Portugal, like the rest of Europe, has history everywhere. We’ve always known this, but our stint in Oz has made it all the more apparent. Historical tourist attractions in Oz are things like the first graffiti, a date and initials carved into rock on Garden Island in 1788, or a village that hasn’t been completely rebuilt 30 times since its foundation in the early 1800s. They are interesting, often beautiful but few and far between. Then again you don’t come to Oz for the history (unless you are a palentologist). You come for sun, beaches, great food and wine, beautiful countryside, a great lifestyle, the wonderful mix of cultures……. Etc etc…..
So being in an environment of castles, medieval towns, Roman ruins and a landscape that tells a story of centuries of farming feels very special. J and I were lucky enough to travel relatively frequently when we lived here and also spent time living on the continent, but I really don’t think we fully appreciated the amazing history around us. If you still live in Europe, travel as often as you can.
We Left the medieval/Roman town of Evora and traveled to Castelo de Vide, a couple of hours North East and checked into a Quinta (farm stay) a few km outside the town.
Our fall from the luxury of the Olive wasn’t too far and the Quinta was set amongst lavender fields, had a lovely pool, and a lovely room. They also had home made Ginja. I really like Ginja,
We arrived late afternoon so popped into town had a quick wander and a beer, the brought snacks for an evening picnic by the pool (in a supermarket that made Balmain Woolworths look good for my UK friends, Woolworths is a supermarket in Oz, a bit like tescos. It not the home of pic’n’ mix, and cheap shit that we all grew up with).
For the second night running we found ourselves enjoying wine and snacks, watching the sun go down and feel very, very fortunate.
After my morning run (up another steep, cobbled bloody shitty twatish bloody hill and a lovely breakfast, we left early as we had two fortified towns and one castle to visit. The first being Castelo de Vide, the second being Marvao and the last being Castelo de Almoural before arriving at Tomar, about 2hrs to the North West.
In all three, we noted a few things. Firstly, there are so many historical things around, even a 12 century castle may not warrant any real tourist infrastructure. The castle in Castelo de Vide was pretty much left to it’s own devices: no entrance fee but very little information or upkeep. Secondly, health and safety isn’t really a thing in many places. In some ways this is refreshing, especially if you live in Oz where it is very much a thing, and In many ways, too much of a thing. However, if you are a man rather intimidated by heights (or as the Royal Marine instructor said on my unit expedition leaders course, shortly after I had to unstick my limbs from a rock I had become far too attached to on the Aonach Eagach Ridge ‘you have a strong desire to ensure your own safety), being high up on a wall with nothing between you and certain death other than the chance to say ‘fuuuuuuuuuuuck’ on the way down, sucks. I spent a reasonable amount of time ‘very focused’ as we explored the various places and had to dig deep to maintain my dignity in front of J.
All that said, all three are most definitely worth a visit for their history , their location, the views and their beauty.
The last is a small castle set on the river, only accessible by boat. The principal reason it is only accessible by boat is the obvious lack of desire to build a small bridge over the 10ft gap between the mainland and the castles island, which I can only assume is to control entry, to differentiate between this castle and everyone else’s castles and to keep grumpy old men employed as ferry boat drivers.
It was also a place where something happened that may well have lasting consequences on my life. Most people that know me will know that I am as keen on wasps as I am of heights and I flap around like an octopus’s shirt drying on a line in a hurricane if one of the black and yellow bastards comes close to me. Despite, or because of this behaviour, I have only been stung twice. Once on a holiday in Peebles Hydro in about 1978 and once whilst sitting by a pool in Argentina during our last adventure in 2008. On this occasion, I think a wasp had been having a drink of pool water from my belly button as I dried off after I had been swimming and had been caught between rolls of tummy as I sat forward. My hate and sympathy for the little bastard came in equal measure. Whilst I remember the incidents I don’t really remember any significant pain and I think my fear of them comes from my father, who used to swell up like a very angry balloon if he got stung. Anyway, as a stood on the battlements of ….. castle looking along the river, one of the Bogans/Chavs of the insect world stung me just above my knee for no other reason than shits and giggles…… and nothing really happened. It hurst a little at the time, itched and went hard for a few days, but that’s it. Is this the same for everyone?. So now I am going to try to be a man, and forget 48 years of instinctive behaviour and be less of a kitten. We shall see.
The theory will be tested in the next stop: Tomar
Castelo de Vide to Castelo Almoural