While the world seemingly crumbles around us, run away to Sublime Comporta on Portugal’s breathtakingly, picture-postcard worthy coast
Review by Izzy Ashton
It’s a funny thing when you write about a holiday in retrospect because it can take on one of two guises. Either you look back on it with a deep sense of nostalgia, an insatiable longing for those sun drenched few days. Or something happens post-holiday, and really what you want to do is not think about it at all.
But either way, even if there’s a post-holiday anti-glow, sometimes you visit a place that you just can’t get out of your head, a place that you walk back through over and over again. Sublime Comporta is one such place. Nestled behind the dunes and rice fields that lie along Portugal’s coastline, this hotel stroke country house retreat is idyllically positioned. South of Lisbon but only by an hour or so drive, you are close enough to the beach that you can pop there for a sundowner but hidden enough away that the only sounds you hear at night are your fellow residents.
Built just outside the little town of Comporta, Sublime started life as a private villa with a couple of guesthouses. The owner began to develop and what emerged is now a collection of different cabins, rooms and restaurants as well as a raised main swimming pool complete with sunken fire pit and gorgeous spa.
The main building houses a small bar and larger restaurant. The decor is safari chic with dry grass lampshades and bare brick walls and several chair filled corners providing just the right balance between relaxing and formal. Gnarled olive trees surrounded the decking like a guard of honour as we wandered along the little paths that connect cabin to restaurant to main building to yoga shed.
We were shown to our cabin, one of the Cabana rooms, a short walk away from the main hub. An enormous bed took pride of place, covered in a multitude of plump white pillows and soft linen. Two of the walls were glass planes, which we slid back and allowed the wispy curtains to dance in the breeze. The greatest excitement came when we slid open the wooden doors to the bathroom. A solid, smooth floor, a cavernous shower with a head the size of a dinner plate and an egg-shaped white bathtub found me eagerly anticipating a leisurely soak.
While some of the private villas have their own pools, we hotfooted it to the main pool and enjoyed a couple of hours with it all to ourselves, sipping ice cold beers and sharing a toasted club sandwich, with a side of chips of course. Nobody said the guests had to be classy. The pool was as ice cold as our drinks, a refreshing respite having spent the last few days in the hot city of Lisbon.
We made our way lazily back to our room and, as we were only there for one night, decided to go and explore the Comporta coastline. One piece of advice we were given before arrival and that I’d pass on to you was to hire a car, otherwise you may feel quite cut off. Unless of course, that’s what you’re looking for. We drove down to the beachfront and managed to grab the last couple of chairs at the beach bar as the waves rolled in and the sun set in front of us. There are several bars in the area and the Sublime staff are only too happy to offer their recommendations.
Post drink we drove back to our room for a bit of down time before dinner. Having dunked myself for a sufficient amount of time in the tub, we settled ourselves on the wooden decking by our room, wrapped up in the cosiest of white fluffy bathrobes and sipping on a glass of local red wine. The sunset hit us with its soft yellow light as the wind ran a hand through the tops of the tallest trees.
If you were staying at Sublime long enough, I’d say grab yourselves a couple of the hotel’s bikes to get around on. We chose to walk up to dinner, knowing that we would most certainly need the walk back. We ate in the hotel’s main restaurant and were treated fantastically from the moment we entered. Although at points there seemed to be more staff than guests, each knew the menu back to front and we were recommended a brilliant rosé from the country’s north region to accompany our meander through the menu.
All that really needs to be said on dinner is that it was fabulous. Everything, from the homemade breads to the carefully curated starters and the paella served at the table was delicious and well thought out. Although for us, the standout dish waited until the final course to appear. After a bit of deliberation we were persuaded to try the smoked salt ice cream and it did not disappoint. Having twinned it with a chocolate cake, the walk back to our room became more of a lean on one another slow amble.
Waking up to a chink of sunlight breaking through the curtains and sunk into the cloud-like mattress made it next to impossible to drag ourselves out of bed. But a breakfast buffet called and a mid-morning riding expedition to the beach. Having never ridden a horse before I was, although trying not to let on, really quite nervous. But the cowboy-esq man who ran the stables put me immediately at ease. Given no time to dwell, I was thrown onto the back of a horse, a hat was placed on my head and off we rode, well, plodded.
A lazy sea wind blows through Comporta, rolling over the rice paddies, through the forests of pine trees and down the bright white sand dunes. It smells like the wood that’s been scrubbed clean tinged with a heady heat laced with herbs. Riding through the sand dunes and down onto the beach was a real bucket list moment for me. The deserted beach stretched as far as the eye could see while the fierce waves of the Atlantic pounded just out of reach of the horses’ hooves. I needed to do nothing except drink in my surroundings and breathe in the smells as my trusty steed walked me carefully back to the stables. Then it was back to Sublime for a swim and a final club sandwich before unwillingly climbing back into our hire car for the drive back to Lisbon.
It seems strange to write so happily about a moment that was so blissful in the knowledge that what followed was less so. It feels odd to write about a place that for me holds such mixed memories. The reality is, as the incomparable journalist Dolly Alderton recently said, “You cannot script life. You can’t control it. You have to relinquish control”.