As I’m slowly wrapping up my Portugal sojourn, a feeling of melancholy creeps up. Feeling the saudade before I even left… Have I turned Portuguese in just three months?
I spent this past weekend exploring the province of Alentejo. It could be because it was the last in a series of weekend escapes or because it is truly extraordinary but Alentejo turned out to be the highlight of all my recent short trips in Portugal.
We stayed in a rural tourism just 100km east of Lisbon, outside the town of Montemor-O-Novo. The place was absolutely stunning, on every level imaginable. With all the comforts of an upscale rustic home (no TVs, which was so refreshing!), yet with a warmth and intimacy of a friend’s country house, Monte do Chora Cascas is a truly special place. Even though we drove out to explore other parts of Alentejo, such as the beaches and towns of the southwest coast (Porto Covo, Vila Nova de Milfontes, and Zambujeira do Mar); the whitewashed town of Évora; and the “marble town” of Estremoz, we would return to Monte do Chora Cascas as if coming back home.
The two three-course dinners we had there, prepared by a unique and charming Bulgarian lady called Valentina, were so absolutely delicious that I get hungry just thinking of them. I even got attached to the house dogs, which hardly ever happens to me! I can only speak of Monte do Chora Cascas in superlatives.
As for the rest of Alentejo, it struck me as the most beautiful, genuine, unpretentious and definitely the least developed part of Portugal. I hope it remains so.