The trip began at 3:30am on a Thursday morning – that’s rough. Thankfully, sunnier climes and Conrad Algarve’s fabulous opening party were within touching distance which made the antisocial hour bearable.
Touchdown in Faro and that wonderful feeling swept us from the moment we stepped off the plane….you know the one we don’t experience much coming back off the plane in the UK…..feeling the warmth of the sun on your face. The smiling face that met us was the smartest taxi at arrivals and the only one with names on an iPad – the true Conrad service started from here.
On the approach to the hotel, guests are met with this magnificent view.
I have seen so many pictures of the hotel but nothing prepared me for this. It is glorious.
That afternoon I met the dynamic general manager, Joachim Hartl, who has spread his magic over the Conrad Algarve.
From the moment I stepped into the light flooded atrium, I was swept off my feel. The lovely Doreen, took me to my room explaining the significance of the art work around the hotel. The theme of fire and light has been incorporated throughout, including pieces like this incredible water droplet installation in the atrium. One can’t help but feeling happy here – it’s just so light and airy!
Walking up to my room, Doreen explained that the panel of each bedroom door had been hand-crafted with the shape of the Algarve flower designed into it.
My room was positively palatial. The bed could fit a family of 5. I had a delightful gourmet snack waiting for me (a surprise that continued throughout my stay – every time I returned to my room there would be delicious treat waiting for me).
I had just about enough time to take advantage of the Sereno Infinity Pool. Lying back on my sun lounger, comfortable enough to be a bed, I was brought over a tray of refreshing delights – a cooling watermelon drink and a bottle of water on ice….I could get used to this.
The gourmet opportunities at the Conrad Algarve are astounding. I first experienced the Lago Lounge, which is the hotel’s sophisticated all day lounge, perfect if you want to just chill out inside with a coffee or a glass of something stronger.
Joachim Hartl, then gave a tour of the hotel – this place is seriously impressive. Its design is inspired by the 18th century Portuguese palaces. I certainly feel like a princess here.
The absolute piece-de-resistance of the day though was the 7-course dinner with wine pairing for each course at Conrad Algarve’s signature restaurant, Gusto, which is led by culinary pioneer Heinz Beck. Heinz holds 3 Michelin stars for his restaurant ‘La Pergola’ at the Rome Cavilieri (another Grifco client). This man means serious business and I couldn’t wait to be witness to his wonders.
I don’t want to make you all jealous because if I went through the detail of the mouthwatering, amazing tongue popping effect of each course, I definitely will make you jealous but I will leave you with the menu of the evening below and the thought that whilst sitting with some of the world’s most well-dined travel journalists, I swore testament of them saying “this is the best meal I have ever had.” And let me tell you something – Chef Beck’s signature dish, the Faggottelli Carbonara is one which dreams are made of. The waiter and sommeliers were incredibly charming too. The whole evening was just a very enjoyable experience. Meeting Heinz Beck and his sous chef, was a pleasure too.
The second day split the group between golfers and non-golfers. The golfers experienced some of Europe’s best golf courses in the Conrad Algarve Inaugural Golf Tournament.
Personally, I’m not much of a golfer so chose the more gentle option: travelling by Catamaran to the local marshes for a morning of clam picking, one of the most surprisingly satisfying experiences I’ve had. It turns out there is truly an art to seducing a razor clam out of his sandy lair.
The eco-friendly, cork insulated Jamanta catamaran then took us onto Deserta Island which has been preserved to its purest and wildest state. Walking on its beaches, one feels as if they are the only person on there – it’s quite extraordinary.
Settled in the middle of this island paradise is the Estaminé Restaurant which looks out over the sea like a James Bond secret hideaway. The food served here is the freshest fish locally caught and is absolutely exquisite. The white fish we dined on was cooked so simply and tasted divine.
The pièce de resistance occurred that evening. After a VIP Drinks Reception on the palatial Presidential Roof Terrace with Hilton Worldwide’s most senior executive members, I descended into to Conrad Algarve Opening Party –and what a party it was!
There were acrobats suspended from the ceiling in the Atrium, chefs from around the globe serving the world’s finest cuisine from different stations around the swimming pool, catwalk show on the swimming pool commissioned by Portuguese fashion designer to the stars Fatima Lopes, the crème de la crème of Portuguese society swanning around elegantly, unbelievable fireworks, a human art installation, a wall of balloons ascending into the night sky…. Can I even call it a party? It was more like a dream-inspired extravaganza.
The doors to the Conrad Algarve are well and truly open.
The day after such a high can always be a bit of miserable one but such a feeling is not possible in the Algarve, especially with the itinerary planned for my final day there.
The morning was spent on a magical mystery tour in a 4×4 through the mountains and traditional Algarve villages. Our informative tour leaders were so passionate about their local surroundings and pointed out the cork trees used in the local cork production as well as picking rosemary and thyme from the mountain roadside for us to smell – divine!
A wine tasting and a Portuguese picnic by the stunning Fonte Grande spring later, we headed back to the Conrad Spa to indulge in the Conrad Algarve Spa Experience. It truly is a haven and an oasis of calm which makes it difficult to leave. I tried out the oxygen treatment in the Elixir Lounge which is essentially is inhaling pure oxygen. One its many benefits is clearing any sore heads from the night before which was definitely beneficial for a few people in the group! A unique aspect of the Conrad Spa is ‘staying connected’ which means guests can take in their phones, iPads, laptops. Research was undertaken by Conrad where the results showed people are more stressed out being without their technology in a spa environment. The Conrad Spa offer a completely stress free experience that is for sure. My Aromatherapy Associates facial was sublime and the view from the spa infinity pool was quite dreamy.
he final evening was spent at the hotel’s DadoQ restaurant where we ate a sumptuous barbecue dinner against the backdrop of the Mediterranean gardens. My personal favourite was the monkfish cooked to absolute perfection.
And so, the next morning I travelled back to blighty leaving clear skies and high temperatures for rain and Luton airport about 10 stone heavier. My time at the Conrad Algarve was so special – everything is carried out with such finesse and care that didn’t go unnoticed by a single member of the group. I still dream of that fagottelli carbonara…..