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Community in Lagos her plans crystallised: “I felt so much at home here and knew this was where I wanted to realise my dream.” With her German business partner, ex-financier Christian Kraus and French designer Martin Blanchard, project Casa Māe took shape. With an 82.5% share in the business, Veronique is very much the driving force behind it.

Casa Māe: Rosy future for old manor house By Lena Strang

Casa Mãe from the back

“When I visited the house for the first time I knew it was the place for me. It gives one such serenity and a sense of well-being. You feel it’s steeped in history,” Veronique Polaert explains. The intrepid 31-yearold French woman has undertaken the huge task of transforming a crumbling mansion house and its extensive grounds into a boutique style hotel complex with a difference. ‘Casa Māe’, as it is now called, is situated on Rua do Jogo da Bola by the city walls in the upper part of Lagos old town. Nearby is the stronghold of Sāo Francisco, accessible to visitors keen to scale the walls. I have stopped by the rusty iron gates in the past and viewed the overgrown garden and dilapidated façade of the building, trying to imagine what it was like in its heyday.

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How pleasing that another gem of Lagos is now being rescued. This time I am faced with quite a different scene. Two giant cranes tower above the site where construction work is in full swing. The mansion house is undergoing a thorough restoration while other sets of buildings are being erected. This is the end of June and the grand opening is due for August. Is this a tall order, I wonder? However, the more I learn about Veronique and her iron determination, the more I’m inclined to believe that she will achieve her aims. Having worked in the financial sector in London, Paris and Los Angeles for a number of years, she felt there was something lacking in her life. “I knew I wanted to work with people. On my travels I have seen many luxury hotels but yearned for something with a soul.” During a holiday

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Their aim is to offer something unique to the region – a hotel that is more than just a hotel. “It will offer discerning travellers a first-rate experience; mixing international standards, quality food and fresh local ingredients with all that is genuinely Portuguese,” she tells me. She has scoured the country to work with artists and crafts people who will lend their support to create something that is special but retains authenticity. In restoring the old manor house and the surrounding land she is also keen to preserve as much as possible of the past. Because tradition and a sense of place are important aspects of what ‘Casa Māe’ enshrines, I need to explore the history of the old manor house. Frederico Paula, Lagos city architect, is able to give me some interesting information about its past. “The area has always been prime agricultural land and has supplied Lagos with produce for many centuries. During the 18th century Civil War, all entrances to the city were blocked so this kind of urban agriculture and access to water inside the walls were essential for survival,” he explains. The building that still stands here today was constructed after the earthquake of 1755. How do we know this? Marques de Pombal who was instrumental in rebuilding Lisbon after the earthquake, developed the first anti-earthquake technology for

Tomorrow August 2016  
Tomorrow August 2016