Design & Lifestyle
In my recent visit to Portugal (beginning of July) I had the opportunity to stay and experience three different Eco-Friendly, Nature-Connected kinds of hotels.
In fact, it wasn’t the first time I stayed in an eco-friendly hotel in Portugal. My first time was last year, when I spent one night at the Eco Suite in Casas do Coro. I remember this experience very well, and since then, I was seeking for more opportunities to stay in places like this.
Eco hotels and Nature connected ones are on the rise these days in Portugal. The tourists who are traveling outside of the big cities such as Lisbon or Porto, might be looking for something different or more unique.
There are the well known Pousadas hotels in Portugal, which are mostly castles and palaces that have been transformed into hotels, and there are also these new eco-friendly, nature hotels, which offer a different type of experience.
The Luz Houses in Fatima
Luz houses is a 15-room village in the city of Fatima. The terra rossa colored houses are located in a garden surrounded with trees, which allows privacy and an immediate connection to nature. There is the ‘mother-house’, which includes the reception desk, the dining area and the comfortable living room with a fireplace. The color scheme is perfect, in my opinion. A combination of redish brown walls outside with light turquoise and white as for the furniture.
The rooms are light and pastel colored, with wood’s natural colored elements and simple concrete floor. They are very opened spaced and airy and the bathing area is an integrated part of the room itself, with no dividing doors. Each room has a small kitchen and a dining area, especially for guests traveling with kids.
The couple behind Luz Houses is Pedro and Ana, who live with their two little girls just next door. They didn’t hesitate to accept a challenge and convert the simple and ancestral houses, into a small designed paradise to those who are seeking to get away from the stress. Ana, who is an architect, is the one who is responsible for the design, the colors, the furniture and the little details that make this place so magical.
For reservations: Luz Houses, Rua Principal nº 78, Moimento, 2495-650 Fátima, Portugal
Cooking and Nature Emotional Hotel
I didn’t get the chance to stay in Cooking and Nature Emotional Hotel, but I had a delicious lunch under the trees. When I first entered the hotel, I was welcomed by a familiar wall collage made by my talented friend, Margarida Girao. I love seeing her Art in beautiful locations.
The hotel has 12 different rooms, each room is designed differently, expressing a certain emotion. The highlight of this hotel, beside its gorgeous outdoor pool surrounded by nature and trees, is the cooking experience it offers. Dinner can be in the format of a cooking lesson. How fun can it be to cook dinner with your friends or family in a well equipped and designed kitchen and not to worry about the dishes? Grab an apron and join the chef to cook dinner using the best ingredients this region has to offer.
Watch the movie of the hotel here.
For reservations: Cooking and Nature Emotional Hotel, Rua Asseguia das Lages nº 181, 2480-032 Alvados – Portugal
Areias do Seixo Hotel
In my last day in Central Portugal I got to stay in quite a magical hotel, called Areias do Seixo. Located in Santa Cruz, an hour drive from Lisbon, the hotel is just about off the sea, separated by some sand dunes and pine trees. I could easily step out of my room and walk toward the private beach of the hotel. Even though weather was a bit grayish, I took off my sandals and walked barefoot on the sand dunes. It felt so good. In a way, it It reminded me of my childhood.
The hotel is definitely connected with Nature. Using materials such as regional stone, pebble, glass and wood, with natural polished concrete floor and olive trees growing almost everywhere, including in my bathroom. I like the simplicity of these bare elements, and yet, every detail of the design was carefully and perfectly chosen.
This hotel is an ecological place using the principles of sustainable tourism: energy efficiency, renewable energies and the use of natural resources.
The hotel has a great restaurant, which is opened to everyone (reservations are highly recommended). The philosophy behind it is to make the most of what our Earth has to offer; whether getting fresh herbs and vegetables from the hotel’s organic garden, or fresh seafood from the sea. While I was having lunch, I could spot the chef stepping out from the kitchen and hand picking some herbs and spices for my salad. When the chef heard I was vegetarian, he made sure to spoil me with some delicious home made bread and aubergine spread. The menu is changed regularly in order to adapt to only the freshest products.
Check out the restaurant website for more info.
The hotel has only 14 rooms in the main building and eight villas for family rentals in a building next door.
