Metropole Genève

This past winter we discovered the elegant Switzerland, and along with it, its wonderful hotels and flawless services.
After Lucerne and Lausanne, we adventured into Geneva, and here found one of the most emblematic hotels in the country, the Hotel Metropole Genève.

This historic building is more than a century and a half old and its located at the iconic Rue du Rhone.

Located right in the heart of town, it has a privileged view over the lake and it’s surrounded by the most luxurious stores. Being relatively close to the Old town and the financial area makes it the best option both for those traveling for work, or for pleasure.

First Impression
What can you say about a neoclassic building from 1854?!
The red awnings outside give it the charm of timeless elegance, the reception follows the same line.
The reds predominate, mixing with some beige and brown, but even the Christmas tree salutes us with the color of passion!

The inside is also neoclassic but with a certain touch of comfort and coziness.
We were welcomed by a nice team that quickly took care of our check-in and showed us around the hotel.
The Metropole was renewed in 2016, however, some changes weren’t possible because the hotel is City Heritage. And, being a former hospital, some bedrooms are a little smaller. But, the renovation, despite keeping the original design, brought more modern and bigger rooms and areas.

 

Bedrooms
There are 111, plus 16 luxurious suites.
We stayed in a Lifestyle Lake-Side Room.
Ours had a view to Lake Geneva and the famous Jet d’eau, one of the most iconic postcards from Geneva (I don’t really get why, but can’t argue with tastes!), it had a special focus in home automation, without putting comfort aside.

Once again, bright colors are used to create an interesting chromatic game, assuring a perfect symbiosis with the wooden floor.

The tv in the mirror, the inclined Turkish bath in the shower or the handy smartphone system (fast, unlimited internet, local and international calls, useful info about the city, exclusive promotions, and 24h concierge), made our bedroom even more appealing.

 The view over the Jet d’eau

 The terrace of restaurant Gusto

Restaurants
There are four excellent options at Metropole. Close to the lobby, we have the eclectic The Mirror Bar. A space that transports us to a trendy and vibrant ambiance, with its red tones and mirrors.

The Mirror Bar

It works on a daily basis as bar/restaurant for a snack or simpler dishes accompanied by wine or cocktails, a hot chocolate on cold afternoons, or simply enjoying a nice leisure moment. The bustle of guests and locals in the evening is impressive, among work meetings or just pleasure moments.

 The view over the lake from the MET Rooftop Lounge

On summer months, there’s also the MET Rooftop Lounge, a space that assures the most enjoyable sunsets in town, very cosmopolite, with a great view to the lake, the city, and the mountains.

Gusto, of classic Italian cuisine, is the perfect place for a relaxed lunch, or a romantic dinner, where the Chef, a true ambassador of the Italian cuisine, Alessandro Cannata, delights us with his creations.

Here we had the chance to experience one of the most creative and innovative tasting menus of Italian base served outside the country.

Among good bread, champagne, and light snacks we started a surprising meal, where there was time for a delicious cuttlefish tagliatelle with puttanesca sauce, small raviolis “capeletti em brodo” which combo and broth left me good memories, and of course, a delicate venison loin, with a delicious sauce and crunchy veggies.

 To finish, a nice deconstruction of the classic Tiramisu, and an obvious Mont Blanc (as seeing it through the window…!).

Gusto has a simpler version, downstairs, the La Cantina del Gusto,  where breakfast is served, and also a self-service lunch.

La Cantina del Gusto

 And for two years now, it also serves one of the most famous brunches in town.
Besides these spaces, the hotel has another space outside, the La Brasserie du Parc des Eaux-Vives, a traditional French cuisine restaurant located a few km from the center of town.

Services
Besides the usual services, like room service, wi-fi, laundry, and concierge, Metropole has also a few other services for its guests.

The location is probably one of the best in the city, making it easy for those traveling for fun, but also for business travelers.

It is equipped with six rooms, prepared for any kind of event. And the Restaurant Hotel du Parc des Eaux-Vives, 5 min away by car, also has 5 rooms.

The hotel has a nicely equipped gym, with natural light.

Service
Big hotels, business style, rarely are my first option when traveling, however, some show me that a hotel can have a lot of movement without losing its identity.

And Metropole is an example of that, even with wide spaces, full of guests, you can feel special.

A good example of the service quality was when we realized we left our macbook cables on a hotel we previously visited, and the staff (some of them portuguese by the way) quickly took care of our problem with the other hotel.

These small details really do make the difference!

And it is always a privilege to stay in a building so iconic and full of history!

See you soon Geneva!

Hotel Metropole Genève
Bedrooms from 270€
Quai General Guisan, 34 – Geneva
+ 41 223 183 200
hotel@metropole.ch

Versão Portuguesa

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Mugasa

There’s no denying that we’re living exciting days concerning the new Portuguese gastronomy, new chefs with new techniques and audacity, stimulating restaurants, and specialized producers. However, every time I get excited and challenged by the boldness and creativity of these chefs, I also seek to balance that side with a simpler cuisine, authentic, and above all, based on the product.

In contrast to many other countries, like our neighbor Spain, for years, the Portuguese few or nothing worried about knowing and highlighting our produce, or about restaurants specialized in this or that. All this with the due exception for the famous Leitão à Bairrada (suckling pig) – many Portuguese families and friends know very well the National Road Nº1, crossing the town of Mealhada, and there have delighted themselves with one of the most famous national dishes!

It’s a mythical dish in the country and along with the wine, the greatest highlight of an entire region. However, there are different restaurants and different piglets, and there are also emblematic spaces outside the usual address.

One of those spaces is located in the small town of Fogueira, at Sangalhos, the restaurant Mugasa, open more than 40 years ago by Álvaro and Helena Nogueira, it became famous for the several dishes built around the suckling pig, and of course, the chanfana, one of the oldest dishes in the region. Nowadays, leading the stoves is Ricardo Nogueira, born and raised between the kitchen and the wood ovens, he’s now been improving the technique and the selection of the product, taking the best possible products to the table – a kind of Victor Arguinzoniz of suckling pigs.

But on to our meal, installed in the comfortable and recently renewed room, the choice was obvious and served at a good rhythm, starting with the always tasty bread of the region.

Suckling pig “Iscas”
For starters, we taste other parts of the piglet, like these iscas de cebolada. Delicate and less intense than the ones from its “heavier brother”. Great seasoning, although I must confess I rather prefer other textures of the liver, more undercooked, and a bit less dry in the mouth.

