Romaneira - Quinta dos Sonhos
From the Portuguese for "butterfly lavender", Quinta Romaneira offers a teak-and-fiberglass launch for a cruise between the grassy banks. The 1,000-acre domain is now owned by a French consortium and has two handsome manors halfway down adjacent slopes on a bend in the river. The 19 rooms are divied between the two structures; Dona Clara is the more traditional, with curlicue entrance gates and an interior courtyard fountain, while Velha has an infinity pool and a tribal art collection. Romaneira is run like an elaborate house party. Every meal is set in a different location - on a terrace shaded by lemon trees, in the refectory, in a fire-lit library. At studied intervals, the staff hands out poems (in French, no less). The original wine cellar has been converted to a pool and hammam (a subtle nod to Portugal's Moorish era). But the best conversion is a storehouse turned chocolate factory, where tea cakes and creamy fudge are laid out every afternoon. At dusk, candles illuminate the gravel paths of the quinta's grounds and lead to guest rooms. At turndown, one of Romaneira's staff delivers a glass of delicate white port, reminding guests of the region's heritage.
Congratulations to Mei Lin, winner of Top Chef Season 12.