Also in autumn, the blog goes on a journey. This time: Portugal.

Lisbon: Hotel Gat Rossio and the city lays at your feet by Fátima Lacerda

The travelogue focus to the most beautiful city in Europe. It was not my first stay there, but the luxury of being able to stay there for so long, both professionally and privately, made it possible for me to better DISCOVER Lisbon. The stay was unforgettable and the choice of hotel played a very important role.

What was new for me this time: in the last 3 years, Lisbon has developed as a party city. The tranquillity, the tranquillity is still there, but it had to be found in the cul-de-sacs, on the grounds of the Botanical Gardens or at sunset on the beach of neighbouring places like Estoril or Cascais. The storm of tourists, especially from Germany and France, has had devastating consequences for the inhabitants and residents of the neighbourhood: The meteoric rise in rents is only one of them. The other side of the coin is that the income that results from tourism benefits the city’s infrastructure and the municipalities. Lisbon has lost none of its charm in a sensual dance between old and modern, even in 2021.

The motto of the documentary film festival “Doc Lisboa” (21 to 31 October) also applies to the whole year:

“Lisbon welcomes the world”. But receiving is one thing. We, from the service desert city of Berlin, are burnt children, but watch out: Lisbon makes being a customer blossom and offers the best example of hospitality and understanding of service. There, the customer, if not king, is a valued contemporary who is treated as an equal. At the Hotel Gat Rossio, all of these characteristics can be attributed in an outstanding way to the hotel manager, Andrea Zurrinho. The team leadership, the communication skills, a lot of sensitivity and empathy in dealing with guests and staff can be seen in the result. The guest, no matter where he/she/it is from and how many quirks may come to light, is met at eye level and with respect.

Choosing the right hotel for a holiday, in general but especially for Lisbon, should not be underestimated, because a lot depends on it: How well do I sleep? How good is the breakfast? How quiet is the room? How nice is the view from the window? How do I get that balcony feeling where you don’t have to be outside to feel the vibrancy of the city? How courteous is the staff? How prepared is the city of Lisbon with information and information stands to welcome guests from all over the world? For good preparation, check the multilingual website of Visit Lisboa:

Hotel Manager Andrea

Elena /Head of Housekeeping

Mara from the Front Desk

The right attention

Those for whom the choice of a hotel is a secondary consideration will find something in Lisbon in any case. Even at astronomical prices, with a blatantly unequal price-performance ratio. But for those who are of age, who don’t shy away from the effort and have the ambition to perceive the hotel as a place of contemplation and pause after days full of experiences and impressions, will find the perfect choice at the Hotel Gat Rossio. In short: a carefree package. There, guests are not only formally received at the counter and the formalities are clarified. This is the difference to other middle-class hotels in the sunny city. Instead, the versatile team knows the art of welcoming, catching and always taking the guests’ moods into consideration.

For requests such as room changes, tips on restaurants serving traditional Portuguese cuisine nearby or tips for excursions; the front desk team is always approachable and always at your service. The housecleaning staff is remarkably accurate and discreet at the same time.

Nothing escapes the eyes of the head of housekeeping, Elena. Originally from Russia but at home in Portugal for a longer time, she scrutinises the rooms after cleaning. Then she sends the approval by radio to the reception and only then can the guest move into the room. Elena insists on high standards of cleanliness, thorough and daily disinfection, and does not forget the delicious chocolate on the pillows and the elegant bottle of mineral water and ice cubes for the Vip guests.

Rooms of all kinds

Lisbon has become a hotspot for all kinds of target groups in the last 5 years. Congresses and, as recently, the technology fair “Web Summt”, private holidays, business trips bring very different audiences to the sunny city with a permanent feeling of spring. In addition, the Hotel Gat Rossio offers a wide variety of rooms (in different price ranges and sizes) for business people, married couples, couples (gay-friendly), for singles who deliberately travel alone or also for groups of older people who come to Lisbon from all corners of Europe as a place of enjoyment.

