After a few (way too short) days in the Douro, we continued driving through Portugal. We were headed south towards the Alentejo. But first, we made a quick stop in Belmonte, where we stayed the night at Pousada Convento de Belmonte, an old convent that has been converted into a hotel.
The view was beautiful, but not quite as dramatic as the Douro.
Belmonte is a small town. Not exactly a tourist hotspot, or even an obvious place to stop while driving through Portugal. Still, we were enthralled by the history of the town’s Jewish community. For over 600 years Jews in Belmonte lived in secret, not showing any outward signs of their faith. In the 70s, some started practicing their faith publicly, and in 1996 a small synagogue was opened in the town.
I have a hunch that most visitors to the town come specifically to stay at the pousada, and there is no question why–it was beautiful and relaxing both inside and out. We soaked up the last of the summer sun by the pool, and stuffed ourselves at their great restaurant. As usually, we were kept company by a gaggle of retirees–what can I say? We’re old souls.
After dinner, we settled into one of the many cozy corners for a little reading and a glass of wine. The pousada has a limited number of guest rooms, so there were plenty of nooks available.
The food, while not really a bargain, was delicious. We could never say know to Portuguese cured meats. (Let’s be honest, Portuguese or not, cured meats are frequent visitors on our plates.)
I can’t say what enamored me more–this darling little copper pot or the delicious broad (lima?) beans with tomato and bacon inside. Actually, I can say. The beans. That cute little copper pot will set you back about $100… ouch.
Risotto and I became friends just a few years ago and I’ll admit I was a little surprised to see it show up here, seasoned with saffron and served along side a perfectly roasted piece of pork. I usually associate it with mushrooms (or truffles) or think of it as something that’s meant to be served with seafood or veggies. But the creaminess of the risotto perfectly complimented the tender roast pork.
Right after high school, I traveled to Europe with one of my girlfriends. While we were in Nice, we sampled about a bazillion flavors of gelato at a place right on the main square. No matter how many flavors we tried, I just couldn’t wrap my mind around some of the more bizarre flavors–tomato basil gelato anyone? (Ironically, I saw that same look of confusion a few Christmases ago when I served some of my European friends a scoop of mint chocolate chip icecream.) Anyway, ever since then I have been drawn to weird icecream. Obviously, when I sthis fresh pea soup served with a scoop of basil icecream on the side. The icecream wasn’t very sweet, so it served mostly to add a delightful creaminess to the soup along with a pop of fresh basil. Yum. (Clarification: not so yum that I’ve been making it at home, but yum enough that I didn’t regret my order.)
The fact that there was not much to see sure the heck wasn’t going to stop us from wandering around this rustic village.
Before we left for Portugal, a friend recommended we stop at Monsanto. (I’m sure your much smarter than me, but my first thought was–GMO giant? Nope. Fortunately, not even close to that Monsanto.) Right along the boarder with Spain, this charming little village is built on and around enormous boulders.
I mean, look at that boulder! Aside from hiking to the top of the village, there’s not a whole lot to do in Monsanto aside from sit in the sun, drink your wine, and enjoy the view! After driving through the Minho and the Douro, we found this part of Portugal to be extremely accessible with great roads.