My first taste of Portugal was a sweet one. I had never visited this beautiful country, but my first experience was to be one where I could appreciate it’s natural beauty, incredible food and warm culture, all in the grounds of the tranquil Pine Cliffs, A Luxury Collection Resort. I was invited, along with some fellow London influencers, to take a short trip down from England to the sunnier climes of the Algarve to get to know better a place where you can while away a week under the Portuguese sun, and it wasn’t an experience I was going to miss.
Upon arrival into Faro, thanks to a relaxing flight organised by Oliver’s Travels, I felt immediately ready to unwind and switch off. We had left behind the buzz of Gatwick airport for our two and a half hour flight which ended with a spectacular view as we landed passing the rocky coast of the Algarve. I could feel myself breathe in and closed my eyes ready to be hit with the warm golden rays of the med and feel that calming sea air brush past me. We hopped into our transfer for a smooth 30 minutes drive past almond and orange groves to what would be our 5* home for the next few days… Pine Cliffs Resort.
We pulled up to the resort, driving into a little village of tall pine trees and white seaside villas perched side by side in pure harmony. The sky was bright blue, the air clear and fresh and the trees stood proud and tall as if to welcome us. Don’t you just love that feeling of stepping out of your airport taxi, to have that fragrance of nature fill your lungs? I always feel a wave of calmness pass through me whenever that happens, my creative juices begin to flow again and my mind feels back at ease. In fact, we were all so excited to be back by the sea, in the hands of nature, that our first pit-stop was the beach to watch the sun set. I pretty much ran down the steps straight onto the sea shore, I couldn’t wait to enjoy the glorious rays and feel my toes in the sand.. being by the sea really is my happy place. There is something about the water and the horizon that fills my heart with happiness and relaxes me.
T H E R O O M
After the sun had set and we realised our optimistic summer jackets weren’t quite warm enough for the wintry air, we hopped back up to check-in to our rooms. One thing I personally dislike about luxury hotels is how they can sometimes feel cookie-cutter perfect, rooms with no personality that make you feel at home….. This was not the case at Pine Cliffs. Much to my delight our rooms were bursting with tranquility. We were each given a recently renovated Ocean Suite, which was like a mini apartment. I opened the door to a light open-plan lounge kitchen decorated in creams, whites with a touch of dusty pink. It was just what the doctor ordered, a light, bright, peaceful room with a grand balcony ideal for entertaining (not that I would be planning any balcony parties during my stay!) Just as I was about to make myself comfy, I ventured into the bedroom to find another light-filled room with an enormous king sized bed and freestanding bathtub waiting for me to dive in. Having just bought the latest Harper’s Bazaar, I knew the bubble bath and I would have a date that night… what bliss!
T H E R E S O R T
We woke up fresh the next morning after a delicious first-night dinner at O Pescador, an elegant restaurant offering the most delicious seafood dishes from the Algarve. First activity of the day was to be a formal tour of the resort. We had seen glimpses of what was on offer during our mini-escapade down to the beach, but Maria, the hotel’s lovely PR & Marketing Co-ordinator took us around giving us an in-depth low-down on what guests staying here can expect. From 12 restaurants and bars, to 7 swimming pools, a gym and 9-hole golf course, the resorts caters to a variety of different needs. Whether you are coming to holiday as a family, a couple, on a wellness retreat or you’re a golf-fanatic, you really have an array of different ways to spend your days.
The more active holidaymakers amongst you could choose to take part in a complimentary sun-rise yoga class, followed by a swim in the sea and a round of golf, finished up with a session at the gym (OK, that might be a bit excessive, but for some people days jam-packed with activities are how they relax!) I, on the other hand, was more enticed by the options of a morning treatment in their Serenity Spa, The Art of Well Being, an afternoon spent lounging by the pool or on my balcony, followed by a sun-down glass of bubbly in the Champagne bar (which is set on a cliff-edge) with picture perfect views of the sunset.
T H E T I L E S
The tiles of Portugal are something I’ve been dying to see for years, so I couldn’t contain my excitement what I saw that the hotel was full of them. What was even more special about these tiles is their uniqueness; the Lisbon-based factory that once made these tiles closed back in the 1980’s, which consequently rendered the tiles at Pine Cliffs little pieces of history more about which Concierge Hugo will be able to tell you about. Hugo offers hotel guests a historic “Tile Tour” of all the tiles around the hotel, to explain more about what each tile represents and their stories. If architecture isn’t your thing you can also take botanical tour of the resort with the resort guidebooks they have created, explaining all the local plants found dotted around the resort. A little bit of education on your break abroad, who wouldn’t say no to that?
