Saturday, May 31, 2014


First impressions: The pastoral Alentejo plain, full of olive groves and vineyards, conifers, spanish broom awash in yellow blossoms, purple thistle, and a surprising number of rivers. Next to no cars on the highway, very peaceful.

Tourism wins: Our hotel, the Convento do Espinheiro, is solidly in the top 3 places I've ever stayed anywhere in the world. Simply put, it is exquisite. A repurposed 15th century convent, it has history, mysticism, stunning architecture, divine food, olive groves, a spa, and perfect service. It was not cheap, but truly was worth it and we would go back in a heartbeat. Shame we only stayed one night.

Fails: We encountered seriously frigid weather in Évora, a surprise for late May. I was totally unprepared and froze my butt off in the rain and wind as we wandered around the city.

If you go there do this: Visit the Capela dos Ossos. Words fail to describe the impact of this 16th century chapel whose walls are entirely covered in bones.

Food and drink highlights: A 3-course dinner at the Convento do Espinheiro, easily the best meal we had in Portugal. We had scallops, squid, cuttlefish, branzino, lamb, and an assortment of eggy desserts.

Interesting observations: There are stork nests everywhere! In small colonies on high voltage transmission towers, on church steeples, and yes, on top of people's chimneys (how else are babies delivered in the Alentejo, right?). The white stork has a massive migration range, extending from South Africa to India to Estonia to Portugal. You can read more about these fascinating birds here.

A selection of photos below...

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