As you already know, at TheVagar, we have the best Guests in the world! This month, we challenged José Chantre de Sousa, who came to the Interior Centre, to know the Historical Villages of Portugal (AHP) and offered us the privilege of his stay, to share this adventure with our readers. Originally from Lisbon, José is a Lieutenant-Colonel in the Army, father of Miguel, 18 years old, and loves sports and travelling. Let's find out more?
1. What motivated you to visit AHP?
JCS: In the middle of the pandemic, when we were all locked up at home and could not travel, I said to my son: "Miguel, we have travelled abroad so much, yet we know our country very badly...". After this conversation, I decided that we would do the EN2. And so we did. In the middle of this adventure, we passed through one of the Schist Villages, which we loved. Meanwhile, I found out that there was also an AHP Network, and I set off to discover it. Perfect timing!
2. We know that you visited only three villages. What led you not to visit all 12 at once?
JCS: My rationale for getting to know all 12 AHP was, and still is, to get to know three at a time. I like to do things calmly, without rushing, and properly planned, so as not to be disappointed or catch any unpleasant surprises along the way. The first time I went to visit AHP, I visited Castelo Novo, Idanha-a-Velha and Monsanto. The second time, the one we're talking about, I visited Belmonte, Sortelha and Castelo Mendo.
3. So far, what have you enjoyed the most about your visit to AHP and why?
JCS: The people. Here we are welcomed with affection, with time, with class, even if in such a simple and close way. I also really like the spaces where I have stayed. There are truly wonderful houses and TheVagar is an excellent example. Last but not least, I really like the villages themselves, and especially the history, and the stories they carry with them. And there are so many of them!
4. We heard that you used one of the electric cars, made available for free by AHP, for your visit. Tell us more about this experience.
JCS: The free use of electric cars in AHP, comes under a project promoted by the entity "Historical Villages of Portugal", in partnership with the City Council of Fundão and Renault. The name of this project is "Sustainable Urban Mobility". I decided to go to the Lisbon Tourism Fair, the annual tourism fair that takes place at FIL, to ask for information and I went to the AHP stand, where I spoke with the AHP representative, Duarte Rodrigues. I told him exactly what I wanted to do, what my tastes were and asked him for a planning for my stay. That's when Duarte told me about the AHP Sustainable Urban Mobility project: in summary, I take my car, and as soon as I arrive in Castelo Novo, I park it and switch to a Renault Zoe, 100% electric, in which I move during my stay, free of charge. There is only this detail: I always have to pick it up and return it at the Castelo Novo Tourism Office. Since there are few cars available, it is essential to plan ahead in order to request them.
5. How would you rate the whole process from booking to using this method of transport?
JCS: I rate the process of booking and using the car as excellent, as long as the following premises are met: (i) request the car in advance; (ii) have a defensive driving style, know how to do a correct energy management and plan an eventual recharge of the battery, if necessary; (iii) and have the sensitivity to drive an electric and automatic car.
6. What made you stay at TheVagar and why?
JCS: When I asked Duarte Rodrigues, from AHP, to plan my visit, one of the first conditions I set was to be well installed, in a unit with few rooms, beautiful, where calm reigned and, if possible, they offered meals. I didn't know TheVagar, but Duarte and João Botão (also from AHP), this being the second time they were planning for me, already knew very well what my tastes were and, therefore, decided that TheVagar would fit me like a glove... and they weren't wrong!
7. Did the reality of what you found in this accommodation correspond to your expectations?
JCS: No. It has exceeded it by far!!! TheVagar is the combination of many variables, at its best: (i) the House itself, with its super cozy rooms, decorated simply, but with materials that exude quality; (ii) the common room of the House, beautiful, very intimate, where we are offered moments alone, for a simple reading, or moments together, either at breakfast, or in the 5 o'clock tea, which is kindly offered every day; (iii) the outdoor space, which is immense, super well cared for and allows for a panoply of activities, such as a dip in the pool, an outdoor Turkish bath, some massages at the altar of an improvised chapel, or a jeep ride through the property, offered by André; (iv) and, above all, the attention and care with which Marta, André and all their team treat their guests. We feel very welcome and realize that the whole team at TheVagar will do everything to make our stay unforgettable.
8. Do you consider that the Interior Centre of Portugal is, in fact, a good tourist destination?
JCS: Absolutely! Especially for people who, like me, avoid so-called "mass tourism". The points of interest in Centro de Portugal are many and diverse. They range from natural beauty to peace and quiet, history, gastronomy and, of course, the friendliness of its people.
9. If you could change anything these days, what would it be and why?
JCS: The only thing I can think of, would be for me to extend the stay!
10. Leave us four very practical suggestions to share with our readers, who intend to visit the Historical Villages of Portugal.
JCS: Here are my four suggestions:
1 - Contact, in due time, the entity "Historical Villages of Portugal" and ask them to plan your visit, saying, in general, what are your interests and objectives;
2 - Take guided tours in each of the villages, otherwise, you will miss history; there are companies that, at fair prices, conduct these tours, and, believe me, they make all the difference;
3 - Despite the plan, be flexible enough to change it if the opportunities that arise warrant it;
4 - Don't hesitate to strike up conversations with local people, as their politeness, friendliness and willingness to help is always there!