After a fraught day of flying – and be warned, Faro airport needs to sort its immigration out; it is all very well having a brand new terminal, run by French company Vinci – only having three immigration officers does not make for happy arrivals. Those three merely glanced, briefly with no scanning, at thousands of passports. And tourists are coming to Portugal’s Algarve in ever-increasing numbers. 7.6 million flew into Faro in 2016, up 18.5% on 2015, and this year will be even busier. Thomas Schoen, Complex GM for Luxury Collection’s three hotels at the massive Pine Cliffs Resort, was understandably happy when the gal caught up with him (he is likely to close September 2017 at 90% occupancy).
The complex was lovingly conceived, master-designed and expanded by a Kuwaiti entrepreneur, Jassim Al-Bahar, who saw this 72-acre, pine-studded site clifftop above one of the most beautiful beaches of the far-east Atlantic (above), and bought it. Over the years it has, now led by his son Talal Al-Bahar, expanded to a total of 733 units ranging from single rooms to three-room apartments. The three Luxury Collection properties are the doyen, 217-room Pine Cliffs Hotel, and, slightly younger, 155-unit Pine Cliffs Residences and the 2016-vintage top-end 150-unit Pine Cliffs Ocean Suites. I stayed in suite 401 at the far end of the Suites and it was totally gorgeous, almost Beverly Hills with no need for opulence because of the all-wall windows over big terraces to pines below, and blue ocean beyond – see a video, below.
Hugo, the charming head concierge, came in specially on a Sunday morning to drive me around the whole estate in a buggy, and we then went on to a tile tour. Pine Cliffs Hotel is literally a gallery of Portugal’s gorgeous tiles, which apparently were copied from pictures made up of smaller tiles, in Spain. The Portuguese tile industry, sadly, is in decline – here, every one of the hotel’s bedrooms has a tile bedhead and there are 40 tile pictures, on corridor walls, showing regional dress around Portugal. All the tilework here came from C. Constancia, which has now gone out of business. At least the pieces that are here will not go out of use: the colours are baked in, forever, and being fixed to walls means they are not likely to get broken.
The facilities here are really outstanding, with a nine-hole golf course, an Annabel Croft tennis academy, a soccer field that sometimes hosts pop-up conference tents, lots of swimming pools, indoor and out, and masses of eating and drinking venues, plus a minimart for those who want to self-cater. My room – sorry, suite – had a Siemens kitchenette leading off the eight-seat dining end of the massive living room. Like all the units in this particular luxury hotel, and those in the Residences, it is owned, which means that the clever investor who bought suite 401 has 25 weeks a year of its use, for free. Go cruising for the other half of the year and you would not need a home anywhere else… and, when you are here, you have THE BEACH. Read on, tomorrow, but first SEE THE VIDEO OF MY SUITE, BELOW