This pretty, flower-covered cottage and private pool nestles in Portugal's beautiful Sao Mamede Natural Park, close to the Spanish border, three hours and a world away from the Algarve coast's tourist meccas. As befits a cottage in a verdant national park, Casa dos Sonhos (House of Dreams) is more rustic than opulent but beautifully maintained, fabulously well-equipped and soulful with a combination of modern comforts and traditional features. The house is 'off-grid' being solar powered with carbon neutral wood fires for winter and BBQ charcoal handmade by a neighbour in summer.
Past guests rave about the pleasures of zoning out of day to day stresses and strains and living the good life, helping themselves to the fruit and veg grown organically in the garden and enjoying fresh-laid eggs from the free range hens. They are well looked after too as the cottage's English owner, Sarah, now lives with her own young family in a separate cottage opposite, but not overlooking, Casa dos Sonhos and is unobtrusive but on hand to spoil guests with delicious daily breakfast deliveries, evening meals and handy tips and advice on the area.
Originally a cartmakers cottage, 150-year old Casa Dos Sonhos has been updated and decorated in the rustic style of the Alentejo region of Portugal using traditional materials and local finishing touches, from stone slab floors and rafter ceilings to Alentejo pottery, art and antiques. The cottage is very much a slice of unspoilt rural Portugal, with only the tinkling of goat bells, bleating of sheep and tweeting birds to break the silence for families who can while away their time relaxing in the garden hammocks, splashing about
in their private pool, wandering through the countryside to the nearest village (15mins walk) for a snack and a beer in the bar and enjoying Sarah's fabulous cooking. For those who want them, mod cons are supplied in the form of unlimited free Wi Fi, TV and DVD player, freezer and washing machine, but for most, the sense of rejuvenation that comes with being 'off-grid', along with the hassle-free nature of having meals catered, is often the house's greatest asset.
Sarah and her husband Valdimir have a 3-year old daughter themselves, so are keen to do what they can to help parents with babies and toddlers have a completely relaxing holiday. Thoughtful services include pre-arrival shopping for essentials and a daily maid to make the beds and do the washing up. Breakfast is served each morning and can be delivered to the doorstep when requested simply by ringing the sheep bells. Afternoon tea and evening meals are also is served 5 days out of 7 so guests can forget about the cooking. The owners also offer guided walks in the Sao Mamede Natural Park which surrounds the cottage, art lessons for older children and yoga for all ages. As evening falls, there are around 100 books, many board games and telescopes for budding stargazers to get excited making out the milky way without any of the usual light pollution.
Casa Dos Sonhos has two bedrooms and can accommodate a maximum of 2 adults, 2 children and 1 infant. The main large bedroom has two double beds and patio doors to the swimming pool. The second bedroom has bunk beds and there is a double bed settee in the open plan living / dining room. The cottage has a modern bathroom with a shower and a kitchen equipped with full-sized over, hob and fridge (solar powered). Guests also have use of a washing machine. The house is in 2-acres of land scattered with fruit trees and vegetable gardens. It has its own small private pool, sun terrace and BBQ area.
There’s more to Portugal than the Algarve and the Alto Alentejo is one of the most unspoilt regions of medieval towns, wild flower meadows, cork oak woodlands and silvery olive groves close to the Spanish border. Casa Dos Sonhos is at the heart of this beautiful countryside, surrounded by the Sao Mamede Natural Park which guests can explore on guided walks or the mountain bikes provided which include a baby seat. Bird spotters should keep eyes peeled for Golden Eagles, Golden Oreales and Bee Eaters plus from January to June the cottage is surrounded by wild flowers attracting colourful butterflies which children can have fun chasing round the garden. Besides the swimming pool, there is river swimming nearby and a municipal pool with slide is only minutes away.
The nearest village for a cold beer in a bar with friendly locals is 15 minutes walk from Casa Dos Sonhos then Algrete (10 minutes drive) has a number of small shops and restaurants. The nearest town of any size with a supermarket is bustling Portalegre (20 minutes drive), with the two medieval walled towns of Castelo de Vide and Marvao close by. From May until September every village in the area takes its turn in having a fiesta and everyone is welcome to soak up the atmosphere.
Getting There: The neatest airports are Lisbon (2 ½ hours) or Faro (3 hours)
Nearest Medical Services (GP & A&E): Portalegre hospital, 20km