Having read the positive reviews of the Pousada Convento da Graca on this and other sites, I took my partner there for a two day birthday treat. We hadn't been to Tavira for over 5 years, when we were scouting potential areas to buy an apartment, and then we stayed at the 4 star Vila Gale Tavira. The abiding memory of that trip was rain – it poured down from lunchtime on the first day until the day we left. This time we were much luckier and the sun shone the whole time. The town is still very pretty, particularly around old-town side of the Roman Bridge, which has really been smartened up. However, there still isn’t an awful lot to see and do in the area and, given the choice between staying in Tavira and Lagos, where we eventually purchased, Lagos would win every time.
While not expecting perfection, I anticipated that a 5 star Pousada would be a significant step up from the Vila Gale Tavira. After all, Pousadas are extolled in guide books and tv travel programmes as being the ultimate places to say in Portugal, a cut above other hotels. Unfortunately this was not our experience.
At first glance, the Pousada Convento Da Graca made a strong impression. It is well situated next to the Castle right up against the old city wall. The common areas within the original monastery have been renovated to retain their character (although we hardly ever saw them being used) and they do possess an air of tranquility. For some reason, the original exterior walls have been painted a vivid orange, which makes the Pousada stand out from the other buildings in the town, which tend to be white. Also, the original building has at some stage gained an ugly and unsympathetic modern extension, which is where our room was situated.
Although it had an extremely high ceiling, the room was quite small and entirely lacking in character. It didn’t help that the large rug beneath the bed was seriously crooked, which made the room look untidy. Simply straightening it would have made a world of difference
The beds were comfortable and the bedlinen looked brand new. However, the furniture was modern B&Q standard (with brown metal runners on the drawers!) and not wearing particularly well. Hanging space was adequate but there was almost no space to store clothes flat. There was a built-in safe for use free of charge. The soundproofing was dreadful, as evidenced by the next door occupant who kept us awake on the first night watching the tv until quite late. The air conditioning was underpowered and not easy to control. The information binder was pretty useless, with hardly any information about the area and no maps.
The room had a small patio; but massive pinkish stone buttresses on each side, extending from the building to well beyond the end of the patio, made the patio feel hemmed in and closed off the view of the garden. The metal patio railings were rusting in places and had a layer of dirt between the bottom rail and the floor which had clearly been there for some time.
The bathroom was fine, with an unusual arrangement where the toilet and bidet were separated from the main bathroom by their own glass sliding door. The bath/shower was hot and powerful; but, by the time I had showered, the bath was half full of water, so the bath waste was either blocked or simply not big enough. On our arrival the tissue box holder was empty, although a box appeared on the second day. There were tiny bottles of shower gel and shampoo, a shower cap and a shoe cloth; but nothing like the sort of bathroom extras you would find in a Far Eastern upmarket hotel.
The pool and the surrounding area were clean and my partner said the pool was warmer than the sea had been. But the sun loungers were the most user-unfriendly I have ever encountered. They were made of woven wide plastic strips and so slippery that it was impossible to sit upright without continually sliding down. Every one we used was also showing serious signs of wear, with the plastic cracking along the top edge.
The staff we encountered were without exception pleasant and helpful. Staffing levels appeared to be on the low side for a 5 star hotel. Reception was manned 24/7, but the bar was frequently unattended during the day and there were only two staff covering breakfast, which meant that it was entirely self-service. It was even necessary to carry your own cups of hot drink around the dining room – nowadays a waiter with a tea/coffee pot is standard in many even 4 star hotels I have used. The food was fine and choice was good, although we arrived at 10am on the first morning (breakfast finished at 11) and both food and crockery were running out.
Unfortunately, we had to contact reception on the second day when we returned from the pool at about 4pm to find the room as we had left it. Since the room had been unoccupied since 10.30am with a "please make up room" sign on the door, and since there had been a maid outside the door when we left, this was disappointing.
Overall we were not unhappy with our stay at the Pousada and my partner enjoyed her birthday. But then we had got a deal on the room rate (30% discount) and were only there for 2 days. Had we paid the full rate and/or been there longer (and had I not been anxious not to spoil her birthday by drawing attention to the faults – most of which she noticed herself anyway), I suspect I would have made rather more fuss at the time.
The Pousadas are state run and this one gives the impression, maybe because of Portugal’s financial difficulties, that it has not been given the funds it needs to maintain the standard of excellence it has set for itself.
In one respect, however, the Pousada is truly 5 star: it adds a 10 euro surcharge on to any room service orders. Ouch.
Edit: After writing this review I came across the online booking form, which shows that we booked a “I Double Bed, Non-Smoking” room. In fact we got a twin-bedded smoking room. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the booking form with me; otherwise I would have asked to be moved. Anybody booking this Pousada should make sure they get what they ask for.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Pousada de Tavira is set in the 16th-century St. Augustine’s Convent and is just a few minutes walk from the Roman Bridge over Gilao River. All of the rooms in this central Tavira hotel overlook the courtyard or the hotel’s pool garden, while some have balcony. Each has a private en-suite bathroom with tub and hairdryer. Guests can relax under shady umbrellas on the poolside sun loungers. A daily breakfast buffet is offered in the dining room or in the courtyard outdoors. The restaurant serves delectable local and international cuisine for lunch and dinner. Ilha de Tavira’s white beaches are situated just 15 minutes’ drive from the Pousada. Excellent golf opportunity is offered by Benamor Golfe Course, 7 km away. Plenty of restaurants are found near to the hotel. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Pousada Convento Da Graca Tavira
- Pousada De Tavira Historic Hotel Portugal - Algarve