I gather that many years ago Celina’s brother and sister-in-law didn’t have a large wedding and subsequent reception. Time to make amends as the significance of the months of August and September 2021 is not lost on the Rocha Miranda family; in the space of 25 days my brother-in-law Carlos celebrated his 60th, my mother-in-law celebrated her 80th and sister-in-law Camila her 40th. We mark decades of years past in our lives as if these are more important than other anniversaries – not so; although always time for a party …… even in Covid times.
Sintra on the red splodge, Estoril on the blue dot!
Up in the hills around Sintra lies the Tivoli Palacio de Seteais hotel, a perfect place for one. The Palacio de Seteais was built between 1783 and 1787 for the Dutch consul Daniel Gildemeester. Various additions were made during the next 150 years, enlarging the original building and laying out new gardens and orchards. In 1946 it was bought by the Portuguese government and it’s been a hotel since 1954.
In Britain we have thousands of these great mansions built in the C18th and C19th. We refer to them as stately homes, grand expressions of the architecture of the time and now recognise some of them as monuments to unequal privilege and wealth. The same can be found in many European countries and Portugal is no exception. In the UK the National Trust and English Heritage, two charities, now own a huge number, allowing their members to make their own judgments and observations.
The name Tivoli (note 1) takes me back to Denmark as the Tivoli Gardens, smack bang in the centre of Copenhagen, offers places to eat, places to drink and places to have fun. One hundred and seventy eight years after it opened, its 20 acre site is in the Top Ten of the city’s tourist attractions.
The Tivoli Palacio de Seteais sits on a hill overlooking Sintra (see PC 130): in the distance is the Atlantic Ocean. Fortunately it’s warm and sunny when we arrive as the town has a reputation of being cool. In fact it developed as the place for the Portuguese Royal family to escape to in the summer months, their equivalent of Simla in India. The duty manager Paulo meets us and takes us through the COVID registration; either proof of two vaccinations or a negative test is acceptable! We unpack in Room 12 and head off to the pool as we have a few hours before the Hundred Party starts.
Francisquinha has come too; well, not to the pool! She knows she’s not allowed to join the party but she didn’t want to be left behind in Estoril and she understands about room service, cable TV and the minibar.
The Hundred Year couple, Carlos & Camila
The programme says drinks and canapés on an outside terrace, starting at five thirty …… but the hosts are still 30 minutes away! Someone’s shirt got a burn mark on it and there’s panic. Being a pedant for punctuality I roll my eyes to heaven but have mentally added an allowance of 45 minutes before I expect anyone to arrive. By 1830 the terrace has live music, waiters, drinks, canapés and six people; most of the 50 guests have arrived by 1900.
Waiters offer, musicians play, people chat, catch up; laughter ripples and mingles with the music as the sun makes its slow descent in the western sky. A few guests dance in a somewhat desultory manner, more to acknowledge the efforts of the combo, to thank them for their efforts. Two guests show off their musical skills.
It’s obvious that the hotel management want the guests to move into the elegant dining room and eventually we do, a little later than they might have liked! I imagine the stress in the kitchen as we are a party of 50. The Brazilians have copied the Portuguese in their love of food, and the more the better; the generous menu shows five courses.
The starter is a crêpe filled with Bacalhau (salted cod, considered by some close to divine); it looks and tastes good but there’s too much! The Peixe (fish) course is a meal in itself, a lovely piece of Sea Bass with a huge mound of sweet potato mash, with added sugar! For my entrée I am presented with 300g of filé mignon; I eye Celina’s mushroom Risotto slightly jealously! The sobremesa is a slice of Apple Crumble with some beautiful Cinnamon ice cream; the latter is very welcome! And still we haven’t finished as Camila’s baked two cakes (note 2) …. candles are blown out, the cakes are sliced and distributed and both Brazilian and English versions of ‘Happy Birthday To You’ ring out across the crowded room.
The elegant dining room, known for its murals, the following morning.
My abysmal lack of ability to speak Portuguese is tackled by Nuno, a Lisbon lawyer at my table. He leans across his wife Rita (Note 3) and says it’s easy for the Portuguese to learn another language …. and boasts that all they need is three months max! His own English is 80%. But if you are Portuguese there’s a need to learn another language unless you limit your travels to Brazil, Mozambique, Angola, The Azores or Madeira. I do not need to learn it, I want to, but the vocal chords get stuck …..
The party draws to a close and guests make for their rooms or for a taxi. Room service breakfast the following morning is followed by a dip in the pool before a taxi back to Estoril. The one-way system around Sintra is extremely long and it’s some time before we pull up outside Avenida General Carmona 368.
A good and generous celebration; espetacular and maravilhoso even.
Richard 17th September 2021
Note 1 Tivoli was, some scholars believe, the name of a Roman town 20 miles east of Rome, used as a summer resort and noted for its waterfalls.
Note 2 Camila is building a very successful celebration cake business – Camila Vasconcellos at http://www.instagram.com>nacozinhadecasa
Note 3 Her sister and brother-in-law ran a beautiful beach resort at Picinguaba, to the west of Paraty in Brazil, a place to unwind, a place to watch men fish and maybe to eat their catch. (See PC 10 March 2014)