Each room of the hotel is designed differently, but they are all overlooking the garden and the sea. (I think only the penthouse suite has a sea view). I stayed in Oliveira Princesa room (the Olive Tree Princess) named (clearly) after the olive tree I had in my bathroom. Needles to say how many pictures I took of this bathroom heaven.
The hotel has few room types; The Gold Rooms (5 rooms) which focus on the secret world of color, texture and sensation. The Tree Rooms (4 rooms) which has some African inspirations. The Love Rooms (4 rooms) with some North African Moroccan inspirations, and The Land Room (1 room) also called Jasmine. It is the only room that doesn’t have a sea view but instead, has a small private garden with olive trees.
The hotel also offers various SPA treatments with two massage rooms, sauna, Turkish bath and relaxation room, outdoor swimming pool, cinema room (where you can choose a movie from a selection of DVD’s) and a beautiful Greenhouse, which is mostly for events and celebrations.
For reservations: Areias do Seixo, Praceta do Atlântico, Póvoa de Penafirme, 2560-046 A dos Cunhados, Portugal
Another new Eco-Friendly hotel is Vale do Rio, located in the North region of Portugal. The hotel produces its own energy using a mini-hydric system that was on site since the end of the 1800’s. I haven’t been in this hotel, hence there are no images, but I promise to update once I stay there.
As a Travel photographer, not once do I get to shoot hotels for Travel Magazines.
I have contributed to Travel+Leisure World’s Best Hotels books in the years of 2013, 2014. I have shot Nhow Berlin and Semiramis both by Karim Rashid. I have photographed Palacio Belmonte in Lisbon for Marie Claire UK and I had a glimpse of the elegant d’Angletter in Copenhagen.
But shooting The Norman, a luxury boutique hotel in the heart of Tel Aviv, is completely something else!
Stretched over a period of almost six months, shooting all types of rooms and suites, waiting for every little detail to be perfectly placed and working with an incredible creative team of people, made it to a beautiful result.
The hotel is well situated in King Albert Square, just across the street from the Pagoda House and off Rothschild Boulevard. It is a great addition to the ‘White City’, Tel Aviv’s UNESCO heritage site, as it is comprised of two historic and iconic buildings. Both buildings were impressively restored to the glory of the 1920s but well equipped with all technologies and comfort of a top class 21st century hotel. In between the two buildings there is a fragrant citrus garden, which is a great reminder to the original orchard in old Tel Aviv.
The main building (colored light blue) comprises of 30 classic and duplex rooms while the second building (I call it the beige one) has 20 suites, each designed differently, including two penthouse suites with separate entrances.
It was a great challenge (as a photographer) to shoot the different types of rooms, taking into consideration to keep the same vibe and character of this gorgeous hotel. But at the same time, the process was very rewarding. I had to be aware of all the little details: how the window light is falling on the sheets, how the color of the flowers is matching the rug (or the curtains) and how the pillows should always be wrinkle-free. And always keeping in mind what angle of the frame will speak to the feel of ‘Timeless Elegance’ and ‘Redefining Luxury’ .
My most favorite area to shoot was the Library Bar, thanks to the almost-endless-natural light coming through its wide windows. I must confess that each time I carried my camera with me, I snapped a picture of that corner of the bar, exploring the light falling on the golden patterned floor, highlighting the green covers of the bar chairs. The Library Bar is an elegant 1940s colonial style bar with an impressive collection of Whiskey and cocktails.
Another space with some gorgeous light is The Norman Restaurant, also on the first floor.
It is a brasserie style restaurant, serving French Mediterranean cuisine throughout the day. The challenge in shooting this space was in the flickering mirrors in between the two seating areas. I had to find the right angle that didn’t show my reflection or didn’t send back light to my flash. Changing the angles of the mirrors and standing on a ladder was a great solution.
If you happen to book a breakfast reservation, go for the Eggs Benedict choice. The chef managed to come up with the perfect Hollandaise sauce.
And then there is Dinings.
Originally from London, the Japanese tapas restaurant opened a branch in Tel Aviv on the third floor of The Norman. As part of the design, Dinings has a live sushi counter and partially open kitchen. My favorite part of the restaurant is the terrace and the outdoor dining area, overlooking the high rise buildings of Rothschild Boulevard.
