I’ve been sitting on this post for a while. I mean, just look at this view…sorry. what was I saying? Right, the post. Our trip to Portugal was beautiful. It was like one giant breath of fresh air–amazing food, delicious wine, and endless views. We spent the last few days of our trip wandering through Alentejo, and even popped into Algarve for a few hours to visit the most south -western point in Europe. (View above is from the perfect little airbnb we found.)
One of the the best parts about driving through Portugal was enjoying the changes in architecture as we moved south. Every hundred kilometers or so, the buildings would take on a slightly new character and often a new color. Near Elvas, the buildings were whitewashed, mostly with yellow trim and an occasional splash of light blue.
Early September was the perfect time to visit–we had gorgeous weather and few other tourists to compete with for all the best views. We found Alentejo gorgeous, sprawling, and welcoming. Unlike the absolutely terrifying roads of the Minho and the Douro, Alentejo has plenty of space to go around. The wide, comfortable roads let us ease up our grips on the door handles and even turn up the music! Sparsely populated with wide open skies, we found it perfect for stargazing.
We didn’t take a tuk tour in Elvas, but this cute little ride made me wish we would have!
As I was going through the photos from the last leg of our trip, I was trying to decide which region I liked best. Lively Lisbon, the quiet Minho, the twisting roads and breathtaking views of the Douro, or the sprawling beauty of Alentejo. (I’ll need at least three more months of vacation to decide…)
I love small details. This is from the door of the main church in Elvas. What attention given to something so mundane. Who chooses the door handles for a cathedral anyway?
Sundays in many European countries (especially heavily catholic countries in the south) are always quiet. Hardly anything is open, save an occasional minimart and a few restaurants. To an outsider, it is a romantic way of life where the day of rest is spent at mass and over lunch with family. (To insiders who’ve ever spent seven hours “over lunch” these
obligations traditions can feel tedious and demanding.) To a tourist of course, Sundays can feel like the lost day of vacation you never get back.
While locals were laughing over lunch with their grandmas, we hit the streets. (All the other tourists had already snapped up the few seats at the town’s one open restaurant.) Even though we were hungry, it wasn’t long before the quiet, cheerful streets seduced us and we lost all sense of time as we wandered from one street to the next.
In an effort to waste time before watching a friend perform in Evora, we stopped off at this little castle. We couldn’t go inside, but we enjoyed walking around the grounds and soaking in the view of the valley below. No idea why the castle is apparently being tied together with two giant ribbons. Maybe it was a present for someone?
The highlight of our time in Alentejo was our absolutely marvelous stay at Herdade da Matinha. Located about 30 minutes from the coast down the longest dirt road you’ve ever seen. Boasting cheerful, welcoming design and a michelin starred restaurant. The grounds were speckled with fruit trees surrounding a peaceful pool. The reception offered a myriad of activities (none of which we took advantage of)–surfing lessons, horseback riding, massages.
I loved the eclectic art and colorful details throughout the property.
This place was designed for relaxing. Not fancy relaxing at an expensive spa where they serve you a single carrot for lunch and play you elevator music, but real relaxing with impeccable service, amazing food, and a beautiful landscape. Just thinking about it makes me want to curl up with a good book (which is code, in this house, for…take a nap).
There were several horses at the stables, but this little guy was helping himself to a snack by the pool.
I loved the airy design of the dining room. Even more, I loved the amazing breakfast spread with homemade bread, jams, and delicious cheeses, smoked meats, and pastries.
The dinners were equally impressive, a set menu with three courses and a great wine list.