Hiking (November 27, 2019)

Armando acted as our guide today and Nuno drove. They picked us and our luggage up at 8:00 for our transfer to the Alentejo coast to enjoy some hiking. It’s the season for rain, but other than yesterday we have not had to break out rain gear. We were hoping for the same luck today. The god of make-the-travelers-happy was smiling on us because we had perfect weather.

One other couple is all we had to share the trail with and we let them pass early on, so we could feel like celebrity, all-to-ourselves hikers. We were on the beach for awhile, but mostly we were on low sandy rises with beautiful views of the Atlantic and the undulating coastline ahead. Portugal has done a wonderful job of keeping development off this part of the coast. Vegetation seems to be thriving. Everyone’s favorite overlook was hundreds of feet above the water where pelicans had established large nests and waves were crashing violently against the cliff.

Cork was everywhere (barstools, candle koozies, trays) at the local tavern where we had lunch. We savored the food and in fact didn’t leave the table until 4:00. One starter we had never had before was what I’ll call a bacon, egg, and toast toss. My best recipe guess would be: toast stale bread cubes until they are essentially croutons, add cooked onion, garlic, ham or bacon, and top with a couple of over-medium eggs. Toss and serve. The main course was fish and macaroni soup (a first) and fish stew cooked in a special round copper pot with a hinged lid. After an assortment of desserts we were offered fresh figs and a large cork koozie full of walnuts in the shell. Nut crackers were provided, but we were also coached on how to crack the walnuts with our bare hands. Hint: you have to do two at a time.

We waddled out of there groaning and piled into the van for the short ride to the quaint town of Vila Nova de Milfontes. It’s an off-the-beaten-path resort town that hums in the summer. We had the cobbled streets, whitewashed buildings, and scenic views all to ourselves. In fact the streets were so empty it looked like a pristine movie set waiting for the film crews to arrive. We visited a couple of monuments, a mini-castle with a drawbridge and moat, and eventually found ourselves back in the van enjoying coastal views on our way to tonight’s lodging.

We arrived after dark at our homebase for two nights: Herdade das Barradas da Serra (HBS), a B&B on a fifth generation active farm in the middle of a cork oak forest. We dropped our stuff in our rooms and headed straight for the fireplace and stove in the lodge. We had the place to ourselves and posted pictures and caught up on email and texts while our dinner was being prepared. The table was set with cork placemats and the napkins were tied with raffia and fresh rosemary. We were eating again at 7:30 and enjoyed the fire until 9:30. Life is good!

… Observations …

There’s no way handrails are mandated. In brand new as well as old places
we made our way up and down stairs with no hint of a rail.

The main course can be the smallest part of the meal. Starters can include salad, scrambled eggs, bread, cheese, cured meats, olives, jams, and fish.

The roads are in as good a shape as ours any day.
Country roads often do not have shoulders.

Portugal is clean! No random trash anywhere.

We saw lots of beautiful, often-friendly feral cats and one (of many we were told) shelter
large enough to hold a few cats. Notice I avoided saying ‘cat house.’


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