Sep 20, 2018 (Last updated Jun 11, 2020) by Hannah Sunderani
Today I’m sharing my FIRST blog post about my travels! And it’s about time! Since moving to Europe we have been doing a lot of exploring – including European farm-to-table travel. Traveling in Europe is a blessing since everything is so close, and it’s really affordable to fly. So my husband and I have been taking full advantage while we are here, young and kid-free!
This first travel blog post is dedicated to a life-changing travel experience we had in Portugal. Let’s just say you can thank the Portuguese countryside for convincing me that travels like these are worth sharing on the blog. A couple months ago my husband surprised me with a European farm-to-table travel getaway. It was a few days away in the Portuguese countryside for a farmscape vacation to celebrate our two year wedding anniversary.
The hotel was called São Lourenço do Barrocal. It is an old family farm estate turned retreat just two hours inland from Lisbon. The hotel is surrounded by vineyards and olive groves, and was built to celebrate the farms natural beauty. With vegetable gardens and fruit trees for the on-site resturants to pick and cook from, private hiking trails for guests to explore, and horseback riding; you really feel that luxury meets nature on this beautiful estate.
Outside our farm room
The hotel itself is stunning. It’s exactly what you’d imagine when you think European farm-to-table travel. The old barns and stables on the property were converted into farm rooms, suites and cottages, which blend country rustic with chic. The typical Portuguese architecture is apparent, with its white walls and orange tiled roofs. Followed by pops of colours of greens, blues and burnt oranges making it so warm and inviting. No matter what part of the hotel you’re in, you feel at peace.
me in the cafe/bar
breakfast at the on-site restaurant
But it wouldn’t be a blog pst about European farm-to-table travel without talking about FOOD. And it certainly was the highlight of the trip. Surprise surprise? I absolutely loved their lush vegetable garden, which was used to create dishes at the restaurants on site. Everything was in season, and SO insanely fresh. The chefs were incredibly talented too! Making delicious and creative meals, ranging from colourful soups and salads, to fresh juices, homemade breads, and heavier dishes too.
The hotel is not entirely plant-based. However, the staff were so accommodating with my diet. Mitch had called in advanced to tell them I was plant-based, and they made sure that I was well fed and cared for. At the main restaurant they would supply me a special vegan menu, made just for me. Ummm, have you ever heard of such a welcoming gesture for vegans!? At breakfast they offered oat milk in addition to the regular – a option they offered just for my stay. And many times the staff asked if there any other foods they could provide me with.
special vegan menu made just for my stay
One of our days included an evening BBQ for all the guests to enjoy. It consisted of a traditional Portuguese BBQ with live music. The BBQ took place in the vegetable garden and by the pool, and it was something out of a dream! (Just look at the picture below! It would honestly make the most beautiful wedding reception). Once again, the hotel was so sweet about my diet, and made sure to inform me that vegan options would be available during the bbq. There was plenty options from roasted potatoes, to various salads, grilled veg and beans. Pressed olive oil from the surrounding olive groves infused the dishes, making them rich and comforting. Of course, it was all served with the wines from their estate. A total dream dinner.
bbq night in the vegetable garden
The evening of our wedding anniversary Mitch booked a picnic for us, and they packed a gorgeous basket for two filled with fresh breads, olives, lots of veg, chickpeas and even tofu. During the day they had asked if we had any special requests, and to notify us that they had already gone out to pick up some tofu to cook. (Seriously, how kind?) And of course the picnic came with a bottle of their estate red wine.
wedding anniversary picnic
The only thing I did miss food-wise was having my own kitchen to cook a few meals on my own. Since we were staying in a farm room there was no kitchen. So all our meals were taken at the restaurant or grill. The cost of eating out adds up. I’m one of those people that doesn’t like to eat out for every single meal – even though I pick healthy options it just makes me feel a bit gluttonous. I always miss my kitchen for that reason when I travel. I imagine for many though, the ease of not having to cook would be a bonus. If you’re like me however, they do have some cottages/suite style rooms with a kitchen if you wanted to make your own meals. But of course, these rooms are more expensive.
While we were visiting we took full advantage of many the amenities. We hiked the private trails, took a horseback riding class, lounged by the pool, and enjoyed a spa day. We even used the gym facilities once or twice! (That’s some dedication amirite?) There is lots to do on the property to make you feel as though you never need to leave.
exploring the private hiking trails
As for things to do outside the hotel, the staff has loads of recommendations. We especially loved going into Monsaraz one of the days to experience a traditional Portuguese village. The castle and streets are absolutely stunning and well worth an afternoon stroll. Evora was also a beautiful village that we visited on the way back to Lisbon. But to be honest, the hotel was such a treat that we didn’t feel much of a need to leave. So we spent most of our days on site taking it all in.
I won’t lie – I do love to travel to BIG cities, and experience the hustle and bustle of city living. But sometimes it’s nice to take a few days away to unplug. I think São Lourenço do Barrocal is the perfect retreat for that. Being two hours from Lisbon it’s a great place to explore the city life, and then spend a few days in the country to unwind. It’s also an area not often explored by tourists, and so the traditional culture is alive and genuine. It was so nice to be able to explore this region so rich in culture, and to learn about the people of Alentejo and their way of life.
What’s also nice is how important it is to the hotel to support the local community. They make sure to employ people from the surrounding area – during its renovations from farm to hotel, to their staff and upkeep, they want to support the local community and keep traditions alive. You’ll notice in the rooms every piece of furniture, utensils, linens, and products are from the region. Right down to the knife and fork you eat with.
The São Lourenço do Barrocal is a luxury nature escape from food to amenities, and style. It’s the epitome of European farm-to-table travel. The hotel is still family owned, but managed by two colleagues who worked together at the Four Seasons, who decided to contribute to creating a farmscape hotel close to home in the Portugeuse countryside. And it really does have that “luxury” hotel feel you would expect from a Four Seasons.
Of course, luxury hotel travels come with luxury prices. And so I would categorize this hotel as a “special getaway” vacation. I plan to share all types of travel recommendations of all prices as I go. But it only seemed fit to start with something extra special to digest. This hotel would be perfect for a big birthday celebration, a romantic getaway, and the like. And well worth every penny.
We will definitely be visiting São Lourenço do Barrocal again. And I hope you’ll keep it in mind for your next European farm-to-table travel getaway.