Saturday, April 14, 2012

Saturday, April 14, 2012 - Portugal - Quinta Vale de Marmelos

This is my first post since we left home on April 11. Our flight left Vancouver at 4 pm and we had the added pleasure of being upgraded to business class all the way to Frankfort. It is so classy - huge seats with multiple adjustments, your own tv screen, gourmet meals served with a small white table cloth on your swing out table, stainless steel cutlery, china dishes - wine - and so much space that you hardly know you are on a plane! The only problem - we now know what we are missing when we fly economy. Our transfer at Frankfort was smooth and soon we were back in good old cramped economy on our way to Lisbon. BYW, Portuguese pronounce it Leesh bow ah. In fact Portuguese seem to pronounce all s's as sh's, the r's are strongly rolled, and j's are sort like zs - so it is harder to pick out words than it with Spanish.
We bought a cheap cell phone at the airport - since we could not change the chip in our Rogers phone. Mike has sent the phone number. Then into a taxi to the lovely hotel where we were upgraded again! to their special Executive Suite and pronounced "Guest of the Day" with wine
and cheese and fruit delivered to our room!
We slept really well and the next day caought the noon bus for the 3 hour trip to Elvas (pronounced as you can guess "El vash") The one thing that startled us the most was that there was hardly any traffic on the highway. It was incredible by any standard - basically just us in our big bus rumbling along the excellent divided freeway!
We were picked up at the bus stop by our host Tim and driven about 3 km out of town to his farm or quinta (keen ta) in the Vale de Marmelosa. A marmelosa is a quince marmelosas were the original fruit used for marmelade. The house is about 100 years old with 3 guest bedrooms on the the 3rd floor and a big kitchen on the main floor where we have breakfast. The walls are stone and about 2 feet thick. They have a big commercial plant nursery in the garden, plus chicken and a couple of acres of potatoes and peas. Orange trees are everywhere.
Although it is surprisingly cold, roses and petunias and geraniums are out. Apparently they did have some hot days earlier in the month. Tim is English and his daughter and her three little girls are visiting from England - very homey feeling.
We walked into Elvas for dinner last night and Tim picked us up afterwards. Dnner time here is no earlier than 7:30. This is much easier than Spain (which is only about 15 km away) where dinner doesn't get going until about 11.
Today we did our first day of walking. We walked back to Elvas and up into the walled city. Some of the stones in the inner wall date back to Roman times. After the Romans left, the Visigoths arrived and were eventually driven out by the Moors. Later the Moors were driven out by the Christians and then there were wars with Spain. I think the last attack was by Napoleon. The walled city is full of very narrow, steep, twisting cobbled streets with a central square - which is where we had espresso and sent our spot. There are several churches and quite a lot of people seem to live there. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site but there are virtually no tourists. We walked on the ramparts and then down the steep bank/hillside to the valley below. After lunch at a restaurant in the valley (by the freeway to Spain) we walked up the next hill where there is another fort (Greco) which is a wonderful ruin like something out of the Lord of the Rings. It was very dramatic up there since the wind was blowing very hard and we had a small shower of rain as we were getting ready to walk back down through the olive groves. Apparently they are having a drought here but we seem to have brought a least a few showers. We climbed back up to the walled city of Elvas and eventually down again and home. 16 km of walking - for about 6 hours - plus an hour for lunch.
We have now had dinner and will soon go to bed. The room has a small heater but it is very cold. We are sitting here wrapped in blankets and Mike has his toque on. It is reminiscent of Ooty. There is nowhere so cold as a place which is often hot and they simply aren't prepared for when it gets cold. We are so glad we brought some warm clothes with us -as we almost didn't.
Tomorrow we have another walk from here - this time up another hill but without a fort. Lots of olive groves and wild lavender we hear. So goodnight. Our bed has an electric blanket - which sounds very nice at this point, BTW, we were upgraded again at the quinta - to a bigger room with a balcony and lovely view of olive groves, windswept palms and orange blossoms.

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