This month I was lucky enough to be a guest at Hotel Minho in the beautiful Alto Minho region of Northern Portugal (more about the area to come in my next post). Its Scandinavian-style exterior set against the backdrop of rolling hills, makes quite the impression from the moment you arrive. Being a big fan of simplistic design I fell instantly in love and had high expectations.
The interior did not disappoint and the white walls, large windows and use of natural wood make for a warm ambience which is often hard to come by in modern buildings. The furniture in the light and airy lounge area is perfectly in keeping with the minimalist design, whilst maintaining the comfortable and inviting atmosphere that makes you feel so at home at Hotel Minho. Of course, this must also be attributed to the incredibly friendly and helpful staff who gave us the warmest of welcomes and took excellent care of us throughout our stay, assisting us with everything from wine tasting to cycle hire (both very important elements of any getaway in my opinion).
Mornings were spent slinging on our bathrobes, then hastily running out onto the terrace to enjoy the crisp autumn air and the magnificent views as the sun came up
Our room had plenty of space and came complete with an ample balcony which overlooked the pool area and stunning rural landscapes. Mornings were spent slinging on our bathrobes, then hastily running out onto the terrace to enjoy the crisp autumn air and the magnificent views as the sun came up — true bliss. After all that gazing into the distance we had worked up quite an appetite, so it was downstairs to enjoy the hearty breakfast buffet with a cup of coffee or two. Freshly baked bread, croissants, cakes, local cheeses, a wide selection of fruits and much more awaited us, and whilst the selection was already enough for me Victor opted for the freshly prepared scrambled eggs and bacon — yummy!
The on-site spa is the icing on the perfectly-formed cake that is Hotel Minho! The themes of natural light and simplicity continue into this area and you can’t help but feel relaxed. After a busy day of sightseeing or cycling the perfect antidote is a dip in the pool followed by a turn in the jacuzzi, steam room and sauna. One thing that struck me about the region is that everything is centred around nature and the spa treatments certainly share the same philosophy: we experienced an incredible relaxing massage using natural oils which left us feeling blissed out and wholesome. The room in which we received the massage is something to write about in itself: the tranquil couples suite boasted a floor-to-ceiling window overlooking the nearby hills and ambient music clinked in the background to ensure we entered full zen mode. Afterwards we were taken to the relaxation area where we sipped tea and came back down to earth amid the soft lighting.
I will be putting together an entire post about wine and gastronomy in the Alto Minho region (trust me it deserves an entire book), but I couldn’t talk about Hotel Minho without mentioning the “Braseirão do Minho” restaurant where we whiled away our evenings sampling the best local cuisine and wine there is. I won’t list every dish (it would only make you hungry) but highlights included the most succulent grilled pulpo I’ve ever tasted and a mouth-watering serving of local deer that I’m still dreaming of to this date. I should also add that prior to dinner on the first night of our stay we were treated to an insightful wine tasting in the hotel wine bar. We sampled a typical green wine by the name of Pássaros which our knowledgeable expert Bruno informed us was perfect paired with white fish. By the time we went to dinner I considered myself an expert and was delighted that we were served the exact same wine to go with our monk fish main course. The Portuguese take their wine very seriously and after just a few sips it’s easy to see why!
One of the highlights of the trip was certainly the gourmet side of things and if you’re looking to tailor your break to food (always a good idea) the Destsetters website is a great place to begin. They have a section dedicated solely to Gastronomy travel where you can search by location with a handy map showing you all the hot destinations. They also list all the best hotels for foodies and they recommend Hotel Minho for their wine and traditional local cuisine (they obviously have excellent taste).
Getting there: The nearest airport is Porto International Airport. From here the quickest way to reach Hotel Minho is by car, alternatively you can take public transport to Vila Nova de Cerveira or Valença do Minho train station from which you will need to take a taxi (can be arranged by the hotel). Click here to see the location and more info.
Stay tuned, there are more posts on the way about the wonderful Alto Minho region!