Sunday, 20 August 2017

Old Country, New Beginning - Part 2

23rd April 2017

While in Porto, we stayed in a cosy hotel in the heart of town, in the Ribeira area. We were bang in the centre of a vibrant city steeped in the history of wine producing. This is a place I want to re-visit as soon as time allows.

One of the traditional river boats that transport the wine from the interior to Porto for storage and eventual sale and distribution.

We drove north for the day, stopped for coffee in the clerical city of Braga and then onto Guimarães, the birth-place of the Portuguese nation and it's first capital.  By the town gate, the statue of the first king, Afonso Henriques, stands defiantly and ready, as if still awaiting Spanish invasions.

Serene, ancient and immaculately preserved, the city of Guimarães induced a sense of awe and nostalgia that took me right back to my primary school's history lessons.

There were great halls, where battles were planned for the southward expansion of the nation...

... and the 1000 year-old castle, home of the first king; scenes that made this visit the more memorable.

Four days later we took the three hour drive back down to Lisbon for a brief stay and visited the eighteenth century palace of Queluz, birthplace of Dom Pedro, eventual first king of Brazil after its independence.

Miss P also relived her past history lessons with the link to Brazil's early days on display. 

Ah, the kind of house I like.  Imagine the vast vegetable plot I'd create here to replace the pretty but otherwise useless hedge rows! 

On the 3rd of May we headed south, through Setúbal towards our next destination. We stopped for lunch in Portinho de Arrábida...

...and eventually checked in our hotel in the beach resort of Tróia.

The Tróia peninsula. On the left is the estuary of the Sado River, and on the right the Atlantic Ocean.

Chilled for 5 days doing nothing but sightseeing, going on boat trips, eating, drinking...

...and strolling along miles of sandy beach.

Back on the road, we travelled eastwards to Évora, the capital of Alto Alentejo, for two days and a visit to a quaint little family-owned organic vineyard called Dona Dorinda.

This fine reserve red ranks among the best wines we have ever tasted. Pure velvet that made one instantly forget the hefty price tag.

The roman temple of Diana refuses to crumble despite its advanced age. Just as well as I was under it.

Évora has lots to see and do.

I voluntarily entered a church (unusual, I know) the Chapel Of Bones, out of sheer morbid curiosity and left with a strange rancid smell that refused to leave my nostrils for the rest of the day.  
A gruesome tradition of old, I say, using the bones of disinterred corpses to decorate the interior walls. 

Two days later we headed south to the sleepy town of Beja, (see below) capital of Baixo Alentejo province.

Beja and it's surroundings are a bit too quiet for my liking, hence only one photograph.

We paid a visit to one of the country's biggest wineries, the Herdade Do Esporão.

Those of you who know Esporão wines will recognise the little white fort pictured above, as it is the company logo.  I strongly recommend to all who enjoy a full-bodied red, to sample the fabulous  Esporão Reserva. Try it and you will not be disappointed; but you will be slightly poorer. 

Onward to the south coast, sunny Algarve, for five days, where we checked in Praia Da Rocha, Portimão.

From there we visited neighbouring Albufeira, the busy, lively resort town where shops and bars stay open all night.

We visited some of the caves that are scattered throughout the southern coastline.

One of the highlights was spending a day in luxuriant Vilamoura, my favourite Algarve town.

At Vilamoura Marina, plotting our return to Lisbon to catch a flight to Madeira, where we will spend two weeks.

To be continued...

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