Around and about Portugal

Ok – we’ll start right where we left off.

The G&T's are cold

The G&T’s are cold

Yes indeed, the G&T’s were cold. Right after this picture was taken, I raised my glass only to find that it was empty.

Empty????

Were there fish with straws in the pool that had finished off my drink while I wasn’t looking?  Was there a hole in the bottom of the glass? I checked carefully – no – no hole. Obviously there was a G&T drinking fish at play here, stealing my drink.

So I paddled over to the edge and asked my serving wench, aka Vinni, to fix me another.

“You already drank that?” She asked.

“Uh no, I think we have a G&T drinking fish with a straw in the pool.” I answered.

She looked at me strangely and then said, “If you believe we have a G&T drinking fish with a straw in the pool, the last thing you need is another drink. You probably need a few hours with a shrink.”

Well there you have it. I don’t complain about my life very often, it being quite comfortable most of the time, but seriously now. I ask for another drink because someone, or thing, has maliciously stolen mine and all of sudden I need to see a shrink?

I asked again and since I added the word please – the serving wench, aka Vinni, made me another. I kept a close eye out for that no good G&T drinking fish and while I was doing that somebody else drank my damn drink – just couldn’t win that evening.

I won’t bore you with the details of what we did while we were at our house or with my golf game………….

Wait a second – my golf game is never boring. Ok – since you all are asking with bated breath. We played Quinta do Lago South, a PGA course where they usually play the Portuguese Open and started out with 5 pars in a row (not shabby for an old man – huh?), then a couple of bogeys and then more pars. Suffice to say that I finished the morning having played to my 8 hcp.

I immediately celebrated by drinking a couple of very large and very cold beers. Had lunch and then went home and slept most of the afternoon.

The rest of the time in the house, we mainly played a little golf, relaxed by the pool went out for dinner, went to the beach and all of a sudden 3 weeks had gone by. But we did go sailing – there is a salt water lake down by the beach where we rented a hobie cat. Speed , speed, speed and in that lake, the wind was coming from all directions as it swirled between the hills, so we got lots of practice trimming sails.

Our house was rented out the last week we were in Portugal so we went on a Pousada visit. Pousadas, for those that don’t know, are hotels, usually state-owned, built in old castles, monasteries and whatnot. We picked two, Estramoz where we have been before about 15 years ago and Beja, a place we have never been. So below are pictures of our trip and som commentary.

Mertola

We took the small roads to Estramoz and passed through Mertola. Quite a sight as we rounded the bend in the road and the town came into sight.

Mertola Castle

Mertola Castle

The castle itself was mainly a stone castle and therefore not very interesting, except the view. The original castle had at one point been a Roman stronghold, then a christian stronghold, then a Muslim Castle (when the Moors conquered the Iberian penninsula) and finally a Christian castle again when the Moors were driven out. The church just outside the castle walls had at one point been a Mosque which was converted to a catholic church when the castle was taken by the christians.

Former Mosque, now church - note the minarets

Former Mosque, now church – note the minarets

The view from the castle walls was good and Vinni stopped to admire it.

looking down the river from the castle

looking down the river from the castle

Vinni taking a gander

Vinni taking a gander

The Portuguese graveyards are different. The “high-rise” apartments you see in the left side of the picture are not apartments – they are burial trays where the caskets are slid into. That way you can have a family plot that only takes up as much ground space as 1 casket – you simply add another “floor” when it is needed.

High-rise burial plots

High-rise burial plots

And just so you know we actually are in Portugal – here are some pics of narrow (very) streets.

narrow steps and street

narrow steps and street

yes they can get narrower

yes they can get narrower

good thing Vinni is a small gal

good thing Vinni is a small gal

A studly man like me has no problems

A studly man like me has no problems

Driving on we finally got to Estramoz and our Pousada for the night

Estramoz

Driving towards Estramoz we sighted the Pousada and the town.

Estramoz

Estramoz

Impressive huh?

Of course entering the town makes you feel a bit like Royalty (which Vinni, of course, is). Perhaps I should mention that here in Portugal, Vinni is known (and called) as Dona Vinni (translates as “Lady Vinni”)

Portal for entering the city

Portal for entering the city

Estramoz was built in the 13th centruy and the original castle and tower are from that time. There has, naturally been a bit of adding on since then. The Pousada and the next door church are named for the Queen and saint Rainha Santa Isabel. She was beatified for being a friend of all things living, including birds and animals. One of the miracles attributed to her says that she dropped her ball of thread from the tower one day when she was embroidering and the birds flew down, picked it up and flew back up the tower and gave it to her.

