24-hour Room Service: Areias do Seixo, Portugal

 

The name Areias do Seixo roughly translates as "pebble beach", and the property plays to its rugged, coastal location with a motif of purity and nature. But Areias do Seixo's curveball is that it is a modernist glass and concrete construction on a protected patch of Portugal's Costa de Prata ("silver coast"), between Lisbon and Porto.

Equally as contrary is the fact that Marta Alves, its earth-mother-channelling co-owner, had been working for Pricewaterhouse-Coopers prior to opening the hotel in 2010.

But everything falls into place during the Circle of Fire when, most evenings, guests are invited by Marta and her husband, Goncalo, to join them on the cliff-top sand dunes in front of the hotel for a glass of wine and a sing-song around the campfire. If that sort of carry-on alarms you, bear with me, because Areias do Seixo is a place that challenges clichés.

Rather than have you running for the cliff edge, the Circle of Fire is a curiously charming experience. Between folk songs (Marta on guitar, Goncalo on vocals, guests encouraged to join in), the young couple explained how this personal project took eight years to bear fruit, from choosing the location – a derelict chicken factory near where they both grew up – to the three-year construction which was blighted by a tornado that ripped steel from the girders and uprooted dozens of surrounding pine trees.

The remains of those trees now stand upside down in a circle around the fire, their crooked roots encircling the scene like a Tim Burton film set.

Recycling doesn't stop there. An "eco clock" greets you at reception, charting water and electricity consumption in the hotel, while wood salvaged from the storm forms a makeshift addition to a piano and a gnarled piece of driftwood makes a fitting addition to the outside terrace. At dinner, you eat at chunky wooden tables surrounded by antique dressers and vases filled with dried verbena and corn husks. This is likely to be a moreish combination of traditional dishes (migas – a bubble and squeak-like concoction of bread, turnip and garlic) and contemporary creations (a tapas selection of scrambled eggs with chorizo, salted mushrooms and cheese-filled pastries with honey), served with an impressive list of Portuguese wines.

It all serves to create a narrative for a sharp-lined assemblage of concrete and glass that might otherwise feel too starkly new. Add to the picture colourful West African fabric upholstery, antique clocks and scales, chandeliers, felt heart mobiles and "Love" signs, plus a fairy-tale farm shop of sorts selling seasonal vegetables, antique glass jars, quilted cushions and home-made jams, and it won't be long before you're singing its praises.

Location

The hotel is an hour's drive north west of Lisbon. The nearest town, Santa Cruz, is of interest only to surfboard-wielding tourists; the beaches that run south down from here to Ericeira promise some of the best surfing in Europe. As such, the beach at the foot of the cliff-top on which Areias do Seixo stands is wild and the waves very often too big and rough to brave without a board. This does mean that you often have it entirely to yourself.

If you want more than to sit on the sand, the dune-topped cliff is vibrant with herbaceous foliage, wild grasses and darting rabbits and is lovely for late afternoon walks. The hotel hosts guided dune walks, as well as mussel-foraging trips, tours of its vegetable garden and excursions to villages.

Comfort

I was staying in "Three Wishes", one of eight Land-category rooms. There are also two suite-like Gold Rooms and, set apart from the hotel, a collection of villas intended for longer stays. Each has its own motif ("Timeless" recalls North Africa; "Prata" is done out in silver and gold tones) but all have floor-to-ceiling windows opening on to a private terrace that looks out on the dunes.

The aesthetic in Three Wishes was soothing and sleek, created against a backdrop of concrete – rough rendered on the walls and varnished on the floor. A steel four-poster bed was softened by a quilt with a trim of fabric leaves, while a suspended stove and Starck-style Perspex chairs were chic, contemporary additions. Continuing the recycled theme, the bedside tables were fashioned from old branches, topped with granite. In the absence of TV or a sound system, a thoughtfully selected soundtrack of Louis Armstrong, Gilberto Gil and the Buena Vista Social Club was piped into the room and seemed more fitting than my iPod's library. At turn down, rose-scented candles were lit – a welcome alternative to chocolates on the pillow.

The polished concrete bathroom was as big as the bedroom, with one wall entirely covered with pebbles and a big sunken bath, open monsoon shower, and a carved wooden tree sculpture that twinkled with tea lights at night.

If all that isn't restful enough, two antique timber doors off reception open to reveal the entrance to the spa, lit by a huge Egyptian copper lamp and scented by soothing essential oils.

Areias do Seixo, Praceta do Atlantico, Povoa de Penafirme, A-dos-Cunhados, Torres Vedras, Portugal (00 351 261 936 340; areiasdoseixo.com).

Rooms *****
Value ****
Service ****

Double rooms start at €265, including breakfast

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Guru Careers: Dining Room Head Chef

    £32K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Dining Room Head Chef to work for one of ...

    Guru Careers: Pastry Sous Chef / Experienced Pastry Chef

    £27K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Pastry Sous Chef / Experienced Pastry Che...

    Ashdown Group: Technical IT Manager - North London - Growing business

    £40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A growing business that has been ope...

    Recruitment Genius: Technical Supervisor

    £24800 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As one of London's leading Muse...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

    'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

    In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
    VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

    How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

    Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
    They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

    Typefaces still matter in the digital age

    A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
    Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

    'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

    New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
    Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

    Ronald McDonald the muse

    A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
    13 best picnic blankets

    13 best picnic blankets

    Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
    Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

    Flesh in Venice

    Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
    Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

    Juventus vs Real Madrid

    Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
    Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

    Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

    Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected