“ Address: Rua Dr. João Gonçalves / 4784-909 Santo Tirso / Porto / Portugal / Tel: +351 252 859 300 „
The last time I stayed in a hotel in small-town Portugal was nearly 20 years ago in the out-of-the-way north-eastern town of Braganca. It was a tiny hotel with a room so small you had to walk over the bed to get to the window and every evening the restaurant would fill up with men in blue overalls, drinking the local hooch, smoking cigarettes out of the corner of their mouths and waiting to see the latest Brazilian soap operas on the TV that was constantly on in the corner of the room. I loved it - the atmosphere, not the men in the overalls! So that was the image I had in my mind when I set off to Santo Tirso with a booking for the Hotel Cidnay. It was going to cost me around Euro70 for the night so I was expecting something pretty basic. I certainly didn't expect a stylish chic hotel that looked like it was straight out of the pages of Elle Deco.
===Where is it?===
Santo Tirso is a small industrial town about half an hour north of Porto. I would imagine you'd probably only go there for business or because you knew someone local. Wikipedia tells me the population is 14,000 and it has a football team but if there are any tourist attractions, wikipedia hasn't heard about them. I took a taxi from Porto airport which cost me just over Euro30 and took about 20 minutes. My flight had been delayed and by the time I arrived it was past 11pm on a Sunday evening and there wasn't a soul on the streets.
Passing through glass doors I found myself in a rather stylish reception with a long dark-wood counter to the right-hand side and a seating area with coffee tables and a small library. The colours were in shades of brown and cream and there were two large floor lamps with dark brown shades and there was lots of marble and other decorative stone. I was checked in quickly and politely by the night manager who took a photocopy of my passport and handed me a room key and gave me instructions to take the lift to floor minus 2. 'Oh hell', I thought, 'sounds like they've put me in the basement' and it was only the next day that I realised that the hotel was on a hillside and the top floor was the ground floor (if you follow my thinking). Stepping out of the lift I found an art gallery to one side (yes, the Cidnay has its own gallery) and an enclosed atrium-style garden with fountain to the other. I walked round the plants and the fountain, admired the arty painted tiling on the walls and found my room which was 221.
It seems as if pretty much all the rooms I've stayed in recently have been laid out in very similar ways and the only thing that differs is the colour scheme. If the public rooms had been decorated by an expensive designer, the bedrooms were not so stylish and I suspected they might be undergoing a two-phase upgrade in which the public rooms were done first and perhaps the bedrooms will follow. That's not to say that there was anything wrong with the room, just that it wasn't decorated to the same standard as the rest of the hotel.
Entering the room, I found wardrobes along the right hand wall which contained a mini-bar and a good-sized safe-box as well as extra blankets and pillows. The bathroom was to the left side and then the main bedroom area opened up in front of me. The carpets were light green in colour and the curtains had wide stripes of light green and a gingery orange; not offensive but not particularly memorable. There were prints of sailing ships on two of the walls - again, nothing very special. All the woodwork was in a light wood and there was a suitcase stand that merged into a sideboard/desk (with no chair?) which also held the rather large flat-screen TV. At the end of the room, next to the French doors, were two small chairs and a coffee table. The bed had bedside tables to each side with lamps, telephone etc. The bed itself was a large double with a 'pillow menu' (as if I was going to call up housekeeping at midnight on a Sunday to demand a different pillow), sheets and blankets and a nice crisp white quilted cover. I sometimes judge a room by how many of the contents I'd like to take home with me and this room scored on the bedspread and the TV.
The bathroom had a bath with a shower over, a loo and bidet and a large spacious sink area with a big mirror but no make-up or shaving mirror. The washstand and most of the tiling was made of cream-coloured travertine marble - the real stuff, not a tiled copy! The shower had good water-pressure and the toiletries that were provided were good enough for me to slip them in my wash bag - 'artisan' soap that looked like someone tipped a bowl of muesli into the mixer and good sized bottles of nice-smelling shampoo, shower gel and body lotion. I long ago gave up emptying the 'amenity tray' in hotel bathrooms and now I only take the toiletries if they are quite special.
Do you recall the magic words 'French doors' earlier in the review? Yes, I had a balcony - yippee. You can't help but feel a bit like you are on holiday if you get a room with a balcony (or maybe that's just me). It was small and overlooked a small courtyard but if I stood near the edge, there was a fantastic view of the hills in front of the hotel. There was no furniture on the balcony though, but I suppose you could take the arm-chairs out of the room if you wanted to sit outside. When I woke on the Monday morning, I was amazed to find that it was raining so my plan to sit out first thing was cancelled.
I don't generally do hotel breakfasts but since I knew I'd want to write about the hotel, I thought I'd better go and check out the restaurant and I am glad that I did. The large room was decorated in dark woods with lots of neutral shades in the carpets and furnishings. A classic Italian 'Elle Deco' look (I had a subscription to the magazine for many years and it taught me to spot expensive stuff). Many of the tables were laid out for lunch with sparkling silver-ware and glasses and with row upon row of pink water glasses. The buffet had a great selection of foods - cereals, breads and cakes, fruit, hot food, cheese and hams, yoghurts, juices and coffees; just about everything you could think of. But the spectacular thing about the restaurant is not the food; it's the view. All along one end of the restaurant there's a long window with a panoramic view of the mist-covered hills and vineyards outside the hotel. I had a table in the middle of the room because all the viewing tables had already been filled with people gawping out of the windows at the view.
I went back to my room to pack and then grabbed my camera to take some pictures of the hotel. There's a lovely outdoor terrace with great views that must be nice on a sunny evening, and a bar with stylish sofas and artistically arranged cushions and flowers. There are meeting and conference rooms but I didn't have a chance to look. On the -1 floor, there's a games room with a snooker table and on -2, you'll find the art gallery I mentioned before. There's a gym somewhere but I didn't check it out.
This was easy and quick but then it was a Monday morning so I can't say it would always be so simple. My room was Euro69.50 which also included the breakfast and I felt this was excellent value - if I'd paid my own money rather than my company's, then I'd have felt it was money well spent. I can only imagine that the factory I was visiting may have negotiated a special rate although perhaps there's not a lot of demand for a four-star hotel in Santo Tirso. I just wish I could have stayed longer but fortunately I'm pretty sure that it won't be my only visit.
Praca do Municipio, Apartado 234
www.hotel-cidnay.pt (website is only in Portuguese!)
Hotel includes Dona Unisco restaurant