Sunday evening, I arrived back home absolutely rested, really revitalised. The culprit, a Friday to Sunday break at the Six Senses Resort and Spa in the Douro Valley. It felt more like five days, away from traffic, noisy spots, loud music in stores, the worst parts of city life. It was calm, soothing and serene, three days of dolce far niente, and eating great food and drinking excellent wines.
The drive from Lisbon is untroublesome, even in the rain and wind. We just stopped for lunch at a very small and traditional place called Casa Armenio in Montemor-o-Velho as it's worth the little detour. Humble, wholesome food, the speciality being roast duck, reared just outside the restaurant. The queijadas de Tentugal are beyond compare, and you should take some home.
From the side of the hill, the first view of the resort is out of this world, a gorgeous 19th century manor house nestled in a valley, surrounded by gardens, vineyards and the Douro river. Arriving at reception, bold in its use of earthy materials, like wood, stone and leather, I felt a soothing and cocooning effect straight away. The staff was super helpful and five minutes later we'd already decided to do a 2 1/2 hour walk on Saturday morning as suggested. Dinner was a casual, light affair, after the filling lunch, in front of a roaring fireplace. Soon we crashed into the softest bed, under a weightless duvet in the most cottony, caressible sheets into a heavenly sleep.
Breakfast was gargantuan, perfect for me, and I sampled it all! Homemade bread, yoghurt, cakes and savouries, delicious fruits and juices, cheeses and hams, pancakes and waffles, and the list goes on...
Breakfast is served in the old kitchen, an immense area, with some of its old equipment on view.
The walk we did was around 10 km's, and it runs along the river for a while, then it's up, up, up, to the top of the hill, then one starts to descend. It's relatively easy, and although the climbing is the equivalent of walking up 171 flights of stairs, the views are so worth it.
Lunch was well deserved, what with the homemade bread, based on the recipe from consulting chef Ljubomir Stanisic's mother Rosa, exquisite olive oil from the region, and of course wine!
A lazy afternoon followed, walking through the property, the two vegetables gardens, the pool area, a bit of swimming in the immense indoor pool, switching from sauna, to turkish to the herbal sauna, the spa is wonderful. I found a chaise-longue, wrapped myself in a terry dressing gown, and read a good book.
Dinner was going to be an apocalyptic affair, as promised by Chef Ljubomir and it did not disappoint. A degustation, light, very little protein, essentially fish and mostly greens straight from the garden, in various forms and ways, combining traditional flavours in rare and uncommon structures. An ultra sensorial experience, with a faultless pairing of wines, I was the happiest person on earth, relishing every moment.
Sunday, little time left, but still on a hedonistic, self-indulgent note, no visit to a Six Senses Spa would be complete without a treatment of some sort. Suffice it to say that the massage was out of this world and I genuinely managed to unwind.