On set I had the honor of photographing Mister Chef, aka Masaki Sugisaki, the executive chef of Dinings in London, who came to Tel Aviv to open the second branch. Masaki was super co-operative and patient with my requests. I guess patience is a virtue when it has to do with making some of the best Japanese food in the world.
What makes the hotel so great and remarkably beautiful is the infinity pool on the rooftop floor. At the end of every shooting day I wanted to jump right in and swim.
The view is remarkable and for a minute, you might think you have been transported somewhere else… The high rise buildings in the background and the white umbrellas are the perfect backdrop to end the day.
The Norman Hotel, 23-25 Nachmani street, Tel Aviv.
To see more of my photos of the hotel, click here.
Copenhagen has been high on my travel list for a while now. Being known for its great design scene and the Nordic cuisine, I didn’t know what to expect before going there. When I kept spreading the word I was about to travel to Copenhagen, a colleague of mine who is working in the PR and Tourism industry has suggested me to visit Hotel d’Angleterre when I am there. Not only that, but he also connected me to the lovely PR and communication manager of the hotel, who was generous enough to give me a grand tour on location.
The Hotel d’Angleterre is situated in the heart of Copenhagen’s fashionable Kongens Nytorv Square, steps from the Royal Danish Theater, the Nyhavn Canal and the famous shopping street, Strøget. With its recent most ambitious restorations in Danish history, the hotel is as elegant and sophisticated as the surrounding streets.
The story of Hotel d’Angleterre began in the 17th century when Jean Marchal, a servant of the royal court, and Maria Coppy, daughter to the royal chef, fell in love. In 1755 they established a restaurant on the King’s Square (Maria was known for her culinary ability) which later grew into a Palace and ultimately, the Hotel d’Angleterre. With a longstanding tradition of hospitality, the hotel became the premier social destination and over the years has hosted the world’s visiting royalty, dignitaries and celebrities who visited Copenhagen.
The original hotel structure was the neoclassic residence of Count Ahlefeld and the hotel as it stands today was designed by the Danish architect, Jens Vilhelm Dahlerup in the mid 1870’s. (Dahlerup designed numerous other iconic landmarks in Copenhagen, including the Royal Danish Theatre).
The Hotel Today:
The renovated hotel is featuring 90 rooms including 60 suites with spacious bathrooms and balconies. With pistachio-colored silk curtains (to allow the light coming in) and purple tones for the sofas and the beddings, the rooms convey elegance.
The stunning 250 square-meter Royal Suite features a grand balcony overlooking Kongens Nytorv Square and The Royal Theater, it has a dining room for 10 guests and a spectacular fireplace.
As the hotel has hosted countless historic events including formal galas, weddings, diplomatic assemblies and royal occasions, the historic Palm Court and Louis XVI Ballroom continue to be the most desired entertaining space in Copenhagen these days.
If you are visiting the hotel, make sure to pick inside the Palm Court. It is a stunner.
The Marchal Restaurant:
I was lucky enough to have lunch with my mom in Marchal restaurant. While my mom was so impressed with dining in a Michelin Star restaurant, I was heels over head with the fact I could shoot the amazing photogenic dishes and take a portrait of Ronny Emborg, the head chef, who was just nominated as a Michelin Star chef for the second time. But wait. There is more! Ronny himself walked to our table and served us with a marvelous dessert. I couldn’t ask for more.
Our lunch included six! courses;
We had Fjord Shrimps with tomato juice, dill and acidic cream
Glazed White Asparagus with smoked cream, lovage and buttermilk sauce
Fried Lamb and Sweetbread with green asparagus, truffle puree, gooseberries and glaze
Fried Beef Tenderloin with rehydrated beetroot, red currants and glaze with marrow
and two kinds of desserts;
Strawberry with Ice Cream on long pepper, buttermilk mousse and crispy vanilla flakes
Creme Anglaise with Sorbet Granite, tarragon emulsion and sorbet on celery (mind you, Ronny made it especially in front of us)
I wish I was a food critique who knows how to describe the rich and various flavors of the dishes, but I hope the images of food can speak louder than the words.
You can make your booking in advance here.
Diet can wait.
