Six Senses started with a no-shoes and rough-driftwood clothes hangers image but now, under new ownership, and two amazing and highly-respected leaders – Bernhard Bohnenberger and Neil Jacobs – it has discarded cheap-chic for natural luxury. It is also moving into the urban resort category. This July, it opened Six Senses Douro Valley, a conversion, with an entre-acte as an independent hotel that is best forgotten, of a 19th century vineyard quinta, in the Lamego area 90 minutes’ drive east of Oporto. From the property’s immaculate and fruitful organic garden, which produces all the herbs needed as well as eggplant and other vegetables, and rye and wheat grass for the spa, the gal looked back up at the main house. Oh how the original owners would be impressed, today.
Clodagh Designs have achieved miracles inside. All 57 rooms in the main block are soothing taupe shades, with masses of natural wood, soft cashmere and tweeds – I loved room 406, which has a central bathtub, and is one of two to have a sizeable terrace looking down to the C-shaped building’s main courtyard, and out, around 360 degrees, to working vineyards. There are also, by the way, seven separate letting villas, ideal for families. The third floor, at the courtyard level of the main block, is free flow from library to one wine room to bar to dining room to show kitchen with traditional range to yet another wine room. You might get waylaid by snooker, or board games, in the bar, or by paired tastings in a wine room. At the breakfast buffet, which is mainly in the show kitchen, you definitely get diverted by checking cold cuts in a wine room.
It is not often that I rave about a spa shop but I do here – look how superbly the quality products are displayed. The spa itself is also sensational. It has a full-size indoor pool, complementing the year-round outdoor pool, where you look around, any direction, at finely-terraced vineyards as you finish your laps. The spa’s ten rooms have all-wall windows looking into private gardens. Have an Organic Pharmacy facial, as I did, and thanks to a really skilled local therapist I felt better than I had for ages. This is, indeed, a hotel for feeling better. Every time you go up and down in the one elevator, of two, that rises to the eighth, top, floor reception, you look through the cabin’s glass walls down to the Douro River a few minutes away with all those vineyards around.
As should be standard with all luxury hotels, the gym, a combination of LifeFitness and Technogym, is 24/7 but I started my day with a pre-dawn walk through the vineyards. Yes, this was tricky, but the light of the moon helped. In the gym itself, I was touched by the provision and display of fruit, matching the top of the water jug. The hotel makes all its own water, and as well as its organic garden its environmental initiatives also include supporting a home for donkeys retired, a couple of decades ago, from patiently working those vineyard terraces (the hotel, led by a long-time Four Seasons GM, Nick Yarnell, also supports sponsoring and mentoring bright school kids from under-privileged backgrounds). And now, dear reader, it is time for some REAL exercise….