Portugal Laterally

Because I’ve always wanted to…

Issue 49 / August 2021
The view from Cacela Velha, Eastern Algarve
The view from Cacela Velha, Eastern Algarve

A lateral launch for late summer … and some lovely, lateral places in Portugal

Greetings – We do hope you have all had a wonderful summer despite us not being able to fulfil some of the wonderful holidays we planned for you back in the summer of 2020! The current government travel traffic light scenario has even managed to clip my wings so apart from a lovely 2 week trip to Portugal, details of which are below, it’s been staycation Devon for me. With long haul travel now totally restricted for the time being, our thoughts have turned closer to home where there are still so many fascinating places to visit. This e letter witnesses the official launch of Portugal, Sicily (Italy Laterally was launched earlier in May), Iceland, Greece and Andalucia, “LATERALLY”.  We are sticking to our “Lateral” philosophy so will be showcasing these countries in a different light to the flop and drop island/villas/golf holidays for which Portugal, Greece and Spain are deservedly so famous. For the second summer running Nico has spent July/August touring Italy uncovering all sorts of hidden gems. She is currently exploring Sardinia and if the pictures coming through on our Lateral_Life instagram feed are anything to go by, her latest finds are well worth looking at. Unfortunately I think it will not be until later this year before many of our favourite long haul destinations are moved into the amber zone and in turn they open their doors to us. With this in mind we have prepared a number of trip ideas that cater to the current long haul flight bans where hopefully you may find some ideas for a late autumn escape or adventure in the case of Iceland! These are Portugal, Sicily, Iceland, Greece and Andalucia, laterally (please click on the links to open up our travel ideas in more detail).

With all our best wishes,
The Lateral Team

Portugal
Vila Real de Santo Antonio
Vila Real de Santo Antonio

In Portugal most Brits head straight for the central Algarve, to the well-known hot spots of Vilamoura, Quinta do Lago or Vale do Lobo. These are great places for getting to the beach, hanging out in busy tourist-filled restaurants and golf, and of course Lisbon, probably the finest capital city in Europe, but there’s an awful lot more to Portugal.

In July, desperate for some serious sunshine, I headed to the old town of Faro to stay in an apartment for a week with lots of trips planned out to the nearby islands like Farol or Ilha Deserta and catching up with friends in the restaurants on Garrao beach near Vale do Lobo.  Not very lateral but a delightful change from the British weather.

Faro old town itself is utterly charming, a walled enclave steeped in history.  I stayed just outside the town wall and enjoyed strolling around and stopping here and there for a coffee or beer in one of the charming cafes and restaurants.  The port on the estuary is right outside another of the town gates.  From here you can get a water taxi or public ferry out to the islands.  Ilha Deserta is an old favourite but sadly its fantastic restaurant Estamine went up in flames earlier this year and had not yet been rebuilt.  One can still go to the beach there but taking a picnic is essential.  Instead we went to Farol Island, much busier but still small scale and not over developed.  Here there are beach bars where you can have a beer served to you on a sunbed before you head out to the waves.  There’s also an excellent restaurant, A-do-Joao, where they have really fresh fish and tasty oysters.

As the end of our week was coming up came the good news that the double-vaxxed could come back to England without the need to quarantine at home for 10 days.  An immediate decision was made to change our flights and come back a week later.  So where would we stay for those seven extra days in the sun?  As we were about to launch Lateral Portugal this was a great opportunity to explore some new places in this region of the country.  Below I shall share with you some of the lovely hotels where we stayed or visited in this time and before.

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Eastern Algarve: Herdade da Corte
Aerial view of Herdade da Corte
Aerial view of Herdade da Corte

Exploring the eastern Algarve was long overdue and our first stop was Herdade da Corte up in the hills above Tavira, another beautiful little seaside town on the long estuary running between land and sea here.  Herdade means ‘homestead’ and this is a really homely, relaxed place to stay.  The accommodation is simple yet comfortable  based in old agricultural buildings and wonderfully quiet at night.  It’s the outside which really makes this a special place though – the pool is superb!  It has views over the valley below and up and around the cultivated hills where cork and olive trees abound.  The terrace of the main building is a great spot for a glass of local wine in the evening and the hosts Joao and Francisco could not be more helpful.