Suckling Pig “Cabidela”
Masterfully prepared, this fake cabidela (made without blood), deserves a trip to Mugasa just by itself! A combo of piglet offals, nicely stewed, finished in the wood oven, below the piglet, absorbing all the juices from the roast. Delicious!

Leitão à Bairrada

Several are its secrets, but not all hidden from those visiting Mugasa, first, the suckling pig – they only use the little ones, not over 4,2kg, and all raised in liberty in the fields, developing a better fusion of muscle and fat. And then, of course, the cooking, roasted in a specific type of wood, and with the care of those making this for a living. Last, but not least, the cut. Ricardo Nogueira’s technique is beautiful to watch (always a highlight to watch) and better to taste, with all the small pieces, and the amazing crispy skin. Everything is perfect, the taste, the texture, the greasiness, the juiciness!

Coconut pudding
Once the amazing Abade de Priscos pudding of Miguel Oliveira was already gone, we went for a nice coconut pudding, with two layers, balanced sweetness, of good texture and flavor. A nice surprise!

We also tasted the aletria, hard and dry as traditional in the area, leaving no memory to us used to a creamy and rich aletria.

The wine list is another reason to visit Mugasa, firstly for the quantity and variety of national sparkling wines, mostly from Bairrada, and secondly for the amazing price/quality ratio. Sinful for any oenophile!

In our case, we accompanied the meal with a sparkling Vinha Formal 2010 from Luís Pato.  A wine going through a beautiful tasting phase.

Final Remarks
Unfortunately, and for many years, the product cuisine in Portugal lost its place to cheaper and of fewer quality products, something very different to what happened in our neighbor Spain. Happily, with the conscientization of the guests, and the improvement in terms of our products, we’re starting to see a new direction, new chefs, new products and new guests, worried about the quality of what they’re eating more than the beauty of the presentation.

Well, this Mugasa is just that, one of our Product Temples; and Ricardo Nogueira is nowadays the face behind the future of this delicacy, and the passion he has for his work leaves no one indifferent. We need these examples to put our gastronomy on the map.

Suckling pigs? There are many, but Mugasa is unique!

 

Mugasa
Average price: 25€/ pax without wines 
Largo da Feira, Fogueira – Anadia
+351 234 741 061

Versão Portuguesa

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Prado

Prado was the most awaited opening in Lisbon’s gastronomy scene for a while. Since opening, in the end of 2017, it has been a case of success, where from the most gastronomic conservative to the most cosmopolite traveler, everyone surrendered to António Galapito’s cuisine.

I remember meeting Galapito between the kitchen and the grill at Mercado (see), where he commanded the helm of the casual and Portuguese space of Nuno Mendes. A place where Portuguese flavors and ingredients gained other forms and techniques and about which I remember writing it was a restaurant, that for several motives, we missed in Portugal!

Well, destiny had written a return to his home for Galapito, full of ideas and dreams, very proper for a 27-year-old cook, with a conviction and a traced path few would dare to take.

Installed in the lower floor of Lisboans (a refined and nicely recovered local accommodation), Prado has brought to Lisbon a simpler cosmopolitan view, with care for nature, sustainability and the origin of things, in a time when many other places just go for luxury and spectacle. Using London as an analogy, let’s say that most of the openings wanted some Mayfair, and Galapito brought a bit of Shoreditch and East London into Lisbon.

This space transmits the idea of “farm to table” and a certain post-industrial ambiance, very common in Nordic countries. Large, nicely lit, with a very Lisbon(ish) vibe, the result is a well accomplished cozy space.

From the kitchen we expect dishes revolving around Portuguese products, worked with rigor and restraint, allied to a very unique line and creativity. A meal where you don’t expect a menu and a set circuit of starter-main-dessert, the idea is to taste more dishes, share, and enjoy the flavors of familiar products worked with boldness and creativity.

Bread from Gleba
Fresh goat butter, smoked salt and sea lettuce
Whipped pork fat, garlic and bay leaf
And we started very well, with an excellent wheat bread from gleba bakery, with a basis on one of the oldest and tastier kinds of wheat (“trigo barbela”) produced in Trás-os-Montes (almost extinct nowadays due to this new generation of bakers and cooks). A rich and tasty bread, with a sinful crust making us want to dip it in the butter like hungry animals. A great start that we kept repeating during our meal – can anyone resist a nice warm bread?

Arouquesa meat tartar and grilled kale 
Full of flavor meat, nicely seasoned and without too many elements, with shitake mushrooms and a cured yolk to intensify the richness and umami, served in a kale taco, grilling the kale dehydrates it and gives it more flavor; over grilled it would be amiss, but like this it was a nice moment of flavor and texture.

Squid, leek, and ink
The name indicates what appears in front of us, the Azores sea in wonderfully prepared squid strips, a broth intensified by the squid ink, and the crunch of the leek. Flavor and restraint, in a great dish that showcases the cuisine at Prado.

Smoked bacon toastFlorina apple, and pennyroyal 
Good bread, with equally good stuffing, is always a moment of pleasure; even more when the bread is from Gleba again, covered by thin layers of a rich and very well worked bacon, Florina apple (another almost gone product), bringing it some texture and sweetness, and the pennyroyal with its minty notes refreshing the combo and elevating the fatty notes of the toast. Could all the sandwiches in the country be like this…

Arouquesa sparerib, fermented lettuce and toasted butter
Similarly to the meat in the tartar, this sparerib was also full of flavor, perfectly cooked and elevated by the rich aromas and flavor of the fermented lettuce, the onion and the burnt butter sauce, and of course, perfect to dip the bread in the end. Delicious!

Mushroom ice cream, barley, dulse and caramel
First, the name leaves us slightly apprehensive, but remembering a wonderful mushroom ice cream I had in Turkey, the final choice had to be this. And gladly it was, it looks and has the texture of a sundae, it was perfect, with the right amount of sweetness, and a certain salinity elevating the dish. Also great the remaining elements, with the caramel and the barley bringing the sauce and the sweetness wrapping the dish, the dulse seaweed brings fresher notes. There’s no other sundae in the city that could compare…

Besides his talent and ideas, young Galapito also knows to surround himself with great talents, and I’m not necessarily talking about the kitchen, the products he uses come from passionate and talented producers, the bread of Diogo Amorim (Gleba), and of course, the cocktails of the wild fox, aka Constança Cordeiro (recently opened a new bar in the city, Toca da Raposa). Creative cocktails, where Portuguese flavors and ingredients become the basis of the mixology. A good example was the excellent “Prado Collins” we tasted, with vodka and a very well accomplished mix of lemongrass and tangerine.

