A Conversation with Frank and Veronique about Farmhouse of the Palms

June 16, 2020

We interviewed Frank and Veronique the friendly owners of Farmhouse of the Palms, a lovingly restored boutique guesthouse nestled in the lesser-known foothills of rural Algarve.

A Conversation with Frank and Veronique about Farmhouse of the Palms

“For as long as we have known each other it was a shared dream to one day start a B&B.”

Up until a few years ago, you were both living in Belgium, and you had very different jobs. Was running a guesthouse something you’d been discussing for a while?

V: For as long as we have known each other it was a shared dream to one day start a guesthouse. But we were much younger then and maybe too focused on making a career, such that it kept being a dream for a while.

Farmhouse of the Palms, a boutique guesthouse in the Algarve seen from above.
A 200-year old Portuguese Farmhouse. Frank and Veronique found and bought Monte das Palmeiras (translated to Farmhouse of the Palms) in 2013. The house was in fairly good condition but it needed quite a lot done to become the guesthouse it is today. They spent a year thinking and planning on what to do, and another eight months working hard on the renovation itself.

When did you know that the time was right to make a move?

F: In 2010 when we were both working for a bank in Brussels. Financial institutions went through some turbulence after 2008, which made us realise our future was maybe no longer in finance. The search for the right place started slowly, and we continued our regular jobs. Once our son Jules was born in November 2012, it all accelerated, however.

V: We wanted Jules to grow up in another environment, and we bought the Farmhouse (then called Monte das Palmeiras) only four months after he was born. By that time, we had visited approximately 150 properties, so we knew it was the right one.

Frank and Jules hanging out at Farmhouse of the Palms.
Frank and Jules

Why Portugal and more specifically why São Bras do Alportel?

V: In 2009 when we started looking, we considered several countries such as Spain, Greece and France. The funny thing is that back then Portugal was not even on our list.

All of this changed when during one of our reconnaissance travels, we drove from Spain into Portugal to visit Évora and its surroundings. It was like a whole new world opened up. It was spring, and there were pretty colours of flowers everywhere. We fell in love with the calm, the beautiful nature, the people.

The more we came back, the more we appreciated the simplicity of Portuguese food and the good Portuguese wine, Portuguese culture and thus Portugal made it to the top of our list.

We discovered in Portugal a kind of unspoiled authenticity that has long disappeared in other European countries as many areas and regions succumbed to tourism. An unhurried life, where nature and family are still important and where nobody cares what kind of car you drive.

F: We toured the Algarve – in one day you can easily go from East to West Algarve – but we felt particularly attracted to the East part: little towns, beautiful nature and largely untouched by mass tourism. Next to authenticity, tranquillity was important for us, and São Brás has it all.

It’s conveniently close to everything; Faro and beaches, Tavira, Loulé, but at the same time far away from the crowds. When walking around in São Brás de Alportel, you would not say you are in a tourist area. With its pretty historical centre, it is still the same village it was 50 years ago. It has a large community feel and people still greet each other with “good morning” when meeting on the street or entering a shop.

“Next to authenticity, tranquillity was important for us, and São Brás has it all.”

A lot of love has gone into creating your beautiful Farmhouse of the Palms. Can you tell us a bit about the renovation process?

F: Back in March 2013 when we bought Monte das Palmeiras, the house was, with a few exceptions, structurally sound, but begging for a zillion of tender care. Electricity was still running on top of the walls, small spaces, a leaking roof in some parts and no roof isolation, bathrooms dating from grandmothers’ era, the list goes on.

We spent approximately one year figuring out how the Farmhouse was going to look like. While it was clear from the outset what kind of atmosphere we wanted to create (a place of tranquillity), it took some time to determine how to reach that. We decided on a clean, white house, lots of space and spacious rooms to breathe in and very minimalist but warm decoration. In our house, you will find no unnecessary items, just bare white stucco walls, warm terracotta floors, almost monastic in its simplicity.

V: We had very specific ideas about what we wanted and when we couldn’t find the perfect example, we had it made. A significant part of the decoration was designed by ourselves and made by local carpenters. Portugal is a country where handicraft is still an art. For example, our traditional Algarve floor tiles, are still handmade from clay, one-by-one. Our furniture, such as the beds, tables, trays, sofas and stools are all tailor-made. The nice part about bespoke furniture is that we got to pick the wood types or finishing.

The renovation of the guesthouse started in November 2014 and took eight months to complete. Everything was stripped down, we turned small spaces into large suites, installed new bathrooms, new rendering on the walls, roof isolation, renewed the plumbing and electricity, built the car park, garden landscaped.

Farmhouse of the Palms, before and after the renovation.
“Portugal is a country where handicraft is still an art.”

Tell us something that makes your guests stay at Farmhouse of the Palms a little bit more special.

F: We love our bi-weekly Fado concerts. We’ve listened to many since we started hosting them, but each one is still as special as the first one. And they’re even more magical when we see our guests listening as if hypnotised.

We are sure that running the guesthouse keeps you very busy, but what’s your perfect day off like?

V: We love to wander around Faro old town, and jump on a boat to one of the Ria Formosa islands. It always reminds us that we are living in one of the best places in the world.

Day off. Veronique and Jules at Ilha de Faro and hanging out in the old town.
“We are living in one of the best places in the world.”

Are there any places to stay that have inspired you?

F: Before Jules was born, we travelled extensively, and probably many of those impressions made it somehow unconsciously in our Farmhouse. The cubistic white houses on the Greek Cyclades, set against a deep blue sky are probably one of the most beautiful sights in Europe. So simple but oh so beautiful.

One of the hotels that inspired us and stands out, is Hotel Britania in Lisbon. The building and all the interiors are art deco. When we visited the staff were just wonderful, they managed to make us feel special as a guest. The funny thing is that I don’t even like art deco but that just comes to show the power of feeling welcome. This is the place where we came to realise that what is most important in hospitality is for guests to feel truly welcome. We had a superb 3-day stay and now ten years later, we still fondly remember.

Atmosphere-wise, we adored Quinta da Lua in Tavira, for the sense of zen the place manages to bring.

Quinta da Lua in Tavira, is one of Frank and Veronique’s favourite places to stay.

Thank you very much for this interview Frank and Veronique.

Thank you too!

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Here's hoping you create new memories here in Portugal. Tag us on Instagram (we would love it if you do!) and let us know how it goes. 🤗

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Joana and Sofia

Check out our full report on Farmhouse of the Palms

© Photos by JO&SO and courtesy of Farmhouse of the Palms.

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