We drove from Seville back into Portugal passing over the largest man made reservoir in western Europe formed by the The Alqueva Dam.
We couldn’t get a grasp of the immensity of the lake formed by the dam until we stopped at the hilltop town of Monsarez. This small fortified hilltop has been in use for over 2000 years as it holds a very strategic position in the region. It looks quite imposing from below but when you get there, well, it is tiny. We walked the two streets of town discovering the wine shop of one of the local wineries, Ervideira.
They produce a wine called the invisible wine that looks as clear as water but is fruity, light and actually made from red grapes. After a glass of wine, we walked the walls and found this small dirt forum / arena. We learned from the daughter of an old woman who’d grown up there that it used to be a bull fighting ring. Really? It was tiny! The fights must have been something to see…and to fear; the audience must have had to wear armor to (hopefully) prevent being maimed. The olive oil here was amazing and the rabbit pie a little splintery but good.
- Estremoz – This town is literally built on marble. The streets are paved with it, the sidewalks are made of it, the curbs, the stairs, the door frames, you name it, marble marble marble, even the castle at the top of the town. We arrived the day before they were to have a medieval festival so we only got to see them setting it up. We wandered a bit around the town, rescued a runaway puppy that escaped from an old resident and “visited”
(found a back driveway to) the marble quarry.
- Évora Monte – It is a tiny hilltop town with a small square castle with a circular towers at each corner.
There was only the fortification, a church and graveyard at the top. The one way in and out was NOT for cars bigger than a matchbox.
- Cromelegue Megalithico dos Almendres – The construction of these structures dates back to the 6th millennium BC. but really don’t compare to structures like Stonehenge. An interesting site to see how the ancients aligned theses stones with celestial events.
- Viana Do Alentejo – the strangest castle we’d ever seen as it had a marble church built into part of the structure and the whole thing was tiny. We decided to just have lunch in town and skipped touring the castle.
Castelo de Portel – Our last stop of the day (whew!). We
weren’t sure what to expect, but after we parked and walked up to the castle, it turned out to be a ruin. That means no admission fee and we were able to scramble around the old walls.
Evora Food Experiences:
- Rabbit Pie in Monsaraz.
At a restaurant called “Vinho e Noz” the pork medallions were excellent and the boar stew was good. It was a lot of food and we couldn’t finish our meals. The waiter tried to get us to have dessert, so Cynthia asked “where would I put it? In my pocket?” He laughed and translated that to the staff.
- We also ate at “O Parque dos Leitoes”. We had duck rice and lamb stew, both were excellent! The food along with an 8 euro bottle of wine of exceptional red wine made of a wonderful and filling evening.
- Our last night we decided a small meal would be good so we headed to Vinarium, a small wine tasting/tapas place where we had olive oil mushrooms and a cute, candle-lit fondue pot. Sara spoke excellent English (even when explaining the purple flowers in the fields had nettles and even used “shut the front floor”)