We asked award-winning food & travel blogger Nelson Carvalheiro to share his thoughts with us about his love for people, travel, hotels and Amberlair, of course. Before you ask, a #BohoLover is a Boutique Hotel Lover…just like us!
How do you choose a hotel when you travel?
Having managed boutique luxury properties, I always look for a hotel with plenty of personality. I prefer private boutique properties to chain/franchised/branded hotels, and establishments where one notices that the owners have put a bit, or a lot, of themselves into what makes it unique amongst its peers. Where once can notice the special and exclusive in everything, from the core values of the brand, to the identity of its image, to the color pallet of its décor, to the staff they hired and right down to what kind of products they use for breakfast.
If you had to choose 3, which were the most special hotels you have ever stayed at?
Holding a permanent position on the top of my list is Palacio Belmonte in Lisbon, Portugal’s most exclusive and expensive property with average rates of 1000€ per night. I consider them as the pinnacle of my career as a Hotel Director, from 2010 to 2013, being lucky enough to host some of the world most influential guests, who look for luxury through simplicity, value an organic way of living, and for whom having the opportunity to sleep in a suite converted from an 8th century Moorish tower with the best view of Lisbon, is worth 10 times the presidential suite at the Ritz.
In second place is the Bel Air Hotel in Los Angeles. I have been a die-hard fan of the Dorchester collection since it was just one hotel, and it continues to be my favorite branded hotel chain in the world. Simply because they get everything right. From the moment the bell boy opens the car door, to the way you are greeted at the bar and lounge, the décor of this outlet is magical, the way the rooms are set up, the Frette linen….I could go on for days. In my entire career in hospitality, they are the only ones who manage to make a mesmerizing intro video of the property and of the Dorchester collection.
Strangely, or not really, my last choice goes to another hotel in California, The Post Ranch Inn. This is the kind of place where you spend $2500 for a Pacific Ocean view suite and another $500 for a meal at the Sierra Mar restaurant. Surrounded by nature, the cabins are made entirely of natural materials. There is no gold, crystal or anything opulent. It’s just about being able to wake up to nothing with an 180-degree horizon of ocean and clouds.
If you had your own boutique hotel, what 3 things would you make sure existed?
Staff members who care. I think this is more important than anything else. In hospitality, it is all about people engaging with people, regardless if you are staying in a surf hostel or at the Bellagio. The second would be complete sound, temperature and light isolation from whatever could make my guests lose a second of sleep. This comes after my own problem of not being able to sleep if there is not complete silence, complete darkness and the right temperature. The third would be an organic farm to table restaurant. As a blogger, I am all about food as the main reason to get to know a destination, and I would want to impress my guests with the best that nature offers.
Name 3 things you loved in hotels you stayed in before…
The breakfast at the Eden Rock Hotel in Ascona, Switzerland. By far the best, most complete, tastiest, better served breakfast in Europe. Secondly, the welcome and personal service of the Oberoi New Delhi, with the flowers, the bindi and everything that makes India the excess that it is. And, thirdly, the architecture of the Four Seasons in Bahrain.
Name 3 things you wouldn’t want to experience in a hotel ever again.
At the top of the list is the “snobiness” of the staff working at the Lanesborough in London. At times, it made me feel I should be taking care of the staff, not the other way around. Second and third place is a cold $100 steak at the Fairmont in San Francisco and stained laundry at the Vineyard at Stockcross.
How do you feel about the Amberlair concept?
I believe it is a revolutionary idea, especially in an industry like hospitality where change is always received with skepticism. Nevertheless with some hotels nowadays accepting your social circle and influence as payment, it would be good to see this idea implemented.
Where are you off to next?
Switzerland, Italy and a whole lot of Portugal.
Nelson Carvalheiro grew up with his grandparents in a small farming village in central Portugal and soon learned to value the “Portuguese gastronomical heritage”.
At the start of 2014, a mere 6 months after founding his blog, he was declared FITUR’s European Travel Blogger. In 2015, he won the 2015 World FITUR Travel Blogger. He writes in English to the world, showcasing Portugal as his identity and a brand which he takes with him wherever he travels.
People, travel and food are the reasons why Nelson decided to hit the road, and fundamentally what led him to trade the world of luxury hospitality for a pen, some paper and a camera.
Nelson Carvalheiro is a firm believer in cultural identity through gastronomy. He constantly seeks little and intimate details, as he believes they are a destination’s culture in its raw state. He fell in love in a trip to Germany and now Berlin is his home.
His “The Portuguese Travel Cookbook” is his most recent project, in partnership with APTECE. It is his way to pay tribute to the true bastions of Traditional Portuguese Cuisine, who make it their daily mission to give life through food to the greatest form of Portuguese Identity.