There is so much of the buzz related to Denmark and Copenhagen regarding the Modern Danish Design. Denmark has been a leading nation in the design field for decades. Whether it is a Danish furniture to Danish fashion and Danish toys, Denmark is producing World renowned design classics, which are being distributed and copied worldwide. Starting in the 1950s with design legends such as Arne Jacobsen (mostly known for the ‘Egg’ chair) and Hans Wegner (known for the ‘Shell’ chair) the Danish design tradition has developed into a strong international brand. Scandinavian, and in particular Danish design has become synonymous with timeless style and no wonder Copenhagen is filled with stores of that kind, and I will mention some of the names and addresses at the bottom of this post. Here are some of the spots we visited and these are really just the tip of the iceberg in Copenhagen.
The Danish Design Center was different than what I had expected. Somewhat I thought I would find a large space which curates, shows and promotes the Danish design; a place that will play the role of a library or informational center, maybe even a museum of the history of the Danish design. Instead, I got into a nice and colorful cafe area, Design Society Cafe, where people can sit and work on their computers while the second floor is dedicated to some professionals whose goal is to promote the design activities in the intersection of design and innovation, in order to solve architectural problems. In other words, we didn’t see any kind of ‘design’ or furniture in the DDC, but we got to enjoy a nice coffee break in a very colorful space (see image on top).
Design Society, Andersens Boulevard, 27. Opening Hours: 9:00- 17:00 during weekdays. The Danish Design Center
The first time I came across the colorful furniture and accessories of Hay, was actually last year during a shoot I had in Ghent (Flanders) where I ran into a beautiful concept store called Ydee, with a vibrant window-display . I had a nice conversation with the store owner who explained to me the philosophy of Hay. I could easily buy half of the store back then but I was ‘saved’ by a limitation of space in my small luggage. (I wish I could tell the store manager to pack me a table to go. You know what I mean). Since then I started to notice some mentioning of Hay on some of my colleagues blogs and I knew that once I visit Copenhagen, I definitely need to visit their store.
Hay is considered the forefront of Denmark’s design renaissance. The Hay House, is located in an elegant 1896 Art Nouveau building in Østergade 61 and it is a colorful two-floors store packed with brands such as Vitra, Alessi, Komplot and Established and Sons as well as many smaller local brands. When we got to the store, it was quite packed with other curious people like me who walked around and were happy to take pictures.
Hay, Østergade 61 Copenhagen.
Are you in need for some fonts? Would you like to shop some? This tiny store in Værnedamsvej street is offering a very wide selection of fonts. In 2010, The Copenhagen design agency e-Types opened the world’s first physical font shop, serving as a material manifestation of the agency’s webpage. A few of my colleague bloggers recommended the place, which also sells posters, cups and T shirts, for the non graphic designers and/or the typographers among us. Those graphic designers and typographers will find a great interest on a Mac computer in the back, where they can search for fonts or buy one to take with them on a USB device. As this store is quite small, the easiest way to locate it in the city, is just across the street from Granola cafe. Check the opening hours in advance.
Playtype, Vaernedamsvej 6, Copenhagen, Opening Hours: Monday – Friday: 12-18, Saturday: 11-15
More Stores and Addresses worth checking:
Norman: Located in a former cinema, this furniture store hosts the brand’s entire range of modern designs and also stocks larger pieces by companies such as New Danish Modern, Moooi and Established and Sons.
Designer Zoo: This is one of the most interesting places in Copenhagen to visit and witness how handicraft is being made. There are eight young in house designers with whom you can communicate and ask questions about their work flow, etc. From knitting, painting, metal work, glasswork or ceramics, the results are beautiful. The store was founded by Karsten Lauritsen, a furniture designer who was looking for a space to highlight these hand crafts from across Denmark in one place.
Royal Copenhagen: In case you are looking for a blue-blooded porcelain manufacturer (owned and run by the royal family from 1775 to 1868) then the Royal Copenhagen flagship in Amagertorv 6, is the place for you. Located in one of Copenhagen’s oldest renaissance buildings (dating back to 1616) the space is an integrated museum and shop, which stocks the brand’s entire collection, including the ‘Blue Fluted’ patterns that have graced Royal Copenhagen tableware since it was founded to modern collaborations.
Retrograd: For those of you who are after the Vintage, Retrograd keeps an impressive stock of vintage furnishings and household items from the 1950 and the 1960. It stocks everything from porcelain to tableware. The store was opened in 2003 first as a small basement store that soon got bigger. The store is considered a wonderland for any design collector, interior designer or anyone who loves to collect vintage items.