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Vilacampina
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Vilacampina is a truly stunning boutique property with only 7 rooms but which punches above its weight.  Where to start?  It’s in a quiet agricultural area but only a short distance to the sea.  The chic Moroccan-inspired design of the building is perfect in every detail as are the extremely comfortable rooms and the gardens incorporate an olive grove plus plenty of lush greenery and bright bougainvillea.  The pool area is outstanding!  Sofia who is in charge goes the extra mile and more to make sure her guests are happy.

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Vila Monte Farm House
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Vila Monte Farm House has an exclusive country club feel about it. Totally refurbished recently, it offers top of the range villas, suites and rooms with everything you could want in terms of eating, drinking and generally enjoying yourself on holiday.  I can recommend very highly the A Terra restaurant where you can dine under the trees with some fantastic Portuguese food and wine.

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Grand House & Grand Beach House, Vila Real
Grand Beach House
Grand Beach House

Vila Real de Santo Antonio (pictured above in Portugal section) is a real find, a unique and beautiful old town set out on a grid pattern along the banks of the Rio Guadiana at the far end of the Eastern Algarve.  Across the river is Spain and in an hour you can drive to Seville.  Grand House is a stunning Belle Époque hotel, revived to a magnificent standard a year or so ago and by far the smartest hotel in this historical town.  It has its own beach club, the Grand Beach House, which is fabulous in every way; there’s a sheltered golden-sand beach, a pool with a view, sunbeds a-plenty and a fantastic, lively restaurant with superb seafood.

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Alentejo: Herdade da Malhadinha Nova
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First time in the Alentajo and I was amazed by the wild scenery, sweeping hills and endless blue skies.  Malhadinha Nova is surely the jewel in the crown, a massive vineyard and farm with a range of highly attractive accommodation options.  Lots to do here including, naturally, wine tasting, horse riding and mountain biking.  The chef Rodrigo Madeira e Vitalina Santos cooks outstanding food inspired by the local cuisine and using the organic produce grown on the estate – from the fields, vineyard, olive grove and pastures.

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Douro Valley: Quinta do Ventozelo/The Vintage House Pinhão/Six Senses
Vineyards on the banks of the Douro River
Vineyards on the banks of the Douro River

Porto is the starting point for a journey up the Douro river valley, one of Europe’s oldest and most beautiful wine regions.  A few years ago I took this journey by train and stayed at the gorgeous Six Senses Hotel.

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There’s also Quinta do Ventozolo, an idyllic and luxurious wine estate, or the Vintage House Hotel which boasts rural luxury and enjoys a tranquil riverside location at Pinhão in the authentic heart of the valley.

Up Periscope: Hotel Belvedere Bellagio, Lake Como
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There’s a Portuguese connection here as the two-island nation of Sao Tome & Principe is a former Portuguese colony.  It lies off the coast of Gabon, West Africa, and enjoys a wonderful tropical climate which is ideal to visit when the long gloom of the UK winter is upon us.

Fly into the busier of the two, Sao Tome, stay a night at Omali and then fly on to Principe which is surrounded by the finest golden sand beaches with magnificent, unspoilt virgin rainforest at its heart. Of the few places to stay, Sundy Praia is a totally luxurious beach resort nestled within the pristine jungle and Bom Bom is a long established favourite with a wonderful beach.  Why not combine a few days on the beach with a couple up in the hills on a former cacao plantation? Choose from Roca Sundy, or Roca Bela Monte from where you can take a helicopter trip around the island to view its magnificent topography from above.  Here’s an example trip.

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The view from Cacela Velha, Eastern Algarve

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