Follow by Email

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Intercontinental Hotel, Porto, Portugal

Intercontinental Hotel, Porto, Portugal

What do you expect in a hotel?  I know, I know, everyone is different and expectations grow with age.  The younger you are, the less amenities on your wish list.   Bet you know what I mean: Youth begs for a swimming pool, but spa?  Who needs it? Corner bar that has the feel and aroma of last weekend’s beer blast?  No prob. Breakfast room with more spills than thrills? Hell, if I care. No bed?  Dusty floor?  When you’re young and the world is fresh, your accommodations don’t have to be.

Well, I’m telling you I need more.  A lot more.  Hasn’t always been like that.  Wayyyyy back in a nearly forgotten corner of my misspent youth, I took a date to Paris.  Cost me 25 bucks for the weekend.  Rickety stairs. Shower down the hall and you had to plunk coins in a machine to get hot water.  Toilet in the room, surrounded by a thin curtain. Breakfast of a café au lait and a fresh croissant.  But, the location was perfect, near the Place de l’Opera, right down the street from Fauchon. We had another 50 bucks between us and that was enough for a Paris weekend.

The downside?  My date fixed me with a heart-stopping stare. “Never bring me here again.  I’ll pay for a nicer hotel.”  No merriment in her smile because she didn’t have one.

As a very young man, I stayed in a big city’s YMCA.  Looked and felt like a halfway house.  I took my shower in an open bay at midnight. Took me five seconds or less of terror before I scurried back to my rat hole of a room.  Yes, I locked and barricaded the door.  Stayed one night.  Made no unexpected friends, thank god.

Now things are better, at least in Europe.  I hear hostels can be very nice, clean, and pleasant.  As soon as I figure out how to be 22 again, I’ll give them a try.

But, now I like comfort and plenty of it.  Front lobby that could be a dead ringer for the cloakroom at Buckingham Palace.  Smiles from a group of liveried doormen and a dedicated concierge desk.  Check-in as easy as “Here’s your key, sir, and the bar is right over there.”

You find your room so large as to be suitable for two people or fourteen teenagers.  Bathroom that emptied a quarry of marble.  Glistening fixtures.  Bright lights. Towels as thick and fluffy as Flokatis.  Shower large enough to invite three friends, who will see each other only rarely, through a billowing mist.  A tub so deep there’s a lifeguard on duty.  Soaps, shampoos and other necessities from very exclusive shops.  Makes you ditch your toilet articles and start over. Yes, I did.  “Front desk?  Could I have 45 bars of body purifying soap delivered to my room, please?  Throw in some shampoo and hand lotion.  Gift wrapped, please.”
Gents' Room on the ground floor

But, let’s get back to the main event.  Ok, you’ve checked into the Intercontinental Hotel, made your appointment for a full body massage and manicure later in the day. 

Time to hit the bar.  First up, an outstanding, full-bodied red wine.  Portuguese of course.  Terras do Grifo, Douro.  So, let’s deconstruct this title….see how easily I slip into pseudo intellectualism?  Deconstruct my ass!  Tell me what it means!  Ok.  The Land of the Griffin.  Now, Mr. Smarty, what is a griffin?  A mythical beast that has the head and wings of an eagle and the hindquarters of a lion.  So, does it roar or scream?  I already told you it was mythical.  You decide.

But, the wine, whether you sip or swill, is perfect.  I enjoy a full-bodied wine, but without the raw tannins at the finish.  Terras do Grifo is smooth and mellow, with not so subtle hints of I-need-another-one.

Later on, we would adventure into the heady land of gin and tonic.   A Gin No. 3 from London’s famous Fortnum & Mason’s cellar, along with a Fever Tree Indian tonic.  Yep, if the tonic is good enough for a sub-continent, it’s good enough for me.  And, it was good enough for me and anybody else.  The next table over followed our lead and we quickly made friends.

See, bars at nice hotels are congenial, not like in the U.S. where they’re either body swap lounges, or biker bars where if you chat with someone’s girlfriend you suddenly qualify for reconstructive surgery.

The bar at the Intercontinental is so congenial you may never want to leave. The bar staff is swift and sure, but sadly, it’s time for my full body massage and manicure.

The Intercontinental is like that.  After the massage, we’ll get directions from the coterie at the concierge desk and enjoy the delights of the city.  But, I could sure use some more of that Grifo slosh…

View from our room

A nearby cafe

On the Water Front

Link to the Intercontinental:

No comments:

Post a Comment