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Aquapura Douro Valley

Aquapura Hotel

In recent years the Douro Valley in northern Portugal has been getting noticed for its scenery and as a wine tourism destination.  It’s no surprise, the world’s oldest demarcated wine region is stunning; a place where steeply terraced, schist screed hills rise steeply from the Douro River and its lesser tributaries leaving even those who travel the world’s vineyards in awe.  Now too, there are an increasing number of desirable places to stay with new hotels and quintas opening their doors.

We’re winding along the contours of the hills between fresh green vines on our way to the Aquapura Douro, a luxury hotel and spa, occupying its own idyllic spot on a bend in the river just downstream of Peso da Régua.  The hotel is set within the manor house of the Quinta de Abraão.  We spot the house, terracotta walls edged with white stone, across a small valley and moments later are rumbling down a cobbled track between the estate vineyards towards the river.

Portuguese architect Luis Rebelo de Andrade has enlarged the original 19th century property, built by a port wine producer, adding a contemporary extension and I’m interested to see how these blend together.  First signs are good as we pull up outside the low, wooden slatted reception area to the rear of the house; it’s unobtrusive yet distinctive.  Beyond impressively solid wooden doors the reception area is minimilistic: just a strikingly long table resting on handsome, polished tree bowls and two enormous circular open basketwork chairs – difficult to know how to sit on these with the casual elegance they suggest, I end up perching on the edge. We’re greeted with hand towels, particularly welcome after the hot sticky drive.

Aquapura Hotel

Having come in at the top we’re going down – a tree edged river scene slides past the glass sided lift before we descend into darkness.  The passage to our room is -well, gloomy – so lowly lit with scant natural light rooms need identifying by discreetly lit numbers on the door sill.

Our River Room is a different matter:  from door to full width, floor to ceiling glass frontage it’s set up to focus on the view of the Douro flowing downstream from Régua in the distance. Centre stage is a king size, white linened bed with a family of deliciously, plump pillows immediately inviting you to kick off your shoes lay back and watch the river swirl by.  Exploring it’s novel to discover designer Nini Andrade Silva (also Portuguese) has ensured we can even shower and clean our teeth with a view through her use of clear glass for the ensuite.  Shapes are rectangular; colours earthy and muted, like the Douro landscape.  We’re given a quick overview of the light switches and temperature controls – a tad complicated as they’re multifunction and also operate the black out blind and don’t disturb lights.  Already there’s a feeling that after a day or two here being hooked up to the world would cease to matter but right now, still in doing mood, the swish safe with internal plug for charging and free WiFi connection are appreciated.

Aquapura Hotel bedroom

On the ground floor we walk through the lounge overlooking the river terrace on our way to meet Joana van Zeller who is going to give us a tour of the hotel. You could spend a while here, curled up on a comfy low sofa browsing through the library.  I’m waylaid by The Douro World Heritage, a book of evocative sketches and paintings by John O’Connor which seem to capture the moods and essence of the Douro Valley exactly.

Moving on we pass the wine cellar where special wine tastings and dinners are held – think of it as a contemporary stage, a place of ruby light and shadow and you’ll have a sense of the atmosphere. By now without realizing we’ve come into the original house. The Vale Abraão restuarant is here open to the terrace at what was once the  entrance to the manor house. And so too the dressier Almapura restaurant whose great wooden doors from Ningbo in northern China are ceremoniously opened for us to take a wander inside.  Menus at the Aquapura are inspired by Mediterranean and Portuguese cuisine. So many ways to sooth the mind and enjoy the fine things in life – I have my eye on a river terrace settee with a selection from the bar tea menu.

In all the Aquapura has 50 rooms including 9 suites and a presidential suite; we have a look in at one of the other rooms, they’re all a little different in layout but distinctively stamped in Nini’s style. And just a short golf cart ride away through the vineyards, apart yet with all facilities to hand there are twenty-one villas – ideal  for families wanting to self cater. Their interiors are the work of another Portuguese designer, Giano Goncalves. Joana tells us both designers worked to the same brief. Giano’s take is lighter in whites, greys and warm browns; polished chrome, natural materials – animal horns are a feature – and open fires give a smart casual air with a hint of safari.

Aquapura Hotel

Water, views and tranquility are the thread throughout the Aquapura, no more so than in the  spa where you can enjoy beauty and holistic Ystara treatments in rooms overlooking the tranquil waters of the Douro.  Alongside the lines of Ystara treatment based on ancient asian techniques and the scientific based European mesosystem there are a range of thermal spa treatments for guests to indulge themselves from a laconium through saunas to therapeutic showers and water beds and an indoor pool – bliss for water nymphs.

We wind down our day with a swim in the spa pool, it’s gentle on the eye in turquoise, simple and relaxing.

Next morning the sun is shining, we have breakfast on the terrace  looking out over the beautifully tended gardens with pool and tennis courts to vine clad hills. The continental breakfast choice – fresh orange juice, a selection of rolls & patisseries,  moulded butter pats and jars of conserves, hot chocolate and coffee – with attentive service in the background is just right for the setting.

For exploring this region the Aquapura is well placed, about 10 minutes from a fast road that will see you on your way south to Lamego – don’t miss the shrine of Nossa Senhora dos Remédios, reached by an impressive 686 step baroque staircase -or north maybe to visit the Solar de Mateus near Vila Real. And, of course, it’s an ideal base for visiting the wineries tucked away amongst the hills. The Aquapura can arrange visits to a selection of wineries both traditional and modern.  We’re leaving soon to visit Quinta Vale D. Maria where Cristiano Van Zeller (Joana’s husband) and his small, dedicated team are producing some notable wines and after the state of the art Quinta de Napoles belonging to the Niepoort family.

First though we have time for a stroll along shady woodland paths in the grounds of the quinta.  Birds are singing, there are glimpses of the Douro through the trees – like our stay it’s very calming.

Aquapura Hotel

Check  rates and availability for the Aquapura here at lastminute.com

Or visit the hotel website for more information and tempting Special Offers

Our stay was provided courtesy of the Aquapura Douro Valley

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