The wine list also follows the path of minimal intervention and natural wines, with several national and international options, to please both the most conservative wine connoisseur and the most hipster guest. In our case, we tasted a good Rufia Branco from 2016, produced by João Tavares de Pina at Quinta da Boavista, Dão.

Final Remarks
A new wave of cooks, producers, and even clients is redefining the new Portuguese cuisine, a cuisine based in fantastic ingredients, roots, and flavors, but also lightness, technique and presentation, the world has been giving these people. That is one of Galapito’s merits, respecting Portuguese ingredients. Besides, another good argument in a scale already full of positives –  the cost/benefit ratio is one of the most interesting in Lisbon, a city getting more expensive by the minute.

A much-needed restaurant in Lisbon, that opens the way to other young talents that see it like an example that you can do it the good way in this tiny corner of Europe. Adding to the many words written and the many comments online, Prado was just elected by Condé Nast Traveller to the list of best new restaurants in the world in 2018.

And with all the merit!!

Prado
Average price: 35€/pax without wines 
Travessa das Pedras Negras, 2 – Lisbon
+351 210 534 649

Versão Portuguesa

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Almeja

These past few years, with the tourism development, Porto has been through an ocean of changes, for better or worse. From the real estate bustle, new hotels, new roads, and of course, many new restaurants. Good restaurants, young and talented cooks, nice decorations and even some bold projects that we hardly imagined would work; And, of course, there are many bad businesses in the mix and lots of spaces that for whatever reason didn’t work.

The lack of success or simply the acceptance of failure wasn’t on João Cura and Sofia Gomes’s plans when they decided to open their first restaurant, with a name that anticipated the wish to conquer and leave their mark…

Well, the truth is the success came, maybe even faster than they expected, so much is the receptivity and the many and good reviews Almeja and the cuisine of João Cura has been getting. João is still a young cook, of those who abandon a college degree to follow their passion in front of the stoves. From the Hospitality school in Coimbra, he went to Barcelona, where he worked at the starred Dos Cielos e Cinc Sentits and the at the famous Monvínic, creating a project of “at home chef” and the rest is his present, being drawn at the number 819, of Rua Fernandes Tomás.

With a fine dining concept, Almeja intends to ally a signature cuisine with a good price/benefit relation. The decoration translates just that, simple but tasteful, keeping the old lines of the former Japanese grocery store located in that place.

Croquettes

The experience starts in fine dining mode, with the snacks arriving quickly at the table, first, a croquette, with panko crusting, crunchy outside and very creamy inside, could’ve been just a bit less greasy and more flavorful. Followed a great madeleine with chorizo and apple gel – very good!

 Chorizo madeleines, with apple gel 

And then the bread, a homemade sourdough, with good aroma and texture, very well accompanied by a butter with milk crunch and salt flower, and a great Angélica olive oil.

Toast, cabeça de xara (traditional Portuguese pate), marinade and apple 
The presentation transports us to French pastry, but don’t be fooled by the accurate aesthetics of the plate, here is present a good Portuguese tradition. Nicely prepared cabeça de xara, elevated by the acidic touch of the marinade. A very good dish, in which I just missed some crunch, once the toast and the apple didn’t much present that texture.

 Mushrooms, parsnip, and lemon 
One of the best moments of the evening was this “simple” plate of wild mushrooms, with a velvety parsnip puree and lemon sauce, which freshness contrasted with the earthy notes of the remaining elements and took the dish to a beautiful level.

Chicken Soup
A comfort dish on a cold night, simultaneously a reinterpretation of our famous chicken soup. A good consommé, low-temperature egg with a perfectly cooked yolk, and the pasta replaced with small ravioli. The touch of leek gave more flavor to the dish.

Mondego Rice
João Cura’s “Portuguese cuisine” is not just the reinterpretation of classic recipes, but also the attempt of presenting new products and national producers that few may know, a good example of that is his homage to the Mondego rice. Using probably the best national rice “Arroz da Ereira”, to create a great, great dish! Rice, cockle, razor shell and squid, all perfectly cooked and enrichened by the intensity and salinity of the samphire and the plankton. A great dish!

Pork belly
Flawless pork belly, moist with crunchy skin, nicely paired with pak choi and some fun potato souffle in the shape of piglets that must take more time than the rest of the dish together! Very interesting also the demi glacé jam elevating the entire dish.

 Mangococonut, and lime  
A light and fresh dessert, as I like, but a bit lost among the creamy and gelly textures.

Banoffeebanana, peanut and white chocolate 
The last dessert brought back the level of the previous dishes, here with a great combo of textures, from the cake to the gel and the purees, the crunchy and the excellent caramelized white chocolate. A great ending!

Our choice of wine went to a Riesling Duriense, 2015, by Marcos Hehn. An elegant wine, showcasing its caste very well, and an acidity and elegance that worked very well along the meal. About the wine list, it’s based mostly in small national producers, where everything is good, but also a bit too “right”. A bit more boldness in the choices, to go with the boldness of the plates is something to think for the future.

About the service, I was expecting a bit more “casual” and less fine dining, from the beautiful tableware to the white gloves, or the little service details, everything was very close to a top restaurant. Also here, Almeja wished more and better, revealing a nice surprise, especially for presenting a differentiated service to a broad public.

Final Remarks
In less than a year, João Cura has made this Almeja one of the most interesting projects in the city, good products, nice technique, an accurate aesthetic sense and honest prices (rarer each day). Besides the menu, Almeja can be discovered through a tasting menu (55€) or in a very interesting lunch menu (15€), where some tests for new menus are made. The cuisine is Portuguese with some and obvious influences of the chef’s life in Spain. Showing knowledge but with a restraint capacity rare in young chefs, that usually try to show everything at once and eventually fail.

If Almejar is to wish or want something very badly, this Almeja dreamt, wished and became a refuge in this competitive Porto of gastronomy. So we’re just left with accompanying the work of this young talent and his team because the future is theirs to draw…

Almeja
Average price: 30/35€ pax without wines 
Rua Fernandes Tomás,819 – Porto
22038120

Versão Portuguesa

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Restaurant Brasão – Felgueiras

We often hear that tradition is not what it used to be, that this or that place has changed, or about the good old days. Unfortunately, this is true most of the times, but every now and then, some places change for the better, recreating themselves, and simply continue to satisfy and surprise us.

