We were delighted to win the January Prize draw to Evora, Portugal. We looked forward to a relaxing break in a country we were not familiar with. We went for the stress free option to get there, flight from our nearest airport, Birmingham and hotel transfer from Lisbon to the hotel. However, there was no direct flight we had to go via Brussels which meant two times through security and two waits – we spent longer in airports than flying!
Our transfer taxi was waiting for us – and our Portuguese adventure got off to a smooth start. The weather was sunny and I enjoyed seeing the countryside as we drove to the hotel. The main features were field of vines, olives and cork (oak) trees. Road verges and fields were bleached to a pale golden colour, building white with details picked out in deep yellow or blue. I sighted a flock of pink flamingos, egrets and white storks. The storks were nesting on pylons, I counted 19 nests on one, making it look like a giant, decorated Christmas tree!
The hotel was 108km from the airport, which took just over an hour to travel, the roads were very quiet. We arrived at the city of Evora,(see separate entry) and our hotel was situated near the city walls and overlooking a aquaduct (hence the name of the hotel).
The outside of the hotel looked plain, except for three Manueline style windows. This is a typical Portuguese style which peaked in the reign of King Manuel 1 (15th century), featuring plain columns and decorated, carved tops. The courtyard, by contrast had modern, simple but stylish lights on the wall. This summed up the hotel, it was a blend of the old and new. The old part was a 16th century palace, and the extension was modern, but in a very sympathetic style.
The original chapel was used as the dining area. It had domed, vaulted ceilings (one painted) and plain grey walls. Some internal walls were glass, so maximizing light and keeping the intimacy of small eating areas. A feature was an original well, with grid cover and an old carpet, sewn from pieces and muted red patterned floral design. The furniture was modern and very simple in style, with a lavender flower (artificial, but in water!) on each table, and a candle in a purple glass cube shaped container.
The reception area linked the old to the new, physically and in style. One end had a domed ceiling, and this was reflected in the curved ceiling lights and curved, spherical chairs. The main bedrooms were on two sides of a corridor, and two floors. The colours matched the old building – white, greys and brown, and the style was very simple. It reminded me of a 3D Mondrian painting, but in neutral shades rather than primary colours. The corridor began with tall glass windows, overlooking the garden, which caste shadows of rectangular shapes onto a stone coloured floor with deep brown carpets, divided into rectangles too.
The bedrooms looked to have floor to ceiling wooden doors, an optical effect as there was a wooden panel above each door. Inside the room, the ceiling to floor wooden effect hid a wardrobe, door to the bathroom and I think a mini bar (which was so well camouflaged we didn’t find it!) The bedroom walls were plain, except for two long narrow mirrors, a flat screen TV and a simple relief picture with a circular pattern, in white. The floor was wooden, deep brown as was all the woodwork. Grey was the colour for other simple bed room furniture, a splash of colour with a bright cushion. The bed was huge and extremely comfortable, down pillows and duvet I think. Crisp white sheets and pillowcases were changed every day.
The bathroom was large, with walk in shower, and a large bath as well as toilet and wash basin. There was a glass window between the bed and bathroom (with blind)! Deep red/orange wall tiles gave a warm feeling contrasting with fluffy white dressing gowns, white slippers and white towels.
The most important thing about the room was the very efficient air conditioning – essential with temperatures reaching 40C!
Our room was on the ground floor, overlooking the garden, and was very quiet. A door opened to a decking area with deckchairs. There was a low conifer border to each sitting area for privacy. We enjoyed sitting out, in the morning shade, but it got too hot in the afternoon. Goldfinches twittered in the trees; swifts, swallows and martins gave aerial displays of agility and white egrets lazily flapped across the blue sky. Lawn and a flower/shrub border were beyond the decking; lavender bushes alive with butterflies – large striped swallow tailed ones being quite spectacular. The deckchairs were very modern and stylish in design, but a bit tricky for the elderly to get in and out of!
A thick blind over the door cut out the morning light, so with a very comfortable bed as well, we awoke late each morning. Breakfast was delicious – a wide choice of fresh fruit juice and fruit, yogurt, cold meats/cheese/salmon, hot bacon/sausage/eggs etc. The pastry/cake selection was mouth watering, especially the light, flaky pastries with delicious fillings. Coffee with hot milk was really appreciated.
We were half-board, so ate in the hotel in the evening – in the dining room to start with, then outside as the weather got hotter. Dinner was a leisurely affair, taking two hours; so we resurrected the art of conversation, sadly neglected in our busy home lives! Dinner started with bread, olives, butter and soft cheese or pate, then a choice of starters, main course and desert. Dishes were local in style and I tried as much variety as possible, despite a jaded palette due to a cold. The food was well presented, living up to its gourmet label. There was a predominance of spicy and flavoured food, and I found my stomach wishing for something plain and light!
The hotel had a swimming pool with parasols and loungers around the edge. There were not many people using it – the water was deep except for along one edge, so a none confident swimmer might have felt uncomfortable, definitely a pool to swim in not splash in. There was a children’s pool as well.
There was a bar and lounge too, shady and comfortable for pre dinner drinks.
The hotel had a health spa where I enjoyed a relaxing head massage, with soft music.
Tour advice was given at reception, and a trip to a nearby village was recommended and arranged for us with an English speaking guide, which was very interesting.
The hotel staff were all very friendly and spoke English. I was especially impressed by a young man in reception who saw me taking photographs and gave me a conducted tour of parts of the hotel to photograph!
We enjoyed our week there, and appreciated the nearness of the old, historic town. (I have written a separate review on Evora). I would recommend the hotel for travellers that want luxury and an interesting place to explore on foot. For those with cars it would make an excellent base for discovering the region.