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Volunteering at Casa do Pateo!

Oi! I’m Seanna, the latest arrival at Casa do Pateo and I’m here to give you a little peak at what goes on behind the scenes at our unique and beautiful quinta. I’m going to be calling this place home for the next four weeks and I couldn’t be happier about it. My role here is to help Mafalda with the day to day running of the business. Mafalda is the heart and soul of the Casa do Pateo and her journey to this place is fascinating and awe inspiring. I found her on a lovely website called This is a place where people, projects and businesses can find people who want to come and help them out in exchange for somewhere interesting to stay and eat for a while. I am here to help with the running of a business, but I don’t think it feels that way, it feels more like I am involved in a great project while working with great people, and there just happens to be paying guests here occasionally. I think that’s why the people that come here love it so much. They know that Mafalda is welcoming them into her home and that their happiness and satisfaction is worth more than the money they pay to be here.

My experience at Casa do Pateo started with me travelling from Lagos to Lisbon and then getting a bus from there to Santana, which is just a short drive from the house. I had been in contact with Mafalda who had given me all the details of the bus times and where to go. She was busy with a yoga group when I arrived in Santana but her partner Sauro was able to come and collect me.

My First Day!

At this stage I had only had telephone contact with Mafalda, so I didn’t really know what to expect. Sauro immediately put me at ease as he told me all about the Casa and the local area on our short drive. As we pulled into the forest that surrounds the property I couldn’t stop staring out of the window. The local area is stunning and I knew that I was going to love it here. We pulled up to a gate nestled between pretty white and blue stucco walls and I had my first glimpse of the grounds. I couldn’t get the smile off my face as we drove down a driveway flanked on both sides by flowers, towering pine trees, tropical palms and exotic plants. I could see glimpses of the fresh white walls of the house through the foliage and couldn’t wait to get out and start exploring. When we pulled up I jumped out of the car and almost fell over when Mafalda’s huge and impressive dog Ashkandi started doing his job and barking at my arrival! It was okay though, he was in his gigantic enclosure and I was reassured that he wouldn’t mind at all once he got used to me being around. I can’t wait as he is a magnificent animal and I am looking forward to giving him some fuss.

I was taken into the main house and immediately felt at ease, there is a feeling of positive energy and optimism in every corner of this place. The main house and guest rooms are stylish, relaxed and homely, full of art and accessories that are in complete harmony with the beauty outside. As he took me around Sauro explained that Mafalda had made many of the pieces I loved and that she personally decorated every inch of the place. I was now very excited to meet her. We finished looking around the house and went outside so that I could get a tour of the grounds. I continued to see signs of Mafalda everywhere. I was walking through a magical garden that looked like it came from the imagination of Tolkein or Lewis Carroll. I walked on the lightly graveled path through hidden groves with seating made from the wood of the surrounding pines, tables created from reclaimed pallets and factory reels, benches and tables, half buried plant pots, ferns and flowering bushes all dappled in sunlight as we followed the path all the way to the swimming pool. The pool is in the sun all day long and is surrounded by lush green grass and more of the stunning flora that makes this place so tranquil and relaxing. It was at this point that I knew I was going to really enjoy my days off here…but my tour still hadn’t finished.

From the pool a path wound its way through a small orchard and Sauro told me that there were orange trees, lemon trees, peach trees and a few fruits that we couldn’t work out the English translation for. I was wide eyed and delighted. Needless to say, we don’t have these fruits growing in the gardens of England and I’m looking forward to working out what the unidentified ones are too. I was drinking in the smells of the orchard and basking in the warmth of the last rays of the evening sun when I looked up to see the dome. This is a purpose built geodesic dome raised on wooden pillars above the ground and somehow nestled in between the trees and looking perfectly at home. It is what makes this place stand head and shoulders above similar retreats in the area as it comfortably holds up to 25 participants at a time, but it is removed from the home and surrounded by nature, making it perfect for so many classes. It really should look out of place, but it has the look of something that was raised by magic to be used by a council of elves or a meeting of wizards. There was light and music emanating from the dome and I realized that this would be where I would find Mafalda.

As Sauro and I walked up she emerged with the yoga teacher and students. I was warmly greeted by the wave of energy that is always at least three steps ahead of her wherever she goes and her smile was contagious and irresistible. She said her goodbyes to the guests and turned to give me her full attention.

Mafalda and I quickly found out that we can match each other when it comes to speaking, even after both of us had had such a tiring day. I joined her and Sauro for some soup for supper and a lovely chat about what we would be doing in the days to come before calling an end to my incredibly long and adventurous day. I was shown to the Amigos room. This is a lovely little room with its own bathroom and three bunk beds. When we have guests I will be sharing the space if the suites are free, but for now I get to call it my own, which is a lovely way to start my stay. I crawled into bed very happy, full of positivity and optimism for the weeks to come and looking forward to waking up to my first full day at Casa do Pateo.

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