A good example of that is António Carvalho, who has been giving life to the regional gastronomy of Felgueiras for over 40 years. By his hands, the Santa Quitéria has become epic, he passed through the Algarve and settled at his original Brasão, where he continues to experiment and learn as any of the young talents around.

To get there is easy and we soon arrive from Porto to the road of Refontoura, where you’ll see a big billboard with the chef’s picture assuring you’re at the right place.

Inside the restaurant you’ll find António Carvalho among the room and the kitchen, offering his suggestions and charm like a good cicerone is meant to. And we started very well with a good and varied basket of bread and a cheese and smoked traditional sausage platter, also with prosciutto, the latter a bit salt dominated.

Followed some nicely worked “pataniscas” (a type of fritters usually with salted codfish), and the first surprise, a home smoked salmon, that surely no one dreams to find in a traditional Portuguese cuisine restaurant. Says the chef he learned to work the salmon on his trips to Brazil, and glad he did…

Home cured salmon

 Grouper Soup 
The most memorable soup I had this year, a grouper soup that combines everything our traditional cuisine should be, good products, simply worked, substance, freshness, and lots of flavors! The generous pieces of fish, combined with the poached egg, the tomato, peppers, and the pasta, make this deceptively simple dish a genuine interpretation of our tradition.

Brasão is worth the visit even just to taste this soup!

Baked Octopus
Nicely sized mollusk, exquisitely cooked, with the perfect texture. Rich and greasy as any good roast should be!

Grilled meat with “arroz de Fumeiro” (rice with traditional smoked sausages) 
A good sirloin steak, perfectly grilled, showing that also the meats are especially worked and selected. But the best was really the rice, rich and flavorful, with vegetables and beans, making of it almost a complete dish. Very good!

Orange Tart
A good orange tart is always hard to find, sometimes the texture is not right, sometimes it’s too sweet, and few (or none) times it comes close to my mother’s recipe, that marked my palate and set the bar very high. Well, here the tart is very close, nicely executed, without excesses, with a fresh flavor. An ending with some freshness after an already long and heavy meal.

But there was still time to finish the meal with one small pine nuts and carrot muffin, cooked to order, moist, warm and very tasty, becoming a choice to our next visit!

Pine nuts and carrot muffin

The wine list is another highlight of Brasão, with many and good options from every region of the country, especially Green and Douro wines. For this meal, we opted for a fantastic Alvarinho from Quinta de Santiago.

The service ran smoothly, with a nicely worked mise en scène, revealing more care than we usually find in a traditional style restaurant.

Final Remarks
An immaculate meal, as by the way they always are in our visits to Mr. Carvalho’s realm. A master, to whom retirement seems very far away, so much is the vivacity and charm he battles within every service.

The cuisine at Brasão showcases perfectly what we intend from our cuisine, good products and lots of flavor. Speaking of flavors, on Wednesdays (or by order) is served a ribs eye, steam cooked, whole, for 8h, that is to die for. This allied to the grouper soup is, for sure, a heavenly combo.

Unfortunately, and mostly in big cities, there are few great traditional cuisine restaurants left, so people and spaces like Mr. Carvalho and his Brasão make us believe that every trip and km is worth it to delight ourselves with the enchantments and wisdom of those who dedicate their lives to the unique and authentic flavors of the truest traditional Portuguese cuisine!

Restaurant Brasão
Average price: 20€/pax without wines 
Rua da Liberdade, 4082, Refontoura – Felgueiras
255336118

Versão Portuguesa

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Lausanne Palace

An imposing Belle Epoque palace, the singularity of a privileged view, and the art of welcoming, make of this Lausanne Palace one of the best hotels in Switzerland.

Located in the heart of Lausanne, with the stamp of the Leading Hotels of the World, the Lausanne Palace was one of the best experiences I ever had in a hotel.

A palace that witnessed the beauty and bohemia of the 20’s, kept, since June 1915, the same premise – the Swiss hospitality, with the happiness and comfort of its guests as the main goal.

Since 2016, with Ivan Rivier in charge, the Lausanne Palace perfectly represents the success of luxury hotels, in which the Savoir-être and the Savoir-faire are the great pillars of hospitality.

We arrived at the hotel after a beautiful train journey from Lucerne (see), and once the central station was just 500m of the hotel, we walked there.

First Impression

The first thing we see as arriving is the facade, going back in time and imagine ourselves as part of a glamorous story from the Belle Epoque. The balconies with their red sunblinds give it the typical elegance of a Parisian hotel.

The hotel is surrounded by the city, the Geneva lake, and the Alps.

We entered and were welcomed with the so delicate “Bonjour Madame”!

The lobby is huge, and ahead of us is one of the bars of the hotel, full of guests with the typical combo of bustle and relaxation.

It’s the Bar 1915, with an intimate ambiance, while in an open space. Surrounded by flowers and decorated woth sober colors, giving it a comfort atmosphere.

You feel like experiencing it even before the check-in!
We were forwarded to the reception, to our left, and welcomed by the team that took care of our check-in without delays.

The reception, with high marble ceilings, crystal chandeliers, and neo-classical columns, shares the grandiosity of the facade of the hotel!

Bedrooms
There are 140, including 30 Suites and Junior Suites.
We stayed in a Suite Lake View, by far one of the best rooms I’ve ever stayed at!

With some generous 100m2, distributed by a living room with sober colors and a comfort ambiance; an elegant bedroom, breathing relaxation and luxury; and two bathrooms, the smaller one with a shower and the bigger one with bathtub; and lastly but most importantly, two balconies with one of the best views ever, the Lake Geneva and the magnificent Alps, covered in snow, a magical combination with the sun felt that day.

It was here we spent half of the afternoon, with a dreamlike scenario, accompanied by chocolate, fruit, coffee, and tea we had available in the room.

To perfume our afternoon there was a red roses bouquet with a welcoming letter. The atmosphere was just perfect – of comfort, elegance, and familiar as if that was our house (and oh! if it could be!).

Besides the free wifi, here the minibar is also free, with juices, non-alcoholic drinks, and some snacks.