Since I first came across the NHOW Hotel in Berlin, designed by Karim Rashid, I keep looking for more hotels and projects he designs. I was lucky enough to meet Karim a few times in person; Twice in New York, (both in his old and new studios) and once in Tel Aviv, where he is currently designing a new hotel, planned to be opened in October. While I am hoping and planning to shoot the next hotel in Tel Aviv, I had the opportunity to stay it one of the first hotels he designed. The Semiramis Hotel located in one of the most affluent and leafy suburb in Athens, called Kifissia. I wish I had more time to stay in Kifissia and at Semiramis but I was on my way to Milos for a shoot. It is such a magical area that one of my close friends described it: ‘If I ever want to disappear for a little bit, I can easily go to Kifissia’.
I arrived at the hotel on a Sunday afternoon after a long flight from New York in which I didn’t really have the chance to sleep. Regardless, I was anxious to walk around the colorful hotel and discover some of Karim’s signature designs and style.
When the description of the hotel goes like this..“Semiramis is what happens when you give a hot designer total control”…I need to see it in my own eyes and cameras
So let’s start with the Pool:
As a long time swimmer, I do tend to check out the swimming pools first when I check in to hotels. Even though the Semiramis pool is not a lap one, it was quite hard to ignore it. The pool is shaped in a fluid curved shape, typical to Karim Rashid’s style and colored in shades of turquoise and neon green. To complement Karim chose white sun-beds with pinkish color umbrellas, dotted with white. To be honest, I couldn’t stop taking pictures of this pool. I tried to cover every angle. A mosaic dark blue fountain adds a decadent touch and border between the pool area and the area around the hotel.
Only by seeing the colors of the Sun terraces (Lime Green) I knew I arrived at one of Karim’s playgrounds. The facade is totally different to the Greek typical style, and this is what I actually love about Karim’s style. His designs are ALWAYS extraordinary. To enter the lobby I had to walk through a glowing pink glass cube and to be warmly welcomed by one of the staff, offering me a glass of sparkling water.
The YES Lobby:
As Semiramis is part of the YES! Hotels group, the Artwork ‘YES’ by Tim Noble and Sue Webster is definitely a great visual welcoming sign. The affirmative “YE$” sign presents the familiar dollar symbol in a bright display of shimmering lights flickering on and off before the viewer. I enjoyed watching this sign when I got back to Semiramis after an evening stroll in Kifissia. On a bright Pink wall the Artwork ‘VBGDW’ by Vanessa Beecroft is also a welcoming gesture. ‘VBGDW’ is a photo of Vanessa Beecroft’s wedding party in Portofino in September 2000. (Rumors say she is divorced now). The dark blue Wavelength Sofas designed by Karim, gave me a feeling as being under waves in the ocean.
The Bar and Dining Area:
I just LOVE this bar and dining area. I felt as I was walking in one of the wings of a contemporary modern museum. And no wonder. Dakis Joannou, the hardworking owner of Yes! Hotels, is one of the foremost collectors of contemporary European art in Greece, and therefore is surrounding himself with objects that inspire him, from Art, Design and Architecture. I could spot two Artworks by Spencer Tunick, (The ‘New Vienna’ and ‘Krystl’) and the ‘Shutup’ Artwork by Michael Bevilacqua right above the seating area. On a Pink color carpet, Karim furnished the dining area with his signature Swing Chairs in addition to a lively lighting concept, especially commissioned from Focus Lighting in New York, under the direction of principal designer Paul Gregory. I love the Orange colored glass wall, which made a perfect dividing wall between the Bar and the Dining area. Unfortunately, I couldn’t really dine at Semiramis restaurant, as it was closed due to a private event. Well, it is a reason for me to go back…
Semiramis has three types of rooms; Standard rooms, 20 meters squared rooms overlooking the park of Kefalari. Queen bed and above bed- lighted murals offers a pop of color to the all-white feeling of tranquility of the room. The Superior rooms, 25 meters squared are overlooking either to the park or the great pool. (I was lucky enough to overlook the beautiful pool) and then there are The Pool Bungalows, 25 square meters, built as separate units alongside the pool and each bungalow has a King size bed and a private small garden. I have stayed in one of the Superiors rooms overlooking the pool. I loved having a great afternoon light reflecting and glittering on my lime green terrace and watching the sunset over the hills around Kifissia. The hotel has its own sense of humor, which reflects well in the design; The rooms, for instance, don’t have numbers, but every floor has a color and each room has an icon. To find my room, I had to spot the icon across the hallway. Instead of the typical boring ‘Do Not Disturb’ signs, hanging on the door knobs, Karim decided to place electronic message boards at every room entrance, which guests can personalize from their in-room keyboards.
