OLHAO, PORTUGAL: …and you just have the luxury of letting your eyes wander around in one of the most beautiful setting you can find at the eastern Algarve in Portugal then you have to be at the newly opened CONVENTO in Olhão at the Algave, a former home for rural girls working in Olhão’s fish-canning industry. This special place is now run by two architects, a historian and a teacher who turned a ruin into a little jewel of a palace just at the border of the Ria Formosa Natural Park, where fishing boats pass by on a blue glazing sea and which is right in the middle of the old town Olhão.
When you enter the door, hidden in a narrow street behind a busy restaurant lane you feel comfort the moment you take of your shoes off right at the entrance. Barefeet, everyone must feel grounded and calms down when walking on the blue, hand-painted tiles which are paced along the sunny courtyard of the hotel.
All rooms are decorated in white linen and organza tissues and furniture and the lack of air condition, radio and TV gives a rewarding calmness. The nine rooms are all individually designed and a tiny, narrow staircase leads you up to the roof top terrace with a pool.
Although there are many things to see and discover in and nearby Olhão, you want to spend all day between your room and the terraces, just watching the sea or taking a drink at night. The owners Guillaume, who is half French, half British, and Antje from Germany used to live in Shanghai and they brought their entrepreneur spirit to the Algarve, making this place not only a meeting place for international travellers but also a place which can be rented as a whole for special retreats and events.
Breakfast is served on a long, antique table in the main room with fresh bread from the nearby bakery and homemade jams and marmalade. You can help yourself to chilled wine on the roof terrace and when you feel like having a little snack just help yourself to tea and the delicious pastraia de nata all day long.
IRMA: What is your favorite way of starting your day at the Convento?
GUILLAUME & ANTJE: Yoga at sunrise on the rooftop terrace and then a glass of freshly pressed orange juice.
IRMA: What came first to your mind when you came up with your idea of creating a BB in Olhão?
G&A: The first idea was to save a great building about to be demolished and redevelop it as an apartment block. Then we thought it could be a cool place for travellers to relax and meet around a patio.
IRMA: Your favorite shop in Olhão?
G&A: Definitely the market. We go every day. Almost all the fish, fruit and vegetables there come from the area. It is a great way to follow the seasons: the pink May plums, the honey figs, the tasty sardines, the juicy persimmons… all come at a special time in the year, something to look forward to and then enjoy… until the next season.
IRMA: Your favorite place for a romantic dinner?
G&A: Tasquinha O Galo, a small, unassuming family-run restaurant in the corner of an alley near Convento. We love the cosy atmosphere and the food generously prepared by Lila.
IRMA: Do you offer special services to your guests, like massages, treatments or Yoga classes?
G&A: We started to offer yoga Thai massages this summer, which we find great ourselves. And we are thinking of organizing yoga classes.