THESE are busy days for Zara Phillips, what with her wedding to rugby player Mike Tindall in July, her cousin Will’s nuptials this week and training to compete in next year’s Olympics.
But judging by Zara’s choice of holiday home – a 220 sq m, four-bedroom villa with pool set on rolling Portuguese hills half an hour from Lisbon – this is one royal who knows how to relax.
Fittingly, the 29-year-old champion showjumper is investing in the new vineyards section of properties being developed by Eduardo Netto de Almeida, who is part of a dynasty of Portuguese horsemen and a friend of Phillips’ father, the Olympic gold medallist Captain Mark Phillips.
The site is CampoReal Golf Resort and Spa, a 200-acre development complete with five star hotel, health spa and 18-hole golf course. A riding school and equestrian centre on site was an obvious drawcard for Zara, who has also competed in the area.
But while the estate boasts its own royal lineage – it was once the private property of Portuguese monarchs who used it for hunting – it mixes a world of fine dining and pampered luxury with laid-back charm. Need a lift from the hotel to your apartment? The concierge will have you back in a jiffy in the golf buggy.
For a family holiday, staying at one of the spacious rented apartments linked to the hotel, CampoReal seemed to have as much to offer the children as we adults.
A massive outdoor pool, plus an indoor pool and tennis courts, school holiday kids’ club and organised bike rides ensure there is always something fun to do.
But the highlight for all of us was a chance to enjoy the ride at the neighbouring Centro Equestre (Equestrian Centre).
The centre, which stables around 40 horses, offers horse riding tuition for everyone from the novice (my children) to the experienced (my husband) and the very wary (me).
In a large, sunlit arena, husband and wife team Cuca and Miguel gently guided us through the basics, training us to sit straight and hold the reins correctly.
By the end of our individual lessons my husband was effortlessly jumping his horse, the children were grinning with delight as they went “round the world” (turning around in the saddle) and I had all but forgotten my previous horse riding nightmares of being thrown off and having your toes stamped on.
If you can drag yourself away from the relaxing atmosphere of CampoReal (or move too far after sampling the delights of the hotel’s wide-ranging breakfast buffet), the area, known as the Silver Coast, is a brilliant base for tourism.
Lisbon, the vibrant capital of Portugal, historic Sintra and Obidos and the beautiful beaches of Peniche, Praia de Santa Cruz and Ericeira are all within easy driving distance.
We spent a day walking the cobbled streets of Sintra, where the children eschewed the more obvious sights such as the grand Palacio Nacional de Sintra for a walk through a wooded national park and an audience with the “chicken man” and his noisy feathered friends, all named after world class footballers. Come lunch time, we followed an 80-year-old woman’s apparently guileless advice and found ourselves enjoying delicious and authentic Portuguese salted fish in a rather down-at-heel cafe cum shop. Who would suspect a woman of that age was a tout for the restaurant?
At Peniche, a cool surfing beach, we watched the action in the water, then enjoyed the simple delights of fossil hunting (the children) and photographing long shadows in the brilliant sunlight (me).
Then it was off to Obidos for a stroll through the charming winding streets, stopping at hillside shops to sample the local specialty, a cherry brandy, and admire the pottery.
Only a small tussle between my son and daughter over a toy sword outside one shop, which inevitably resulted in broken pottery, put a small dampener on our visit.
But even the pain of buying €45-worth of broken dishes was all but forgotten after an hour at CampoReal’s DiVine health spa.
True to the vineyard inspired name, it offers vinotherapy – a treatment that uses grape skins, grape oil and wine for their beauty and health benefits.
But I decided to stick to wine by the glass only, and opted for a heavenly hour-long back and shoulder treatment that left me floating on air.
Truly, with all the stresses of his country’s burgeoning debt, a potential bailout and his recent resignation, former Portuguese prime minister Jose Socrates could do worse than come here for a massage.
Chances are, of course, he has already been here. CampoReal is a popular venue for conferences and can host up to 550 people. During the time of our visit, a banking conference was underway.
And after unwillingly packing our bags and leaving CampoReal we looked out of our plane window to see US President Barack Obama’s Air Force One plane on the other side of the runway, having arrived for the NATO summit.
I’m sure Zara Phillips would agree – an hour or two of horse riding at CampoReal, followed by a groaning plate of fresh seafood at the formal restaurant Grande Escolha, would have been enough to banish all his worries about global economics.
RIDING: THE MENU
● Initiation class (30 min) €30
● Level 2 (1 hour) €50. Includes riding indoor on own, walk trot and gallop.
● Advanced (1h) €70. This includes jumping or advanced dressage, (including piaffe).
CAMPO REAL NEED TO KNOW
● CampoReal Golf Resort & Spa
tel: +351 261950050
● Double rooms from €88
● One bedroom apartments from £170,000 and two bedroom apartments from £190,000
● Three bedroom townhouses from £327,000
● Four bedroom villas from: £560,000
● For property enquiries call:
Premier Resorts on 020 8940 9406 or Hamptons International on 020 7963 0614