T H E S P A
The next part of our Pine Cliffs tour was a whistle-stop tour around the Serenity Spa. Working with seven brands of international spa products, the luxurious spa caters to all needs. They have 13 different treatment rooms, all with names of fruits and flowers you can find in the Algarve, and each with a different room scent depending on the treatment. If you desire privacy, they have a couples treatment room where yourself and your partner can enjoy an afternoon of tranquility. What’s more, if you and your partner, or maybe even a group of friends, would like to enjoy a spa experience away from the rest of the guests, you can book out their gold-leaf Serenity room that comes with Champagne on tap which you can sip under the Swarovski crystal chandelier, making the experience that extra bit special and unique. And if all of the above still don’t do it for you, you can opt for a massage in the open-air which, I can imagine, during the beautiful months of summer would be utterly divine….
Another way you can take it step further is to book yourself in for their Digital Detox, one of their five #PineCliffsLifestyle programmes, if you’re after a holiday where you can truly switch off. This was one of the aspects that intrigued me the most about Pine Cliffs, their offer of something I think a lot of people in this day and age might be looking for in a holiday: the option to disconnect from the digital world. They offer a 3-day digital detox experience where upon arrival you drop your mobile phone and/or laptop at the check-in desk, with it not to be collected until the end of the detox. At first, they say, guests find it difficult to adjust but by the end of the three days they wondered why they ever had their phone in the first place. And what better way to truly switch off and immerse yourself in your holiday time than to truly disconnect and recharge, I mean, that’s what it’s all about isn’t it?
T H E F O O D
Continuing on the wellness and detox trend, we were treated to a DIY lunch from their Zest restaurant, which caters to all dietary requirements as well as offers super healthy dishes for you to enjoy on your stay. The chance to enjoy fresh and local dishes, all while keeping relatively healthy would definitely be a plus on holiday for me. I’m all about letting loose on holiday and enjoying a bit of indulgent food, but if I have the opportunity to eat a little lighter during some mealtimes that would be an extra bonus. With their 12 restaurants you have an abundance of different food to choose from, and they keep it relatively Portuguese on most of their menus which I like (I can’t stand turning up at resorts which don’t offer local food, half of the experience being abroad is trying a new cuisine!). However, if you would like to take the healthy route and eat clean during your time away you can pop over to their Zest restaurant, where you can build your own salad, enjoy some fresh juices or try one of the light meals on the menu.
NB: Their Zest restaurant is set on a little square they call “Lemon Square” full of beautiful lemon trees I fell in love with (as you can see below!!) Imagine picking your own lemons and putting them straight into a fresh lemonade on a hot summer’s day… yes please!!
We spent most of our time at Pine Cliffs getting lost in the beautiful grounds of the hotel, enjoying eating alfresco and just having chance to be somewhere peaceful and pretty. Given the time of year we visited, it was a very quiet time for the resort, which I actually liked! It definitely makes a change going somewhere more relaxed after the busyness of Londontown. If you want to venture further out than the grounds of the hotel, you are just a 15 minute drive from the pretty town of Albufeira (which supposedly has a great night life, so perfect for a fun night out!). There are plenty of local villages and restaurants which, with a car, you can take a short drive out to discover. In fact, if you wanted to be super adventurous, you could take the 2.5 hour drive up to Lisbon to visit their capital city for the day. It’s only a small country, Portugal, how wonderful must it be to be able to live and work in the relaxed Algarve to only be a 2.5 hour drive from the hustle and bustle of the capital!
Back in our little haven of Pine Cliffs, however, none of us were looking for hustle and bustle, so we enjoyed staying within the walls of the resort. I loved the overall feeling of the hotel, which felt a little like a Spanish pueblo, with white houses, pretty archways, mini treelined avenues and rustic boardwalks leading down to the seaside. My two highlights of the trip would have to be, firstly, my Serenity spa treatment. The 80 minute-long ILA facial and upper body massage I chose was pure and utter heaven. My skin felt completely rejuvenated, and sitting in the relaxation room with the pot of herbal tea afterwards was the cherry on top that led me spiralling into euphoric bliss. Secondly, had to be our last evening sunset down by the beach, where we brought a bottle of Espumante bubbly (local champagne) down with us to enjoy by the water. The air was so crisp that evening and the colours so vibrant, I took a moment to myself to say cheers to this beautiful world and the wonderful experiences I have been blessed to enjoy thus far.
A huge thank you to Pine Cliffs for hosting us and Oliver’s Travels for providing our flights to Faro. I will be back in Portugal later this year to explore some more of the stunning country, but for now, thanks to Pine Cliffs, I will have a wonderful introduction I’ll never forget!!