. Name your wine, design your label (with our help), and we will ship it home (to your home, not ours).
  • Chef’s table at a Michelin 2-star restaurant (one of only three in the country) in a 5-star oceanfront hotel along the Mediterranean. That’s seven stars.
  • Pick grapes, and better yet, stomp them with your own feet, a la “I Love Lucy,” with local villagers at harvest time.
  • Savor 30 year old port – opened with the traditional fire-tong method – in a private room in one of Porto’s most famous historic buildings.
  • Cooking workshop with one of Portugal’s best-known chefs: the winner of Portugal’s Top Chef.
  • Epicurean tour of Lisbon, sampling the finest Portuguese cheese, olive oils, chouricos (chorizos), freshly grilled sardines, sweets, and the sweet cherry liqueur known as ginjinha.
  • Curated port tasting on the terrace of a Michelin-starred restaurant overlooking Porto.

We have plenty more up our sleeves. Ask us.


Bring The Kids

  • Travel through the hills of Lisbon on your own private tram.
  • Christmas Eve madeiro with local villagers in the Alentejo. Young men collect wood to create the bonfire (madeiro). All the villagers gather to light the bonfire. Join in as they sing and dance until midnight.
  • Tourada is the Portuguese tradition of bullfighting, in which the bull is not killed. Meet a famous family of bull breeders at their centuries-old farm and try out your skills with a baby bull. Since many fighters are women, this is great for your daughters as well as your sons.
  • Kick around a soccer ball with local kids.
  • Stay in a hotel – in one of Europe’s greatest wilderness areas – created from a nearly-abandoned country village brought back to life.
  • Learn traditional Portuguese games (for younger kids).
  • After-hours entrée to the Lisbon Oceanarium. Watch the sharks being fed and “camp out” overnight just outside their tank.
  • Family cooking lessons, including a lesson on the pastries for which Portugal is famous.
  • Helicopter ride over the fairy-tale castles of Sintra and the casino where the first James Bond movie was filmed.

Many – in fact, most – suggestions in other categories are family-friendly. Plus, we have plenty more up our sleeves. Ask us.


Adventure + Adrenaline

  • Surf the world’s biggest wave in Nazare, where Garrett McNamara set the world record.
  • Formula 1 Porsche racing in Estoril.
  • High-speed boating in an inflatable RIB (rigid-inflatable boat) in the Tagus River in Lisbon.
  • Horseback riding on Lusitanian horses in the Geres Mountains.
  • Board a sailboat, motorboat, yacht, or traditional Portuguese fishing dinghy (best for venturing into small caves), along the dramatic rocky cliffs of the Algarve.
  • Deep-sea fishing in the Atlantic.
  • Hot air ballooning over Alentejo.
  • Fly fishing for trout in the Serra da Estrela.

We have plenty more adventures, including hiking, biking, horseback riding, watersports, or SUV adventures, all over Portugal, and up our sleeves. Ask us.


The Arts

  • Expert-led workshop on azulejo – the storied craft of making by hand those blue and white tiles you see all over Portugal.
  • Curator-led private tours at Portugal’s top museums.
  • Curated fashion (and shopping, of course) tour, looking at Lisbon’s top designers with entrée into top ateliers led by the former director of a major European fashion house.
  • Cruise the Tagus River in Lisbon on perhaps the only boat ever to participate in the Venice Biennale, created by Portugal’s best-known artist, Joana Vasconcelos.
  • Entrée to the ateliers of Portugal’s two Pritzker-laureate architects.
  • Expert-guided explorations of Portugal´s contemporary art scene with studio visits.

We have plenty more up the sleeves of our painters’ smocks. Ask us.


Jewish Heritage

The Jewish history of Portugal is fascinating, if little-known. A handful of tiny communities survived the Inquisition and re-emerged in the 20th century. Many towns have fascinating Jewish pasts, even though only a handful of active communities remain.

For more about our own connections to Jewish heritage, please visit Jewish Heritage: It’s All Personal

  • Meet the grandson of the heroic Portuguese consul to Bordeaux during World War II. In a valiant effort for which he was stripped of his career, title, and nobility, he issued fake visas that enabled over 30,000 Jews to leave France and enter neutral Portugal. Your host has established a foundation to honor his bravery.
  • Explore the little towns of the Serra da Estrella Mountains, where a handful of Jewish communities survived the Inquisition. Visit small Jewish communities and meet the director of the museum which commemorates this oft-overlooked history.
  • Visit one of the oldest synagogues in Europe at Tomar.
  • Erev Shabbat services with members of the Jewish communities in Lisbon, Porto or Belmonte.

Oy.We have so much more up our sleeves.


