We Love Small Hotels Blog is now launching a new series of interviews with our small hotels owners. The aim of these interviews is to give an insider perspective into who are the people behind these small properties and tell you their stories. Ultimately we want to provide you with an insight into what is is like to be a small hotel owner in Portugal.
This month the featured small hotel is Solar Egas Moniz, in Penafiel, in the north Portugal. Iva Vinha is the dedicated manager of this small family run property and the one who is ultimately responsible for the cosy and intimate atmosphere that it provides. Bellow is small interview with her thoughts on warm, candid Portuguese hospitality.
Where did the inspiration for refurbishing Solar Egas Moniz came from?
The property dates from 1890 and was bought in ruins by my parents about 15 years ago. The dream was always there: To one day open it as a charming Manor House. Our family’s ancestors are from this region (North of Portugal) and we always wanted to combine our lives with a touristic project. The idea was to keep the as much of the original traditional architecture and as possible, giving it a light modern twist.
My education has been based on Tourism and since my first job, my professional career has always been related to the tourism industry. My sister (Filipa Vinha) is a fellow tourism lover and 4 years ago, we decided that it was time to start projecting our dream and to turn it into reality. We wanted to share with our guests what is it like to experience the traditions and culture of the North Portugal.
Where did the Solar Egas Moniz name came from?
The name Egas Moniz is related to the tutor of the first King of Portugal, who was born in the vicinity of Penafiel. He is also buried in a monastery close by – the Monastery of Paço de Sousa which is part of the Romanesque Route of the region. Since we love stories, we want our small hotel to share part of the Portuguese history related to the King who founded our lovely country. Something all Portuguese are proud of.
What inspired the decoration?
Solar Egas Moniz is nestled in a 120 year old manor house, and we wanted to share with our guests the history, the traditions and the customs of our area. However we also wanted to offer a contemporary atmosphere concerning comfort, quality and well-being. So the decoration of Solar Egas Moniz is a combination between the two. This combination is best seen at our bar and wine cellar and at the restaurant. It was used to be a wine press are and we kept the same stones that founded the property 120 year ago. The remaining area of the restaurant has a shabby chic clean decoration.
We have a room category called popular art in which all the rooms are related to a specific tradition. One of them is related to the popular “lovers handkerchiefs” from North Portugal. This traditions states that young ladies used to embroider a love message to their beloved ones in an attempt of conquering them.
These are just some details we wanted to share with our guests with the aim of keeping the traditions alive.Also and on a more contemporary flair, we have designed lots of cosy corners sharing the most cared atmosphere together with small messages, arising the guest with great feelings . This is the contemporary and traditional environment of Solar Egas Moniz.
What was a remarkable moment you shared with a guest?
Well, we had our first marriage on our opening year. I can remember how stressed the whole team was for months until the big day happened. The marriage went perfectly and we receive the warmest feedback from the couple as well as from all other guests. We all felt very touched and it was the best reward possible for all of us, because we know this day will be a day they will remember for they’re lives. However the cherry on top of the cake came when, one year later, they came back to celebrate their one year anniversary. Of course they stayed in the same room they have spent the first honeymoon night.
It is these kind of encounters and stories is what makes us believe we are doing a good job and wanting to continue in this relationship business which is hospitality.
What would be your tips for getting to know the regions and its surroundings?
Whenever we are asked for recommendations we always strive to share authentic and local business who are our partners in giving you the original North of Portugal sense of Travel.
Our top three recommendations are:
- The home made cornbread, the onion with red wine or the prosciutto at the “O Moleiro” restaurant in Paço de Sousa.You can also visit the mill that is still used for grinding the flour that is served to you.
- A visit to the wine producer Quinta da Aveleda. As wine lovers and as region promoters we always suggest our guests to visit this local “green” wine producer.
- Visit to Quintandona which is a preserved village in schist about ten minutes driving from Solar Egas Moniz, and have some “petiscos” tapas, in Casas da Viuva Wine bar.
What should guests expect when they book Solar Egas Moniz?
They should expect to have a friendly family hosting them, sharing the best and most local advices about the region, to taste traditional plates and wines and to experience the most authentic activities, this is what Solar Egas Moniz is all about!
For more information about the property click here.