A REJUVENATING WEEKEND WITH SIX SENSES
As we drive east from Porto, threading through the regions of Portugal's verdant valleys, the dawn of a red sunset begins to take form. Our decision to opt for a scenic route was well worth the effort, as the serene beauty of the surrounding hills coupled with an empty and winding freeway made it a sheer pleasure to drive through. Turning and twisting through the idyllic countryside, my anticipation grows by the minute as we approach.
Emerging from the peak of the last hill, we arrive at Douro Valley. It takes a few moments to soak in the majestic and rustic views. Against the steely grey expanse of the Douro river, lushious green vineyards cover the swooping and curvaceous valleys. A mosiac of charming quintas (Portuguese country estates) dot across the darkening valleys and hills as last light sets. My gaze quickly turns back onto the road where at the end, perched overlooking the tranquil riverside, a terracotta-hued 19th century manor by Six Senses sits prominently distinguished from its smaller neighbours.
As we drive up the cypress-flanked entryway, a warm welcome from the attentive valet takes care of our car as we are guided to the reception. Inside, dove gray granite floors and limestone panelling create a sleekly modern and minimal aesthetic. At check-in, we are offered a lemongrass-scented chilled towel, some warm walnuts, and a refreshing welcome drink. I could feel the weariness slowly begin to slip from my limbs.
Later, we step downstairs for dinner at the Vale de Abraão restaurant where a contemporary décor creates an intimate and cozy atmosphere. A large stone fireplace crackles, casting a flickering warm tone over the dimly lit space. Work of local artisans and craftsmen adorn the walls, accented by old wine cases and empty bottles creatively reused as light fixtures, giving the room a sense of the area’s local history. A course-by-course tasting of grilled dishes arrive from the Josper, incorporating regional and local ingredients as explained by our waiter as he cuts into the franguito assado (roast chicken). It’s authentic and notably better than a certain well-known chain we have been accustomed to in England, but I digress.
The following morning, I wake in the midst of a chilly haze on our balcony terrace to catch the break of dawn. A deep breath in, looking out, I’m stunned by the endless fields of rustic grape vine, broken only by the river. Roaming the expansive grounds of the estate, I make a mental note of the multiple wellness facilities and amenities including a laconium and herbal sauna, a steam room, and various heated pools, each marked with a different hue and an unique view of the surrounding greenery. The list goes on and before I could finish, the rising sun begins to light the valleys in unrestrained lustre.
To catch a better glimpse, it leads me back to the restaurant where we dined last night. The morning light has completely changed the persona of the space, beaming through the double height windows, sun-soaked hues of green beautifully frames Douro’s landscape. The smell of breakfast temporarily lures me away from the view. Over a fresh omelette and toast, we begin to make our plans for the weekend. The final itinerary? It consists nothing but prolonged inactivity and countless hours at the in-house spa; rejuvenation ensues.