Up a notch
First time in Porto. I have been exploring Lisbon and the Algarve since my relatively new found passion for Portugal. As a very diverse country in geography, culinary, culture, accents I needed to break free from the comfort of familiar territories and head somewhere unknown. What place better to visit than the second biggest city in Portugal and all its appeal for wine lovers? It didn't take much convincing Porto was meant to be my next destination.
Now, every time I visit a new city, I confess I get somewhat flustered with all the options of hotels, each claiming for the perfect spot. So, when PortoBay Flores popped up in my searches, I didn't have any doubts I wanted to stay there. Why wouldn't you? A five star nestled in a renovated palace from the 16th century with a 18th century Baroque chapel in its grounds. The hotel has been open for under one year and all is very pristine and new. As clever architects should do, the PortoBay chain have kept all the countless features of the old building and married them with the ultimate touch of luxury in every corner of the hotel. Cream and chocolate tones complement the characterful travertine and granite flooring throughout.
PortoBay Flores is everything you would expect from a top 5 star hotel. It has the polite and courteous staff , the dreamy spa, the inviting pool, a choice of healthy and indulgent breakfast, the restaurants and the whole building smells absolutely delicious. I had a pretty good idea of what to expect before I got there, but a major surprise was waiting for me. Nothing, absolutely nothing could have prepared me for the room I was offered. Readers, take note: room 34. This is something rather special.
As I make my way the grand entrance through the glass doors of the historical yellow building, the ample lobby that could be the living room of someone with plenty of style, I am warmly greeted by the attentive and kind staff. As I check in they take my suitcase and I am swept straight to the top floor, which is always a wonderful sign if you actually have to write about the hotel and its views. (Trust me: I have stayed in places for work before where they put me in the least recommended room for appreciating the view and then, I have to write about it.)
A little tap with the card and the door for room 34 is open. A stylish living room with a enormous mocha toned sofa, a slightly sparkly cream rug and pieces of furniture and art objects that are simple and highlight the architectural beauty of the building. Hugely tall ceilings and original period windows with wooden shatters frame this classicly elegant living area where I can call home for the next three days. I will let you into a little secret: when I saw the sitting area with its gigantic TV, a lovely bathroom, I thought the sofa was later on going to become a bed and how great! But little did I know when the very kind staff asked if I wanted my suitcase upstairs, (upstairs?!) I tried not to look too astonished, but that was it: I had an apartment. A whole apartment with a spacious living room, two bathrooms, coffee maker, small eating area, a selection of very cool lamps, a set of stairs that had even cooler lights going down and up leading to the most gorgeous bedroom ever. Simple, clean and so chic with the tall original window and the same wooden frames as downstairs'. The bathroom was a temple. A ample walk in shower room that felt like a cave with a selection of water pressures and warm lights, two sinks, because you know, I might need one to wash my hands and the other to brush my teeth and a view of the Porto Cathedral. Honestly, would anyone ever dream of anything more?
As if that wasn't already the concept of luxury, space and comfort, I also had a walk in wardrobe, a little balcony and the best sleep I had in a long time. Location, as you can imagine, was also faultless. As I walked out, if I turned right I would reach the Douro river and its inviting seafood riverfront restaurants, wineries and the famous Porto Bridge of Luis I. If I turned left, I would walk up to the Sé Cathedral, the stunning São Bento train station with its vast blue azulejos panels, the shopping area, the Lello bookshop, the Clérigos church and tower and a number of the most gorgeous baroque churches, most of them with those dramatic and stunning façade of blue tiles you imagine when you think of Porto.
The spa Bedroom at room 34 Shower room at room 34
And just imagine: once you are tired of exploring this atmospheric and beautiful city, exhausted all the Porto wine there is to taste, ate all the sensational cod dishes the restaurants offer and certainly hit your exercise target considering you will never walk up and down stairs like this before, you will go back to Rua das Flores, enter the grand building of PortoBay Flores and ask for a drink at the Maia Bar before heading up to your exclusive room 34. On Sunday it was my turn to pack up and say goodbye to my room. I left until the last drops of seconds of check out time after being woken up by the endless sound of bells from Sé Cathedral reminding me that such luxury must be a sin, obviously, if you don't have it.
Rua das Flores , 27
Porto - Portugal
The lobby The chapel Living area at room 34