In the bathroom, the products we have available are from the renowned British brand Penhaligon’s.
The bedroom is extremely functional and can be controlled from the bed. About it, and unfortunately for me, they invested in the mattress firmness and not in the wrapping softness as I like.

That night, we also got a bottle of Champagne Deutz, some snacks, and another rose! And at that moment we were sure there is no hospitality as the Swiss!

They are unbeatable in the art of welcoming (and happily they discovered my passion for “bubbles”!)

Restaurants and Bars

One of the hotels’ ex-libris, because it has several spaces with very high quality.
The Bar 1915, that I mentioned before, is the center of the hotel, where guests and locals come together for different breakfasts, cocktails along the day, or business meetings in an interesting space. Besides it, there are three more bars.

The LP’s Bar, with an urban-chic atmosphere. Basically a place in Lausanne where you go to see and be seen!

A modern decoration with touches of colonial, it is prepared to satisfy our wishes from the morning till dawn! The panoramic terrace enchants those who decide to stay there and relax.

At night, the bar transforms into a bohemian place where anything can happen, with live music from Tuesday to Saturday.

In this bar there is the famous Krug Room, an intimate space, combining two of the biggest pleasures the comnon mortal can have, books and wine – particularly the selection of the best Krug champagnes!

Another place of interest is the Habana Bar, as the name indicates, a space for the tobacco lovers, and not any tobacco, but the famous Cuban one! A place for very peculiar tastes!

With a decoration between the elegance of wood and the sparkle of leather, this bar is a space full of personality.

And to finish the bars, we have another one, quite different from these, a Vegan Bar, the Yogi Booster, the first vegetarian and organic restaurant of Lausanne, with a series of menus with healthy and natural foods, and a detox cuisine.

This food experience can be made with the detox treatments of the spa as well.

And on to the restaurants, there are four, one of them with a Michelin star!

Between the four spaces, the choice is very varied, with options to every taste: the Sushi Zen Palace, a traditional Japanase to the lovers of this type of food; the Côté Jardin, famous for the brunch, with mediterranean flavors, serving all the meals of the day, and where we had the chance to have a great breakfast with the Alps as scenario; the Brasserie du Gran Chéne, with its Parisian style, taking us back to the past with the elegance of the Parisian Brasseries and the flavors of the great French gastronomy. One of the spotlights is the oyster bar.

  And lastly, the acclaimed and starred La Table D’Edgard, headed by Edgard Bovier, one of the main gastronomic references of the city and the region, combining haute cuisine with one of the most beautiful views of the city.

Services
The Lausanne Palace is a luxury hotel prepared to satisfy every need of its guests.
Equipped with five rooms for events and celebrations, prepared to welcome hundreds of people, without ever neglecting an excellence service. But, if the focus is business, the hotel is also a step ahead, with its eight rooms technologically equipped to welcome dozens of people.


If like me, the goal is to relax, the CBE Concept Spa is the perfect place. Constituted of an interior warm pool, jacuzzi, two areas (men and women) of a Turkish bath, treatment rooms and the best gym I ever saw in a hotel.

Nothing is left to chance and the feeling of well-being and plenitude is a constant in this space.

Besides these, the hotel as all the typical services of a luxury hotel and some more you may need. You just have to contact the concierge or any other member of the staff.

Of my stay, I’m left with nostalgia, gratitude and mostly, fascination. How can a centennial hotel be so timeless, be so traditional and at the same time so cosmopolite, be so genuine and so caring of its guests, and when it has the size of a palace be so authentic and perfect in the art of welcoming?
But yes, a hotel can be all this!

And of my experience, I take, above all, authenticity and hospitality.

See you soon Lausanne Palace!

Lausanne Palace
Bedrooms from 270€
Rue du Grand-Chêne 7 – Lausanne
+41 21 331 31 31
info@lausanne-palace.ch

Versão Portuguesa

 Photos: Flavors & Senses

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Lucerne

Located in central Switzerland, the geographic and historic center of the country, Lucerne is one of those cities taken straight out of a fairy tale.
It’s the biggest of central Switzerland, situated in the margins of Lake Lucerne.
Started as a fishing village, but from 1220 it had an important role in economy and commerce with the opening of the Gotthard Pass.

Mainly Catholic, marked by its history in leading the Catholic resistance during the Reformation period. Currently, and since the XIX century, tourism is the main economic activity.

One of the many reasons millions of tourists are drawn to Lucerne is the Classical Music Festival.
Lucerne is one of those cities you can easily see walking around, being able to explore it in a day. Two days well spent are enough, three to four days if you also want to explore some more cities around the Lake Lucerne.

The city is divided into North and South by the Reuss River. In the North margin is the medieval Old Town and in the South margin the train station, where you’ll probably arrive in Lucerne.

Focusing on this last item, how to arrive in Lucerne?

Flying to Zurich and taking the train to Lucerne is the simpler and quicker way.
Train tickets should be bought in advance (see), and brace yourselves ’cause they’re expensive!
If you intend to visit several cities in the country, one of the options is flying to Zurich or Geneva (depending on the cities you want to see) and rent a car or travel by train.

What to do in Lucerne?
There are some mandatory places in Lucerne, and whether you like it or not, you’ll have to accept there will always be tourists in the must-see spots. Well, what are we anyway? Tourists! Can’t fight with that. You can always visit and explore the less seen side of the city but you must have to see the ex-libris as well! Right?

To see

South Margin

Right next to the train station arises an imposing modern building, entirely built of glass. The KKL or Kultur-und Kongresszentrum Luzern, aka, Lucerne Culture and Congress Centre.
Here you can find, besides conference and showrooms, the Kunstmuseum with Swiss paintings from the XVIII century to the XX century, as well as temporary exhibits that regularly change.

Around 400 meters to the left (facing the river Reuss) and if you wish to maintain the Art environment, you have the Rosengart collection, where many of the works collected by Siegfried’s art negotiators, and his daughter, are exposed; it also has works of Picasso, Cézanne, and Monet.

But museums aside, let’s discover another type of art, in a very specific style, religious art.

Lucerne Jesuit Church

Also on the south bank of the river, we have symbols of religion, the Jesuit Church, from the XVII century, with its onion topped towers built later in the XIX century. The interior is baroque and on the ceiling is possible to enjoy the apotheosis of Saint Francis Xavier.

Very close is the Franziskanerkirche, an older Franciscan church, from the XIII century, initially built in a Gothic style but altered throughout time with baroque and renaissance.

