One of the best parts of any travel adventure is the food. Portugal has been a revelation for great cuisine and wine. I am travelling in the Alentejo region of the country which is considered the ‘bread basket’ of Portugal. The produce and meat are fresh and tasty. The people here in the Alentejo region also make a numerous varieties of cheese and small goods and produce some very fine wine as well.
I had the pleasure of dining in a lovely little restaurant in Vila Viçosa where I got to try some very tasty local produce and dishes.
Our party chose amongst three starters which included - a simple but delicious mix of roasted red and green peppers; baked cheese with oregano; and the local standard of scrambled eggs with green asparagus and herbs. The scrambled eggs are on nearly every menu in the Alentejo region and are a very hearty start to a meal.
For the mains, our group chose the ever popular cod (this time in a pie), grilled octopus and lastly grilled, herb-encrusted lamb chops. As we are travelling in springtime, lamb is plentiful. The Alentejo region is currently holding a lamb fiesta with most restaurants in the area featuring this beautiful meat with the arrival of spring.
For days, I had been wanting to try the standard Portuguese dessert of roasted apple in port. In Vila Viçosa, I finally got my chance and I was not disappointed. It was served beautifully warm, which was greatly appreciated on a cold evening. The middle of the apple had been hollowed out and filled with port (which is made primarily in the north of the country around Porto). The port-infused apple was accompanied by small dollops of whipped cream. The dessert did not disappoint. It was delicious right down to the last drop of port on my plate.
My dinner companions opted for more traditional desserts. I got to try the chocolate pudding - it was warm, moist and delicious. Although I did not try the cheesecake, it was eaten with relish after its recipient announced rather emphatically that she doesn’t share dessert. It looked, and apparently was, scrumptious. :)
Evora is an historical city with a long history of Celtic, Roman and Moorish settlement. We arrive in Evora after a pleasant ride through the rolling countryside, plentiful in cork trees and wildflowers. The pousada in which we are staying is an old convent. My room is marked as a “Cell 106”. Flashback to the convict country that I call home - Australia. :)
Our pousada is located next to the old Roman ruin - the Temple of Diana. In the afternoon we visit the grand Evora cathedral and the famous Capela do Ossoa - the Chapel of Bones. It is as it sounds - a chapel made entirely of human bones. The monks that built the chapel created it as a reminder of our humanity. Rich or poor, we are all the same. We are born, we die, and all we leave as our legacy is the memories we give to others and our bones.
Life on the road is always special and never more so when you are traversing the countryside by bicycle. A few days ago, I started a cycling journey across Portugal with a boutique cycle touring company, Cycling Country, who operate tours in Spain, Portugal and soon France. We are largely travelling smaller backroads, staying in small villages in the pousadas that dot the Portuguese countryside. We started in Lisbon with a walking tour and later that day, I was lucky enough to get to the Lisbon Fish and Wine festival, where I sampled some fabulous seafood and a great deal of Portuguese wine.
Over the past first few days we traversed from the Atlantic coast inland to Alácer do Sal and then a leisurely 90km ride to Arraiolos where we spent the night in a 16th century convent.