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Eastern Algarve Adventures

Spring has arrived here in Southern Portugal and we are so happy to wake up every day to sunshine and warmth after what the locals say was an extremely cold winter. There are zero complaints coming from us about weather though, as we felt like we dodged a bullet by not being in California this winter!

We have done a reasonably good job of exploring the Eastern Algarve, checking out almost all of coastal towns in our immediate area. One of our favorite things to do is to go someplace new, walk around and explore a bit, then have lunch. We've started calling ourselves 'The Lynch's who Lunch', a twist on SNL's the 'Ladies who Lunch' and a bit of call out to our friend, Peter, who introduced me to the term.

A little bit about the geography of the Eastern Algarve, which is very different from the colorful, rocky cliffs of the western Algarve. The town of Vila Real Santo Antionio (VRSA)marks the most southeastern part of Portugal and is located where the Guadiana River meets the Atlantic Ocean. The Guadiana provides the border between Portugal and Spain for about 30 miles. Heading west from VRSA, there is a long wide stretch of beach (~13 miles) with a few smallish towns, including the one we are at, Manta Rota. A few miles west of us, an estuary called the Ria Formosa starts and runs west all the way to Faro and a bit beyond.

The Ria Formosa is a bit like the waterways around Ocean City, MD or the Outer Banks of NC. Barrier islands with huge stretches of beautiful beaches on the ocean side, inlets here and there providing access to the inland waterways and the rivers that feed the Ria Formosa. But unlike Ocean City and the Outer Banks, most of these barrier islands have little or no buildings on them. The towns are all built on the mainland side and you typically have to take a ferry or water taxi over the barrier island to get to the ocean beaches.

In addition to checking out our immediate area, we also had a couple of road trips. Our first one was to visit with Brett's step-dad, Rich and to see how his Portugal dream was coming along. His place is in the middle of Portugal, relatively close to the Spanish border and he's named it the 'Wild Jardim'. He bought a beautiful plot of land with a couple of ruins on it in early 2019, with plans to rebuild the ruins for his own home and for rental units. We visited with him in October of 2019 and couldn't get our heads around the enormity of his task. On this visit, we found his progress has been nothing short of amazing. He has done almost all of the work himself and now has a comfortable off-grid home, land cleared with walking paths all around and a separate wash house for guests. His latest project is an infinity swimming pool that he has dug out of the granite himself. He expects to have that completed along with two rental units in time for the summer. It really is inspiring to see someone work so hard to accomplish their dream.

Rich took a couple of well deserved days off from his hard labors while we were there and played tour guide instead. We visited Monsanto, a village that is literally built into the side of the mountain as well as Idanha-a-Velha, one of the oldest towns in Portugal and its first capital which got it start as the Roman headquarters for the Iberian Peninsula.

Our other road trip took us to Beja, which is about 1 1/2 hours drive north, more towards the center of Portugal. We stopped at a few interesting spots along the way: Mértola, Minas São Domingos and Serpa.

Beja is located in the Alentejo region, which is known for it's wine, cork trees and a great deal of agriculture. The drive up was really lovely, lots of rolling hills covered in spring flowers and very reminiscent of our California foothills. We made several stops along the way to take in Mértola, the Lake and mines at Mina de São Domingos and Serpa. On the way back, we stopped in the small village of Castro Verde and wondered into one of the most spectacular churches I have ever seen.

We were more than a little disappointed with Beja, as it is a World Heritage town that appears to be in great decline. The last 5 years have brought an enormous amount of immigrants to work in the main industry, agriculture. They now represent 20% of the population and it has had a very negative impact on the town. The castle was quite impressive and apparently the Palace is as well, but it was closed for renovation, so we couldn't get in. We did quite a bit of walking around the town and found it to be our least favorite place to visit so far.

Most recently, we took the ferry across the Guadiana River to Ayamonte, Spain which we both found to be very charming. The main square is really beautiful and there are many pedestrian-only streets filled with outdoor cafe's and restaurants winding through the town. Our first visit was on a Sunday and the town was really busy, we sat at a little Tapas place on the square called 'La Lola' and watched all the families enjoying the lovely day. We didn't have our Lola with us that day, so we went back again a few days later so she could visit her cafe.

We have just a few more days here in Manta Rota and then we go back to the Western Algarve to a town called Carvoeiro. Brett, Silvia, Mateo and Leo will be joining us there for a week over their Easter Holidays and I'm not sure who is more excited, them or us! We had a Skype with them a week ago and Leo started a 'count down' calendar, he's down to just 5 more sleeps before they come over. We have lots of fun things planned, a boat trip, to tour the caves, a marine based adventure park and a water slide park for our big days out. More great times ahead for the Lynch's who Lunch!

Cacela Velha - the eastern edge of the Ria Formosa.

