The Douro Valley is one of the most gorgeous places in the world that I have the privilege to visit.  With the majestic Douro River (which turns into the Duero once you cross the Spanish border) running down its center, the valley is lined stunning terraced vineyards covering hills that look like they were just punched up from the ground.

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Obviously, the Douro is home to some of Portugal’s most noteworthy wines and is the growing area for the country’s famous port wine, but it is also home to some wonderful boutique hotels located on these vineyards. I had the privilege of staying at the hotel at Quinta do Vallado, one of Portugal’s most awarded wine producers and also the location of this striking boutique property.

The wine hotel at Quinta do Vallado has two parts: the Manor House, with rooms in an orange stucco 18th century building that was part of the original winery’s buildings, and the New Wing, a strikingly modern gray slate building constructed in 2012.  The New Wing’s gray slate mirrors that of the predominant stone in the landscape, and while it is very modern, it hugs the land, much the way the vineyards are cultivated up the hillsides.

The New Wing has eight rooms and wonderfully comfortable common areas.  All of the rooms are spacious with views over the Douro and private balconies.  The largest suite has a gorgeous terrace and outdoor living area where you can soak in all of the Douro

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After a couple of days touring Lisbon in the warmer months, sometimes you just want a little beach time and relaxation.  For that, we headed slightly west to Cascais, a lovely beach town virtually adjacent to Lisbon.  Bustling with high end shops and restaurants, Cascais is the perfect place to catch a few rays and unwind a bit without being totally isolated.

The city features beach options right in its center, or you can head out to Guincho Beach for big waves and beautiful Atlantic views.  Most travelers opt for one of the big resorts either located in town along the ocean or inland on golf courses, but we decided that a smaller property was more our speed.

The Villa Vasco da Gama only recently opened its doors. Located in a converted stately old tile-roofed home, the inn has been carefully renovated and blended with modern styles. Generally minimalist in decor, Villa Vasco da Gama highlights the architectural details of the old home – ornate moldings, stairways, and of course, Portuguese tiles. 

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The design of Villa Vasco da Gama, was just my speed, but what was even better, was the pool area.  Sometimes I just want a quiet, relaxing place to lounge and read a book.  The Villa’s pool is just that.  Surrounded by grass and lots of places to lounge, the pool is for guests only and wonderfully secluded. Best of all, Villa Vasco da Gama has call buttons located all over the hotel.  Hankering for a glass of white wine? Just push the button and someone will come find you.

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Lisbon is home to many great sights that will take you days to explore.  Maps are deceiving because the terrain is so hilly – what looks like a quick 5 minute walk could end up taking 20!  But you can take advantage of the historic trolleys and metros to make quicker work of what would otherwise be hikes.  The city also has lots of tourist options, including a bizarre number of tuktuks that can be hired for tours.

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Since I seldom build in relaxation time when visiting cities and often over-extend myself, this was a go go go trip! We started the day by trekking up to São Jorge Castle, which sits atop the Alfama and has impressive views over the city and its pastel buildings.  Most choose to take a tram, taxi, or tuk tuk, but we hoofed it up the hill for some early morning exercise.

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Journey to Portugal: Two Days in Lisbon – H10 Duque de Loulé

October 3, 2015

Leaving the rolling scenery of Monsarraz, I traveled to the capital city of Lisbon for a weekend with a more urban experience.  My choice of accommodation, the newly debuted H10 Duque de Loulé, proved to be a welcome respite after a long drive. I chose the new H10 Duque de Loulé, located at the northern end […]

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Journey to Portugal: Madrid to Monsaraz

September 20, 2015

Our trip to Portugal actually began with a flight into Madrid and a scenic drive to the Portuguese border at Elvas.  We explored the scenic towns of Elvas and Vila Vicosa before continuing on to the hamlet of Monsaraz. Elvas, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is known for its military fortifications: well-preserved forts, city walls, […]

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International Mobile Wifi Hotspot – GlocalMe

August 30, 2015

I came across the GlocalMe international mobile wifi hotspot while struggling with Internet options for a 10 day trip through Portugal and Spain.  I was planning to drive a lot and knew that I needed an internet option to be able to pull up maps and recommendations on the fly.  I was not wild about […]

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Miura Hotel – Czech Republic

August 13, 2015

I’m loving the Miura Hotel in the Czech village of Čeladná sitting among the incredible Beskydy Mountains with its enchanting, mist-ensconced peaks, and royal ruins. Framing this amazing natural beauty is Richard Kučík’s audaciously designed Miura Hotel, a sharp-sided steel building with high-tech spa treatments and world-class art (original works by Andy Warhol and Damien […]

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Carmo’s Boutique Hotel – Ponte de Lima, Portugal

July 7, 2015

Planning an upcoming trip to Portugal, I came across the delightful Carmo’s Boutique Hotel in Ponte de Lima, Portugal – what is said to be the oldest town in the country.  Carmo’s Boutique Hotel is a fifteen-room, super romantic getaway that should be part of your next trip to Portugal.  Not far from Porto and […]

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Four Seasons Announces Awesome Mobile App

June 21, 2015

Four Seasons, one of my favorite hotel chains, just announced a pretty revolutionary app that takes travelers beyond the standard reservations and information focus of existing apps that many hotels have. The new Four Seasons app brings the technology and anonymity that we have come to love to the hotel arena.  It is a do-everything […]

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Japan’s Delightful Atami Fufu Ryokan

May 29, 2015

Just looking at Atami Fufu transports me back to magical, amazing Japan. The ryokan, or traditional Japanese inns, embody the culture, tranquility, and attention to detail of the country. The beautiful Atami Fufu ryokan embodies the very essence of omotenashi, the Japanese fine art of hospitality, whose attitudes and practices have been refined over centuries. […]

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