Today we’re going to drive around some of the Alentejo with no clear agenda and see what we find. I’m finding the experience of traveling with Liora, my wife, is so different from traveling as a whole family. It’s really quite fun actually, and with luck we’ll do it again in the not too distant future. Mainly, we can meander, on foot or by car, without worrying too much about the actual plan or destination. With the kids, there has to be a goal, an end point, a why we are doing something.
Being Saturday, market day, we start in Estremoz, which is not far from Evora. The main square of the town, the Rossio, is filled with different market stalls, from an array of live animals , cheeses, wines, pottery and other items. It’s a festive place and we enjoy ourselves thoroughly. After a while we walk up the hill to the ramparts, a relic of when the town was one of the most heavily fortified in the country. We stroll around some more to the thirteenth century Torre/Tower, another example of the incredible medieval structures seemingly all over this incredible country.
We drive on through the dry, barren Alentejo. As far as we can see it’s flat and very empty.Suddenly in the distance, built up the slopes of a hill, appears Castelo de Vide. Even though we are expecting to see it, it is absolutely spectacular. The houses are all shining white and lead up the slopes to a castle. It is without a doubt one of the most glorious town settings I’ve ever laid eyes on.
We drive into the town and walk around. The obvious thing to do is to walk up the steep hill to the castle. There is a small village inside the castle walls – originally all the citizens of the town lived inside the walls – and from here the views are just incredible. Just outside the walls are the remnants of the old Jewish quarter including the centuries old synagogue which is unfortunately closed. Nevertheless we enjoy strolling around some more before returning to the main square for a little lunch.
We continue onto Marvao. It too appears out of nowhere, like Castelo, and with a majestic walled castle perched at the top of the hill. The town is totally walled in, and makes for another spectacular vista. Here we walk on the walls all the way up to the castle. The views again are superb. It’s hard to believe – if my references are correct – that this area of the country is often overlooked as it’s just incredible, a must see in my book. There’s a museum and a little shop which all feel like part of the experience. I think I prefer Castelo, just, but Marvao’s fabulous as well, and the castle is totally deserving of it’s rich reputation.
Marvao’s very close to the Spanish border, so after walking around some more, we decide to cross into Spain, even though there’s nothing in particular to see near the border. We cross over, passing the old border post, now deserted. Interestingly, the landscape immediately looks different and we continue to the first town, Valencia de Alcantra. It’s a decidedly sleepy Saturday afternoon so we leave just as quickly as we arrive and get Portugal bound again. This time we stop at a gas station come duty free store on the border where we stock up on a few esoteric Portuguese delicacies; with great anticipation we plan a Portuguese dinner for our kids when we get back (it’s a total failure).
This time, getting into Evora is simple. After a swim we walk around town before eating some delicious bacalhau at a small restaurant. It’s been a wonderful, wonderful day.