A Travellerspoint blog

From the Alentejo to Andalucia

The road trip to Spain


The car was all packed up, the cats were fed the leftovers and their water bowl had been filled. They'd adopted the house and we became very attached over the preceding week. I was stalling. But it was time to go and so we entered our handy coordinates into the GPS and began our 5 hour trek to Cartajima, Spain. I followed along on the map as Husband drove, and the kids were ok, though cramped in the back of our tiny car. After much consultation and debate (not really, since I am the designated tour director), we decided to stop in Castro de Marim, right along the river that designates the border between Spain and Portugal. Castles are always a sure bet with two boys, and this one did not disappoint.


The castle was very well preserved, with ramparts to walk, and grounds to explore. It only cost one euro and they gave us all paper crowns to wear. It was a worthwhile break to stretch our legs and afterwards, we stopped in town for pastries and coffee. Pretty town.


Back in the car, 2km later, we were in Spain. Fields of sunflowers! But also traffic, which we'd become very unaccustomed to. Battling through Sevilla, with billboards and ugly wharehouses lining the highway, we finally came to the base of the mountains that comprise this part of Andalucia. Heading towards Ronda, we climbed and climbed, holding our breaths as the car hurtled around cliffhanging mountain roads. We arrived in Cartajima, one of Andalucias "white towns," and we were immediately besotted with its narrow cobblestone streets and breathtaking views.


Our house is better than the last, surrounded by vineyards and nestled into the mountain. Beautiful.

Posted by Restless Mama 02:13 Archived in Portugal Comments (0)

Praia Odeceixe

Paradise Found


If someday I run away from home, this where you'll find me, ensconced at a cafe table sipping cafe com laite and eating pastel de nata. I wanted so much to come here, and I couldn't articulate why, but when we woke up that morning I'd already come to grips with the fact that we wouldn't have a car all day and I wouldn't get to see it. After all, our precious Golf was dented and it would take all day to fix. Resolute, we drove into Sao Teotonio, twisting and turning through the tiny streets to Manuels shop, where he'd agreed to meet us at 9:00. When we arrived, he promptly handed over the keys to his personal car, covered in an inch thick of orange Alentejo dust, and said, "here you take! Zambujeira do Mar!" This is their beach - everyone who lives here insists it's the best and only. This is how incredibly generous the people of this region are. After he demonstrated how to turn it off without draining the battery, we climbed in and headed to the coast, past cork forests and Eucalyptus groves.

Praia Odeceixe is only about 8km from Zambujeira do Mar, and it's situated right where the River Mira meets the sea. At 10 in the morning, there was plenty of parking and the beach was misty, wild, and nearly deserted. It's a pretty popular surfer beach, so guys in wetsuits were well into the water, but for us, we were free to explore the caves accessible at low tide and play in the river. As we were completely unprepared to have a car, the kids weren't in bathing suits and ended up swimming and rolling in the sand in their shorts. Husband and I retreated to the cafe up the cliff, which had a commanding view not only of the seascape, but also the shenanigans below. It was simply an incredible morning.


Alas, it was our last day in Portugal and there was much laundry, cooking, and packing to do back at the house. The last day is always this way - I cook everything in the fridge that we havent eaten because I can't stand waste. But first, a trail run along the goat tracks leading the main Rota Vicetina trail - alone and free, the uphills nearly killed me, but it was totally worth it. This is as close as I get to a religious experience.


We had patatas bravas for lunch and kefta, taouk, olives, tzatziki, and cheese for dinner. We ate on the terrace and said our goodbyes to this beautiful country.


Posted by Restless Mama 12:08 Archived in Portugal Comments (0)

Barragem Santa Clara

Picnic at the Lake


After much discussion with Manuel over the fixing of the car, we realized we'd be without a car for the day tomorrow. Our host had left a suggestion to check out a nearby reservoir, Barragem Santa Clara, so off we went through the cork forests again to find it.