Lola gets (sort of) a swim in the Ria Formosa - Cacela Velha

Street Side Chapel - Cacela Velha
Waiting for the tide - Ria Formosa, Cacela Velha
Ready for the Mardi Gras Parade!
Mardi Gras Parade - Altura
Lola wondering when the Mardi Gras Parade was going to end
Monsanto has an excellent defensive position
Church Matriz São Salvador - Monsanto
Monsanto Village built into the granite boulders
Rich, Lola and Con as we walk to the Top of Monsanto
Winding our way towards the top of Monsanto Village

Grotto nestled in Granite Boulders - Monsanto

Near the top of Monsanto Village looking southwest
Top of Monsanto Village looking Northwest towards the Serra da Estrela, you can just make out a bit of snow on the highest peaks in Portugal
Granite enclosures for keeping pigs - Monsanto
Above the Village, but still a ways to go to the Castle at the top of the mountain - Monsanto
Precariously perched granite boulder - Monsanto
Outer walls of the Castle - Monsanto
Almost to the top - Monsanto Castle
Outer Walls up close - Monsanto Castle
Inner Walls - Monstanto Castle
Yes, they are as steep as they look - Monsanto Castle
At the tippidy top - Monsanto Castle
Enjoyings the View - Monsanto Castle

Looking North from Monsanto Castle
Houses built around a massive boulder - Monsanto
Bell Towers - Monsanto Castle
Stone Coffins near Capela de São Miguel - Monsanto Castle
Capela de São Miguel - Monsanto Castle
Looking at Monsanto from the East - the Village is towards the bottom left and on top, you can just see the white marker which is the highest point of the Castle
Idanha-a-Velha - Portugal's first capital was originally established as the Roman headquarters for the Iberian Peninsula
Capela de São Sebastião - Idanha-a-Velha
North Gate - Idanha-a-Velha
Roman Column forefront, Matriz de Idanha-a-Velha church background
The remants of the Castle Keep - Idanha-a-Velha
Random Cyclamen growing out of granite wall - Idanha-a-Velha
Stone Coffins - Idanha-a-Velha
Mosiacs Catedral de Idanha-a-Velha

Catedral de Idanha-a-Velha

Catedral de Idanha-a-Velha
East Gate - Idanha-a-Velha
Latin Grave Marker circa. 63AD - Idanha-a-Velha
Catching the last rays of sunshine - Wild Jardim (Rich's Place)
Despite this funny face, Lola loved exploring The Wild Jardim
Another beautiful morning at the Wild Jardim
Sanlúcar de Guadiana - Spain across the Guadiana River from Alcoumin, Portugal

Guadiana River at Alcoumin, Portugal

A peak at the Castle that doesn't allow dogs - Alcoumin
File under 'Interesting but out of place' - Riverfront Alcoumin
A rare treat from the Tavira Market, they are a fairly recent invasive species. The Portuguese equivalent of Fish and Game are keeping an eye on their expansion. If they hadn't been so expensive, we would have done more to keep their numbers down!
Old Roman Bridge - Tavira
Church of São Pedro Gonçalves Telmo - originally built in 15th century, rebuilt after the 1755 earthquake - Tavira
Oil on Wood Ceiling - Church of São Pedro Gonçalves Telmo - Tavira
Close up of Ceiling in Church of São Pedro Gonçalves Telmo - Tavira
Walls of color walking up to the Castle in Tavira
Archeological digs near the Castle of Tavira
Boat Storage at Monte Gordo - there is no harbor here so they use tractors to haul the boats in and out
Beach Boardwalk - Monte Gordo

Monte Gordo

Just how long does it take you two to get ready for the beach?

Ok, it was worth the wait

Mértola Castle
Matriz de Mértola Church

Original Matriz de Mértola Church built in 12th Century as a Mosque, in 1238 it became a Christian Church. It was Rebuilt in 1532 and restored in 1950's.

East Gate - Mértola Castle
Looking towards the Keep - Mértola Castle

Mértola Castle

View of Southeast side of Mértola and Guadiana River
Mértola Castle
Mértola Castle

Minas São Domingos - Abandoned after depletion in 1966

Mine Entrance - Minas São Domingos
Quarry Lake from Open Pit Mining - Minas São Domingos

Incorporating the natural landscape into your Castle Building - Serpa
Santa Maria Church - Serpa
North Gate - Serpa
The Keep at Beja Castle - Tallest in Southern Europe
Tiled House - Beja
Street Art - Beja
Remnant of Old Town Wall - Baje
Beja Castle

Tribute to the Knights Templar - Beja Castle Keep
Ceiling in the middle room of the Keep - Beja Castle
Conrad guarding the Castle Walls - Beja
A very impressive Keep indeed - Beja Castle
Sé de Beja
Church of Mercy - built on site of an Ancient Roman Church
Basilica Real de Castro Verde
Lifesize Silver Bust of São Fabião - late 13th Century - Basilica Real de Castro Verde Museum
Alter - Basilica Real de Castro Verde
Ceiling above the Alter - Basilica Real de Castro Verde
Tiles depicting the Conquering of the Moors and first King of Portugal, Alfonso I - Basilica Real de Castro Verde
Tile work depicting imporant Christian milestones - Basilica Real de Castro Verde

Red's rules of touring Europe - If the church is open, go inside!

Wood Ceiling - Basilica Real de Castro Verde

Crossing over to Spain

Central Square - Ayamonte Spaine
Lovely Architecture - Ayamonte Spain
Lovely Architecture - Vila Real Santa Antonio
At the beach in Manta Rota - we're guessing he's a plumber when he's not taking his horse out for a beach walk!

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May 10, 2023

Wonderful! I love your photo tours!


Apr 09, 2023

Great blog Red! And wonderful photos.


Apr 02, 2023

Looks great. Hope to see you next year.

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