Alentejo Portugal : October 2017
We left Anne behind with ‘See you soon’ and made our way along the cost. We had so many recommendations of places to try and not enough time so we had to make some difficult choices. First we chose to visit Lagos and then move on up into the Alentejo.
Lagos was pretty, with a marina and a promenade leading to the pedestrian village centre. We were amazed at all the kiosks selling boat trips to visit the caves or see dolphins. I’m talking about 20 odd kiosks, must be a big business. The other new discovery was cork. I always knew cork was grown in Portugal but never really thought about it till now. We went from one stall to another, all selling cork wallets, key rings and handbags. Nicely made and reasonable but after a while you get ‘corked out’, a quick walk around town, a drink at a corner bar and the obligatory ice cream of course and we were on our way.
The drive to Zambujeira do Mar was an enjoyable one and the landscape changed from the flatness of the Algarve to more hilly and green with a lot of agriculture. We chose Zambujeira because the camp site sounded attractive and it was. Very well laid out, friendly people and a lovely pool area. It was also only a 10min walk into the village. That’s where the excitement comes in. We took our customary stroll into town and when we reached the sea we were blown away. Wow! see the pic below.
Absolutely breathtaking scenery. This is why they say the Alentejo is a must see and it’s fairly unknown and underrated. The waves must be good for surfing cos we spotted a lot of surfers. We loved it. We spent a lovely evening at a sea front bar watching the sunset. The usual Parsleys pursuit of the perfect restaurant ( can you believe in this small village at least 6?) The one we chose was simple and we ordered fresh fish and salad and potatoes. This is what I love about Portugal over Spain , the fresh fish. So far Spain has more seafood and shellfish and various versions of squid but Portugal offers that variety of freshly grilled fish with nothing more needed. It was delicious.
We spent the next day lying at the pool, reading and resting. Late that afternoon we headed back to town for a long walk along a headland from where we could admire the coast line. We spotted fishermen perched on the edge of rock cliffs and wondered how on earth they got there, we walked to the beach to paddle in the waves. There were a lot of people swimming but no ways not even for me! It was freezing. More sunset drinks and then back to the bar at the camp site for a cheap paella( not great and Chris was a little ill) but we left the next day feeling we had to come back.
We wished we could stay longer in the area but we have a long distance to cover so we need to get higher up the coast. Do yourself a favour and visit the Alentejo , it should be on your bucket list! We trundle along the coast road which goes though the coastal villages all similar to Zambujeira but each looking like they deserve a visit of their own. We make a few stops to admire the views and take pics. It was with some interest that we saw various types of proteas being farmed! Beautiful fields of them. ( Particularly interesting for Chris as his late mother used to hike around the Western Cape mountains, with his father, collecting protea seeds of all kinds and then sell them to overseas buyers.) We also discovered that there are huge areas of land devoted to growing raspberries in poly tunnels, more like an industry than farming, but obviously profitable. We saw row after row of these domes and yet never really spotted a raspberry in any shop or menu!
For lunch we stopped at a restaurant called Arte y Sal. From the outside it looks like nothing but inside very nice and full. We sat down to a lovely meal with a fantastic waiter who spoke great english. He introduced us to lots of new tastes. Chris had a pichana steak which came with interesting sides, I cannot remember the name but it was toasted grated cassava mixed with bacon bits and mixed herbs. Also very thinly sliced cabbage fried with onions and garlic. I had prawns. The waiter pointed out to me that it was only 2 in a portion but OMG look at the size of them. And the dessert was the ultimate; tomato ice-cream with a sweet cheese mousse accompanied by a cinnamon and tomato jam. Sounds weird, tastes amazing!
We carried on driving along the coast marveling at the sheer number of motor homes parked along the road. It’s seems this is a great spot for wild camping. A lot of them are surfers but we have never seen so many campers in one area before.
We made our way inlands to Alcacér do Sol, a small town we chose just as a stop off. We didn’t know too much about it but it’s on a wide river and it has a small municipal camper park. It was very hot and we were very full so a quick trip to the Intermarche for some basics, a grilled frango( chicken) and we spent a quiet night. Before we left the next day we decided to stop and visit the little town just for a quick coffee. Turns out this town is really quite cute. We had a coffeee and also a tart made with almonds and egg. A speciality in the area. The town is quite run down but we met a lovely lady in a deli who told us the area has much to offer and is starting to get more and more tourists. She sold us a pine nut sweet and some other local delicacy; we really are suckers for pastry! As we drove out we saw the rice fields which the area is known for, quite odd to think about rice fields in Portugal but yes they do eat quite a lot of it.
Now we need to make our way around Lisbon and up to the Silver coast….the road awaits.