I’m really looking forward to see the next hotel designed by Karim Rashid, Sir Benjamin Hotel, coming soon in Tel Aviv.
Like every year, around April or May, the travel magazine, Travel +Leisure is publishing an annual book about the World’s Greatest Hotels. I was thrilled to participate in last year’s 2013 edition and shoot the Efendi Hotel in Acre, Israel. This year, for the 2014 edition, I was asked to shoot one of my favorite and colorful hotels in Tel Aviv, Alma Boutique Hotel. I was very happy to discover that one of the images made it
To see more images and a previous post about Alma Hotel, please click here.
In case you don’t have a chance to get the World’s Greatest Hotels’ book, here is the text about Alma;
‘To see what really makes Tel Aviv tick, head to the White City UNESCO World Heritage site, where design and architecture take center stage. Smack in the middle of it all, the Alma Hotel & Lounge has become the discerning traveler’s hotel of choice. Siblings Adi and Irit Strauss have created a patchwork of bohemian luxury in 15 airy rooms inspired by the 1920’s, each with bijou stained-glass windows and handwoven carpets. Yonatan Roshfeld, the chef behind nearby tapas hot spot Ahad Ha’am, lures Israeli socialites and Russian businessmen to the hotel’s namesake restaurant with Moroccan small plates (beets-topped raw beef kibbeh in sheep’s milk; lamb encrusted with red pepper, roasted garlic, thyme and sage). The artful menu perfectly complements the decor, which is lifted straight out of Paris’s Marais district; a smattering of jewel-toned chairs, checkered floors, and edgy contemporary artwork”
I am very honored and excited to have my debut image of Porto featured as the travel story opener in Elle Decor US, May Issue.
Beside Travel Magazines that inspire me, Elle Decor is an inspiration for everything that has to do with design. Quite often I get myself a copy of the magazine and dive into the homes and lives of others. Therefore, I was quite excited when the Photo Editor of Elle Decor has contacted me two months ago, asking me to share some images I took of Porto.
I visited Porto last February and spent a long weekend in that old mysterious and gothic city. I was quite lucky to experience so much in such a little time and get a sense of that city, which left me, of course, with the desire and curiosity to visit it again and experience it even more. (Hopefully during the Summer Season).
If my A Long Weekend in Porto post doesn’t convince you to book a flight or a vacation in this city, maybe the fact that Porto has just been selected as the Best European City for 2014, will do the trick.
My recent visit to Central Portugal was hectic and full of great surprises. Not only did I get to see the beautiful landscape of the region, drink some really good local wine and meet some incredible interesting people. I also got the chance to stay in these people’s hotels and hear their inspiring stories.
One of them is Paulo Romao, the owner of the beautiful hotel Casas do Coro, who seems to be a natural with anything that has to do with fine cuisine, great wine and the art of hosting. He is also a full time businessman and a family man who travels everyday from the hotel and back home to be with his family.
Casas do Coro is located in the Historical Village of Marialva; a hilltop Medieval village with a Medieval Castle from the 16th/17th centuries which used to be a strong military base. When we got to Marialva it was already late. I couldn’t see what was around us but by the bumpy drive uphill I had a feeling we are on our way to a quite high and rural location.
I was right!
When I woke up the next morning and went for my morning run, I was breath-taken by the beautiful views of the valley, the cobble stone roads, the stone-village houses surrounded by light pink almond trees and the simple yet friendly local people. I felt as for a second I was transported to a different time in life.
A different era.
Casas do Coro is definitely a good reason to stay in Marialva Village. Built in the year of 2000, the resort is actually a handful of restored homes that make up to a charming and luxurious rural tourism unit down the hill of the Medieval Castle. Each house unit is quite spacious and very welcoming. It is like your ‘Home away from Home’ experience. It is fully equipped with king size beds, marble baths, linen sheets, comfy sofas in the living room, TV, sound system, free WiFi and a modern kitchen where guests can cook all kinds of meals.
