LOOK's Digital Lifestyle Editor Anna Duff revisits a childhood holiday destination to see the country through adult eyes...
I have fond memories of visiting Portugal at the age of nine. I can picture myself splashing about in warm seas, skipping down cobbled streets and eating ice cream in tucked-away cafés.
Idyllic, sure. But am I just remembering the country through the rose-tinted fuzziness of childhood? Almost 20 years later, it’s time to find out.
My family and I holidayed in the Algarve, staying in a villa in the freguesia of Boliqueime (yes, I did ring my mum to check that). My first destination is in the same area, although a little further along the coast in the fishing village of Carvoeiro.
I’m booked into Tivoli Carvoeiro, which overlooks the ocean on the Vale Covo cliffside. The views of beaten crags and azure waters are stunning, and the hotel has recently undergone an impressive renovation. It now boasts 5* rooms, a spa and new restaurants and bars.
While the hotel is undeniably gorgeous, I need a good balance of relaxing and exploring to really feel like I’m making the most of being away. Happily, there are plenty of excursions on offer here. You can take on the 7 Hanging Valleys Trail, which involves an 11.4k walk along the winding coastline. For ease, Tivoli will set you up with a guide. Fábio from Algarfun was wonderful, explaining the geography and pointing out the flora and fauna as we hiked alongside secluded beaches.
After that, you may want to head further inland for a bit of time out. What better way to celebrate being on holiday than visiting local winery Quinta da Vinha and enjoying a wine tasting session? FYI, I was all over the red.
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For more indulgence, stroll down to Tivoli’s aforementioned spa. With a sauna, steam room and tranquil relaxation area, you hardly need a treatment to achieve a Zen-like state. Saying that, the full-body massage took almost every stressful thought out of my head, and my therapist really listened when I told her which areas I’d like her to focus on.
Feeling hungry? You’re in luck. Quite frankly, the food here is incredible. Tivoli’s The One Wine Boutique is a gourmet gem, describing itself as ‘following the shape of a pyramid, with Portugal in the lead, French technique and Asian minimalism as supports’. If you’re a fan of seafood, I fully recommend the lobster ravioli. The Azur Bar serves up mouthwatering tapas (see below) and on the chic roof terrace, you can relax with a cocktail at the Sky Bar.
Now that I’m not constrained by parental itineraries, I’m keen to travel around a little. It’s on to Lisbon, the capital of Portugal and somewhere I’ve never been before. After hearing friends talk of lively bars and street art, I’m excited to see a more metropolitan side to the country.
I’m checking into another Tivoli hotel, Tivoli Avenida Liberdade, which gives off an elegant art deco vibe. Established in 1933, it’s located in the heart of Lisbon, on the central Avenida da Liberdade. It’s recently opened a brand new Anantara Spa, where I treated myself to an invigorating but spiritual massage.
Two in one week. Tough life, eh?
You may not expect to see a tuk tuk outside of Asia (or, y’know, Oxford Street), but one of the best ways to learn about Lisbon is by hopping on one and riding through the city. Ask to be taken to the hilltop suburb of Graça, where you can snap dreamy pictures of the colourful buildings, Tagus river and Golden Gate-style 25 de Abril Bridge.
If you prefer to keep your feet on terra firma, Tivoli can help you pick from a number of walking tours. We chose the Vintage Tour, which taught us both about the country’s important history – it was under a dictatorship until 1974 – as well as showing us some of Lisbon’s oldest shops and eateries. Make sure you stop off for a Pastel de nata, the famous Portuguese custard tart.
Of course, you don’t want to go straight to bed when the sun sets. While there are hundreds of bars and restaurants to try, there’s no need to leave your hotel to find fine food and drink. Within Tivoli is Cervejaria Liberdade, which is an utter joy for the tastebuds. Again specialising in seafood, the fresh king crab and mussels are genuinely up there with some of the best I’ve ever had. Later on, look out over twinkling nighttime Lisbon in a sister Sky Bar.
After this trip, I’m adding so many other parts of Portugal to my bucket list. But as far as I can tell, these are two of the best places to start if you want to get a rounded experience of the country.
Do they live up to my pre-teen expectations? Actually, I think they do.
Nightly rates at Tivoli Carvoeiro start from 120€/£106 for a double room on a B&B basis. For more information, click here.
Nightly rates at Tivoli Avenida Liberdade Lisboa start from 200€/£177 for a double room on a B&B basis. For more information, click here.