I entered Six Senses Douro Valley at the top, on the eighth floor, and looked through picture windows at hillsides of terraced vineyards. Back down on the fourth floor, we walked to the 70-square-metre end room, number 406. It was taupe throughout, from the unpolished wide board wood floor and walls to the six-person L-shaped sofa, with an off-white mansard ceiling above. A trio of three-metre-high French windows leads to a balcony. They, and two more windows, all have hand-operated floor-length taupe gauze curtains and easy-operated electric black-out blinds. The main room’s centrepiece is a raised bathtub, encased in a taupe marble coffin. The main bathroom, in an alcove, has a pair of oval washbasins set in black granite.
I go down to the third floor, which is all “eatertainment”. People are dining, it seems, everywhere. The ‘bar’ has a big snooker table and an old-fashioned leather trunk opened to reveal dozens of Scrabble, Monopoly and other board games. A whole jamon sits on a table.
After pickled beetroot salad with walnut and orange, and sardines on wafer-thin toast, I go on to a Josper-grilled octopus tentacle on spinach with local extra virgin olive oil. We drink Six Senses Douro Valley Reserva. GM Nick Yarnell explains how the hotel mentors schoolkids from poor homes and also supports retired donkeys who, until 20 years ago, worked the myriad of steep vineyard terraces around. It makes and sells its own water and grows all herbs and some green groceries in an immaculate organic herb and garden that now replaces the former tennis court.
I wake long before dawn. By the light of the moon, tra-la-la, I walk down a steep cobbled road and up the other side back through the same vineyards. I finish my morning ritual in a gym that blends LifeCycle, LifeFitness and Technogym. Breakfast includes homemade yoghurts, jams and house-baked bread rolls.
This is a busy morning. First comes tree climbing, a highly professional operation: I am harnessed and helmeted tight, and I would exaggerate if I said I skimmed up the 10-metre fir (but I did make it to the top to ring the bell up there). Next was trialling what is now Six Senses’ system-wide integrative wellness. I was wired up, hands, feet and forehead, closed my eyes for three minutes and was subsequently told I had achieved top marks (6/6) for cholesterol, heart and liver and I could live forever.
Next was a sensational Organic Pharmacy facial in one of 11 treatment rooms looking out through all-wall windows into peaceful private gardens. I closed my eyes for all 60 minutes and dreamed I was flying. And after that, I walked back past the full-size indoor pool, got properly dressed and we were off, at what seemed like mid-afternoon, for the next Douro Valley quinta.