MEET THE OWNERS
Graça Jalles, originally from Lisbon, was working as an architect in Macau until the hand-over to China. Deciding to come back to Portugal, she had to fill in a form stating her new place of residence, but was not quite sure where she would end up. For certain, she was thinking of somewhere in the country, authentic, less populated, so the Alentejo seemed the right sort of place. After a brief visit back to Portugal, she put "Odemira" in the Baixo Alentejo on the form. That sealed the decision. Whilst living in the area, she found a farm estate (herdade) for sale, which had some old ruins down in a small valley. These old farm buildings have been turned into Casas da Cerca, rented out for rural tourism. In renovation, Graça wanted to retain old building methods and materials- thus the lovely, organic adobe (taipa) walls, terracotta flooring, wooden furnishings. A stay here is authentic, adventurous, down-to-earth, back to nature. Reminiscent of outback Australia, safari Africa.
Casa de Alfena, a manor house in the green hills of the Minho, was built in the early 1700s and has been in the same family ever since. Today, it is the latest in the line, Isabel Sousa, who has taken over from her mother Odete to look after Casa de Alfena. After several years working in foreign markets within the textile industry, Isabel has returned to her roots and receives guests with the warm hospitality so typical of the Minho. Quite unique and linked to its history, Casa de Alfena has a gold jewellery museum, housed in the old workshops and offices within the property. Travassos and the villages in the Póvoa de Lanhoso area have been a centre for gold jewellery production since Roman times and the museum features antique pieces, typical of the region. The house has been beautifully restored, with 5 bedrooms, living rooms, gardens, a natural spring pond and impossibly high Vinho Verde vines. A great country escape, within easy reach of the mountains of Serra da Cabreira and Peneda-Gerês national park.
Rui and Paula, originally from Porto, found the Minho village of Gração years ago and ended up staying. A village house became their home and they became part of the local community. Paula, a nutricionist, renowned in Portugal, has written top-selling books, works from home and commutes into Porto, just over an hour away. Rui traded in the stress of a corporate job for a more fulfilling lifestyle in the country, creating and running Sobrenatura, a place of dreams. You’ll feel their love for the area, see them taking their dogs for walks in the mountains, note how they’re integrated into local life and popular with the people of Gração. Chat to them, find out about the best restaurants, where to go for hikes. You may also end up staying.
Joao Pedro (originally from Porto, a sporty ex-sailor, Olympic windsurfer, keen cyclist) and his wife Carla (a calm, down-to-earth pharmacist and a native of nearby Arcos de Valdevez) found Quinta Lamosa- at the time abandoned and overgrown, below the quiet Minho village of Gondoriz in 2004. With much clearing of brambles, creation of lawns, planting of trees and establishment of an organic vegetable garden, the property began to take shape. Two pine chalets, completely original in design, and inspired by the local granaries, were ready for guests in 2009. Today, Joao Pedro meets guests and gives advice on local sights and sporting activities. You'll see him drop by Lamosa most days, to look after the property, its organic produce and make sure guests are happy. Come here if you love the outdoors, agro-tourism, sporting pursuits, the gentle life. Exploring Peneda-Geres is a must.
Isabel Cabral (Portuguese) and her husband bought and renovated Quinta da Espada in the 1980s and became pioneers in the area for rural tourism. Their farm estate is in the Alto Alentejo region and only 4km from the historic provincial capital of Évora, famous for its Roman temple and charming town centre. Farm cottages and the main farm house make up the accommodation (B&B rooms or self-catering apartments). It's bucolic and charming- a place to relax- with a pool, patio under vines, miles and miles of country tracks to explore on foot, bike or horse-back.
Maria Ulecia (Spanish) moved to Lisbon few years ago, a place she’d been in love with since visiting as a young child. She owns a small B&B, myhomeinlisbon, in the historic Graça neighbourhood. It has 4 bedrooms and great views and she loves to share her home with guests from all over the world. She has a passion for gardens, architecture, photography, ancient and contemporary art, collecting things, flea markets and, most of all, typography design. 12 years ago, she was found and adopted by her loyal friend Lola, a small street dog with a schnauzer appearance. Together, Maria and Lola share their passion for welcoming guests and walking around Lisbon.
Ana Gein (Portuguese) and her husband (French), both living in Lisbon, were looking for a place to restore, which could serve as a country escape. Things changed when by chance they came across an apartment to restore within a historic building in Lisbon itself. The location was ideal- on a quiet cobbled street within the castle walls- and the place had potential. The restoration was a work of love, maintaining old features such as wooden flooring, large French windows and balconies, whilst using an elegant understated design and modern amenities. As a base in Lisbon, it doesn’t get much better than Lisboa Castelo.
Mark and Eunice (British) arrived in the Minho region of northern Portugal in 2005, via a small ad in a ceramics magazine mentioning that a pottery business was up for sale. With no photos or website to look at, and with no idea what to expect, they hopped on a plane for a long weekend to see the property. They fell in love with the granite farmhouse, gardens and green countryside near Valença, on the border with Galicia in NW Spain. Since then, they have renovated the houses, built a pool and transformed the gardens. At Yavanna, there are two adjoining country houses for rent, with guests sharing the sprawling gardens and pool. Mark, a keen cyclist, can take tours of the area and Eunice organises art and ceramics courses. Ideal for families with kids and group bookings.