Golf

  • Its unique position along the brilliant Iberian coastline makes Portugal an extremely desirable golfing destination. The beauty of the landscapes and the often-cooperating weather keeps all levels of golfers coming back for more.
  • The Algarve, the southern coast, has over 300 days of sunshine a year on average and has a number of excellent courses. Most would consider the best to be Monte Rei, designed by Jack Nicklaus and located between the foothills of the Serra do Caldeirao Mountains and the Atlantic Ocean. The course is particularly known for its challenging layout (including five par 5’s) and large number of water hazards.
  • Cascais, on the Atlantic coast and a short drive from Lisbon, has five courses within a 15 minute drive of one another. Nearby Sintra offers excellent golfing as well.
  • The fourth oldest golf club in Europe, the Oporto Golf Club, opened in 1890, and is a half hour south of Porto.

We have plenty more in our golf bags. Ask us.


Celebrations

  • Toast your honeymoon with champagne and chocolates on a private three-mast sailboat sailing on the Tagus from Lisbon to Cascais.
  • End your big birthday trip with a party in a stunning 18th-century private palace in Lisbon with one of Portugal’s top fado performers and fireworks.
  • Celebrate your well-earned status as newly-retired with a customized tasting menu created by Lisbon’s only Michelin 2-star chef at one of Lisbon’s finest historic palaces.
  • Enjoy the end of your “babymoon” with a cruise up the Tagus River in Lisbon on perhaps the only boat ever to participate in the Venice Biennale, created by Portugal’s best-known artist Joana Vasconcelos. Come back in 18 years.
  • Celebrate your child’s college graduation with the traditional Portuguese serenade, sung by university students in traditional garb whose black capes are so long that you can (and are meant to) walk on them.
  • New Year’s Eve with your extended family in a chartered yacht off the coast of Madeira watching what many consider to be the best fireworks spectacle in the world.
  • Celebrate your last child leaving for college at Portugal’s most prestigious chef’s table.

Many – in fact, most – suggestions in other categories are great for celebrating a special occasion.
Plus, we have plenty more up our sleeves. Ask us.


Bragging Rights: Signature Experience

  • Meet a player on Lisbon’s Benfica soccer team and watch the team play a home game from a VIP seat.
  • Close down Lisbon’s most famous monument – the Jeronimos Monastery – for a personal after-hours recital of Gregorian chants.
  • Dinner catered by Lisbon’s only 2-Michelin starred chef at one of Lisbon’s most stunning private palaces, hosted by a member of the family foundation.
  • Private entrée to an estate famous for breeding legendary Lusitanian horses, where you will be hosted by a member of Portugal’s nobility.
  • Private dinner in one of the most famous palaces in Sintra.
  • Private cruise along the Douro on board the boat that carried Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh on the Thames in a flotilla of more than 1,000 vessels as part of her Diamond Jubilee.
  • Just in time for your holiday gifts: Channel your creative juices with the guidance of a master enologist at one of Douro’s most respected wine estates to blend and produce your own wine. Name it, design the labels (with our help), and we will help you ship it home.
  • Be hosted by one of Portugal’s top horse breeders in Portugal’s most famous horse market at Golega for the games and races.
  • Have a catered dinner with one of Lisbon’s most influential figures in the gardens of one of his 18th-century palaces. He is a former Portuguese ambassador to two former colonies, the creator of one of Lisbon’s most interesting little museums (an outgrowth of his own personal collection) and a member of the Portuguese nobility.
  • Celebrate New Year’s with your family at the world-famous New Year’s Eve fireworks in Madeira from our favorite – and very privileged – perch in Funchal or, better yet, from your private boat.

We have plenty more up our sleeves. Ask us.


And, in case you were wondering, some of our favorites:

We are always asked. We passed the question around to our staff in New York, our team in Portugal, and some of our top guides and specialists. Here are the answers.

  • Pick grapes and – better yet, stomp them with your own feet – with the local villagers at harvest time in the Douro or in Alentejo.
  • Private fado performance in the heart of Alfama, the traditional fado district of Lisbon.
  • Private dinner at one of Lisbon’s most stunning palaces still lived in by the descendant of the family who built it in the 18th century.
  • Meet the grandson of the Portuguese consul to Bordeaux during World War II. In a valiant effort for which he was stripped of his career, title, and nobility, he issued fake visas that enabled over 30,000 Jews to leave France and enter neutral Portugal. Your host has founded a foundation to honor his bravery.
  • World-famous New Year’s Eve fireworks in Madeira from our favorite – and very privileged – perch in Funchal or, better yet, from your private boat.
  • Have tea (or a drink) with one of Lisbon’s most influential figures in the gardens of one of his 18th-century palaces. He is a former Portuguese ambassador to two former colonies, the creator of one of Lisbon’s most interesting little museums (an outgrowth of his own personal collection) and a member of the Portuguese nobility.
  • A traditional Christmas Eve in a small village with a local family, as the village gathers in the town square to light an enormous bonfire, and to sing and dance (and drink) until after midnight.
  • A nightlife crawl through Lisbon’s hot spots (surprised?) There are many. Level of amps is up to you.