On a 40-mile bike ride with my son Viva through the country roads and villages of the famous Óbidos region, we noticed an unusual cut-out wooden sign that kept popping up on our circuit. “Rio do Prado” was all it said, in a very humble fashion. It was clearly not an official government sign pointing us to a local river. After another mile we finally came upon the official Rio do Prado sign, at the entrance of a well-attended parking lot. We tried to see beyond the cars and were able to detect an unusual sloping building that looked like it was diving into the Earth as well as several other box-like “rooms” that were partially Earth-covered too. Sisal poles decorated the doors and all in all it looked very discreet, quiet, alternative and special. Like a secret spot you either researched hard, happened upon or got lucky enough to be told about. It reminded me of Esalen, in Big Sur, with its very old, simple and uneventful sign.
When I got back I found it online under www.riodoprado.pt. The ex-mayor of Óbidos created this low-key and pricey eco-hotel for the busy city folks to completely get away and sit with what’s real for a few days. For 350€ a night you get to bathe in a concrete wave-bottomed bathtub that sits behind your double bed. The design is very avant-garde yet the materials are simple, inexpensive and local. All of the outside furniture and dining room chairs are made from recycled and reused wood from vegetable/produce crates. The rooms are Earthship-like, with the back of the buildings underground and the roof garden-topped. There is a long skinny greenhouse attended by happy Portuguese farmers, which doubles as a meeting and yoga room! The menu looks fantastic and prices reasonable. They use their own organic produce as much as possible AND the ocean is only 10 minutes away as it sits at the edge of a long lagoon that fills and empties daily with the tides. Great surf too!
It really touched me though if I were to create this place I wouldn’t charge such extravagant prices excluding most people from getting to experience it. But everyone is welcome to visit and eat there.