SÃ£o LourenÃ§o do Barrocal hotel - Monsaraz, Portugal
Heritage is at the centre of SÃ£o LourenÃ§o do Barrocal, a farmworkers' community turned five-star hotel in Portugalâs utterly rural Alentejo region. JosÃ© AntÃ³nio Uva is the eighth generation of his family to own the estate and his loving rejuvenation of the long-abandoned buildings has brought them back to life in delightfully understated style.
Transforming the derelict buildings took fourteen years thanks to complex planning restrictions and JosÃ© AntÃ³nioâs insistence on using only authentic building materials. All that effort has been well rewarded. Portuguese Pritzker-winning architect Eduardo Souto de Mouro won the Gold Lion prize at Venice Biennale 2018 for his work on the project while the hotel itself has been garlanded with awards s ince opening in 2016.
Where is it?
Alentejo translates as âbeyond the Tagus,â a reference to Lisbonâs mighty river and the region extends east and south from the capital all the way to the Spanish border covering beaches, marshland, vineyards, forests of cork oak and white-washed villages. Itâs an undeveloped and unpopulated region: Alentejo makes up almost one third of Portugal yet has only 5 per cent of the countryâs population.
SÃ£o LourenÃ§o do Barrocal is one hour 45 minutes from Lisbon , two hours from Seville and three from Madrid, close to the hilltop village of Monsaraz. Most guests arrive via car from Lisbon airport or Ãvora train station.
Contemporary and contemplative. Outside, walls are white-washed, just as they would have been in 1820 when Barrocal was built. Interiors are blissfully fuss-free, concentrating on high quality fabrics and utilitarian furniture appropriate for the rustic setting. Wooden beds have Egyptian cotton sheets and thick wool blankets weaved in Portugal, floors are covered in beautifully faded pale terraco tta tiles and interior colours are uniformly white with woodwork in calming Farrow and Ball sage green.
With Eduardo Souto de Mouro as lead architect, ably assisted by JosÃ© AntÃ³nioâs architect wife as interior designer, the overall style was always going to have a monastic minimalism. But it is the family heritage that adds the unmistakable soul. JosÃ© AntÃ³nio has hand-picked black and white photographs and family documents relating to life on the estate over the past two hundred years to display around the hotel.
The award-winning light and zen-like spa reflects the âclean in body and mindâ ethos of Austrian ski care expert Suzanne Kaufman whose organic products are used throughout. Nearby thereâs a gym, Pilates and yoga room and cedarwood circular tub.
Outside there are two separate pools â" essential in the scorching summer heat - and a lap pool will be added next year. The hotelâs bikes are hugely popular with guests of all ages as a way of touring the estateâs 780 hectares of farmland.
Barrocal is within the worldâs first Starlight Tourism Destination, certified thanks to the fantastic lack of light pollution skies. Guests wr ap themselves in blankets to stargaze and on clear nights can spot the Milky Way.
A typical three or four-night stay gives guests time for a horse riding trek, a pottery workshop, a tour of beautiful hilltop Monsaraz or a hot air balloon ride over Alqueva, Europeâs largest artificial lake, all within twenty minutes of Barrocal. A little further afield Ãvora, Alentejoâs medieval capital, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with Roman ruins and a thirteenth century cathedral.
Most pleasures are simple ones in this most rural landscape. Ask the hotel to pack a picnic and cycle or walk through the fields, hunt out extraordinary Megalithic sites or join tweeters spotting over 100 species of birds.
Food & drink
Barrocal has a farm to table ethos, working with seasonal and organic produce. Menus feature typical farmerâs food accompanied by robust red wines and local whites: certified organic beef from grass fed cows, acorn-fed pigs and locally-caught pike perch.
There are two restaurants â" one by the pool with an emphasis on grilled meats and produce from the kitchen garden - with a third planned close to the former bullfighting ring. Breakfast, included in the room rate, is a not to be missed buffet with bowls of yogurt, local honey, cold meats and cheese, pastries and bread and eggs to order.
Rooms and two and three-bedroom cottages are in former barns, stables or cowsheds with 57 rooms in total.
Choose from Farm, Courtyard and Winery Rooms, all well-equipped including Nespresso machines, underfloor heating and air-conditioning. The cottages, some on two floors and some with private terraces, have separate kitchens.
Favourites include the two-bedroom cottages and 11, a Courtyard Room with wonderful views to Monsaraz.
Couples, families and groups of friends will all find plenty to do. Chi ldren are well cared for with their own menu, play area and swimming pool and can cycle around the working farm. It is also ideal for an indulgent spa break and popular with groups of cyclists riding on some of Europeâs most deserted roads and with international visitors combining a stay with a few days in Lisbon.
Double rooms from Â£165 a night including breakfast.
Join the Mr & Mrs Smith travel club to enjoy a best-price guarantee as well as a little something extra on arrival at every hotel. To book call 0330 100 3180 or go to mrandmrssmith.com .Source: Google News Portugal | Netizen 24 Portugal