Day 10: Cliffs, Castles, Cork, and a Dam

We were up by 8am today and ready to get going. The trouble was, breakfast didn’t start until 9am. So we entertained ourselves by doing a slow roll around the grounds of the hotel before returning to the breakfast room at 8:58. It was pointed out to us by staff that we were 2 minutes early, but they would let it slide.  This time.

For scale, the white building in the picture is 2 stories tall.

For scale, the white building in the picture is 2 stories tall.

Shortly after we ate we hit the road, our destination being east up the coast to a place called Vale de Centianes. There is a hike called the Seven Hanging Valleys walk that runs 5.7km between VdC and Marinha. While we had no aspirations of doing all 5.7km (11.4 round trip, mind you), we did want to get a little taste of it. It was overcast and relatively early in the day by Portuguese standards (not a country of early risers), so we found ourselves about the only ones up there. The views were beautiful, as one might expect from standing on a cliff overlooking the sea.

It was time to move on from the coast, however, so we got back in the car and headed north up the innards of Portugal toward the Alentejo region. On the road toward Beja we started noticing roadworks, and before too long we found ourselves in stop and go traffic. Hmmm, that’s funny, it corresponded roughly with where the road on the map became a dashed instead of a solid line. I had seen it earlier, wondered what it meant, and it turns out it means Road Construction. And judging from the fact it was actually printed on a map, the road won’t be finished for a while.

Cork grows on trees.  Money and pineapples do not.

Cork grows on trees. Money and pineapples do not.

The drive was very pastoral, as the Alentejo appears to be very agricultural. We passed groves of olive trees, some corn, and cork fields interspersed with towns where almost every building was painted gleaming white with either blue or yellow trim.

This was all great, and all, but our main focus was to get to the town of Alqueva because that is home to a relatively new dam that has created the largest artificial lake in Europe. Jim in particular loved this stop, as he’s a dam guy. You know who wasn’t as enamored with the dam? The good folks of a town called Luz (not to be confused with the seaside town in which we stayed), who all had to be relocated because the newly-formed lake made itself at home right over their (former) village.

Ghost town of Monsaraz - we were practically the only ones there

Ghost town of Monsaraz – we were practically the only ones there

Leaving the dam behind, we scooted up the east side of the lake to a historical town called Monsaraz. It’s historical because it has a castle, but really, something we found is you can’t swing a pineapple (they grow in the ground!) without hitting a castle on the eastern side of Portugal. They are, quite literally, everywhere. But Monsaraz, in particular, is a very photogenic town and has a mighty fine castle. In fact, the visit to the castle is free and you can pretty much climb up, down, over, and under it any which way you want.

Our overnight stop was just down the road, at a hotel called Solar de Alqueva in the town of Reguengos de Monsaraz. We had dinner in town before retiring to the room for the evening, as we had homework to do of picking a spot to stay the following night and no one in our group fancied camping in the car.

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