A charming, authentic and stylish 17th century Portuguese guesthouse that wins our hearts hands down in terms of places to stay in Tavira. If what you are after is living the life like the locals, then the Casa Beleza do Sul is the place to stay. Originally a large family home that has been estimated as dating back to the late 1800s, Paola and her husband, both architects, built the house into what it is today together. Located on a narrow cobbled city centre street, the house chimes with impassioned debates usually about football from the bar just across the street, or the sounds of children playing along the streets, the house lives to the rhythm of the community. The best of the Casa? Its roof-top balcony looking over Tavira's peculiar square rooftops and of course, its lovely rooms, which are all different and very stylish. This is the perfect place for couples, but as the house has an intimate atmosphere, it isn't ideal for noisy guests/groups.
The guesthouse is located off the new part of town in the winding cobbled streets of Tavira just opposite a lively local bar that serves cheap Sagres or Super Bock beer (the local tipple) and two choices for lunch. The house is surrounded by local shops and houses, immersing the visitor in local life right away.
Otherwise Tavira has a rich history as an important fishing port; the village was also an important Moorish city in the 1700s and ruins of forts and settlements are still visible all over the village. The hotel is about an hour's drive east on the N-125 from Faro, the capital of the Algarve. The nearest beach is about 20 minutes away on foot or a few minutes by water-taxi once in the centre of town on the banks of the river Formosa.
Guests must remember that the house is an original build and although the rooms are stylish and comfortable, there is no air-conditioning, as this would have altered the structure of the house. The casa isn't soundproof either, so the sound of the neighbourhood is heard throughout the house (Tavira isn't the noisiest of villages).
The house opened to guests in 2010 after an extensive renovation that was overseen very closely by Paola, the owner, and her husband. Both of whom are architects, the renovation took almost five years, and as Paola explained, there may be a few other changes in the year to come, like a new reception area and boutique on the ground floor.
The highlight of the house aside from its authentic architecture, is its beautiful roof-top terrace looking out over neighbouring roof tops. In Tavira, the roof tops have a specific four-sided shape with terracotta tiles. This makes for a wonderful sight while sunbathing! That, and the surrounding sounds of the villages throughout the different times of the day as life unravels.
The project was no easy task, but the owners have done a good job at getting the balance between everyday essential comforts and authenticity (hence there being no air-conditioning).The atmosphere in the house can be a little hectic during check-in and check-out as there is no dedicated reception area, so it is all done on the first terrace on the first floor. But once Paola leaves the guests to themselves and they get on with their holiday, peace falls upon the house once again.
Visitors should know that although there is Wi-Fi throughout the house, there is no 24-hour reception.
The house has five rooms, including three suites and a studio, all of which have their own individual style and atmosphere. The size of the rooms range from about 45-25m˛ and all have private kitchenettes.
The rooms are spacious and cosy. Paola has done a great job at decorating them with style and flair so that they are fresh and bright. Also, with the bits of furniture collected from different places, and the original tiling of the house, the charm of the casa is unbeatable. Despite the contemporary aspect the lived-in atmosphere feels authentic and guests feel at home right away.
As well as its own décor, each room also has its own atmosphere. For Paola, the Blue Suite has a romantic feel, the Mosaic is the authentic room as the original bath and mosaics have been kept, the Duplex is the most contemporary, and the Studio is a cosy nook.
Otherwise in terms of amenities, the rooms have a bath tub, except for the blue room, which has a walk-in shower. All rooms have organic toiletries of the Damman brand, which smell of plants and flowers like orange blossom.
Breakfast is the only meal guests can opt to have at the guesthouse - most visitors tend to spend the day visiting the sights and therefore prefer to try local restaurants, which Paola can give lots of advice on. Otherwise, the breakfast consists of a little hand-woven basket left outside the door of each room. Filled with local preserves (fig, orange and tomato - a local speciality), breads, the breakfast is a great way to start the day delving into the Algarve's culture.
The beaches in Tavira are beautiful, especially out of season, as most beaches will be deserted - great if your ideal holiday is spent on a beach all to yourself! But not so great if you actually want to have a swim without the necessary squirming ceremony to get into the cold water, the Portuguese will tell you. The best time for a seaside swim is in September, when the water's been heated up throughout summer and tourists have gone home. Our preferred beach is behind the Vila Galé Albacora Hotel, in Quatro Aguas, which sits right on the banks of the Formosa River encased in fine white powdery beaches. The area is part of a protected natural park so tourists must take all their rubbish with them after a day here in order to help keep the area clean.
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