Like most things at Quinta Bonita, the panoramic view from our terrace has the wow factor in abundance. Gazing over the countryside to the distant mountains and shimmering coastline it’s hard to believe that it’s almost November and it’s even harder to believe that this is the Algarve.
That said, my experience of this particular part of the world was limited to my daughter’s hen weekend in Albufeira – one of several popular resorts we had bypassed on our way from the airport – and I had been in no rush to return.
But this was a far cry from the crowded beaches and noisy bars that I remembered. The pool area below, with ornate fountains and blue Portuguese tiles looked just the place to sunbathe in splendid solitude and clearly there would be no need to get up at the crack of dawn to bag a sunbed.
Although there was an absence of Union Jack swimwear, the British owners, Chantelle and Fraser, upheld one national pastime: the daily ritual of afternoon tea. Taking our seats on the garden terrace for a cup of Earl Grey and a slice of homemade shortbread, it was evident that Quinta Bonita had little in common with the high-rise hotels up the road. With Tigger the resident cat curled up beside me, classical music wafting in the background, access to a well-stocked honesty bar and a cupboard full of books and board games, I felt like a guest at an exclusive house party.
No surprise really as Quinta Bonita was, for about thirty years, Chantelle’s parents’ holiday home where she spent many happy childhood summers and in 2008 she and Fraser seized the opportunity to realise their dream of turning the much-loved house into a luxury boutique hotel.
As much of the original building as possible was retained in the renovation and, as Chantelle explains “The most important aspect was to maintain the Quinta Bonita laid back and friendly atmosphere so that people instantly feel at home. This is a special place for us and we hope that the magic rubs off.”
The reinvention of Quinta Bonita was very much a family project. Chantelle’s mother took care of the interior design of the eight beautifully appointed suites. Each has its own balcony or terrace and a show-house bathroom, and the attention to detail is meticulous. There are so many thoughtful and luxurious touches: Egyptian cotton sheets, hand-painted water carafes, fluffy bath robes neatly folded on the giant bed, filtered water on tap, organic toiletries and even a choice of seven types of pillow.
Chantelle’s father created the stunning terraced gardens; a wonderful mixture of sloping lawns, rose beds, an orchard that provides the hotel’s fruit juices, an awesome 400-year-old Olive tree and an exquisite Italian garden. There’s also a giant Chess Set and a lily pond that’s home to some very vocal frogs.
Tempting though it was to chill out under the palm trees we were keen to see more of the Algarve and the ever-helpful Chantelle and Fraser are a mine of information on where to go and what to see. They can also organise excursions, activities and sports to suit your fancy; whether it be horse riding, golf, wine-tasting or dolphin-watching.
Armed with Fraser’s maps and walking trails, we began by seeking out the local beaches. The Algarve is renowned for beautiful beaches, but I had no idea they were all so very different. The nearby Praia de Camilo, is in a sheltered cove with spectacular sculpted rocks and a labyrinth of grottos. A few miles up the coast, away from the families and kayakers, there’s ‘Praia do Porto de Mós’ with miles of deserted golden sands and a popular hideaway for naturists. When we venture further afield we will find it all changes again from quiet waters to rolling surf… but I’ll come back to that later.