During Summer times the guests can enjoy the terraced gardens that lend themselves to picnic areas under the shade of olive trees and heavy vines next to the pool and jacuzzi. By this coming December a new SPA will be ready for the guests’ services.
If you don’t feel like cooking, you can always enjoy the home made gourmet cooking at the Casao prepared and cooked by Carmen. But remember to ask for it in advance. The dishes are inspired by the traditional and regional Portuguese cuisine, using fresh and local grown ingredients. And let Paulo choose the wine for each dish. He is an expert. The wines he drinks are produced in the Douro Valley and Dao. I completely surrendered to Paulo’s choices and ended up drinking three different wines in one dinner. (It was a first for me).
But the highlight of Casas do Coro is the Eco Suite. Located on a resorted hillside overlooking the village, in the middle of nature, the Eco Suite can be a perfect setting for a romantic getaway, enjoying all the services offered by the hotel, and yet, being secluded.
The Eco Suite, which was designed by the well known winning interior designer Tomás Alía, consumes less energy than a conventional suite thanks to solar panels built on the outside of the suite. The solar panels heat the water and allows a 65% reduction of CO2 emissions. The materials used in both the constructions and the interiors are mostly natural, ecological and recycled and guaranteeing maximum comfort, calmness and well-being.
The Eco Suite is equipped with a king size bed with fresh white organic linen, private bathroom with a glass shower, bath in open space with a great view of the vertical garden of the suite, private deck surrounded by olive trees where the guests can enjoy the great Nature.
I only wish to see more of this Eco trend suite in more hotels throughout the World.
For booking the Eco Suite, please visit the link.
One of the favorite parts of my job is shooting well designed hotels in various locations in the World. I wish I could stay in most of them, but it is not always possible, for various reasons. But when I DO have the opportunity to be a guest in these hotels, it is sometimes hard for me to take off the Photographer hat and switch it with the guest’s one.
During my visit to Central Portugal I had a wonderful surprise. My beautiful host, Silvia, who by the way, knows almost everyone in Central Portugal, told me we were about to stay in Casa das Penhas Dourades. I googled the name out of curiosity and saw some pictures (of course) and Silvia just blinked with her eyes with excitement. I didn’t ask much questions as I like surprises, so I was not aware of how amazing this hotel was and the story behind it.
The story starts in the village of Manteigas, down the mountain hills of Serra da Estrela in Central Portugal, in what used to be an abandoned building of the old Imperio Wool Factory, and now it is known as The Burel Factory. The factory is owned by Joao Tomas and Isabel Costa, who are also the owners of the hotel.
Joao and Isabel, a couple in business and life, found the building (originally from the 19th century) which used to be a wool factory but was going through a bankruptcy. They seized the opportunity and bought the company with the existing machines (some of them are also dated back to the 19th century) and turned it into what it is now, The Burel Factory.
They opened the factory in March 2013 and managed to combine the old tradition of machineries with the young and up to date designers and artists, who work with them on various wool projects. I was lucky enough to have a tour at the factory (which, by the way, there is a free guided tour every day, you just need to schedule) and even see Isabel herself cutting and stitching some wool samples. Isabel mentioned the importance and uniqueness in using traditional machinery and equipment, especially from times when the industry was mostly hand-crafted. With lots of thought and care, both she and her husband managed to keep the past, reinvent and adjust it to the current needs of the market, but also think globally and look for ways of exporting the products outside of Portugal.
When Silvia and I arrived to the factory it was already the end of the day and the end of the week so most of the workers have left already. It was only Isabel and a few women who were at the factory, finishing up a long week of preparing samples for an upcoming exhibit in London. While I watched her working and managing both the factory and the hotel through some phone calls, Isabel shared with me that the factory produces few kinds of wool fabrics; flannel, melton, hounds tooth pattern, tweeds, prince of whales, you name it.
I love the idea that Isabel and Joao have decided to work with various young and creative designers. I think it is quite unique and has that touch of collective thinking. Among the products I could spot colorful blankets, shawls, scarves, hand bags, hats, upholstery of furniture (hand made and hand stitched- I concur) most of them are used in the hotel Casa das Penhas Dourades, and also acoustic panels used in offices and public areas to reduce sound. Some of these colorful acoustic panels are well used in Microsoft Headquarters in Lisbon.
