There is something about Portuguese architects. How is it that this relatively tiny country of 10 million people has produced 2 Pritzker Prize winners and dozens of top flight architects and designers? It’s a land known for its wine, beaches and food, but the design skills of its people are some of the best on earth.
Acute Sense of Design
This new hotel (which we paid for with no incentives from the hotel) about an hour and a half south of Lisbon, is an extraordinary testament to what a cool modern 5-star hotel can look like when in the hands of a brilliant architect and an enlightened owner.
Every angle, every vista, every corner is done with an acute sense of design. Whereas so many hotels at this level drop into a pit of pompous, poofy, late-20th-century lux, this one gets it right — stimulating, satisfying and serene.
The hotel was designed by renowned Portuguese architect Miguel Câncio Martins. It is a model of serenity overlooking a vast, vivid green carpet of rice fields that rival those of Bali. By covering most of the grounds with white sand, it gives the same serene eye candy one appreciates from a winter scene, except that it is a temperate 75 degrees. This temperature is something to note, as during the time we were there, most of the Mediterranean region was broiling at 100F+ temperatures.
Utterly Delightful Food
Off the restaurant building is a glorious long rectangle of a clear-glass-walled pool. The blue of the pool with the green fields behind it is worth the visit in itself. However, the food is no slouch. The chef is excellent, some of the very best food we have had in all of Europe. If you like this sort of thing, and on vacation we certainly do, go for the remarkable “chocolate sand” dessert. Utterly delightful and unlike anything we have ever had.
Everything in One Place
The use of materials throughout the buildings has a natural and health-forward vibe, a viewpoint echoed throughout the property services. There are a couple of pools, one of which is a heated indoor-outdoor pool. Steam rooms, nice gym, sauna, massage…and a terrific sense of calm. In spite of being just 5 minutes from the beach, we did not leave the property for the first 24 hours.
But what about the staff, as good design and good intentions are all fine, but it is the people experience that really makes it. Thoughtful, caring and knowledgable was our experience. Any request we made was accommodated. When one day there was maintenance work being done and the gym was unavailable, the manager offered to accompany me on a run to the beach. This stunningly kind and thoughtful gesture sums up how one is treated here.
A Beach of One’s Own
The beaches and the town of Comporta in late June are what I would imagine East Hampton circa 1965, or Ibiza 1970, would have been like — sleepy, hip, and charming. The beaches themselves are endless dunes, totally empty of people. Why is no one here? Perhaps in August they are, but when we were here on a glorious week the end of June and early July, it was semi-deserted.
The word is that there are a number of jet set types who have homes here. If there are, we didn’t pick up any of that sort of entitled vibe that often accompanies that crowd. The people we met in the shops, the tiny town and in the restaurant could not have been nicer. As we have written before, the Portuguese are a generous and peaceful people.
We had a very large room with a great view for $260/night which included both of our excellent breakfasts. Will we be back? One can only hope.