During the Web Summit fair, which is an important economic factor, men and women came from all corners of the world. Also the nice Robert Smith from San Francisco, who missed his check-in by one day but (and to his relief) was received by the receptionist Mara in an understanding, courteous and result-oriented way. The man had been travelling for over 2 days and was completely jet-lagged. Confronting him with annoying bureaucratic hurdles would be anything but a welcoming gesture. When he then found out that he would get a room after all and also only had to pay for the one night (as a side effect for arriving too late), it was a load off his mind. It was hard to miss. I happened to be standing next to him at the time, checking my mails and struggling with a Macintosch calculator.

There is something for every stay at Gat Rossio. Rooms in the Superior category, of course, are more comfortable and therefore perfect for those who want to be more refined and prefer a larger room with plenty of space to relax, laze around, let time pass by. For business travellers, there are smaller rooms with a single bed and very spartan furnishings.

The front desk is manned 24 hours a day and those who don’t want to take their laptops with them can check their mails on the large computer (beware, it’s a Mac!!!) at reception. And if you have your darling with you and want to work in peace, you can either sit on the terrace, which is open 24 hours a day, or in the conference room.

Absolute peace and quiet is guaranteed there. Let’s not fool ourselves: Lisbon is noisy. You can’t escape the rubbish from the glass bottles here. At 6 o’clock the time has come. The sinphony of a big city. You have to know that. But instead, a morning and afternoon light to fall in love with, a sunrise to marvel at and when the moon appears, then it is finally beautiful to melt.

Enjoy the terrace

Here, smokers in the otherwise smoke-free hotel can indulge in lung pain as if there were no tomorrow. But even guests who book breakfast can enjoy the day outdoors and have their “Pequeno Almoço” there. Those who decide at short notice can also spontaneously let the reception know that they would like to have breakfast there at the hotel. Everything is very relaxed and according to the wishes of the guests.

Whether it’s Rubem, Ricardo, Mara or Edson, the front office all-rounders will welcome you with Portuguese cordiality and provide information if requested. With this dedication to service, your stay will be a pleasure of the highest order.

Inclusion and participation

Multilingualism (Portuguese, English, Spanish, Italian, French) is a natural part of the Front Desk staff’s portfolio. Even I, with my special requests (you know the drill!), have never fallen on deaf ears. Even when it was a matter of getting a plaster for my damaged foot. No problem at all! Those who love high heels must know: The uneven cobblestones of Lisbon’s streets are a real challenge! Flat shoes are recommended here: sneakears or flip-flops. Anything else is a pain in the ass. I know that now!

The breakfast team deserves special praise. Odete, Ana and Ivanildo work there very early. From 07:30, the breakfast room on the 1st floor, is open.

The hotel’s staffing policy allows Ivanildo, as a deaf-mute, to participate in society. With gestures and his mobile phone in his hand as an aid, he confidently manages to communicate with the guests, who were all very understanding, even if this seems unusual at first.

Breakfast room

Breakfast buffet

Breakfast in Portuguese

In addition to the normal drinks, the range includes delicious Portuguese baked goods such as pastel de nata*, rice cakes or yoghurt cakes.

Guests can run the rolls through the roaster themselves and then, when they are nice and crispy, top them themselves. The traditional “tosta mista” (mixed toast) can also be prepared there on the spot. Cheese and sausage, tomatoes and cucumbers are always fresh and nicely laid out on the platter and are always replenished. The eye also enjoys. The seating is designed for young people. But if the seat is too hard, you can get a cushion in the next room.

Inexpensive culinary delights around the corner

Restauradores square is in the heart of Lisbon and the metro exit is almost on the doorstep. From there, guests can find connections to all the sights. The Lisboa Card (comparable to Berlin’s “Welcome Card”) is the smart option and offers many advantages. It is advisable to buy the “72 hours” model. There are also discounts at museums.

Before taking public transport, however, visitors should take a look at the immediate surroundings on foot. There is a lot to see: The Coliseu Palace of Culture, the Dona Maria II Theatre, the São Domingos Church, the Padaria Portuguesa bakery, which offers a very tasty and inexpensive breakfast and lunch, and the tram, which acts as a lift and leads to the “Mirante”. There, a breathtaking view of the whole city awaits. As if this were not enough, the way to the heart of the city “Praça do Rossio” is a stone’s throw away from the Hotel Gat Rossio. In this square, too, the guest is overwhelmed by tourist offers. Also in terms of football.

