Last Wednesday, Mike and I left the Douro Valley on a postcard perfect day. Bright blue skies, sunshine on the vineyards and the sound of the village’s old men arguing at the local cafe- likely over a strong coffee with a side of muscatel, as is their custom. We pointed the Peugeot south to find more sun and ended up in the town of Evora located in the south Alentejo region. Mike wanted to get some miles in so we wouldn’t have a huge drive on Friday. Our drive took us up, up out of the Douro onto an expansive plain. Earlier on this trip I was wondering about the source of all the cheese and milk, and beef. We found it on this huge plain. Hundreds of kms of cattle and grazing lands.
Evora was a nice surprise considering neither of us had even heard of the place. Lots of historic sites including the ruins of an old Roman temple, an impressive ancient aqueduct and the second oldest University in Portugal. In fact there were so many ancient/historic sites in Evora that we came across a castle that wasn’t even on the tourist map- ho hum, another castle.
We lucked out and got a room in a small funky hotel with a roof bar. Nice place to sip some local wines. And we caught some great weather. Wandered in the countryside to see the area’s cork groves. This area of Portugal produces over 50% of the world’s cork. It comes from a specific oak tree which has actually adapted to produce a thick bark to survive forest fires. The bark of the lower trunk areas of these trees are harvested every 7 years or so. Much of the cork goes to wine stoppers although you wonder if that’s a good future source of income given the move to other products and screw tops.
Another interesting thing about the Evora area is the number of neolithic or prehistoric standing stones or (new word...... cromlechs). Mike is excited that he has a new crossword word and one with which he can baffle his friend Burns. We hiked up to a couple of these cromlech areas and wondered at the ingenuity it must have taken to create something so precise in 6000 BC. Mike said it was the structure he’s been most impressed with so far in Portugal because it was all built without EU funding ( zzzzing)
On Friday we blasted the last 200km back to the coast to the town of Albufeira on the Algarve. We were met by our Air Band B host and some wet, rainy weather. We are reminded often that this country needs the rain as they suffered terribly from forest fires only 2 years ago and this will give them some protection. Can’t argue with that since we have experienced the same on the west coast. Anyway, the forecast is looking up!
For the next few days we are staying in a condo within walking distance of the old town of Albufeira. Unfortunately, our first impressions of Albufeira when we biked through a few weeks ago have turned out to be pretty accurate. Lots of stag and hen parties, loud bars and sunburnt Brits. On Friday night the town felt like a bad all- inclusive resort. Lots of signs for full English breakfasts and Sunday roast beef dinners. Mike said, why don’t they just stay home? I replied, the weather of course. But the weather has actually been warmer in the UK this week. Enjoy it up there, Al and Helen. In fairness, the beaches here are beautiful and we have easy access to lots of lovely small villages which we will visit over the next few days. We have a number of recommendations for restaurants and places to see so we’ll stay out of trouble.
Yesterday we “headed for the hills” and spent some time visiting the super well preserved castle at Silves that is the best example of moorish, military architecture in Portugal. If Helen were here she would describe it much more eloquently no doubt. We then drove up, up to the hills and had a lovely meal in the village of Monchique. Wildboar stew for me and a huge“mature bull”steak for Mike. We had lots of leftovers tonight. Away from abundant seafood on the coast, Portuguese cuisine is very heavy on meat, loads of carbs with hardly a vegetable in sight. Yesterday, the waitress asked me THREE times if I really wanted a salad with my meal as the portion was so large.
. We head back to Lisbon on Friday to drop off our trusty Peugeot and then we take the milk-run flight route home Saturday via London and Toronto. We hope to see the girls and Malcolm enroute.
Well that’s about it for Portugal. I don’t expect much more excitement or news over the next few days.
We’re looking forward to getting home as much as we’ve enjoyed this latest adventure.
Thanks for traveling with us,
We look forward to seeing most of you soon. Until then........
Signing off from Albufeira, Portugal.
Love Heather/ Mom.Read more