As mentioned earlier this weekend, we were the fortunate recipients of an invitation from home electronics and appliance giant, Philips, for their annual Philips Digital Media Event in Portugal (the very first year US online media was invited). The invite afforded us not only an opportunity to preview the wide range of products from Philips for the home, but also experience something normally beyond our means: luxurious accommodations. The Ritz Carlton Penha Longa resort, located about 20 minutes away from Lisbon in a protected national forest, was our first true luxury hotel experience (our budget is more aligned with Motel 6 rather than even The W)...
Where to start? The most impressive feature of our stay was the grounds themselves. The expansive Penha Longa resort is surrounded by a range of forest-covered mountains, built along the gorgeous Estoril coastal region of Portugal and dotted with architectural remnants originally from the 14th century. For a history and architecture nerd such as ourselves, walking around the gardens and walking up to a genuine monastery or finding hidden corners of ruins was a joy, only slightly blighted by the dominating feature of their 1st class golf course (we prefer natural beauty to 18 holes of groomed grass). The whole resort is an all inclusive experience, all situated in an enclosed compound which we only got to explore perhaps 50% of...it's that large. And there's something to be said about enjoying a breakfast each morning staring up at the southern Sintra mountains. One can notably become accustomed to such a luxury quickly.
Our room was nicely appointed, though nowhere close to fancifully decorated or expansive in size as one might imagine at a Ritz Carlton managed resort. The interior exhibited that recognizable traditional resort-modern style which is neither here nor there, but everything was comfortable, notably the stately king-sized bed and a very keen alarm clock which was specially provided by our hosts. Sadly, unlike some of our other colleagues, our corner room tucked into the most remote section of the hotel offered a poor view that faced a wooded parking lot; a shame, since it is really the view and the surrounding environment (and service) that sets apart the Penha Longa from the typical luxury hotel. But then again, we don't generally stay within our room except to sleep, so the room's seclusion made for peaceful rest.
A marble covered bathroom, an ergonomic bath tub and separate glass shower were matched with amenities like Bvlgari toiletries, bidet-toilet and useful tub tray (we like to read while soaking). Modern dual sinks, bath and shower fixtures are partnered with large glass panels and a contemporary closet system that gave the second half of the room a more contemporary feel; it was a case where the interior decoration seemed to have been disjointedly planned, with the living space being more traditionally in tune with the hotel's palazzo-style estate decor and the bathroom/storage being more boutique-modern in feel. Some may not mind, but we're sticklers for decor continuity, and there's a bit of room here for improvement.
Overall, we enjoyed our time at the Penha Longa. Who wouldn't? The resort's seclusion and unique grounds affords guests an opportunity to get back to a relaxing sanctuary with a friendly and attentive staff. If only for a short while we got to live a life normally out of our reach and it was one we won't forget (mostly because the chances of it happening again are slim). That being said, coming home to one's own bed can even beat 1000 thread count sheets...though we admit we'll miss having our bed made for us each day (see how easy one becomes spoiled).