Best Location

The Hotel Gat Rossio stands out from the strong competition due to its outstanding location. This aspect is probably the number 1 feature.

Service with the pick-up service

Those who want to be picked up from the airport safely and, above all, without stress, can specify this when booking the Hotel Gat Rossio. This service also applies to the departure The Hotel Gat Rossio works with a reliable, small but fine team, which brings or picks up the guests to the airport for a very good price.

As a travel reviewer and hotel critic, I firmly believe that the choice of hotel on a holiday trip can contribute to the considerable success of the stay. In the case of Hotel Gat Rossio, the team’s care for the guests’ well-being, combined with the family ambience, can contribute significantly to making the stay memorable. The comfort of the superior rooms, the balconies overlooking the Lisbon sky complete the excellent portfolio.

*Pastel de Nata or Pastel de Belém is a puff pastry with custard that was probably made before the 18th century by the monks in Belém, now a district of Lisbon.

Top 5 waterfalls near Lisbon

Nascente do Almonda.

The Almonda spring cave stretches over more than 15 km and is a real national speleological sanctuary as it represents the most extensive karst network currently known in Portugal. It is made up of various underground streams which give rise to the source of the Almonda river.

The Almonda spring cave is home to unique species adapted to life underground, such as the cave beetle Trechus lunai.

Regarding the cultural heritage, the existence of several archaeological deposits stands out, ranging from the Lower Palaeolithic to Roman times.

The cave was classified as a Property of Public Interest on 30 November 1993.

Located in Vale da Serra, in the area of the Serras de Aire e Candeeiros Natural Park, the Interpretation Centre is a support structure for the Almonda cave, which promotes programmes oriented towards ecological and cultural tourism. It has an interpretative museum space, auditorium and accommodation.

The programmes available include preparation for the visit to the cave with an introduction to speleology, progression techniques and use of equipment, and underground diving.

Tahiti Waterfall

A few kilometres from the Arado waterfall and at the foot of the road from Ermida to Fafião is the Tahiti waterfall or Fecha de Barjas. It is not a single waterfall, but a succession of waterfalls formed by the river as it flows over the granite rock. When we visited it, the force of the water generated a thunderous sound that added to the beauty of the surroundings. Although there are areas set aside for bathing in some of the pools, you have to do so with great caution due to the dangerous terrain and the currents. In fact, a sign next to the road warns of this, reminding us that there have been fatal accidents in this place. To contemplate the succession of waterfalls, all you have to do is go down a flight of steps and walk carefully along the path that allows you to contemplate them without getting wet.

Cascata de Pinçâes

Due to its rare beauty, the Pincães Waterfall certainly deserves to be among the best waterfalls in Gerês. You should leave the car in the village of Pincães and follow a trail for about two kilometres, passing by an old oil press and some water mills. After this trail, the waterfall is easily accessible and the landscape will make you think you are on an island paradise.

Fraga da Pena

If the Serra da Estrela is unknown to many Spaniards, even more so is the Serra do Açor, also located in the Centro region and in the district of Coimbra. Cruelly punished by fires in recent years, one of the areas that has preserved its vegetation intact is the forest park where the Fraga da Pena waterfall is located. It is a 20-metre waterfall hidden in a leafy forest where walkways have been installed and a picnic area has been built. All this at the foot of the road and it is only a few metres walk. The origin of this waterfall is a geological accident and its waters are cold and crystalline, ideal for a swim when the heat is on. Fraga da Pena is only 22 kilometres from one of the most beautiful villages in Portugal, the village of Pioado.

Cascata do Mourao / Cascata de Fervenca

If you think that only in Gerês can you find dream waterfalls, you are not familiar with the Sintra waterfalls. Cascades near Lisbon may seem like a lie, but it’s really true. Only 40 minutes away from Lisbon are two true treasures of nature: Cascata do Mourão (or Cascata de Anços) and Cascata de Fervença (or Cascata da Bajouca).

Both waterfalls are located about 20 minutes from Sintra and less than 10 kilometres apart. So it is perfectly possible to visit these two fantastic natural spots in the same day.

