Hotels for City Chic & Coastal Cool in Portugal
By Cathie Arquilla
Tivoli Avenida Liberdade, you’re trying to seduce me, aren’t you?
Tivoli Avenida Liberdade is groovy. It could (and should have been) a great location for the episodic TV show Mad Men. If the Graduates’ Mrs. Robinson wanted to seduce a young man in Lisbon, this is the place. Its vast skylit lobby is both inviting and business-like. Late fifties two story brass screens, and balcony railings are something an architect would choose now and probably did since the hotel recently went through a complete renovation. Decorated in hushed tones of greys, browns, punctuated by blue, the lobby begs for making a deal, or a clandestine meeting, or a fancy bottle of champagne with the girls.
This Tivoli hotel sits on the internationally chic shopping avenue of Lisbon’s, Avenida Liberdade. Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Burberry, MaxMara, and their counterparts dot this street like soldiers standing for inspection. BUT, you don’t have to be an army general with wallet at the ready to enjoy this grand shopping avenue, it’s also meant for casual romantic strolling. The 19th-century sidewalk mosaics should be admired at your leisure.
Be seen at SEEN
“Make it sexy,” had to be the directive, Olivier da Costa gave when he was creating SEEN restaurant for Tivoli Avenida Liberdade. SEEN’s scene is intoxicating even without the cocktails. Imagine Lisbon’s glittering skyline at your feet, a DJ mixing sounds that compliment your drinks and your conversation, big swank velvet banquets to cozy up to friends (or strangers who become friends), that is SEEN. I could tell you about the architect, the mixture of wood, brass, velvet, and marble, the 1930s deco aesthetic they were going for. Yes, it’s all there, but this restaurant is more about a very cool, see and be seen, international vibe. Lipsticked ladies in gossamer blouses and men in ankle exposing skinny pants peacock… while eating really good food! That’s the takeaway of this restaurant: SEEN is both a scene and an excellent restaurant.
SEEN’s food is a hybrid of cuisines, Portuguese and Brazilian, but I focused on the sushi. Chef Thalles Boniatti dos Santos turned sushi roll combos upside down and backwards–tuna on the outside, shrimp, egg, nori and rice on the inside. And throwing every aphrodisiac in the kitchen sink, SEEN features an Oyster Bar – oysters from the Portuguese coast, of course!
Tivoli Carvoeiro Algarve, you stir my senses.
Once you’ve gotten your Portuguese city fix in Lisbon, head down to the Algarve to an entirely different Tivoli experience and check into the Tivoli Carvoeiro Algarve Resort. This is the perfect vacation combo – a Lisbon walk about followed by Algarve layabout.
Tivoli Carvoeiro had a big five-star makeover in spring of 2017 busting out walls to open up space and make way for jaw-dropping coastal views. The Algarve itself seemed to inspire the hotel’s interiors. Colors of clay, sand, pebbles, and shocks of ocean blue say, “take off your shoes and stay a while.” The rugs and furniture neatly organized on reflective cream marble, remind me of Frank Sinatra’s Rat Pat in Palm Springs, 60s modern, beachy-cool, still, very now.
Just past the lobby as you’re walking down the corridor, elevators on your left and lounge/bar to your right, you’re slammed with the most spectacular view, and that’s when you realize this hotel is on a cliff overlooking a cove and the sea, with zero visual obstruction. Cliff. Sea. Sky. The packing, the flight, the drive, was worth it.
Lunch at Azur Bar
Your eyes are bugging out, why not get your taste buds in on the action. Sit down to lunch on the terrace overlooking the pool and the sea beyond and eat fish. Isn’t that half the reason you chose Portugal? There are some Algarvian specialties you should not miss; Carabineiros, Limão confitado do Algarve e Coentros (that means prawns, baby!), grilled octopus, the cockles, and any interpretation of fish soup.
If you were forced to choose just one course while in Portugal, go for the starters. I spread smelly warm cheese oozing from little clay pots on crostini. I reached for veal carpaccio, assorted sausages, native olives, and parmesan. And then there’s the famed Portuguese wine! Your whole vacation could be a wine and cheese party.
At Tivoli Carvoeiro, you are welcome to create your own special occasion menu with chef Joaõ Vieira Joana. He recognizes that “your eyes also eat,” and his team is gifted in the art of plating. Depending on your agenda, that may include an engagement ring situated behind a mango slice.
Walk the 7 Hanging Valleys
I recommend doing as little as possible while staying at Tivoli Carvoeiro, but there is one activity that every guest must do. Walk the 7 Hanging Valleys. This is a coastal walk along the cliffs providing look-sees of caverns, coves, fossils, flora, fauna and few enviable backyards. Our guide was Fabio from Algarfun. They will take anywhere from 2 to 15 people and customize the experience to fit ages and interests.
Portugal is on the radar of the American tourist. It’s a fantastic value, easy enough to get to and has the ancient European charm we crave. If you can manage it, visit in the shoulder season. Locals recommend the spring. I went the first week of December, and it was blessedly quiet and warm enough. I peeled down to a short sleeve tee while walking The 7 Valleys.
In booking any Tivoli hotel you are assured of a unique, and professional experience. It’s a chain that doesn’t behave like a chain. Each hotel speaks more to its sense of place than to the brand it serves. And isn’t that what we want? To FEEL like we’re in a particular place with all the flavors and fantasies to go with it!
Fashion stylist and travel writer Cathie Arquilla’s love for travel is equal to her passion for fashion. As a travel writer, she inspires us to notice details, while telling us about what is new or ancient and fun to do. Formerly a celebrity stylist, Cathie now provides personal styling for clients at the CARLISLE Showroom in New York City. Her writing outlets include Travelgirl magazine and GoNOMAD.com. Check out her website at cathiearquilla.com. Photo: Kristen Levesque