So…I saw the promo at the factory, and it was just about time to head up the hill and drive to the hotel, located at the top of Serra da Estrela Natural Park. Na
By the time we got to the top of the hill and parked the car, it was pouring rain outside and all I wanted was to get indoors and feel the warmth of the hotel. And Warmth was an understatement. The hotel is located at an altitude of 1500m and surrounded by an extensive mountain landscape and an unspoiled Nature. Due to this special location, the hotel is influenced by its surrounding and ‘communicates’ well its designed concept; Rediscovering the beauty in simple things, just as with Nature. This is why the Architect, Pedro Brígida, kept using natural materials such as cork and wood alongside vast raw concrete walls. The cosy atmosphere was in the warmth of the wooden panels, the rawness of the wool, the comfort and ease of the chairs, the softness of the curves throughout the hotel, all in a discreet luxury.
Since it rained non stop outside and got quite foggy, I was ‘forced’ to stay indoors and enjoy that fuzzy, cosy, homey feeling the hotel could easily offer.
The Living Rooms:
There are some living rooms in the hotel, all are birch paneled and furnished with wooden chairs with colorful wool patterns straight from The Burel Factory. Fire place in every room, wool stitched rugs (also made at the factory), shelves filled with books, colorful retro lamps and comfortable armchairs, all to give you that inviting feeling of a space where you can watch your favorite movie, read your book or just make you want to sip that warm chocolate drink while it is snowing or raining outside.
The Dining Room:
This might be one of my favorite areas in the hotel as it was accessible for guests 24 hours. If you fancy a tea or a fresh cookie early in the morning before breakfast is served, you can find it on one of the tables, neatly displayed. I love the simplicity in the dining area, the comfortable chairs, the colorful watercolor pictures on the walls and the place-mats made of… well… wool of course.
The hotel’s chef consultant is Luís Baena, one of the most important and well known Portuguese chefs. Our dinner was a candle-lit dinner, quiet and relaxed even though the dining area was busy with other diners. The food is considered a gourmet cuisine, using local products for the various dishes.
The hotel has 17 rooms and a suite. (I was honored to be hosted on that super suite). The rooms are also birch paneled (same as the rest of the hotel) and have large windows and terraces with deck chairs and footrests. The rooms are facing the breathtaking views of the mountains, and the suite has these great ceiling windows, allowing more light to come through. Unfortunately, when I was there, it rained very hard and I could only lie down on one of these straight sofas and stare at the rain outside, falling on the window. I took advantage of this rainy day and got myself into the nice bath, which is also located under a ceiling window.
The rooms are very comfortable and keep the warm atmosphere throughout the hotel; Each room has a duvet, down pillows, central heating, dressing gown and slippers, free wi-fi, DVD and iPod Players, fruit basket and water. And yes, the blankets, the rugs, the furniture fabrics, are all made of wool, hand made and hand stitched at the Burel Factory.
It is great to see the final product so handy and useful.
As a swimmer, all I can say is that I wish I had some extra time to use this beautiful interior heated swimming pool and enjoy the panoramic view of the mountains while swimming. Unfortunately, my schedule was quite tight and busy and I ended up only peaking through. Beside the pool, there is a sauna, a Vichy shower and a SPA with several rituals and massages using oils infused with Serra da Estrela plants.
Few posts ago I wrote about The Life and Style of Karen Shavit, an entrepreneur and an inspiring Israeli woman, who I am happy to call a friend.
When I first visited Karen few months ago, it was when she just moved in to her new house in Emek Izrael, so I could only take pictures of her lovely kitchen. I told her that the moment she is settled, I would come again to shoot her entire house. I also promised her it would look great in Design Sponge, one if not the most leading Design and Lifestyle blogs. So when the opportunity arrived, I took a train to the North of Israel to visit Karen and spend some quality time with her. When I got in her house, it felt like Welcome to Wonder and Vintage Land. See for yourself.
I was so excited when Karen’s home was well received by Design Sponge’s readers. You can see and read more about Karen’s and her design choices, in Design Sponge Sneak Peek here.
Thank you Amy and Grace for the beautiful feature.
Here are some of my favorite images from Karen’s house.