A special thank you to Colina Flora for offering us a slightly discounted rate in exchange for writing about and photographing our experience. Opportunities like this allow us to explore more and bring a greater amount of awesome travel content to you!
In January 2012, while researching for our trip to Northern Spain, the GOOP newsletter arrived in my inbox with some details about visiting Portugal for a film festival. As I scrolled down, I noticed a small entry about an eco-friendly bed and breakfast named Colina Flora. Following the link to their website, I was immediately enchanted and suddenly Portugal had made it on to my travel wish list. So you could say that Colina Flora was the initial impetus for our two-week trip to Portugal this year.
Aside from the enchanting look of the property, one of the notations on the website reads that specialty dietary requirements are accommodated! So needless to say, when 2014 rolled around and we were ready to plan a trip to Portugal - spending a few nights at Colina Flora was a given.
Located after a few twisting turns and up a steep driveway in the village of Pé da Serra, Colina Flora subtly sprawls down the hillside. Driving through the gates will take you straight to the back of the property where the two stand alone cottages are located, including the Rose Cottage. Although you'll barely notice it among the beautiful trees and hedges, you'll pass two larger two-story buildings, gardens, the pool, and the guest kitchen.
For self-caterers and those with a number of food intolerances, having a guest kitchen is straight gold at a bed and breakfast. James and Aasta, the American/German couple who run Colina Flora, keep the guest kitchen well stocked with an honor bar full of generously priced beverages and small treats. I highly recommend the bottle of organic apple juice - some of the best I've ever had. The guest kitchen is open air and sits just across the path from the pool . It makes for a good meeting point to chat with the others guests as well.
I have a particular soft spot for the stone built structure you see in the picture above - it's now used as a garden shed. With it's extra short door and thick hat of vines - it plays into the fairy tale landscapes we saw all around the country.
The Rose Cottage
We chose the free standing cottage at the far end of the property for our three night stay at Colina Flora. I hoped it would offer a relaxing, away-from-it-all kind of vibe, and it delivered. Decorated with special touches all over and immaculately kept, the Rose Cottage was utterly peaceful. We enjoyed slow mornings in our spacious room complete with a café table, reading nook, and outdoor patio. The French doors open facing the Atlantic Ocean, which sits just under 800 feet down the hillsides from Colina Flora. The lovely in-room amenities James and Aasta provide to their guests include gluten free biscuits (in our case at least), fresh fruit, wine, bottled water, beach towels, and organic cotton robes and slippers.
Although it's not yet mentioned on the website, James and Aasta have recently been working to install wireless internet in the Rose Cottage. I'm happy to report it was operational and worked wonderfully during our stay.
After a few e-mail exchanges with Aasta, it was obvious that my needs were well understood. She took the time to ask about tricky things such as oats as well as noting that butter, goat, and sheep milk products were all okay for me while berries were not. Upon our arrival we learned that Aasta had made a few special trips to health food shops just for our visit to ensure we had plenty of safe choices.
The breakfast buffets each morning offered all of my favorites and were hands down the best meals we ate during our entire two weeks in Portugal. Filled with fruits (including a fresh fruit compote each morning - yum!), a variety of cheeses, locally made fruit spreads (local as in made by the neighbors), and gluten free baked goods like a honey buckwheat cake. Aasta also had her kitchen stocked with gluten free bread, muesli, and other gluten free flours - so I had plenty of options available to me each morning. Dairy free options were also available and Aasta had a delicious organic sugar-free almond rice milk which I enjoyed plain and with some gluten free muesli.
The weather was just perfect during our visit, so each morning we dined outside at a picnic table with an Irish couple and a Scottish/English couple, both around our age. It was great fun to share our Portugal travels over fresh squeezed orange juice and some amazingly delicious food - just about everyone went back for seconds.
I really can't recommend the wonderful hospitality at Colina Flora enough - especially to other travelers with dietary restrictions. James and Aasta are incredibly accommodating and ready to help you enjoy your time in any way they can. From their hand drawn map of what do to around the area, complete with plenty of options for those without a rental car, to the amazing food (I'm still not over the plum compote or the honey buckwheat cake), Colina Flora really is a wonderful place to land for a few nights in Portugal.