Farmhouse Of The Palms—A Glimpse Of The Real Algarve

When Frank and Véronique Persyn were looking for a place to embrace the simple life as hoteliers, they chose an unlikely corner of the Algarve. Their super-stylish bed-and-breakfast, Farmhouse of the Palms, is in the hills near the sleepy town of São Bras de Alportel—some ten miles from the beaches for which southern Portugal is famous.

The couple, bankers who felt like they were spending half their life commuting between Brussels and their native Antwerp, chose Portugal for its simplicity and genuine hospitality. Frank tells a story about the hotel’s early days, around 2015, before international travelers always arrived with Google Maps on their phones. Guests would get lost looking for the hotel and ask someone in São Bras (three miles away), and then that person, instead of just giving directions, would get in their own car, say, “follow me,” and then go out of their way to escort the arriving guest.

Something else that makes the area appealing is its history: When the Algarve ran on agriculture rather than tourism, São Bras was the richest place in the region, thanks largely to cork production. Those days are long over, but many of the grand estate houses still remain.

Farmhouse of the Palms—translated from the original name, Monte das Palmeiras, after the elderly gardener who had been looking after the place for decades told them that it’s bad luck to change a house’s name—is one of them. Back in the day, it was the home of a wealthy family who produced wine.

One member of that family, now in his 80s, still lives nearby, and he likes to drop by and visit his childhood home. He calls the part of the complex where the Persyns live “casa nova,” the new house. He calls the building where guests sleep “casa velha,” the old house. It’s unclear exactly how old that is, although parts of it seem to pre-date Portugal’s massive earthquake in 1755.

In their renovation, the Persyn’s created a Kinfolk daydream, a simple, contemporary style of furnishing overlaid on the house’s original whitewashed walls and hand-laid terra-cotta floors. Many of the pieces come from local markets and nearby craftspeople. Véronique chooses them with an eye for the endearing.

The result is unpretentious and highly livable, both in the seven large guest suites (two of which are in the former stables), with their artwork inspired by the Algarve’s fishing industry, and in the various common rooms and libraries. The outdoor areas are no less lovely, full of fragrant fruit trees, unfussy landscaping and a dining terrace beneath the olive trees. (A home-style dinner is offered twice a week, along with daily breakfast.)

It sounds good too. Often there’s blissful silence. Otherwise, there’s birdsong, or the sound of flowing water—Véronique took inspiration from the Alhambra and created water features to lend a feeling of coolness to the hot Algarve summer.

Sure, you can rent a car and drive to the most beautiful beaches in Portugal. Or to the charming cities of Tavira and Olhão. But above all, the Farmhouse of the Palms is a place for lounging. There’s the warm water in the dark blue swimming pool, shaded courtyards, swinging day beds, hammocks, and even an extravagantly canopied (and mosquito-netted) bed on the roof of one of the suites.

Sleeping under the stars—they’ll make it up as a proper bed, if you’d like—more than takes care of half of the equation. The other part is the breakfast. They do that well too. It’s a leisurely, a la carte affair, with a steady procession of juices, smoothies, the usual morning things (pastries, fruit), and a daily treat like strawberry pancakes or a toasted sandwich using the local cheese. They make their own marmalades from the fruit trees on the property.

It’s mostly a time for the Persyns to connect with their guests. “This is our job, but it’s also our hobby and our love,” says Véronique. “We get energy from sharing it with people.”

Frank adds, ”The advantage of being a hotelier is getting to see everyone at their best. When we had office jobs, no one was happy. Here, unless it rains, everyone is happy.”

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