The Lucern History Museum is also on the Southside, in a renaissance building, and here you can see all the history of the city. Beside it, there is a great option for families and kids, the Natural History Museum, with highlight to Zoology, Paleontology, and Geology.

North Margin

Crossing to the North side of the city, we immediately get to see two of its spotlights, the SpreurerBrücke and the KapellBrücke, the most emblematic bridges of Lucerne.
The first, the oldest wooden bridge in Europe, dating from the XIV century, crossing the river sidewards. It was a part of the old fortifications. In the middle, the bridge is connected to the Wasserturm, an octagonal tower, that once has been a lighthouse, a prison, and treasury!

Walking along the tower take a good look at its ceiling, you’ll find paintings about the history of the city, as well as the life of St. Leodegar and St. Mauritius (martyrs who became patrons). Some are very worn out, and some of the panels were destroyed during a fire in 1993.

The SpreurerBrücke, also made of wood, is a bit more recent, from the beginning of the XV century, and crossing it is also staring at its ceiling panels of Kaspar Meglinger that showcase the Dance of Death culminating in Crist’s triumph (North-South way).

But let us now focus on the Old Town!
This was my favorite area, staying at the Hotel des Balances we were right in the old town, and each time we stepped outside the hotel and walked around, we kept finding new details, a new alley to explore, a new story!

The Old Town managed to stay well preserved and real until today. The facades of the historical buildings are painted with frescoes and provide beautiful moments of wonder to those watching. The historical neighborhood of Lucerne is a vibrant place, full of stores, bars, and restaurants.
A place where you can truly feel and experience the life of its inhabitants and the essence of the city.

Weinmarkt

One of the most beautiful squares is Weinmarkt, the old square where wine was sold, its composed of lovely houses, mostly former guilds. Another interesting square is the Kapell-Platz even more vibrant in the market days. It’s named due to the Peterskapelle, a chapel built in the place of a church from the XII century.


The beauty of Lucerne is to just walk around it, without any worries, nor looking for something specific, just let yourselves go by your curiosity and be amazed at each alley, each detail, and enchantment of this little medieval town.

Above the Old Town is the imposing Museggmauer, the well-preserved north section of the medieval wall that surrounds around 850 meters of the city, from the north of River Reuss to the North Margin of the Lucerne Lake. The wall has nine towers, but only three of them are open to the public, and only during summer.

Northwest of the old town there are some highlights to be seen, the Bourbaki Panorama, one of the few left panoramas in the world, that portrays the marching of the French army against Switzerland at the orders of the General Bourbaki during the Franco-Prussian war; the Richard Wagner Museum – the composer lived in Lucerne for a period of time where he composed some of his works; and lastly, the emblematic Löwendenkmal, the figure of a giant dying lion pierced by a spear, to pay homage to the Swiss guards of Louis XIV of France, who defended the Palais des Tuilerries in 1792 when it was attacked by revolutionaries. This sculpted lion, in a sandstone cliff over a small lake, emanates drama! (Much more exciting than the Manneken Pis in Brussels!).

If you have more time to visit the city, you should also take time to enjoy the Swiss Transportation Museum. An excellent option for a family trip. Unfortunately, we did not have enough time to go there.

Another option if you have the time, is to visit other cities around Lake Lucerne.

But, if like us you only have two days, the ideal is to just walk around town, absorbing the best Lucerne has to offer, its authenticity, the medieval beauty, the history and natural beauty.


Waking up in the morning and getting to see the sun reflecting in the lake while rivaling with the white from the snow on the Alps is an unforgettable privilege.

See you soon Lucerne!

Where to stay
Hotel Des Balances

Versão Portuguesa 

Photos: Flavors & Senses

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Hotel des Balances

Located in the enchanted city of Lucerne in Switzerland, the Hotel des Balances is a four-star Boutique hotel, that could easily be a five!

Being a part of the old town, the sensation is of being in another era, initially medieval but quickly we can identify very bohemian and cosmopolite features, being its restaurant one of the most trendy and elegant in Lucerne, with a terrace and bar with privileged views over the river.

The roots of the hotel, or at least of the region, date back to the XIII century, perfectly located between the fish and wine markets, an area always considered noble, with its view over the lake, the best look over the city.

But, the life of Hotel des Balances starts in 1837 and evolves as one of the most emblematic hotels in the city, by the hands of Jean Haecky and Fritz Rindlisbacher.

First Impression
We started our visit to Switzerland in the small city of Lucerne and went straight to the hotel. I knew it was near the river Reuss, and the views supposed to be amazing, but I never thought our stay could be as incredible as it turned out to be!

As soon as I saw the hotel from a distance I realized the beautiful balconies overlooked the river, and the Jesuit church on the other bank, also to the left was the KapellBrücke and to the right SpreurerBrücke, some of the city ex-libris!

The picturesque balconies, the refined and elegant aspect, and the connection to the river reminded me some of Venice’s palaces.

As we got close to the hotel the bustle of its restaurant was already noticeable.

 The emblematic facade of the Hotel

Going around to the entrance, we have one of the most beautiful facades in the city. It demonstrates the style of the famous Swiss artist Hans Holbein, and surely no one is indifferent to it.

We entered and were welcomed efficiently and with sincere smiles.

The reception reminds us of the 20’s and the Belle Époque, and the room was decorated for Christmas, very simple and elegant. A very cozy environment, I must say. A Boutique Hotel, with all the comfort and coziness I love.

Our check-in was quick and we were offered a cocktail voucher to the bar, and a free pass to the public transports, easing our trip around the city.

Bedrooms
They are 56, of several types, Single Room, Double Room, Junior Suite, Suites, and Romantic Suite (specially designed for a perfect honeymoon!).

We stayed in a Junior Suite, constituted by a very comfy living room, a bathroom with a wonderful kit of L’occitane products, and an elegant bedroom. The sober and neutral colors plus the golden details, give the right amount of comfort versus simplicity to the area.

But the true highlight of this bedroom was the balcony and the amazing view from it. The river Reuss became our confident and the Swiss Alps covered in snow our most perfect horizon.

At our disposal at the bedroom were coffee and tea, and to spoil us a little, the Hotel des Balances decided to show the Swiss hospitality is the most complete of all – offering us a bottle of Veuve Clicquot, fruit, and chocolates. And what a beautiful moment we had on our balcony. A moment to remember, for sure!

