[Outside Santa Cruz, Portugal] — It’s the smells that hit you first…
After pulling into a sparse car park, no sign of life. You walk up to the huge, heavy wood doors — all big and Asian-y and intimidating, makes you feel like a bible salesman at Larry Ellison’s house — and they’re locked.
Oh no, are they closed? Did I get the date wrong?
Then you notice the small buzzer. And buzz. A big clanking noise and the antique rusted door latch opens up for you and the big door swings open.
And that’s when the smells hit. Wood fire. Strong rosemary. A waft of lavender. A swirling stiff breeze of scents that coarse through the gap and wallop your nose with calm.
Okay, this is it.
And then you notice the small signs. Handwritten, in chalk, in that beautiful Euro cursive. Missives. All over. On posts. On tables. On the hunk of tree that serves as the Reception. Fresh, bright flowers buttonhole every nook and cranny. It’s like waking through Père Lachaise and following the “Jim —>” signs.
It’s sensory overload at first. The scents. The textures. The colors. The sweet voices. You have to focus just to gain balance. And start to notice things.
Okay, this is going to be good…
And then you turn around and the lobby looks like THIS:
Well, really, the lobby is a restaurant. Yep, this place is going to be juuuuust fine.
Areias do Seixo is the hotel name. I don’t know what that means, but I like it.
I think you’re going to like this place…
I’d never read anything about this part of Portugal, always have only heard about the beaches of the Algarve. I’ve seen it referred to as many things, never the same thing twice. But basically “the Lisbon Coast”. But when I walked outside for the first time and down the path to the beach, I ha-ha-ha’d out loud at this sight:
It’s nice, this.
Sexy is the operative word here. This places oozes Sexy. Layers and layers of textures and colors. Inside and out. With one of the most stunning interior designs I’ve ever seen. Concrete. Steel. Glass. Flowers. Wood. Furr. It’s like what New York City’s ABC Home would look like if they built a hotel. (please do @abccarpetandhome !)
As you’d expect for a hotel with its own working farm, they celebrate food. And boy do they celebrate at Areias do Seixo.
What’s the coolest is that it’s a hotel wrapped around a restaurant wrapped around a farm. You’ve heard of farm-to-table, but this is like bringing the table-to-farm (beds, too!). All situated on a stunning cliff overlooking the crashing Lisbon Coast.
“This isn’t a farm-to-table restaurant, this a bringing-table-to-farm restaurant.”
After the glorious breakfast — of fresh eggs laid rightthere — the chefs trickle in. Stocks begin to simmer, filling the whole lobby with intense flavors. Menus are planned, plucked right from the garden. The chopping of the daily prep echoes throughout the lobby.
Service begins. And the call-and-response chorus of “Yes, chef!” sing-songs you into anticipation of the first course.
Grown here. Cooked here. Eaten here. Kinda cuts the whole farm to table thing down to just feet.
The rooms are all stacked up the hill. Definitely spend to have the ocean view. I tried, but everything was booked. But I really wanted to stay so rented one of their townhouses in the back for not much more money. They are privately owned, but the hotel manages them. They are great for a family — sleeping in many bedrooms and floors — but they have a completely different feel than they other hotel rooms in the main building — you HAVE to check out the website and links below. The rooms are even cooler looking than the lobby.
The great boutique hotel website Mr & Mrs Smith listed Areias do Seixo as one of the Top Ten Sexiest Hotel Rooms in the world. I will book more in advance next time.
Last visited April 2015.
Areias do Seixo is about 35 minutes north of Lisbon, so easy to get to if you land and want to get to the beach. This is a destination hotel, so there’s not much going on around the nearby area, although I hear Peniche is awesome and the coast of Sintra is supposed to be great with an amazing restaurant right on the water. But three or four days here, you never really want to leave.
Here is the hotels’ website: http://www.areiasdoseixo.com/en/hotel-overview.html
The dependable reviews from i-escape.com
The often contradictory reviews on Trip Advisor. Mr and Mrs Smith’s always awesome overview. And Tablet Hotel’s great site, which is where I found out about this place. A great review in the UK Conde Nast Traveller site. Here’s an awesome video of the whole hotel on a site I’d never seen before. And a great overview in The Independent.
And just a fantastic story and overview from the amazing Nelson Carvalheiro — the king of all cool things in Portugal.
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