But the best thing is to spend a weekend exploring the region, combining a visit to the waterfalls with a trip to the beaches of Colares, Sintra or Mafra. It makes an excellent weekend getaway for those living in the greater Lisbon area.

It is true that the two waterfalls are quite hidden, but following our tips you will get there without any difficulty.

New tourist route of historic gardens

Por TPN/Lusa, in NoticiasTurismoNorte · 13-05-2021 

Northern and Central Portugal now offers 12 “Garden Experiences”, a new tourism product that brings together “29 historic gardens” and helps promote local security in times of pandemic.
The Vale Abraão Forest, the Casa de Mateus, the Vidago Park and Pedras Salgadas, in the district of Vila Real, the Casa do Campo, in Celorico de Basto, the Tibães Monastery, in Braga, the Quinta da Aveleda, in Penafiel (Porto district), the botanical gardens of Porto and Coimbra, the Quinta das Lágrimas, in Coimbra, the Mata do Buçaco, in the district of Aveiro, or the Penha Park, in the district of Braga, are some of the historic gardens included in the 12 tourist routes that are already available and marketed, announced the heads of the Association of Historic Gardens of Portugal, during the press conference to present the 12 ‘Garden Experiences’, held at the Soares dos Reis Museum, in Oporto.

“Gardens are environmental tourism, safe tourism and not mass tourism. Gardens are one of the areas of tourism that can be safely opened [in times of pandemic],” said Manuel Sousa, an architect and specialist in historic gardens in Portugal, during the press conference of the Portuguese Historic Gardens Association.

Manuel Sousa assumed that it is difficult to create a tourism product from scratch, but stressed that the future goal is to “grow with more experiences and continue to develop this product for the rest of mainland Portugal and the archipelagos of Azores and Madeira, as well as to internationalise the product”.

“It was an effort to transform this product [Portuguese historic gardens] into a tourism product with a new dynamic. It was a field study, talking to the owners, characterising (…). It was necessary to create a sellable product for tourists,” he explained.

The “packs” were conceived in a diversified way, with different durations, in a flexible way, as it is the visitor who can add more time or more places to his experience.

The packs include guided tours by the owners or their representatives, but if the visitor wants to explore on their own, there are also suggestions to visit new places or revisit them in a new context,” said Teresa Andresen, in a note handed to journalists during the press conference.

Associated with these tourism proposals are two travel agencies – Club Tour and Travel Tailors – that market the product and can help visitors make reservations, as well as give advice on where to eat or stay.

The Association of Historic Gardens of Portugal, created in 2003, now has more than 200 members who own some of Portugal’s most outstanding gardens.

The good times will come again

The COVID-19 virus pandemic caught us by surprise here at Gatrooms, during a period of high occupancy, investments and improvement projects. Things were going smoothly, but then all of sudden our world changed. Like everyone else, we have reacted as quickly and efficiently as possible to the current situation.

People say that change is good, but it can also be painful.
In our case, the Gatrooms philosophy has taught us a valuable lesson: you can always be more flexible than you think. Until now, we believed that being flexible was making sure our guests had everything they needed during their stay. Recently, all that has changed: guests can now cancel their reservation if they are unable to travel and rebook their stay for whenever they think they will finally be able to make it to the city.

If there was any room for improvement in terms of cleanliness and hygiene, we have made changes; we have doubled down on cleaning measures in the rooms; and dispensers filled with hand sanitizing fluid have been installed throughout the hotel. We also make sure that the safety distance of 1½ meters between staff or guests is maintained in the communal areas such as Reception or the breakfast room. Perhaps, after all this, people will continue to use sanitizer and take more care to wash their hands thoroughly.

We have also changed the way we work: the team at Head Office currently work from home and the hotel staff take every precaution to avoid spreading or being infected by the virus, following the safety guidelines published by the World Health Organization to the letter.

If any changes are made or new orders given by the authorities, we will be sure to accept them fully and put them into place at Gatrooms immediately. But we will worry about that if and when the time comes‒for now, let’s all keep positive and look forward to when the lockdown is lifted, and we can greet and hug each other freely again.