The only negative was the poor soundproofing of the bedroom, otherwise, it would’ve been just the perfect stay!

Restaurants
Inside the space of the hotel, there is the Restaurant Balances (awarded with 14 points in the guide Gault-Millaut), the Bar Lounge and the Terrace. Considered one of the best spaces in the city, probably one of the trendiest, with a cosmopolitan environment with a bohemian touch and of a constant party, with all the relaxation needed for us to feel good.

An extremely elegant place, similar to the rest of the hotel, with a breathtaking terrace, where friends from around Lucerne meet daily.
We enjoyed a very tasty dinner, with a constant in-n-out of tourists and locals around us.

From the dinner, highlight to a contrasting beetroot, salmon, and spicy radish dumpling, with a good contrast of earth/sea flavors, and freshness.

 

 Beetroot dumpling 

Seabass, parsley emulsion, pumpkin risotto with cranberries and bacon

There was also time for a flawless seabass, a great selection of refined cheeses and an excellent dessert of Chocolate with yuzu and hazelnut.

 Chocolate, Yuzu and hazelnut

After the dinner we went to the bar, accompanied by some Portuguese friends in a joyful coincidence, where we had the chance to see an amazing moment like a Piano Batlle! A usual moment in the nights of the bar.

At the bar and Lounge is also possible to enjoy a meal and wine.

Regarding the breakfast, you can have it at the restaurant, similarly to the other meals of the day, but we opted to have ours in the room next to the reception. A more intimate environment, with a Christmas-y decoration, and a range of fruit juices forming a true color palette. An excellent breakfast!

Services
Besides the usual services, like room service, wi-fi, laundry service and concierge, the Hotel des Balances also has other services to its guests.

You can also say the location is probably one of the best in town, making our life easier.

Concerning business trips, the hotel has three rooms for either conferences, events or celebrations, and two of them can even be joined to form a bigger one.

If you like your stay to be personalized, just talk to the concierge and the plan will be prepared to your taste, from visiting museums, a shopping day, go to a show or take a boat trip to other towns around Lucern.

 

Service 
The Swiss hospitality turns any stay in a moment of perfect harmony, and that is noticeable at Hotel des Balances.
The team is young, nice and caring about details. The environment is elegant but relaxed, and being a relatively small hotel, you still get that feeling of being at home.

I felt so welcomed and spoiled (and I just don’t say that because of the Veuve Clicquot!!!).

Hotel des Balances is one of those cases where we see sometimes some of the four-star hotels are better than the five ones!

Located in one of the most beautiful and picturesque cities in Switzerland, it makes us feel special.

 

A magical place, full of history, but at the same time trendy and cosmopolitan.

A place where you leave already wanting to come back!

Hotel Des Balances 
Bedrooms from 150€
Weinmarkt, CH-6004 – Lucerne
+41 414 182 828 
info@balances.ch

Versão Portuguesa

Photos: Flavors & Senses

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Chryseia 2015 and the cuisine of Vítor Matos

In a time when the launch of the 2016 edition of Chryseia is for sure being prepared, it’s impossible not to say a few words about one of Douro’s greatest wines, even more about such a peculiar year as 2015.

The presentation started very well, in a sunny day, at the elegant terrace of Antiqvvm, the refined Pol Roger champagne and the fresh snacks of Vítor Matos, with shrimp ceviche, cheese&prosciutto and fresh cheese&tomato “sandwiches”.

Cheese&prosciutto sandwiches

At the table, and without the usual presence of Bruno Prats (the renowned oenologist who associated with Symington to embrace the Quinta de Roriz project), we had the chance to taste some of his wines, starting with a peculiar Chilean ChardonnaySol de Sol 2012.

A very well tailored white, with citric notes, some dry fruit, good greasiness and great acidity.

Atlantic Turbot, peas, potato, spinach and truffle 

To kick off the menu, Vítor Matos chose a very well accomplished dish, around the Atlantic Turbot. Perfectly cooked fish, nice balance of flavors and textures, with body and weight, without any other element outshining the fish. Worked very well with the wine!

 Charles Symington

Followed the so desired 2015 edition of the classic Chryseia. A wine that follows the line of the 2012 edition, that while not being as powerful and recognized as the 2011 (3rd place in the Top 100 of Wine Spectator), showed much more elegant, sophisticated and harmonious. Wines that give pleasure to drink and discover, because they don’t show everything at first sight.

The nose brings us Touriga Nacional notes, with floral aromas and some rockrose harmonizing with lots of fruit, spices and joyfulness, a nose that transports us through Douro. On its turn, the mouth brings us a great structure, marked tannins, but molded, and a rare freshness that gives it the elegance and lightness that many times lack in the great Douro wines.

Time will take care of making this 2015 one of the best editions of Chryseia, the secret is to manage to keep the bottles hidden a few more years!

 Royal pigeon, foie, maronesa veal tail, parsnip and beetroot 

Accompanying was a fat and rich dish, with a great balance of sweetness, in a combination of royal pigeon, foie and veal tail. Great contrast of textures and meat flavors, missing just a bit of freshness to elevate the dish to another level.

Followed one of the highlights of the afternoon, the tasting of one of the greatest wines created by Bruno Prats, in his former property in Bordeaux, the Grand Cru Classé Cos D’ Estournel 1986. A Bordeaux classic, in great shape, with the Cabernet Sauvignon making us travel through aromas of tobacco, spices, mushrooms and some smoky notes. A great wine!

Azeitão and Serra da Estrela cheeses 

Vítor Matos’ double interpretation of two classic national cheeses that share their origin. Very good pairing and imagination, especially with the onion and Port wine jam and the red fruits, making of this a very interesting moment concerning working with cheese without disrespecting it.

As any good Douro house worthy of its name, the lunch could not end without the Port wine, in this case, a Vintage 2000 from Quinta de Roriz. Still with great color and full of dark fruit, starting to get some harmony with tertiary aromas. Very pleasant in the mouth and went really well with the dessert of Resende Cherry and Chocolate.

 Resende Cherry and Chocolate, aged balsamic and coffee

A very well accomplished dessert, with notes of coffee and chocolate working harmoniously. Elevating the dish was the final kick from the balsamic, in a combination where the pistachio cream did not add much.

It was a great lunch, that not only comes to prove the creativity and quality of Vítor Matos cuisine, but also a new path, more elegant and subtle, with fewer elements on the dish, and centered on produce and flavor of the main element.

