A Conversation with Vasco Galego about Vale do Gaio

November 1, 2015

Vasco Galego is the owner of Vale do Gaio, a relaxed boutique hotel in a breathtaking setting in the deep heart of Alentejo.

A Conversation with Vasco Galego about Vale do Gaio

“Firstly, I wanted to have a place where people come to eat but then sleep.”

How did you come up with the idea to start Vale do Gaio?

I discovered Vale do Gaio around twenty years ago as a guest and at the time I was fascinated by its beauty, the location and the potential of the space – even though I thought it was very poorly executed. The original hotel was way too closed with lots of curtains and the outside areas weren’t being used to their full potential. The best thing here is the outdoors, the view… and they didn’t take advantage of that. At the time I realised a lot of work had to be done but I was in love with the place. About twelve years later someone told me that the hotel was for sale and I ended up making an offer with a project proposal, and I got it.

Vasco first discovered Vale do Gaio in 1995 as a guest and immediately fell in love with the location. Years later he acquired the hotel.

How long did it take to get everything ready to open?

At the end of December 2008, I got the news that my offer had been accepted and on the 1st of January 2009 it was mine. With the little budget I had left I did a bit of work in the communal areas, refurbished the 1st room and opened again in mid-February. We needed to start generating returns so that we could afford to slowly keep investing back. We didn’t refurbish everything at once, but incrementally.

What was your experience working with hotels?

I didn’t have any experience working with hotels but I’d been running my XL restaurant in Lisbon for fifteen years. I’d always dreamt of having a hotel. All my life I kept watching how it was done. Some hoteliers might have studied to become hoteliers but if your heart is not in it, it won’t work out. The life experience itself is the most valuable lesson of all. I know I’ve made mistakes and if I could go back I probably would have done a few things a little differently. I also didn’t have any experience when I opened the XL restaurant and yet there aren’t many twenty-one-year-old restaurants left in Lisbon.

How do you juggle your time between both projects – the restaurant XL in Lisbon and Vale do Gaio in Alentejo?

I’m usually in Lisbon from Monday to Wednesday and in Alentejo from Thursday to Saturday. Sunday is my day off so I’m usually in Vale do Gaio.

We had some delicious food here and it’s something you obviously put care into. Can you tell us more about this?

At Vale do Gaio we not only have a big love for gastronomy but we also need to bear in mind that there’s nothing nearby. We’re quite remote which is great but I don’t want guests to have to drive lots of kilometres to go and eat. Hotels are usually places to sleep but you can also eat there. I wanted to have a place where people come to eat but where they can also sleep. For me, the cuisine side of things plays a very important role and the restaurant at Vale do Gaio has received a lot of recognition so it’s been worth it.

The restaurant at Vale do Gaio serves tasty food in a stunning setting.

How do you describe the architecture and interior?

We try to create a homely atmosphere where people feel relaxed. The rooms are spacious. Four of them have a beautiful view and the beds are marvellous.

Can you tell us something unusual about this region?

I adore Alentejo and its people. The nearest town to Vale do Gaio is Torrão and the hardest part of all of this has been to persuade the locals to work. I never imagined or knew that it was possible for so many people to have no desire whatsoever to work. They’re just too laid back… I love them. However, that means that I end up having to find staff from outside this region which is ridiculous.

What sets your guests’ experience apart from other hotels?

Both the location and the beauty of the surroundings are unbelievable. I think it’s a nice concept, very laid back and people feel they can kick back and relax. The food is amazing and the staff are always very friendly. The service always gets a lot of praise.

What’s your favourite hotel worldwide?

The Amanpulo in the Philippines, it’s a paradise.

Vasco's favourite hotel is the Amanpulo in the Philippines.

Where do you tend to go on holiday and which hotels do you stay in?

I haven’t been on a holiday since I acquired Vale do Gaio eight years ago. Since then there’s only been one weekend that I wasn’t here, and that was because it was one of my best friends’ birthday and he said he’d never talk to me again if I missed it. I love being at Vale do Gaio.

Thank you very much for this interview Vasco.

Thank you too!

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Joana and Sofia

Check out our full report on Vale do Gaio

© Photos by JO&SO and courtesy of Vale do Gaio.

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