Europe Trip – Portugal – The Alentejo, full of wonders


Elvas across the border in Portugal is an impressive star shaped fortified town, painted all in white. With impressive walls, a 5 tired aqueduct and great views it also had a giant snow man set up in the main plaza for Christmas. Further southwest in Vila Viçosa, we entered the center of the marble industry. Everything in town was made from marble; sidewalks, benches, plazas, light posts, windowsills, plazas and the palace made all out of white marble.

The next few days we explored the region around the biggest artificial lake in Europe and Alqueva dam. Nearby tiny medieval village of Monsaraz is perched high over the countryside with interesting pink manikin Christmas decorations throughout. The white washed building and bullring/tower were very unique. We also visited Cromeleque do Xerex, a group of Neolithic megaliths moved from their original (now under lake water) position 5 kilometers away. We then returned to Vila Viçosa to witness a very impressive religious event, the procession of the virgin where the tiny statue is paraded around town preceded by hundreds of devotees and followed by 80 horses.

Heading west in Evora we visited the weird Capela dos Osses (Chapel of Bones) constructed with the skulls and bones of some 5000 people. Skulls outlined the arches of the ceiling and the walls and pillars were all constructed out of bones! It had a morbid yet beautiful feel to it but Kyle refused to stay in the chapel and just wanted to get out. Nearby we drove through acres and acres of cork forest to the windswept Cromeleque dos Almendres, Portugal’s most important megalithic group of stones. Located at the end of a pothole infested dirt road, the 6 km side trip shook us to pieces and we quickly learned that our camper is not suited for such ventures.

Finally back on the west coast again, we visited two surf beaches of São Lourenzo and Ericeira backed by impressive cliffs and wild surf.  The enchanting miniature craft village of sculptor José Franco in Sobreiro  was a fantastic place for the kids. They who got to explore every nook and cranny where something was to be discovered.

In Sintra , a Unesco World Heritage Site, we visited two beautiful  palaces (Palacio Nacional de Sintra and Palacio Nacional da Pena) accessible only through narrow steep winding hairpin roads. Constructed with cobble stones and slippery when wet, the roads were nerve wrecking to drive trough.

On the evening of Shadaes birthday, we headed to Europe’s westernmost point, Cabo da Roca, with a great sunset and awesome views the next morning. Heading east around the cape with a beautifully wild coast around Cascais and Estoril, we saw powerful  thundering waves crashing against the rocks sending huge splashes into the sky.  We finally managed to find a great little beach where the kids could play and we could drink a glass of wine on Shadae’s 42nd birthday.

Next we head into Lisbon, to explore the capital of Portugal.


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January 2014
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