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Six Senses, Portugal- Luxury Travel? All the Gear but Sometimes No Idea

I was overwhelmed by the beauty, the rolling hills steeped in terraced vineyards and river Douro running through it. The beautiful hotel that looks like a fairytale castle amongst perfect rows of vines and olive trees.

The long blue infinity swimming pool leading into the wide river. My silent shock when I saw the eye watering high room rates now all forgotten. Those views though…

I was seduced by the food too, not so heavy, healthy but explosive with taste. It was mostly all grown in the hotel’s beautiful garden, if not from there, then a local supplier. Vibrant in colour and textures, I looked forward to the three courses, unlike many other five star hotels whose meal goals are to weigh you down so your only option is to ask the concierge to push you back to your room on the luggage trolley.

The wines of this region, so complex with over 250 types of grape, are grossly undervalued by the wine world. If you like interesting, layered, structured wines in these austere times, come to Portugal. You can forget about Bordeaux, there I said it! The daily 6:30pm wine tasting because my highlight and sommelier Joao has become my muse.

Rooms are minimal in colour but beautiful with natural stone textures. Interestingly rooms in the same category can vary, for example, I had no terrace but a giant tub in the room whereas other rooms had a standard hotel room bathroom set up but a beautiful terrace. An endless supply of divine Organic Pharmacy products made for a very comfortable stay.

The spa, minimal but grandiose, a twenty nine degree Celsius swimming pool as the jewel in the crown surrounded by rows of oversized spa beds. I could never grow tired or the Fire and Ice steam rooms and saunas. Treatments are expertly delivered using all natural Organic Pharmacy products. Yogis must have an aerial yoga class with Liza, the silks really help you get more out of every pose and Liza’s expert tuition will have you in a handstand in no time.

So what went wrong? I booked a number of activities with the hotel some months before arrival. Sadly they all went grape-shaped.

On the first day, the head wine director did not show up for our pre-arranged wine tasting. Fortunately there was a wine vending machine in the wine library so we created our own but nevertheless this impression left a sour taste in my mouth and it wasn’t from the Chardonnay.

On day three, the hotel had arranged a tour and lunch at a gorgeous winery called Quinta da Pacheca. We were so excited when we drove down the giant tree lined drive, except then their front desk informed us we had missed our tour because the hotel gave us the wrong time. It’s fine I reassured myself I have a 90 minute facial this afternoon to decompress. Oh no I didn’t! When I arrived at the spa, it seems my appointment had been cancelled because staff confused me with someone who had a similar name to me. Given that my married name has been pretty much created out of thin air, I’ll let you hypothesise as to what really happened.

It was a bank holiday weekend and so this boutique hotel was full. This meant service was sslllloooowwww in the restaurants. Likewise, the much lauded guest app in the room could have been great but some of the messages we sent reception were never replied to. We joked that it was like staying at a luxury version of Fawlty Towers, I expected Manuel to jump out from behind a vine and shout “Que”, at which point I would start shouting “Basil!!!”. I’m sure other guests would just assume I was specifying my macrobiotic dietary needs. That, or too much port!

On discussion with the manager, his view was we should not have experienced so many glitches and he is investigating them. He said it was extremely rare that one guest should have had so many issues. Perhaps then he might have shown us a little more love; my facial was the only item taken off the bill but he assured me that should I come back to the property he will personally upgrade our experience. Que! What would Sybil Fawlty do in this scenario? Having considered it, I’m not sure we will be going back.

The Six Senses have all the ingredients they need to make this a world class resort, let’s hope they make it a recipe for success in the future.

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