The moment I have been waiting for finally arrived. It feels like contentment mixed with a dose of comfortable familiarity, and a splash of old world wonder. This is the Portugal I imagined.
At home in Seattle last winter the New York Times travel section fell onto my lap and sun-drenched images of Portugal with it’s rustic, old-world promise of simpler times, charmed me into turning our travel plans upside down. In my fantasy of this place, it wasn’t just a landscape, but a feeling the land would evoke. I pictured the warmth of the late summer summer tinged with the crisp, dryness of fall. I pictured falling leaves, heavy loaves of bread, knarly old olive trees, wide-open landscape, intense blue sky, starry nights, dry earthy wines, white-washed stone villages on craggy hillsides, castles high overlooking the land they keep. I imagined good food simply prepared.
I had found elements of my vision all over Portugal, but today, in this place, it became all that and more. We are camped at a farm just around the hill from Castelo de Vide. Sitting outside our little yellow tent, we watch the sun set over the plains sprinkled with olives and cork oaks below. This land is baked by summer suns, but we are gifted with autumn warmth that remains cool in the shadows. It is perhaps the quality of the air that most of all fullfills my expectations.
Today we bicycled to the mountain-top fortress of Marvao – a picture perfect ride rolling easily through the landscape before the final burst to the top. Unemcombered by our panniers, it was more like sailing and we arrived at the top giddy rather than exhausted and marvel at the world that lay at our feet. The view in all directions – Spain just a few kilometers in the distance, the river Tejo bound by mountains to the north, the wide alentejo plains to the West.
Coasting down the mountain and back to Castle de Vide and a mid-day meal of roast goat and potatoes. It’s robust, earthy flavors completing the sensory delights of the day.