L’AND VINEYARDS RESORT, ALENTEJO
In a region where black pigs still roam free under oak trees and storks nest on ancient bell towers, a striking new hotel has opened in a series of low-slung, white, modernist buildings set among vineyards. The warm, earth-toned interiors by Brazilian architect Marcio Kogan are dominated by wood and slate, with bespoke pieces such as a distinctive bench by George Nakashima.
The 22 wonderfully spacious L’AND View and Sky View rooms emphasise the natural, with wooden-slatted walls, raw textiles and huge baths crafted in slate. The technology is up-to-date, with iPads and iPod docks; in the Sky View Suites, ceilings roll back electronically to reveal the starry night sky. In the restaurant, chef Miguel Laffan uses great local ingredients – sheep’s cheese, porco preto horse mackerel – to produce sophisticated knock-outs, such as shrimps encrusted with threads of batter. The sommelier hosts tastings of the vineyards’ own, very drinkable red Reserva and there is a restful Vinothérapie Spa by Caudalíe.
AREIAS DO SEIXO, COSTA DE PRATA
Tired of never finding a hotel they liked, Marta Fonseca and Gonfalon Laves set about creating one, 30 minutes’ drive north of Lisbon. They wanted it to be environmentally friendly, and small enough to feel like a home. With an unerring artistic eye, they have incorporated driftwood from the beaches into their designs and built around trees where necessary (my bathroom had an olive tree in the middle of it) in 14 bedrooms which use geothermal energy and solar power. Each is decorated differently: some suggest Marta’s maternal Cape Verde home, others the African savannah. All have polished cement floors and pebble walls, soft quilts and open fires or wood-burning stoves. From your private wooden deck you can gaze at the distant blue ocean. The warm atmosphere created by the owners emanates throughout the hotel. It is reflected in the home-cooked food served in the bare-board-chic restaurant, the campfire evenings when guests can gather as Marta plays the guitar, and the honesty bars. There is a garden, a greenhouse where lemongrass is grown for home-brewed tea, a swimming pool and a spa. A private path takes you across the cliffs and down to the beach. Magical.
BELA VISTA HOTEL & SPA, ALGARVE
This 19th-century beauty on magnificent Praia da Rocha was converted from a private house into the first hotel to open on the Algarve, in 1934. Although now hemmed in by concrete monstrosities, it nonetheless retains its prime beachfront position, and once you are through the high, wrought-iron entrance gates it is impossible not to get swept up by its century-old charms. The bar and sitting areas in the main building, which also has 11 bedrooms, feel delightfully like a jewel-box, encrusted with old-fashioned artifacts. The original decor includes painted, wooden ceilings and wonderful wall tiles; for a recent refurbishment the acclaimed designer Grace Vitter has used bold colors and striking materials to create a Miami-meets-the-Mediterranean (via the Atlantic) feel. In the grounds is a six-bedroom villa, Casa Azul, and a new, two-storey extension with a further 20 bedrooms overlooking the chic swimming pool framed by stately palms. A gorgeous L’Occitane spa – another impressive Viterbo design – opened in March, and innovative Portuguese dishes by chef Rogério Calhau, such as fennel gazpacho with a prawn tartare and red mullet with saffron potatoes, can be munched on while watching the waves wash in.
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