Laid-back luxury in Portugal
Take the hassle out of holidays with The Luxury Travel Book
Arranging your holiday online used to be liberating. Now it feels like a tyranny of choice, so onerous you need a holiday from the act of booking it. So why not try a travel concierge service to take the strain out of your holiday?
The Luxury Travel Book is a family run business founded in 2012. It offers bespoke travel itineraries, with all the benefits of a luxury hotel stay with the privacy of your own place. The team have taken the trouble to find out the best places to visit in the local area, from the top restaurants to local attractions. If you want a spa treatment, a yoga instructor, a personal chef, a chartered yacht, or even a private jet or helicopter charter, they’re there to book it for you.
I stayed at Herdade da Comporta, a luxurious staffed holiday home south of Lisbon on the Troia peninsula, in Portugal. It boasts one of the last unspoiled beaches in Europe, with miles of white sand, backed by dunes and popular among the rich and stylish, including designers Philippe Starck and Christian Louboutin, who own homes in the area.
Just 100 metres from the beach, the property is nestled between rice paddies and dunes that protect it from the Atlantic winds. It is made up of six bungalows, comprising seven bedrooms comfortably sleeping 12 to 14 people, with each bungalow connected by paths in a beautifully landscaped 17-acre estate.
Low-impact and understated from the outside, the luxurious interiors use natural materials and bright colours, with two of the cabanas built to reflect the local fishermen’s huts, constructed from cane and wood with thatched roofs. The furniture, carpets and ceramics reflect the owners’ travels but sit lightly within the minimalist interiors, enhancing rather than distracting from the natural beauty of the area.
An invigorating horse ride, organised with a local stable (cavalosnaareia.com), is one of the best ways to experience the beach. It’s also perhaps about as close as you want to get to the water. Although sparklingly clean, the Atlantic outside the summer can best be described as bracing, as I discovered on an early morning swim.
It is both literally and figuratively breathtaking.
Another way to enjoy the sand is at one of the restaurants directly on the beach, such as at Sal (restaurantesal.pt). We sat on the verandah enjoying the warm sea breeze, attended by friendly staff who brought us a selection of typical Portuguese dishes, including clams cooked with garlic, wine and fresh coriander, a refreshing octopus salad, garlic prawns and a delicious cuttlefish ink rice with aioli sauce. The fish comes direct from local fishermen, although for something slightly further afield, try the Algarvian shrimps from the south coast, simply boiled in salted water, to best enjoy their sweet taste.
For lunch, we tried the buzzy Sublime Comporta Beach Club restaurant, directly on Carvalhal Beach (sublimecomportabeachclub.com). Like Sal, it uses the wonderful local seafood, but gives it a fusion twist, as with the spankingly fresh tuna tataki and a refreshing salmon tartare. The lobster roll was bursting with juicy pieces of crustacean, combined with a delicate sauce that enhanced the sweetness of the flavour. To help with our digestion, we walked back to Herdade da Comporta, along the beach and across the dunes.
A charming village
Comporta is the nearest village for shops and restaurants. It is small but full of everything you would need, including a great shop with whole aisles dedicated to a huge selection of tinned fish in beautifully decorated tins – something of an obsession for the Portuguese. It’s also home to the local winery, where we had a tour and tasting of the wines, all produced on site – including a rosé with a light blush and a surprisingly complex flavour. They’ll happily provide you with wooden boxes if you want to take some home. You can also buy the local rice produced by the estate, which was its main business before it branched out into making wine.
Of course, there’s no need to ever leave your holiday home. The lovely staff were on hand to bring us drinks on the verandah while we watched the cranes come into land at dusk over the rice paddies. We nibbled on local olives, hams and cheeses and little cod cakes. One of their specialities is pão de queijo – delicious Brazilian cheese balls hot from the oven that are impossibly moreish. As we watched the sun set over the gardens, we raised a glass to The Luxury Travel Book. They had curated the perfect getaway in the perfect location.
Natasha's stay with The Luxury Travel Book was complimentary. Herdade da Comporta costs from €48,000 a week. She also stayed at a luxurious former ambassadors residence in Lisbon, Prior Paradise which costs from €24,000 per week and is available to book directly with the Luxury Travel Book as part of their Hidden Collection, theluxurytravelbook.com. TAP offers daily connections from London Heathrow, London Gatwick and Manchester to Lisbon, totalling 60 weekly flights over the winter period. Return fares in economy from the UK start from £86 and executive class from £318, including taxes and charges. See flytap.com.