Lifestyle

Portugal’s New Douro 41 Luxury Hotel Is Changing The Douro Travel Experience


It was the desk that made me fall hopelessly in love with Douro 41, a newish hotel in the north of Portugal. (I’ve been working in hotels for nearly two decades, since long before it became fashionable, so humor me.) In far too many places, the desk is shoved into a corner of a beautiful hotel room, facing a boring white wall instead of the room’s incredible view. 

At Douro 41 it was the opposite. The desk—plenty big enough to spread out my notes and papers—sat in front of a solid wall of glass, one of two in the room. Beyond that glass is the magnificent landscape of the Douro River and Douro Valley. Sometimes I watched the river cruises drift by. Others, I just appreciated the shimmer and sunlight sparkles. My companion had all these ideas about going for hikes and swims, but mostly I just wanted to sit at the desk and look up from my computer and watch the world outside the window.

Granted, I am a big nerd. And it’s actually my job to write in hotel rooms. Most people who check into a hotel like Douro 41 will be there to relax, not to work. But I’m rambling on about the desk because it’s an example of how important the views of the landscape are, and how intelligently the hotel is designed to capitalize on them. 

The hotel is a project from Discovery Hotel Management, part of investment fund that buys distressed properties around Portugal and brings them back to life. It was in 2019 that they finished their complete revamp of the resort hotel that’s just about an hour outside of Porto. The oldest parts date from the 1700s, when it was a riverside farm and trading port for wine and fireplace wood. 

Discovery also expanded the hotel, adding a series of rooms that are built into the hillside and have the best views. They’re reached by a bumpy funicular, something they’re spinning as part of the adventure and experience. 

Or perhaps one could see it as the prelude to a bigger adventure and experience, the Paiva Walkways, a 5.4-mile circuit on elevated walkways that’s about an hour away in the Arouca district, and the region’s newest attraction, the 516 Arouca bridge. At 516 meters (about 1,700 feet), it’s the longest pedestrian suspension bridge in the world. 

Of course, if the funicular is too much, one can always stay in the lower part of the hotel, or take the stairs. After all, the experience is meant to be relaxing. 

That relaxation often takes the form of contemplating nature and its peace and quiet, whether from the guest rooms, one of the three swimming pools, or along the riverside walking trails that depart from the hotel. The landscape is more forest than vines, as the hotel is closer to the Atlantic coast than to the terraced vineyards that the Douro Valley is known for. (It’s not actually in the Douro wine region, but rather in the Vinho Verde region, which doesn’t really mean anything go guests, beyond explaining the origin of the house wine.)

General manager Duarte Gonçalves da Cunha assures me that this isn’t a liability. “We’re just different from a quinta (winery) hotel,” he says, noting that guests typically combine a stay at one of those with some time at his property. “There’s no visual impact of vineyards, so we don’t sell ourselves as a wine experience.

“But,” he continues “we have 83 or 84 port wine references. That’s the most you would see outside the Yeatman,” the famously luxurious wine-themed hotel and two-Michelin-star restaurant in the port warehouse district of Vila Nova de Gaia, just across the river from Porto. 

They also have a knowledgeable and enthusiastic sommelier, Bernardo Pinho, who leads wine tastings on request and oversees the pairings and impressive wine list at the generally impressive fine dining restaurant, Raiva (named for a nearby town). Chef Dárcio Henriques grew up on a farm and gained a deep love for the land and the things it produces.

In between his childhood and now, he worked with Joël Robuchon in Paris, opened the first Portuguese restaurant in Shanghai, and earned a Michelin star as the team leader at Céleste at London’s Lanesborough hotel. (The only Portuguese to win a star abroad that year.) But for this project closer to home (he signed on as executive chef in September), it’s still the local products that inspire him. 

The 41 in the hotel’s name refers to its position on the river, at kilometer 41. Every dish on the menu at Raiva includes a number the correlates to its location, both in Portugal and deep into Spain. The Atlantic sea bass, which is served with cauliflower purée and fish velouté, comes from kilometer 1, while the wonderfully autumnal mushrooms that are served with a crispy low-temperature egg come from kilometer 48. 

Granted there are a few stretches, like the 123 that refers to the accompanying chard rather than the salmon that stars in that dish, but it’s still a worthwhile dish. I was a particular fan of the 897-located cheese plate, that featured cheeses from the length of the river valley. And in a nod to the times and the hotel’s international guests, there’s a fully vegetarian version of the five-course menu, which is still closely connected to the river. 

Also connected with the river is the ideal way to arrive and depart from the hotel. Douro 41 has partnered with Invictus Cruises to transport guests by boat from Vila Nova de Gaia, past the most colorful neighborhoods and architectural bridges of Porto, and upstream to the hotel’s jetty. It’s even better than looking out my hotel room window.



Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

close