We’re coming towards the end of our winter residency, and so over the past few days our focus has been walks around the immediate area. Yesterday though we headed north to explore a little bit more of Alentejo. If you enjoy driving, then what I am about to describe is probably perfect for you as the roads are virtually empty, there are twisty stretches and straight, and the views incredible.
Our trip began as I have described before, on the N2. Initially it will be the fabulous views behind you that capture your attention of the Algarve and back towards the Atlantic, but as you move further and further inland into the Serra do Caldeirão you will be drawn to the hills which seem to roll on forever in front of you, before you suddenly find yourself on the high plains and straight roads.
Our original plan had been for a coffee in Almodôvar, and lunch in Mértola, but we had a late start from Olhão, and so it was lunchtime by the time we arrived in Almodôvar.
There has apparently been million pound investments in tourism in the locality over the past few years, with a focus on nature tourism. Whilst we did pass the odd village that clearly had holiday homes, there was nothing too evident even in the town. We half thought about keeping going as the drive through the high plains is easy, but fortunately we decided to listen to our stomachs and stop in Almodôvar for lunch. The place we chose is just on the right as you come over the main bridge into the town.
It was an incredible lunch. There were three dishes of the day; all regional, all less than 8euros and the two we tried – Ensopado de borrego and De favas de alentejo – were absolutely delicious.
Ensopado de borrego is a lamb bread soup andDe favas de alentejo consists, as you can see above, of broad beans with black pork. The portions were on the large size, and both dishes very rich but with salad and a long lunch, they were scrumptious. We will be definitely stopping here again on our next Alentejo expedition. After lunch we took a went for a quick stroll before getting back in the car and heading east.
The drive was slow, not because of the road but because of the birdlife. There is so much up here that you can easily spot the Cattle Egrets, Hoopoes and Bee Eaters as you drive along. It was the sounds in eucalyptus avenues that really caught my attention – flocks of sparrows/finches (we’ve yet to identify) in nests. I have taken a video but had a slight misadventure with the delete button. As soon as I sort I’ll post it. In meanwhile let’s continue the drive.
At Mértola we turned right and headed south back to the Algarve; and noticed almost immediately that the road was slightly busier. There was another car every 5minutes rather than every 15! Alentejo and the north of the Algarve are very unpopulated, and most tourists head for the beaches and golf courses. If like us though you enjoy walking and/or observing wildlife you will be in your element in these areas.
Even from the car it is easy, and again we (and we noticed others doing the same) kept stopping to watch the birdlife. I also could not resist taking photographs of the flora and fauna. On our next trip we will probably take a picnic as there are some beautiful places to stop, there again we might just have to stop and sample yet more of Alentejo’s fabulous dishes.