There are no facilities and no "beach" to speak of, but we did find a spot with some caravans parked and it seemed as likely a spot as any to swim. It was hot and rocky and there was not a single person in the entire 400km wide lake. I didn't even know if it was ok to go in - the signs are in Portuguese and seem to prohibit all kinds of things, so we decided to ask. One of the nice British caravaners replied to our query, "eh, it's Portugal, you can pretty much do whatever you want." It was a hot and sunny day and we had a great swim.


How nearly uninhabited this region is! As many people live in London as do all of Portugal and no where is this more evident than in the Alentejo.

Posted by Restless Mama 02:59 Archived in Portugal Comments (0)

Horseback riding in the Algarve (Aljezur)

New Forest Lodge Horse Drawn Carriage Tours


Today my husband was stressing out about the big old dent in the side of the car. "They're going to charge us 400 euro to fix that." "We need to fix that." "Ok, but today we are going horse back riding through the hills, so relax." I called Manny at the aforementioned business, and he responded to my "Ola! Fala englese?" with perfect English and perfect directions. Which is good, because I don't have much else to say in Portuguese. Someone, who will remain nameless, is obsessed with his GPS and insists on being provided with an address. If you've been to Portugal, you'll know that a lot of places don't actually have an address and if you want to get there, you've gotta do it the old fashioned way - landmarks and kilometer measurements.

Off we went to Aljezur, on the border between the Alentejo and the Algarve. We had some time before our 5:30 ride, which gave us time to explore the tiny town and its castle. On the map it looks like it's off a highway, but other than in Lisbon, I have yet to see an actual highway. After Madame GPS led us up yet another dead end dirt road (our tiny little dented Golf complaining the whole way), I patiently insisted we simply follow the signs that said "castello." It had a great view, was free, and the little ones had fun running around. Afterwards. I walked down through the town and met them in the square. I love Portuguese tile - isn't this beautiful?



Up the road 12km past the windmills (something like 80 percent of Portugals renewable energy is wind generated), we arrived at the farm. Manny was lovely, the horses were happy, and he, along with his brother in law and creating an experiment in sustainable agriculture that is utilizing groundwater from an ancient Roman well. We all climbed aboard for our trek through the hills. Other than one kid falling off once, it was spellbinding. My little one was in that meditative state I love so well, where his mind is just wandering and he's taking it all in. My husband, for whom this was only his second time on a horse, said it was one of the best experiences of his life. I could smell the ocean, hear the cacophony of cow bells, and just be content with how happy the family was. It was a blessed day.


And it was concluded by a meal in a restaurant that I will not soon forget. Pao Alentejo, garlicky aizetun, cheese, wine and bacalao. These people know how to eat well!

Posted by Restless Mama 15:14 Archived in Portugal Comments (0)

Waterparks, oh my!

A day in Lagoa


I can see where this might be an usual stop on a tour through Portugal, but I've raised 2 water babies and there's nothing they like more than a day on the slides. So, off we went to Splash and Slide in Lagoa.

I hesitate to be that person who goes on and on about how our culture is so corrupt and everything is so much better in Europe, but bear with me here. I live in South Florida where people are just not nice. Grumpy old folks from the tri-State area come down to whither away in the sun, aggressive drivers, hostile store clerks...it wears you down. As does the constant reminder of all the things you can't do (by people who gleefully admonish you) - "you can't park here," "this line is closed," "no outside snacks in the park."

Which brings me to Spalsh and Slide. We parked right up front. There was no line to get in. Lockers were 5 euro. As were umbrellas. Which you could stick in the grass wherever your little heart desired and have an actual picnic. No one yelled at me that I couldn't wear my sunglasses on the slides. From the snack bar lady to the lifeguards, people there (and everywhere in Portugal), were just so darned nice. Even the bright red British people who holiday in the Algarve and cannot speak a lick of Portuguese.


Then we drove back, tried to find a pharmacy and promptly got hit by an old man coming off a side street. But even that turned into a happy ending...stay tuned...

Posted by Restless Mama 14:53 Archived in Portugal Comments (0)

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