To Tea, or to Tee Off At Ritz Carlton, Penha Longa?
That is the question at Penha Longa Resort.
Translating to 'long rock' the origins of Penha Longa Resort dates back to the 14th Century. Once the residence of hermit monks and later the summer playground of Portuguese royalty this residence has long outlasted those for whom it's beautiful and tranquil surrounds once provided respite. Ritz Carlton Hotels now reigns over this resort and they wield a sceptre of modern luxury.
Thirty five minutes drive from the Lisbon crowds and tiled over concrete of the capital the resort of Penha Longa emerges all cladded in lush open manicured landscapes, woodlands, lakes and rolling hills seen on the beautiful drive among the grounds to the entrance. At any moment I was expecting to see a royal stag bound out of the woodland area. But alas all thoughts of deer were shot down when the 'footman' ahh sorry valet graciously opened the door and welcomed us to the hotel!
And as with any respectable palace, you enter into a two storey high ceiling entrance hall with overlooking balconies of course and brimming with a collection of floral arrangements. A clean palette of creams, browns and marble only makes for a more grand hall.
Following a very polished check in that former royal guests would have been accustomed, we were duly escorted to our 3rd floor accommodation. Passing on the way, some very elegantly dressed, rehearsal dinner party guests.
The door opens and your eyes journey through the expansive room and out onto the balcony. A shaded outdoor space in the morning; bathed in the Portuguese sun from mid afternoon - the balcony became the perfect spot for indulging in a coffee or two with the in room Nespresso machine.
Large windows and a French door allowed the daylight to flood every available space. Whilst at the same time allowing for panoramic views (from left to right) onto the golf course, the monastery, the protective mountains above and Il Mercato restaurant's inviting patio below. The room itself is a beautiful minimalist décor of natural colours and very subtle textures. The bathroom is an all marble affair with his and her sinks and a purposeful rainforest shower head. Bath amenities from a British luxury brand with a royal stamp of approval no less - Asprey.
Dining at the resort is like a mini 'Taste Festival', with eight dining experiences to choose from not including in-room dining. There's your traditional Portuguese fare but with a fine twist at Arola, to the awakening of your Pan-Asian taste buds you did not know you had at the aptly named Spices. There's the laid back and 'every one is welcomed' atmosphere of Aqua to the refined and select Michelin starred - LAB by Sergi Arola. Firm favourites with the younger one were Aqua for it's pool side location; refreshing salads and finger food and Il Mercato for it's indoor/outdoor dining space and Italian food to regard in a new light.
Everyone is spoilt for choice at breakfast with freshly made omelettes, freshly made pancakes, freshly made milk shakes.... yes everything is freshly made! Breakfast is not to be missed.
Another favourite of the younger one was the kid's club which was lightly in use during the end of summer visit. This 'Ritz Kid' was very entertained (painting, walking, swimming, popcorn and movies, Wii games, cooking, etc). She especially enjoyed a few sessions of horse riding at the nearby professional equestrian centre. Independent of the resort but only 10 minutes drive away; the hotel staff will ferry you there in one of the gulf buggies.
I am yet to find a bone of golfing in me but you do not visit Penha Longa without noting the jewel in it's crown - a twenty seven hole, Robert Trent Jones, Jr. designed golf course. Windy most days we were there but made for very hilarious conversations around the dinner tables in the evening.
And if like me, teeing off has never been your thing - check yourself into the serenity of the spa and start that journey of reconnecting with yourself. Or take a leisurely stroll or a buggy ride along the jogging path and inhale the pine scented mountain air. Or simply take on afternoon tea with a spot of people watching in the B Lounge.
With at least four airlines serving direct routes from five London airports to Lisbon in the summer, the two hour thirty five minute flight for a long weekend getaway is ideal! A forty minute transfer from Lisbon airport and you are at the resort. Alternatively private jets fly directly to Cascais Airport and from there, the transfer time is only ten minutes.