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
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Guru Careers: Marketing Executive / Digital Marketing Executive

    COMPETITIVE: Guru Careers: A Marketing / Digital Marketing Executive (CRM, Eve...

    Recruitment Genius: Receptionist / Sales / Customer Service Assistant

    £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: The role is likely to be 4on 4 off, days and ...

    Ashdown Group: Print Designer - High Wycombe - Permanent £28K

    £25000 - £28000 per annum + 24 days holiday, bonus, etc.: Ashdown Group: Print...

    Recruitment Genius: Business Travel Consultant

    £20000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With offices in London, Manches...

    Day In a Page

    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones