We, Phine Verhoef (60) and Dolf Janssen (62), moved to the North-Alentejo in Portugal in 2003 to live on the 62 acre estate Quinta do Pomarinho that we bought in 2001. Before we became the owners of the quinta Portugal, rooms were available for rent on the quinta and there was a small camping.
The seed was planted long ago (Dolf)
"During a sabbatical year in 1978, Phine and I have visited Portugal to work on a cooperative farm in the Alentejo. That is actually when the 'seed' was planted, in the turbulent days of the Carnation Revolution.
During our orientation tour of 3 months in 1999 we discovered Pomarinho. We stayed in Casa Antiga, the current Friends of Nature House. It felt very good and we bonded with the previous owner, who granted us Pomarinho later on because he expected that we would be a good "house-father and mother" for the estate.
Besides that, I can also state that the Portuguese are very nice people. You also have a lot of space and rest here. I am a pioneer that has worked on a camping from when I was 14 until when I was 20, and I can quickly adjust to new situations. Let's be honest: I'm not the type of person to retire and limit myself to a book and a fishing rod.
But for an 'everything or nothing person', who has come close to hitting dirt a couple of times, it will be a big challenge to keep life on Pomarinho in balance. But that is my goal! "
Give it some thought, and then just do it (Phine)
"In 2001 Dolf wanted to go to Portugal for three months. We traveled the country, saw beautiful areas, herded cattle, and came into contact with people who already lived there or just started something.
We knew the country a little from 1978, when we worked on a cooperative farm for two months and had contact with a Portuguese family. That was in the area near Évora, which is 1.5 hours from Quinta do Pomarinho. We have always been in touch with them, even if it was quite minimal sometimes. Portugal had been very special to us. But we never thought of going back together with the kids. France was warm and far away enough for a holiday.
In 2001 we looked up the Portuguese family. Because of the rain we decided to leave our camping and rent a room. By searching for one in the Eceatgids we arrived at Pomarinho. The description sounded wonderful. And it was!
Special and interesting were mainly the people that we met there: Dutch people travelling with a donkey, a German man that also wanted to live here, and a Dutch owner that spoke all kinds of languages and had worked in Africa. We had a lot of contact with them, ate with them, and we invited them. The surroundings were very special, rugged, quiet, surrounded by nature, and with a lot of history, including beautiful fortified towns close to Spain, and an area that was very suitable for walking. And Pomarinho of course: the place appeared to be for sale. You could rent rooms or go camping there, and there was a vegetable garden and some animals. It was primitive, but unique.
After some though we just did it! And we're still very happy here in Portugal!"
Misadventure in the beginning
In August 2003 Pomarinho was hit by a massive fire that reduced almost everything to ashes. A huge setback, but also the opportunity to start over with a clean slate. It was an emotional time in which we were very grateful for the many help that we received during the recovery.
In 2004 a large portion of the burnt trees were replaced by 200 year old olive trees that we imported from the South in a trailer. In 2005 all traces of the fire had been washed away, the sanitary facilities of the camping were almost done, and we could (almost) start doing business. A dowser had found two places where there was supposed to be water in the earth. And that turned out to be true! Two holes of 80 metres deep have been drilled straight through the granite.
How it went
First we requested a permit for Casa de Hospedes (room rental), in which we succeeded after a long paper route. After that we received the patent for Campismo Rural, which also took a lot of time and effort. Then we embarked on the plan to get official camping signs along the N246.
Because nature is dear to us and we had lost a lot of trees in the fire, we have planted 10 acres of cork oak trees in 2008. The first harvest is in 18 years. Hopefully we'll get some nice large trees!
Our home, our workplace, and a part of the camping use the electricity that is general by eight solar panels that continuously face the sun by rotating. The camping, the Friends of Nature House, and the apartments get their hot water and a part of the heating thanks to nine large solar panels.
Because all the energy needed can not only be generated by harnessing the power of the sun due to the increasing number of guests, Quinto Do Pomarinho has been connected to the main power grid after a long bureaucratic struggle with the Ministry of Agriculture.
Meanwhile the (small) pool has been renovated and with some help the old stables have been converted to the apartments Tijmen and Merijn. Recently our Friends of Nature House has also had a facelift and we have received an acknowledgement from Nature Friends International (N.F.I), which makes us the first 'Casa Amigos da Natureza' in Portugal.
Our guests come from all over the world and due to the pleasant atmosphere, the location, and what this area has to offer, an increasing number of guests return annually. Sometimes they feel like they're 'homesick' and they long back to the inner peace that Pomarinho offers.
We are open all year round and are therefore interesting for wintering Portugal with guests that sometimes stay on the camping for 2 to 6 months and other guests that prefer staying in our apartments. Some of them have been here for the 3rd or even the 4th year.
Our plan was to make Pomarinho the hiking center of the Alto Alentejo: a meeting place for our guests from many different countries, while still taking into account the environment as much as possible. Our walking goal is gradually achieved. There are now five walking group holidays per year and we have also had many guests that come here for self-guided walking holidays. Our 'collection' of walks is very diverse and suits all tastes. One can choose from over 25 hiking trails in natural park Serra de São Mamede and its surroundings.
The access road to Pomarinho and the road network on our estate have received a new surface in 2010, and at the moment we are trying to get a permit for the first phase of the construction of a studio. We are never bored, thanks to the increasing number of guests! And after 7 years we have never regretted starting this adventure. "Do you miss the Netherlands" is a question we hear quite often: Well, no.....