Luxury Hotels

PORTUGAL – 6

Staying at Six Senses Douro Valley shows how things can be done differently. The Wine Room’s best-selling chocolate mousse is made, individually, in a copper pan, and with a dollop of coffee liqueur carefully placed on top. An Argentinian sommelier, Luciano, when asked for a Douro red to go with this suggested Lilipop 2020 Tinto Cão – and then, before this was entirely gone, Girlahead was brought, as if to cleanse the palate, the tiniest half-bite pastry pouch holding an egg yolk, with a glass of Kopte brandy. For general drinking, incidentally, Luciano says the area’s best red is Casa Ferreirinha Barca Velha 2011.

Yes, they do everything differently here at this very satisfactory wellness resort. Meals are simply laid, perhaps with blue-edged white Costa Nova china. Bread rolls, always irresistible, be they chocolate, olive, water or whatever, are brought in a box, with little bowls for olives, and olive oil poured from long-spouted metal containers, already on tables. And there’s hommus, right? Wrong, the dip is made of lupin beans, part of the diet of the Ancient Egyptians and the Romans – today the beans are still cultivated around the Mediterranean, and in Australia.

While still talking food, this is a good chance to point out that one of the resort’s projects is financing a start-up to collect unused food from the region’s restaurants to be given to the needy. Before signing with Six Senses, property owners must agree that 0.5% of gross income goes to community help. Here, the hotel supports existing educational and other entities, and it has particular affinity for start-ups.

Although Douro Valley is now one of the more mature Six Senses, it’s remarkably up to date and has, by the way, evolved sustainability to a more understanding level. There are no more ‘re-use signs’ in bedrooms than you find in any other five-star hotel – and the bedlinens are absolutely superb, top class (a far cry from the cheap-feel linens in a so-called ‘sustainable’ hotel in Denmark, which also has no bedroom slippers). Six Senses Douro Valley rooms have everything you want, including waffle robes and straw slippers.

And some rooms have remarkably special fittings. There are two Pool Villas, one one bedroom, the other two bedrooms.  Both have working fireplaces inside, and outdoor heated lap pools. Room #554 has a large outdoor area, below, with dining for six and, just out of sight to the right, a really hot wood jacuzzi. Indoors, the sitting room, with all-wall windows into the vineyard, has a zapper-operated pull-down media screen with ceiling-set projector.  And, bliss oh bliss, there’s a Terragun for whirring on tired muscles after many hours’ hiking the hills. It’s easy to understand why a forever-young lady from Louisiana travelled all the way to Douro Valley.