Hop. Panic. Shimmy. We’ve arrived at a serene Memmo Baleeira in the dead of night, and my first question muttered to the chic lady at reception is, ‘Where’s the ladies’ room?’ She helpfully points out where to go but post crazy-hour flight, let’s just say I’m a little disoriented – and desperate. And Memmo Baleeira is too cool for urgency. Signs are minimal and corridors are long with matching wooden doors. After a good few minutes of shimmying, door after door, I notice a tiny sign reading ‘WC’. Phew.
Thankfully, the rest of our weekend consists of lots of relaxed sashaying. This sleek spa hotel on the wild and windswept Algarve coast is good at inspiring a beslippered glide which seems to come naturally to me and Mr Smith. I’ve taken him on a surprise trip for his birthday in the hope that two nights in Portugal will be relaxing rather than just tease us into craving more holiday time.
Long, marshmallow-white passages do little to indicate which room category we’re in. We are in a suite, though you would never know until you were inside. It’s minimal – but not in a Nineties’ Ikea style, in a ‘let’s go out for sushi!’ kind of way. It’s bright and fresh with a giant balcony overlooking the harbour and a bouncy green lawn. (Blimey – you need never wear shoes in this place.)
Letting the breeze in through the full-length glass doors, we’re happy we requested a room with a view – it is the kind of landscape sure to make your friends’ tongues hang out when posted as a picture on Facebook. Scandinavian chairs from the hotel’s original Sixties’ incarnation have been scrubbed up and accented with a modern Philippe Starck lamp here and a Tom Vac seat there. Our suite even has a kitchenette, with a full-size fridge. Yanking it open eagerly, a bit of chocolate and three mini Sagres beers doesn’t quite compensate for the fact we’ve arrived after midnight and there’s no room service at this hour. But hey, maybe that’s me being a booze-hound Brit.
The hotel's architecture has Memmo Baleeira stretched flat on a hill overlooking the village of Sagres. Though the 144-room property is pretty big, you don’t realise it until you get lost looking for your room, hazy from the sauna maybe, or looking for the loo, befuddled from a late-night low-cost airline flight. There are so many people staying there at the same time as us that the carpark is bursting with glistening cars – but you can hardly notice them – everyone is just too relaxed and, oh, I need to use the C word again: cool. Even at breakfast, which is served until the glorious time of 11am, everyone blends in, slopes about, glides along… even the children. How MB manages that is beyond me.
Now to Memmo Spa. I sign up for a facial and Mr Smith has a good scrub, although it is just as much fun giggling in the indoor freshwater pool, followed by a whirl in the terrifyingly dark Turkish bath. Eventually I even persuade Mr Smith to take advantage of the free two-hour bike hire. The reception staff, dressed in minty tones and super smiley, advise us to cycle the 8km to the lighthouse. A great ride is the perfect way to take in the sights, surely? Until whooooaaa, wobble, whooaa… Mr Smith’s bike chain has fallen off. Uh-oh! Scraped arm, ripped chinos – a spanner is thrown into the romancing. We wheel ourselves back and staff are horrified, whisking away the guilty bike to be repaired. Thanks to a particularly gorgeous blonde gently applying a big plaster to Mr Smith he makes a remarkably speedy recovery.
Beaches are king here on this southern stretch of Europe, and we head off on foot to seek one out. For our spring visit, Sagres town is quiet, but visually delicious with beautiful pink and peachy flowers in bloom on all the window sills. Once we find Mareta beach, we see for ourselves why this part of the world is a surfer’s retreat – people are thrashing about in the frothy breaks on their boards. We take an outdoor seat at Raposo café overlooking the sea, and inspired by the guys next to us we order sardines. ‘Flipping tasty,’ is Mr Smith’s verdict. ‘Especially when wolfed with sangria.’
The vibe of Sagres’ beach scene is cool and not in-your-face, and jumping around in the Atlantic waters is the loudest it really gets – at least in the day. (You try not to scream at the unexpected chill of that sea.) It’s at night when the volume is turned up, and evenings are unexpectedly jumping. Bellies full from huge portions of lamb chops and steak at cosy, local restaurant Vila Vehla, a few of the bars even get us jiving… Where do all these people come out from?
Lots of Sagres sipped in Sagres, and lots of smooching later, we conclude Memmo Baleeira has been nothing but a floaty joy. (‘Floaty joy’ – a term I coined when admiring the dresses for sale in the hotel boutique.) And two nights turned out to be just enough for us to relax and get to grips with finding our way around. Phew.