After 22 years working in the banking industry, and in the midst of the 2008 crisis, Joao Pedro decided it was time to quit his job, and to look for a new challenge. He found it in the shape of a typical Lisbon townhouse in a spectacular location, dating back to 1904. Joao, together with his partners, decided to renovate it and start a B&B. After three months of restoration works and preparation, the mansion was shining in a new splendour – “Torel Palace” was born: ten tastefully decorated rooms with an elegant decor, a breakfast room, a small villa beside the building and the pool area with a spectacular view over Lisbon, where guests could enjoy breakfast in the sunshine or, in the evening sip a glass of Vinho verde while the sun is setting. On 26 December 2013, Joao and his team of Rodrigo, Patricia and Sandro (reception) as well as Julia and Katia (housekeeping) welcomed the first guests. Torel Palace quickly succeeded in making a name for itself, and Joao decided it was time to expand this successful project with the addition of the adjacent building: a neglected villa in the property of the church, which had been a guesthouse for bishops visiting the city. Having stood empty for more than ten years, the office of the Bishop agreed to the idea of transforming it into a guesthouse of a new kind ...
Twelve years into a relationship and working at a pharmacy in Judenburg/Austria, Barbara decided it was time for a new start. It was in May 2014 when she and a friend booked a trip to Lisbon, and decided to stay at the Torel Palace, Barbara was smitten by it all: the charming building (now known as “the pink building” or “Torel 1”), the location, the friendly team. It so happened that Joao was looking for a partner for the second building he was eyeing – and Barbara was enthusiastic to join the project. Back in Judenburg, she counted her assets, sent an offer to Lisbon – and after three more visits, the decision was clear: “Yes!” The adventure began on August 12th; when she left Austria to move to Portugal, starting a new life. The renovation works on the second building started in November, and lasted until April 2015. On May 1st, the new building aka “the blue building” or Torel 2” opened its doors to the first clients with 14 rooms, of which 12 have a fantastic view and many a private balcony; again all individually decorated, a new reception, a quirky bar and a gourmet restaurant with a young, motivated female Portuguese chef. This was a new challenge for the whole team, who worked enthusiastically on the new project. But once again, there wasn’t much time to settle in, before another opportunity presented itself later the same year: the big, old building next door with its romantic tower was up for sale. The 70 or so owners had decided that it was time for the family Andrade Cunha to say goodbye to the old house – and Barbara and Joao did not hesitate to make an offer …
Lebanon, spring of 2015… After almost ten years of working for United Nations Peacekeeping Missions in Burundi, the DR Congo, Somalia and Lebanon, Ingrid felt it was time for a new chapter in her life. Ingrid, originally also from Judenburg/Austria, already had experience with making changes in her professional career – amongst others, she had worked as a journalist, PR expert, and in advertising. Now she felt it was time to return to her roots – having grown up on a B&B farm in Austria, she wanted to fulfil her dream of running her own place to welcome people from all over the world. As the location to do this, she chose Portugal - a country she had fallen in love with 20 years earlier. In April 2015, she flew from Beirut to Vienna, bought a car, and drove to Portugal. After a language course in Lisbon and some property research, she realized that she wanted a business partner for her project. When she went back to Austria in the summer to take care of her mother and her two dogs, a friend told her about “Barbara in Lisbon”. Upon return to Portugal in September 2015, they got in touch, and it was in the bar of Torel Palace that Barbara and Ingrid, both from the same district in Austria, met for the first time – and they immediately clicked. It was not long afterwards that Barbara and Joao got news that their bid for the building next door had been accepted. Now it was clear for Barbara and Joao that Ingrid had to come on board to be able to realize this new dream: to renovate the ”Lavra House” - now a national monument - constructed between 1892 and 1896, and since then in the possession of the Cunha family, which had made its fortune with cacao plantations in São Tome. This was the birth of “Torel 3”, and of the collaboration between Joao, Barbara and Ingrid. We will keep you posted about progress towards realizing this wonderful dream. Stay tuned!