Concerning the wines, there’s no doubt this partnership between Symington and Bruno Prats, creates, year after year, one of the great wines of Douro. If the following years are in the line of this 2015 profile, I’ll always be a very happy man while tasting a glass of Chryseia!

Versão Portuguesa

Photos: Flavors & Senses

Disclaimer
We were at the presentation of Chryseia by invitation from Prats & Symington, whereas this does not alter our work, being the opinion and the text of the exclusive responsibility of the author.

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Quinta de La Rosa

When the world was created, Douro was one of the chosen places to represent perfection! And I get more certain of that each time I return!

This time we came to get to know Quinta de La Rosa, located very near the center of Pinhão. This Quinta, very familiar, was offered as a Christening present to Claire Feuheerd, grandmother of the current manager (Sophia Bergqvist), in 1906. The wine export company was sold in the 30’s, however, the La Rosa was kept and managed by Claire.

In 1988, Sophia and her father Tim Bergqvist decided to restart the family business, launching Quinta de La Rosa as one of the first producers and bottlers of Port wine at Douro.

Nowadays, the Quinta is managed by Sophia, with her brother’s help, and the oenologist Jorge Moreira, who’s been creating a very strong connection to the brand these past few years.

The vineyards at Vale do Inferno 

The 55 hectares of vineyards, located in the heart of Alto Douro, on the right margin of the river, allow an annual production of 50000 liters of Port and the triple of table wines.

Quinta de La Rosa is in the family for several generations now, but also several generations have been working here, the reason why it’s so familiar and cozy.

We came to La Rosa to know the Hotel and enjoy the opening of its new restaurant, A Cozinha da Clara, as the name suggests, an homage to Clara Feuheerd’s memory.

First Impression
There’s no possible description when talking about Douro!

Quinta de La Rosa stays in one of Douro’s hillsides, with the vineyards going down to the river in terraces, with mixing colors that create nature in perfect harmony.

We were welcomed by a young and nice team, in a reception that’s also the shop and tasting room for Quinta’s visitors. A modern space, where wine, olive oil, and vinegar are displayed.
From here we were accompanied to our bedroom, at Quinta Amarela, very close to Casa Principal (main building).

 Bedrooms
The Quinta has been receiving guests for more than 20 years now, developing a refuge for the Douro (and its wines) lovers. And, in 2012, Quinta de La Rosa was redeveloped to accommodate more guests, with more quality.

 Quinta Amarela

The Quinta has 21 bedrooms and a house with capacity for 6. There are bedrooms at Casa de Familia, where we have direct contact with 100 years of history; also at the vineyard, which names refer to family members, and there are also two houses, Quinta Amarela (where we stayed), with 5 bedrooms (but that you can rent as a whole); and Quinta das Lamelas, with capacity for 6 people.

Quinta Amarela

So Quinta Amarela has 5 bedrooms, and a common space, a living room with all the comfort of a family home. Also we also have a terrace and private pool. We stayed in the bedroom Amarela 1, but it is interesting to think of joining 4 couples and rent the entire house to us!

Our bedroom was a Superior Double, more rustic than the recently renewed bedrooms of the main house. The Bed was comfortable, and the view from one of the windows was Douro. At our disposal, we had water, tea, and coffee.

However, I missed some little things, like a welcoming detail and a robe (I can’t live without a robe!). The best of Quinta Amarela is maybe its terrace and pool, which views take us to the paradise called Douro!

 Restaurants
The Cozinha da Clara, a space to honor Sophia’s grandmother, is the only restaurant at the Quinta, opened in May 2017, and the reason that brought us here.

A space that imitates the interior of a cask, with family paintings around the walls, but in my opinion, it could be less modern and more traditional. Here we had breakfast and dinner!

We had breakfast on the balcony, where we get the sensation we can touch the river! Amazing!

Small repair for the fact of the eggs being an extra option on the breakfast menu, even more in a place where the majority of the guests are British.

For dinner, Cozinha da Clara‘s proposal rests on national flavors, revisited by the young chef Pedro Cardoso. A signature cuisine, transporting not only Douro’s heritage, with the olive oils, wines, bread, and sausages, but also some national flavors from different places like the suckling pig or the sardines.

Sardine samosa with peppers 

 Suckling pig and mushroom tureen

Harmonizing were obviously the good wines of the Quinta, from the Rosé to the Reserva Tinto, and of course, the classic Colheita 2008 and the Tawny 20 years, in a “challenge” to accompany the chocolate and red fruits based dessert.

A new cuisine, a new restaurant joining the each time more interesting, but still short, gastronomic offer at Douro.
Services
Quinta de La Rosa offers a series of options and activities for making the stay a moment of real contact with Douro, with wine, the vineyards, and nature.

So a visit to the cellar is mandatory, and see the entire production of the wine, as well as tasting it to finish with a plus.

At La Rosa is possible to accompany all the production process, from the vineyards to the bottling. The visit is possible every day from April to October, at 11 am.

 

 
At the end of the visit, you have a wine taste at the shop in the main house, where you can also buy the wines, olive oil or vinegar.
During the harvest season, September or October (in normal weather years!), you can also take part of it.

   

But the stay at Quinta de La Rosa is full of activities puting us in direct contact with nature, long walks, namely to the Vale do Inferno vineyard (around 20 min walking along the vineyards), a true work of art; or to Casa das Lamelas (around 1h30), allowing us to see Douro and the terraces from a very high location.

It is possible to make a picnic, organized in different places around the Quinta, always with the best view over Douro.

Around the Quinta, you can visit Pinhão, see the historic train station and taste the amazing things of the Qualifer butchery, or even take a longer trip to the very beautiful town of Provesende.

 
But, for those just simply wanting to relax at La Rosa, the options are as simple as enjoying both the pools, if the weather allows, or simply rest in one of the many spots while reading a good book.

During my stay, I would’ve changed some details (as I referred), that not being serious, could’ve taken the experience to another level.

La Rosa is located in a little piece of heaven, with astonishing views and contact with nature, making it a magical place.

Quinta de La Rosa 
Bedrooms from 125€
Quinta de La Rosa, 5085-215  – Pinhão (Douro)
+351 254 732 254
bookings@quintadelarosa.com

Versão Portuguesa

 Photos: Flavors & Senses

Disclaimer
We were at Quinta de La Rosa by invitation, whereas this does not alter our work, being the opinion and the text of the exclusive responsibility of the author.

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