LONDON, England / The Independent on Sunday / Travel / September 5, 2010
Stay the night: Longevity Wellness Resort, Portugal
There's not one, two but three spas at this bold new resort in Portugal's mountains,
says Kate Simon
Everyone needs a spa these days. From the holiday cottage that engages the local woman with the collapsible massage table, to the five-star resort with over-water massage pavilion. But the Longevity Wellness Resort, now, this is serious stuff.
This huge offering, by La Clinique de Paris, divides into three. The Wellness and Relaxation area has the usual facilities – pool, sauna, gym, etc – augmented by indulgent treatments. Beauty and Rejuvenation pampers with facials and the like. But it is the third section that stands apart; Health and Longevity is where medical evaluations tackle lifestyle, diet, genetics and pollution, "preventative medicine and ageing management".
Taking the waters: Longevity Wellness in the Algarve mountains is Portugal's first in-resort medical spa
Whether you buy into the idea or not, the owners have chosen their location well. The town of Monchique, in the Algarve mountains, is renowned for its thermal waters, first tapped by the Romans – though the spring is exclusive to a neighbouring resort. Plus there's all that fresh mountain air to enjoy in the surrounding pine and cork forests.
The rooms: The resort's design is as bold as its health-promoting claims. The vast modern building set in landscaped grounds hugs a hill, its central spine a hub for communal areas, off which splay angular, white accommodation blocks, their green roofs and local stone cladding attempting to blend in with the surroundings.
The interiors are saved from being too clinical by the judicious use of grass-green and earth-brown carpets and large floral prints on the walls. But the need to connect to different levels by lift (which I often couldn't get to work), and the access to bedrooms being via heavy fire doors, dislocates any organic flow sought.
The word suite doesn't do justice to what are, in fact, one-bedroom apartments. The designers' brown and white palette may be uninspiring, but the sheer glass patio doors brighten the mood with a welcome flood of light. The living area features a smart, well-equipped kitchenette and quality furnishings include a sofa bed and large flat-screen TV. The bedroom also comes with a TV and comfy bed, and both rooms lead out to a balcony area. There's plenty of storage space and two bathrooms, too, making this workable for a family of four or four very friendly adults. Wi-Fi, maid and room service and access to a concierge lead the five-star hotel-style facilities.
The food and drink: The resort's signature restaurant, Longevity Cuisine by Olivier, headed by Lisbon-based chef Olivier da Costa, prides itself on serving "healthy gourmet cuisine" using local produce in its pretty white dining room with mountain views. The chefs may go a bit lighter with the salt and butter, but the modern European fare tastes no less delicious for it. And dishes such as fillet of cod confit with black ink risotto, tarragon and tomato concasse are suitably showy. The nine-course degustation menu is well priced at €42 (£35); otherwise starters cost from €9 and main dishes from €18. The resort also has five bars.
The extras: As well as the spa, there's an outdoor pool, games room and library, plus a driving range and putting green where you can prepare for a round at one of the many local golf courses. The centre of Monchique is just up the road. Or climb to Foia, the highest point in the Algarve, for great views. Hiking, horse-riding, birdwatching and mountain biking are on offer in the forest. Portimao and the beaches of the Algarve are 15 minutes away by car.
The access: Disabled access with specially adapted rooms. Children are welcome. Pets not admitted.
The bill: Suites cost from €135 per night, based on two people sharing, including breakfast and use of the spa's facilities. I travelled to the resort courtesy of Monarch Airlines (monarch.co.uk), which offers return flights from Manchester, Birmingham, Gatwick and Luton starting at £83, and Carrentals.co.uk, which offers car hire out of Faro from £106 per week.
Longevity Wellness Resort, Algarve, Portugal
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