Artful Sophistication and Tranquility in Portugal’s Heartland

Portugal
October 7, 2022

Travelogue

Crafted by Kevin
Dá Licença is a tranquil, yet architecturally striking boutique hotel overlooking the endless olive groves outside of Estremoz, Portugal. Here, local craftsmanship meets modern design sophistication.

As we drove deeper into Portugal’s agricultural heartland—the Alentejo region—we were captivated by the breathtaking scenery of golden wheat fields stretching as far as the eye could see, punctuated by rustic villages, sleepy towns, and imposing medieval castles that looked like they had been plucked straight out of a fairy tale. Our destination for this leg of our Portugal road trip would be a unique boutique hotel, located just north of the historic town of Estremoz.

Our Playlist for Dá Licença

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Hidden Amidst Olive Groves

The approach to the hotel would bring us off the main road, and up a dirt path through farmland marked by herds of sheep roaming ancient olive groves and abandoned cars from another era. It felt like we were stepping back in time. After some distance, we wondered if we had gotten lost, but soon enough, a beautifully rough-hewn marble marker pointed the way further up the hill. With a few more turns, we found ourselves at Dá Licença.

Arrival

Pulling into the compound, it wasn’t initially clear where we would go next, as the property is a complex of buildings. But we were warmly welcomed by their staff, who pointed us to our dedicated parking spot, and guided us, along with our luggage, in through the not-so-obvious main entrance.

Franck & Victor

We were introduced to Franck, one of the two owners. We learned that both he and his partner, Victor, created Da Licença as an homage to the arts and crafts of the region, drawing widely on the skills of local artisans. And with just 9 unique guest suites, every piece of local fabric and stone that adorns the property is juxtaposed with curated art pieces from the Jugendstil and Anthroposophical Design movements that Franck championed in his gallery in Paris. We opted to stay in the Sky Cube junior suite.

Our Room

We opted to stay in the Moon Cube junior suite. The minimalist interior features furniture by Heinrich Eckinger, designed in the Anthroposophical style from the 1940s, creating a sense of serenity and harmony. We loved the restraint here; it’s less about accessories and more about sculptural forms and materials. All the interplay of the wood and stone surfaces, along with the muted color palette, formed a strong foundation of subdued luxury. Our patio door gave us easy access to the spectacular pool area, just beyond.

First Impressions

Simply put, the property is a design masterpiece. And the more time we spent there, the more that became clear. From how the light interacts with the architectural details from day to night, to the striking xeriscaping, to how the epic vistas are framed, Dá Licença is a study in aesthetic perfection.

The Pool

And speaking of perfection, let’s talk about the perfectly circular pool, framed by an expansive marble deck and groves of fragrant citrus trees. It’s such a stroke of design genius. They’ve created a pool deck that creates a sense of calm and tranquility, just by experiencing it visually. It’s unheated (perfect for the arid region’s hot, sunny days), but that didn’t prevent us from enjoying ourselves both in and out of the water.

The Observation Tower

As we explored the property, each turn left us breathless. At sunset, Franck invited us up to the observation tower with commanding views of a majestic sunset. He brought us some lovely rosé and nibbles to toast our arrival.

Day to Night

Even as the light faded away, the property was transformed into a new beautiful tableau of light and shadow. At the recommendation of our hosts, we ventured into Estremoz for dinner at Casa do Gadanha (modern Portuguese cuisine and wine with a local flare).

Breakfast

The next morning we were back in the observation tower, having our breakfast. This would end up being our de facto private dining room for the remainder of our stay. My favorite part of breakfast was the fabulous fruit salad that Franck whipped up, starring the curious arbutus berries adorning the courtyard. Apparently, these berries are used locally to produce a strong liquor, though we never got to try it on this trip.

Saturday Market

After breakfast, we ventured into town to experience the bustling weekly market. Each Saturday, vendors from all over the region take over Estremoz’s Rossio square, selling everything from live animals to antiques. It’s a wonderful way to immerse yourself in local life and definitely worth timing your visit around.

Lunch

After the lively market, we returned to the hotel to relax. Franck offered to cook us lunch. His simple but tasty pairing of broiled fish and rapini did not disappoint us. Dessert was a wonderfully refreshing melon ice cream. The resident cat (its name slips my mind now) decided to join us for lunch too.

Our Impressions

We spent two nights at Dá Licença, but we could’ve easily stayed longer. Before even leaving, we were already plotting a future return. This unique property is simply next level, offering guests a perfect blend of luxury, sophistication, and tranquility. And with such friendly, engaged owners and staff, the level of personal service is truly unmatched by other boutique hotels we’ve experienced. We will be back.

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Crafted by Kevin

Kevin has combined his decades of creative experience with his lifelong passion for travel by launching Outré, an uncommon travel company. Having traveled to over 400 destinations, covering 35 countries so far, he’s dedicated to making your next journey extraordinary.

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