From Portugal To France

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Summer is the sweetest season, and the shortest one, too. I'm holding on tight to these last few sun-kissed days, while looking forward to all the wonderful things fall has in store for my family and I.

A highlight of my summer was being invited to Portugal on a press trip with Jaguar, where I had the opportunity to test drive the brand-new, all-electric I-PACE through the streets, up the mountains on an off-road adventure, and around the race track.  It was a chance to explore a new country, drive an incredible car, meet new friends, and make lasting memories.

My trip included flying first-class on Air Canada. I thoroughly enjoyed the pod seats, (my seat basically turned into a bed) the many delicious meals, and the endless glasses of wine and bubbly I was served. It's not easy flying like a normal person now, after that experience. After our stay in Portugal, we boarded a private chartered flight to Paris—Paris!

Paris was every bit as breathtaking as I thought it would be, even though I only saw it for one night. The Eiffel Tower is dazzling, the architecture of every building was stunning, the people were friendly, and I really wanted to learn French. (Or at least learn to master the language; after all, I've lived in Ottawa most of my life, so I have some French skills). We enjoyed a French dinner at a Christian Constant restaurant and of course, bottles of wine, before touring around the city late at night. Despite the rain, all I was thinking about was how quickly I could return to Paris to experience it all over again—this time with my entire family.

I wrote about my fun I-PACE driving experience, but not about the amazing places I stayed on this press trip in full detail on my blog. (I wrote about this on Travel and Style).

After landing in Lisbon, we were driven (in a Jag, of course) to the luxurious Conrad Algarve resort located near Quinta do Lago, a popular tourist destination. South Portugal reminded me of Greece; the beautiful mountains, the hospitality, and the delicious food. From the luxurious Conrad Algarve, we drove the I-PACE to the beautiful town of Lagos, where we had the chance to stay at the coolest little boutique hotel—Casa Mae.

Here's what I loved about both properties, and why I highly recommend you plan a visit to Portugal soon:

The Conrad Algarve is located on the Atlantic Ocean coastline, and it's the perfect luxury resort to vacation at with family. The resort has a gorgeous spa, one you can enjoy indoors or outdoors in a private cabana. The spa has many services to choose from, including massages, facials, pedicures, and more. There is an indoor infinity pool in the spa, as well as an ice fountain, steam rooms, saunas, and experience showers. If I had more time at this resort, I'd spend my day in the spa.

I loved the stunning outdoor heated infinity pool, located behind the main lobby. The tranquil setting and mountain views was extremely relaxing. Below the infinity pool is the equally beautiful large lagoon-style pool and expansive sun terrace, surrounded by tropical gardens and palm trees. There is also a children's pool and private family cabanas. The pools are serviced by Dado Pool Restaurant, which features something delicious on the menu for everyone.

The Mediterranean-style restaurant, Gusto by Heinz Beck, is a must for food lovers, and you can’t go wrong with any of the fish dishes done in traditional Portuguese style.

If you want to work out, the resort has a fully-equipped gym as well, with the latest strength-training and cardio equipment, an outdoor sun terrace and chill-out zone, fresh towels and water bottles, personal trainers and fitness programs, and indoor/outdoor fitness classes.

The idyllic beach is only as short shuttle ride from the hotel. I hopped on the shuttle bus after I arrived to explore the sandy beach. I loved it. The beach has a full-service restaurant where you can enjoy lunch and dinner, and when you're relaxing on the beach, you can enjoy the sunbeds, parasols, fresh towels, and water they offer hotel guests.

The rooms were spacious, modern, and airy, and all rooms come with large balconies, complete with outdoor furniture for your enjoyment. The views were stunning, too!

From Conrad Algarve we drove through the mountains, went on an off-roading adventure, and even raced around the Autodromo Internacional do Algave in our I-PACE before checking in to the unique Casa Mae boutique hotel in Lagos.

Casa Mae boasts it’s more than a hotel; I have to agree. This is perhaps one of my favourite hotels I’ve had the pleasure of visiting, because of its charm, friendly service, and airy, breezy rooms. Casa Mae was an abandoned estate by the sea which was turned into a hotel, offering guests a quiet place to stay while visiting Lagos. I could have stayed for weeks, exploring the city’s golden cliffs, town square, and rocky beaches.
Casa Mae is a very sustainable hotel, where the owners aim to make it a community driven, socially engaged, and environmental conscious place to stay. 90 percent of what you’ll find at Casa Mae is made in Portugal, from the products sold in the hotel’s store, to the furniture and toiletries in the rooms.

I had the chance to dine at Orta restaurant with the rest of the media on our trip and the food was amazing, mostly because most of it is home-grown and home-baked by the hotel's experienced chefs. You can also explore their vast garden to see all the food they grow, and cook in the best farm to table tradition.

Breakfast? Fresh eggs on avocado toast. Perfection!

You can choose the style of the room you want to stay in, as well: minimalist, boho chic, or vintage. Each room offers something unique depending on your mood and style, and rooms are scattered among three buildings. I stayed in the newest building, and loved the minimalist look of the room, filled with local crafts, homemade soap and shampoo, and a perfect hammock to relax in on my balcony late into the night. 

No matter what room you stay in, you'll be met with the same sunny vibe and personalized service throughout your stay. It was truly the most uniquely beautiful experience.

I am so glad I said yes to this trip. I'm often invited on press trips but usually say no; sometimes, it's not possible to say yes, because of work demands and the worry of leaving my children at home (even though they're always in excellent hands). This trip taught me that it was okay to say yes to new experiences, to go outside my comfort zone, and to enjoy every minute of my time away.

Portugal and France are now checked off my bucket list, though I know I have to return to both countries to see their beauty again for a longer time, and make new memories. There is nothing better than travelling.

I'm forever grateful to Jaguar Land Rover for this experience, and can't wait to say yes again.
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