We all enjoy a little luxury in our lives, if only because it lets us relax. I sometimes think that the true luxury in such a holiday is the fact that for once, in our high pressured world of instant communication and rapidly expanding obligations, we are not responsible for anything more than ourselves. It makes quite a change to know that all we need do is make a polite request and friendly and efficient people will cater to our every whim.
Then again, some luxury hotels only have luxury to offer. Too often they are rather soulless boxes designed to take so many guests, running with the efficiency of machines and lacking in charm. Sometimes it’s difficult to know which country you are in, if the curtains are drawn.
I would much prefer my luxury hotel to have some integral character and for it to be typical of its country and culture. On a recent multi-centre trip to Portugal I was lucky enough to discover all about Pousadas, a whole string of hotels which were perfect for my tastes. In fact it was almost as if they had been designed with my specifications in mind!
The holiday started in the Algarve, always a favourite destination of mine, and the hotel we stayed in there soon became a new reason for loving the place. It was in the quiet old town of Tavira and has once been a convent of all things. It was the Convento de Graca and it stood on Tavira’s castle hill. The service and the facilities were all that you would expect from a luxury hotel and the building seemed to have retained an atmosphere of quiet devotion from its original function.
We next went to Faro and there stayed in the Palacio de Estoi, a Victorian building that had been tastefully renovated when it became a hotel. This was certainly no purpose built box that could have been in anywhere from London to Los Angeles, but was a definite Portuguese Palacio set in many acres of fig orchard and olive trees. Again the service was excellent and again there was the atmosphere typical of the Algarve.
Next item in the itinerary was a visit to Sagres and a stay there in the magnificent Infante hotel perched on top of its cliff with a view of the famous lighthouse at Cape St Vincent, which is as far south west as you can go and still stay in Europe. I will long remember the bright blue vistas over land and ocean. I need hardly add that the service was almost as good as the view.
I’m not sure if I can remember a better series of hotels in a single holiday. When it comes to luxury hotels that offer the best service and facilities while retaining a strong idea of their native country, culture and history, then the Portuguese seem to have the rest of us beaten.
Chris Hughes learnt all about Pousadas on a recent trip to Portugal.