Sunday, 24 April 2016

Back on the Adventure Trail. Part Two: Finding a Gem in the Central Portuguese Mountains.

I am horrified  to see that it is two weeks since my last post but there was a good reason.
My last post asked, 'Is it feasible?' Were our plans to trek one hundred and fifty miles into Central Portugal a step too far, or could we make it work?

It certainly was and we certainly did but not without a few fun and games in the Lisbon sunshine. More on that later.

Quinta da Pedra Grande.

We were to head towards the historic village of Monsanto built among the boulders of the granite mountain/hill.(take the N239 and follow signs for Relva/ Monsanto) The Quinta da Pedra Grande on the outskirts of Relva village was ideal with easy access off the N239 on the road to Monsanto. Monsanto itself we had decided was too steep for us – reviews are an excellent way to make informed decisions. The images for the Quinta showed the accommodation to be in newly restored farm buildings. And the price was a good one.   Leaving the motorway from Lisbon near Castelo Branco and taking the N233 and N239 we followed the Relva/Monsanto sign off the N239. We had thought that we may have to turn off this road and go up a track to the Quinta. But no, rounding a corner we found that the imposing gates were right by the road, wide open and waiting to welcome us.

We also received a warm welcome and nothing was too much trouble for Olga. Our room, in the building by the road - our window was level with the road but interior shutters protected our privacy - was furnished to a high standard with everything top quality. Beds and pillows were comfortable; bathroom was large, the windows had shutters inside for privacy. Breakfast was substantial with scrambled eggs and bacon to accompany the usual continental style breakfast.  Importantly, Wi-Fi had a secure connection – a different one for different buildings. The huge dining /lounge/TV area across the courtyard/terrace was enhanced with an inglenook stone fireplace where a log fire burned brightly each morning. A welcome sight on a chilly early spring morning. It was an unusually wet April.

The undulating grounds are extensive with parts of the gardens under ongoing planting. The not-so-early morning cuckoo announced its presence very forcefully as it sang in the early morning sunshine. Standing on the terrace admiring the flowers and trees, we had an uninterrupted view across the distant mountains which surround the area.

Relva village,
In  the mountains. Silent with birds chirruping in the trees.
The walk from Quinta da Pedro Grande was easy, slightly uphill, but pleasant in the early evening air with birds tweeting in the trees, A dog came out of nowhere to play. In the large cobbled square, all was quiet. Not much sign of life. Outside one bar a man started to cook, adding all sorts to a pan over coals
 As you round a corner from the Quinta, the sight of the Bar Joven greets you. From the outside it appeared dark inside but it was welcoming. Simple. Men drinking at the bar. A man’s place. It was  early. After a huge midday meal we just wanted a snack. The barman spoke in French and offered 'fromage, jambon'(cheese and ham).  All easily understood. We enjoyed a  pleasant snack and so cheap. Amazing. The barman a small thin man who spoke French naturally. The TV was blaring away - as usual with a game show. The sandwich with fromage- cheese – on wonderful  fresh bread filled a gap left by a lunch not totally consumed The local wine of course was wonderful as we had come to expect. 
All in all, the Quinta Da Pedra Grande is a ‘spot-on’ location for exploring this stunning and peaceful sleepy part of Portugal. I was entranced by the clumps of deep purple wild Lavender (called Rosemary here), yellow broom, yellow lupins and a type of rock rose with white flowers called ‘tears of Christ’ which grew in great profusion along the hedgerows and in the fields.
More on out and about in the surrounding area in Part Three of this article.
 Rosalie  xx
Photos copyright Rosalie Marsh


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