The “two worlds” in which Brites Pires and her husband Manuel Farrancha live could not be more different. The ophthalmologist and gynecologist treat their patients in Setúbal and Lisbon from Monday to Wednesday. Then they get in the car and drive three hours to their Monte da Estrela estate in the Alentejo, which is surrounded by olive trees but otherwise in the middle of nowhere. They live there until Sunday and, together with employed staff, look after their guests who have booked one of the seven rooms.
“That was always a dream of mine,” says Brites Pires over dinner on the terrace under a very clear starry sky, “but I didn’t realize that it was so much work.” Still, she has a lot of fun hosting. “But I don’t want to do without my work as an eye surgeon either.” They spent a long time looking for a plot of land and finally found this ten-hectare olive field near the Spanish border near Mourão. On top of that they had a traditional, whitewashed country house built according to their ideas, with high rooms and large shaded roofs, after all, this is one of the hottest parts of Portugal. Even in mid-October it can still be 30 degrees during the day.
Brites Pires has tastefully decorated the house with a focus on fine antiques such as old silver-clad wooden doors and elegant furniture that she has bought across the country. A modern, glazed fireplace provides the necessary warmth in the living room on cooler autumn evenings.
It doesn’t feel so much like a hotel here, but rather like visiting friends in their spacious country house. The natural hospitality of Manuel and Brites, who also like to eat with the guests or show them beautiful places in the area, contributes a lot. Pedro is often there too, one of the three grown sons; He takes care of the olive trees and the wine, which here, unlike on the property around, are grown organically. In the cellar, Pedro proudly shows a large old clay amphora, called a talha, in which, as is traditional here, he has pressed the wine. He takes a first sample of the 2021 vintage, a blend of three local red wines, and is pleased that it has succeeded: “In the first two weeks I have to stir every three hours, even at night, so that the fermentation takes place evenly – it feels good like your own baby. “
His father Manuel, the gynecologist, helps him and is not a shame to spend hours pruning olive trees in the heat in order to prepare them for the harvest in November. “We love to be here, even when it is work,” says Manuel. He is also a passionate eater and at the table cannot praise the cooking skills of the employed cook Paula Maria, who knows how to do traditional but refined Portuguese cuisine.
During the day, when it is hot, a swimming pool is available to cool off, and even now in autumn there is a smell of essential oils all around; Oleander and rosemary bloom. Breakfast on the terrace feels like summer. In the morning or evening you can stroll over the gentle hills, for example to Manuel’s favorite place, a tiny extension of the huge Alqueva reservoir. The water is smooth and peaceful in the yellow morning light, fish hop, ducks fly up. Manuel Farrancha points to an old holm oak covered with acorns. “Nice, isn’t it?” You can tell how much he enjoys this nature away from the big city. And that is contagious for his guests.
Information: Monte da Estrela, Countryhouse & Spa, double room with breakfast from 150 euros, two nights minimum stay, half board is also possible, montedaestrela.pt
The research trip for this article was partly supported by tour operators, hotels, airlines and / or tourism agencies.