Queen and Saint

Queen and Saint

Her Church

Her Church

Pousada

Pousada

Our room wasn’t too bad – the view was OK

Our room with a view

Our room with a view

View in the other direction

View in the other direction

The Pousada was magificent inside, most of the furniture was from the 17th century, with religious Icons scattered throughout

Main staircase

Main staircase

First floor

First floor

Hallway

Hallway

Landing

Landing

It just goes on and on

It just goes on and on

Icon

Icon

More icon

More icon

and more icon

and more icon

Here are some pics from around the town

Old streets and I'm looking at my feet which are hot

Old streets and I’m looking at my feet which are hot

Small Chapel in town

Small Chapel in town

I don't care if your feet are hot - hurry up!

I don’t care if your feet are hot – hurry up!

Only mad dogs, englismen and Vinni go out in the noonday sun

Only mad dogs, englismen and Vinni go out in the noonday sun

Funky, funky buildings. We had lunch here - pretty good

Funky, funky buildings. We had lunch here – pretty good

Big fountain inthe center of town - pousada in the background

Big fountain in the center of town – pousada in the background

I'm smiling because we are on the way back and I can taste a G&T coming up

I’m smiling because we are on the way back and I can taste a G&T coming up

Estramoz, being an old town is filled with steep and narrow streets and steps, like these

DSC_1387DSC_1391DSC_1321

This part of Portugal is one of the really good wine-producing parts of Portugal and we visited a couple of vineyards. Dona Maria was a wine we had tasted with our dinner the night before and it is just simply superb. I’ve got the name and address of the Danish distributor and I’ll be ordering a few cases this week.

I think the house is a little big – guess Vinni and I won’t buy it LOL

entrance to Dona Maria

entrance to Dona Maria

Main House - a bit big?

Main House – a bit big?

And some scenes from around the gardens and production

Grapes

Grapes

gardens

gardens

Entrance to back gardens

Entrance to back gardens

DSC_1460

olive oil jugs

olive oil jugs

Retired vineyard workers

Retired vineyard workers

We also visited Quinta Moura, another wonderful wine. This vineyards makes everything by hand. The grapes are pressed by stomping them with their feet and everything else is also done by hand. They make only 100,000 bottles each year and are always sold out.

packing bottles for shipment

packing bottles for shipment

Cleaning the barrels

Cleaning the barrels

Storage

Storage

This is the front door - not very impressive - but the wine is great!

This is the front door – not very impressive – but the wine is great!

Evoramonte

Portugal must have more castles that any place else in the world. We visited some and one of them was Evoramonte.

The Castle

The Castle

Even older Portuguese come to visit

Even older Portuguese come to visit

Real estate agents say

Real estate agents say “location, location, location”

Evora

Evora is larger city (50,000 people of which about 20,000 are students). The city has been the summer hideaway for Portuguese Kings for centuries, so obvioulsy it has a castle and everything else associated with Kings and Royalty. It was also a Roman retreat and there still are the remnants of a Roman temple celebrating the glory of the Emperor Augustus. Here you go:

Roman temple

Roman temple

Church with Portuguese tiles

Church with Portuguese tiles

Vinni next car. She wants to hire 4 studlies with six-pack stomach muscles and travel in style

Vinni next car. She wants to hire 4 studlies with six-pack stomach muscles and travel in style

Danish

Danish “blondie” in the sun

an other view of the temple

an other view of the temple

Evora has an interesting church. It is called a “Bones” church (Portugal has several). The entire inside of the church is “decorated” with skulls and bones. This symbolizes the shortness and insignificance of life, compared to the greater life that awaits you in the afterlife.

skulls

skulls

bones

bones

more bones

more bones

We took a guided tour of the city in a tuk-tuk. This actually is a 4 person car

am I wearing the car or in it?

am I wearing the car or in it?

are we just cute?

are we just cute?

more us

more us

Lunch by the roadside

Lunch by the roadside

and finally we got to Beja

Beja

I can’t say much about Beja since I had to go back down to the Algarve to solve some issues with our house there. So Vinni had Beja mostly to herself. We stayed in an old convent (Vinni was very disappointed it was not a monastery since she favors monks over nuns)

She took a bunch of pictures which come here:

The Monastery

The Monastery

It is big

It is big

inside too

inside too

Great hall

Great hall

poolside - Yuubiiii! G&Ts by the pool

poolside – Yuubiiii! G&Ts by the pool

inside garden area

inside garden area

And here are some scenes from around Beja

DSC_1605 DSC_1602 DSC_1601 DSC_1598 DSC_1596 DSC_1590 DSC_1593 DSC_1588 DSC_1586 DSC_1585

Vinni just couldn’t resist this picture of an old man reading his newspaper while his dog pees on his motorized wheelchair.

DSC_1594

That concludes this little tour of Portugal. Don’t worry, from now on I won’t bore you with these types of blogs – I’ll write about sailing..

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