The Dutch family comprised of Eelco Schaap, Karin Sligting and their children Armida and Storm have been in the Mountain Beiras since the summer of 2007 when they bought the 33 ha farm Dominio do Vale do Mondego. Since then, they have initiated biodynamic farming practices (with a large herd of rare Bordeleira sheep, a dairy, fruit trees and olive orchards) along with agro-tourism and nature conservation. On the farm, Eelco is responsible for agriculture and the landscape design (his background is biodynamic agriculture, consultancy, green politics and nature conservation). Karin’s passion is the relation between nature and culture, has an MBA and runs the agro-tourism, takes care of guests and organises the annual summer Angel Art Festival (with music and cultural events) at Vale do Mondego.
Marc (Dutch) worked as a researcher and development worker in Africa, Asia and Latin America beginning in the 1980s, before arriving in Portugal in 2002. By early 2003 he found the beautiful 18th century Monte Saraz farm estate in the scenic and unspoilt Alto Alentejo. Architecture and interior design have always been a passion of Marc’s and the renovation into a small boutique guesthouse and cottages incorporated a vision of charm, natural beauty, minimalism and privacy, linked to good attendance, fresh food and a friendly atmosphere. Marc’s then 14 year old son Ruben lived at Monte Saraz during the renovation and since 2007 Marc has lived here on a fixed basis with his wife Luz Maria (Chilean) and their son Stephano. From the neighbouring village of Outeiro, Rosette and husband Manuel have worked at Monte Saraz since 2004, looking after the house, breakfast and gardens.
Hugh and Jane Forestier-Walker (British) moved to the tranquil Mountain Beiras from Abergavenny (South Wales) where for twenty years they ran their famous Minola Smokery. Their skills with all things rural can be seen at Quinta dos Três Rios, where they have developed a vineyard, organic farming and rural tourism, with plans for starting up a new Smokery. Their daughter Caroline, a top pastry chef (from The Glasshouse at Kew, a Michelin starred restaurant), has joined them at the Quinta and is in charge of the gourmet experience, focusing on locally-sourced produce.
Piers and Kate Gallie (English) are the resident owners of Quinta da Franqueira near Barcelos in the Minho region. Piers father bought the property in 1965 when he was 11 and it's been home for him ever since, except for 6 years spent cattle ranching in the Argentine. In 1979, Piers returned to Portugal to take over the running of the Quinta, restoration of the house and planting a vineyard. He met Kate in Porto where she was working as a clothing designer in the textile business. In 1988, they started renting accommodation under the Manor House Tourism scheme, to help owners of historical properties like theirs with the costs of maintenance. Quinta da Franqueira has Guest Rooms, the Cloister Flat and the Gate House, all within the old monastery.
Siân and Steve (British) have lived in the Minho region of northern Portugal for over fifteen years and have owned Casa Anno 1869 since 1998. After several years of renovation and radical gardening they now share the property with their dog, cats, chickens, bees and a small vineyard recently planted with traditional vinho verde grapes. They share a professional and hands-on interest in local foods, wines, traditions, customs and crafts, knowledge you'll pick up from them while staying next door at their holiday home/ renovated barn.
Hjördís Guðbjörnsdóttir (Icelandic) and Robin Bovey (Canadian/British), live in the village of Covas, nestled in the hills of the Minho region in northern Portugal. They bought and started renovating their house in 2006, and they have done so in a rustic chic style, fusing northern Portugal with Scandinavia. Their home and guest house is filled with art from Africa and Indonesia, where they lived before, as well as Robin's wood-work which he creates at Gallery Covas. Their garden is a lovely peaceful place and overlooks fields and the Serra d'Arga hills.
Anthony and Linda Wilson (English) have lived in the Porto area for over 20 years and are based in Castelo de Maia, where there are fields and old villages not far from town. They bought a large old farmhouse here, Casa Vinte e Nove, and renovated it in an English-Portuguese style, full of character and old-world charm. Perfect as a guest house. They love working in the garden and head up to Peneda-Gerês national park as much as possible, for walking in the hills with their dogs. For a small fee, Anthony does day tours, including Porto (with its Port wine lodges), the Minho (with hills and villages) and the Douro (hills and vineyards).
Charles and Barbara (English) moved to Portugal in 1983 from South Africa. Soon after, they bought their weekend house in Seixas (Minho), whilst living in Porto. For the last few years, they have lived full-time in Seixas. They rent out their Country Villa holiday home next door, which has superb views of the Minho river and hills in Spain. They chose the area for its peace and quiet and proximity to beaches, rivers, hills and villages. They love weekend trips across the river into Spain, for walking in the hills and tapas in Baiona. They are a treasure-trove on the local area.
Adria (English) came to Portugal in 1993 with her husband Roy, when he started working with Taylor's Port in Porto. She lives in the green countryside of the Minho, in north-west Portugal. In this beautiful rural area, she loves gardening and growing organic fruit and vegetables. Her country holiday house, Casa das Oliveiras, up the road from where she lives, reflects this: it has its own spring-fed organic vegetable garden, along with green terraces with old olive trees, pomegranate, peach, lemon and bay. Around the house and pool, the garden is filled with flowering camelias, roses, wildflowers and poppies. Views from the house are of fields, forests and the granite Serra d'Arga range. Her four children are spread out in Portugal, Brazil, Australia and New Zealand, and are regular visitors.