The first thing that hits you arriving at the farm retreat São Lourenço do Barrocal – in the heart of Portugal’s wine-making Alentejo region – is the space, the sheer amount of space around you. It cleared my head immediately, almost making me feel intoxicated as we pulled up the ever-so-long driveway through the tree-lined fields…
The drive up from the Algarve had been extremely easy and non-eventful – open motorways, our sometimes French-speaking, sometimes English speaking Satnav routing us perfectly – but really, it was just a straight line up and then turn right! And then we were driving up the impressive driveway, stopping to say hi to cattle on either side…
Arriving At The Farm Retreat
I’d first heard about São Lourenço do Barrocal (a Conde Nast 2018 favourite!) from the wonderful Susanne Kaufmann when we visited her Alpine health retreat hotel in Austria (Hotel Post Bezau – see our trip & review here) for skiing last December. Susanne explained that she had partnered with a beautiful, peaceful farm hotel to open a spa there. (To recap, Susanne, as well as running health & well-being focused Hotel Post Bezau and her beautifully appointed and much revered spa, also has a line of organic skincare products made to the highest standards at a Bezau factory with ingredients from the Bregenzerwald forest. Really, the dream!
And, of course, spending a fair amount of time in Portugal (due to the farmhouse we are slowly – slowly! – renovating!), I was intrigued to visit São Lourençao do Barrocal – so we drove up there for a few days in August.
The São Lourençao property and farm – built around an ancient farming village (there are menhirs there up to 7000 years old!) – has been in the same family for 200 years now; in the 1900s as a farming village sustaining a tight-knit community of 50 families, now as a working farm of 780 hectares. In addition to the rooms and spa, the estate has vineyards, olive groves, oats as well as the kitchen vegetable garden and is also home to 75 species of birds. Heaven!
Renovated over a period of 14 years, the property’s current owner José António Uva is passionate about supporting the local community and running the business in an eco-friendly way. The hotel comprises of 24 rooms and the large lobby and reception is beautifully decked out – like Hotel Post Bezau, there is a complimentary tea with sweets daily at 5pm – and lined up outside are bicycles of varying sizes which you can borrow for free. And you really have to look hard to see another person; everything is just so spread out, you really only bump into other people now and then!
Hot Summer Sun
So, did I mention it was hot? Portugal had a very hot August, and it was with relief that we piled into our cool two-bed cottage which was quite frankly jaw-dropping. Again, the space with which the cottage – elegantly furnished, beautifully minimal & understated – was laid out was so pleasingly generous, with high ceilings, endless pink tiles and a perfectly kitted-out kitchen. Our two double bedrooms were up the stairs, each with its adjacent own bathroom. And decorated with simple, minimal, muted colours but everything you needed, including Susanne Kaufmann products in the bathroom. Sitting outside on our front terrace as the sun went down perfectly encapsulated that holiday feeling of ‘arrived and blissing out…’
I realised on arrival that we could have brought food to cook in our cottage (the nearest supermarket is about a 20 minute drive) – the kitchen was fully equipped and truly top-notch – but for such a short stay we went with the hotel restaurants with a range of rustic hearty dishes. A typical breakfast spread of pastries, meats, cheeses and cooked dishes to order, and a selection of alternative milks (almond and oat) was perfect for me! We had a wonderful lunch down by the pool (I recommend the octopus salad!) and the waiting staff were extremely accommodating with Gus making his own adaptations to the kids menu, ahem… Our last night was quite beautiful, eating al fresco at the tables nearby the pool, pink sky and balmy cooling heat, where we had meat and fish from the grill and salads to go with.
The other guests were a mixture of different nationalities, Portuguese, French, English and German and pretty much all of them had kids, even young babies – and somehow the chilled-out vibe reigned strong. Being so deep into the countryside bestows an incredible sense of calm and really allows you to relax and recharge. It was these few days that really geared me up for September and truly made me feel I had had a ‘real holiday’.
*We received two complimentary nights to review the hotel
The Susanne Kaufmann Spa
An Aromatherapy Massage
Spacious like the rest of the hotel, the Susanne Kaufmann Spa just exudes relax and unwind vibes – the reception equipped with the organic skincare range (my favourites include the bath oil and handcream) leading to a long corridor lined with changing rooms, treatment rooms and hydrotherapy.
I went for the aromatherapy massage – unlike many spas I’ve been to, where the treatment room is windowless, the room here was sizeable with so much calming space and filled with a gentle light. It’s very easy to just entirely give yourself up in such a peaceful, tranquil environment. My therapist offered me a range of oil blends – I’m pretty sure now I went fo the most relaxing one! – and I lay face down (I do appreciate spas that equip you with robes, slippers and the little panties!) peering at the pretty blooms floating in water beneath; again, always a nice touch! Very soon, I must admit I sunk down into a light snooze. Although I had to break a couple of times to blow my noise – getting a blocked nose is often a sign of a good massage I’ve heard!
I wished we had been staying longer as I would most definitely have gone for a second treatment!
Where We Stayed
Things To Do
If you love soaking up the sun and splashing in the pool then you’ll have your work cut out for you – the two pools (one shallower pool for kids), loungers and blue umbrellas are idyllic, laid out with lots of calming space around you. Everyone is pretty chill – there are kids and certainly Gus was splashing around having fun – but the copious space just seems to absorb it all so nothing felt too noisy or overwhelming. I loved the towels in the big wooden chests and there’s a nearby loo just by the pool restaurant area; as the walk back to your room/cottage is a good 5 minutes – crazy effort, I know! 😉
There’s a kid’s playroom which Gus enjoyed exploring and on our first morning after breakfast we grabbed bikes and went for a cycle around the farm which was great fun! There are activities for kids listed on the site but to be honest as we were only staying for two nights, the need to investigate these didn’t come up.
We decided to drive up to nearby mountaintop village of Monsaraz for lunch – a more charming, white-washed destination, perched up high with magnificent views, I could could not find for you! However, although there were quite a few café signs as we drove closer and parked, most places unfortunately were shut and those open were full! So definitely book in advance. We thought it would be lovely to return for dinner and watch the sunset, but we got so caught up by the pool again we ate there instead – al fresco with the grill and fading pink sky was utterly charming!
The night before at the main restaurant, Gus had got fully absorbeed star-gazing – the darkness envelops you and allows for some fabulous starry skies… We’re a bit addicted to the SkyView app which shows you all the planets and constellations as you point you phone at the sky!
Although we didn’t make it, afternoon tea at the main reception is another nice focus for the day – we took full advantage of this at Hotel Post Bezau after a full day’s skiing and it was lovely to see this same routine here as well!