A more congenial host you couldn’t wish to meet!

Our meeting started with a full tour of his own personal home, Casa de Santiago, which has been in his family for generations and which he has recently lovingly restored. This was followed by a quick guided tour of the small town of Santiago do Cacem and on to lunch.

I dutifully obeyed my host and ordered everything he suggested – all served with a mouth-watering description of each local ingredient and washed down with excellent choices of local wines. In the meantime, we discussed why Francisco wanted to join the TripWix team and I learned more about him and his passions.

What is your profession?

“I am an architect. I have been working for 25 years and investigating the local heritage, with some works published. Architecture is a passion, a profession and a hobby for me – working to restore Casa de Santiago was a labour of love.”

What are your passions apart from architecture?

“Sailing, hunting, mountaineering, travels, antiques, archeology, reading, wine and food. I am so lucky because I can enjoy them all right here on the doorstep of my destination. We have such a tremendous diversity of things to do and see indoors and outdoors.”

“That is what makes Alentejo so special to me; the multitude of landscapes, great simple monuments and architecture, excellent food, interesting nature and wildlife, the possibility of trying different experiences at ‘close range’”.

“Alentejo is still an unknown area, and that is what makes it so special – nobody knows it very well yet so it’s amazing to be able to discover the qualities and diversity.”

What feelings/thoughts/memories do you want your guests to take away with them?

“The unexpected, the different experiences (surf in one day, horses on another, hiking on the next day, etc), unique houses with a warm ambiance and hospitality. These are all “must-do” experiences. Horse rides on the hills or at the beach, a surfing course, a visit to the “Lagoa de Santo André” for birdwatching. All unique in their own way and all ideal for really discovering the real Alentejo.”

What souvenirs can your guests buy in your destination?

“Cork and leather products; visitors are still amazed at the type of products that we can produce here from cork – jewelry, handbags, umbrellas… I have even seen neckties! The cork industry is fascinating, it’s really great for kids, too, to go and visit the mature trees in the countryside then go to a shop and buy unique products made from those same trees.”

“Rugs and weaving products – we have world-class, hand-embroidered rugs from the town of Arraiolos, in Alentejo, as well as exceptionally fine and rustic wool textiles and clothing.

Then our cheeses, wine, honey, jams… so many remarkable local products!”

Could you sum up your destination in one or two phrases?

The south of Alentejo is the perfect mix of beach and countryside.

Anything else you feel we should include about yourself or your destination?

“I have a deep knowledge of the area, places, people and activities. Because of my creative side, my approach to my destination always provides guests with a lot of fun. They see a side that they will not find in a guidebook and they are able to live like real Alentejanos – not tourists!”