Meet Serpa! Small town Alentejo at it’s very finest. You may think I’m leading a slothful life, induced by food, wine and intoxicating sunshine, here in the Algarve, but I do occasionally stir myself to take you somewhere special.
It’s an easy whizz up the IC27 from Castro Marim, on a switchback road of magnificent views. Suddenly you reach the extremity of the Algarve, glide across the border and hit a narrow country road. Straights, twists and turns, endless eucalyptus trees, nesting storks and lazy cows. Almost no people, and often you can see for miles, beyond an isolated farmhouse. This is rural Alentejo. A searing hot place in Summer, but a good place to be on a sunny Spring day. Skirting around Mertola, a right turn and gentle persistence (known as N265) will bring you to sleepy Serpa.
Don’t you love these heroically gnarled olive trees? Following signs to the historic quarter, I note the unusual chimney pots. Narrow streets, with deep pools of shade, cutting off the sun’s glare, are very typical of this region.
It’s always a surprise to step out of the shadows into the magnificense of Praca da Republica. Bathed in sunlight, the grey and white loses its solemnity. Meanwhile Cafe Alentejano dispenses food to all comers, especially when it’s lunchtime for those in the grandiose council offices. I recline, with wine, happily adjusted to this pace of life, and then nonchalantly wander, pausing to appreciate window delights.
Steeped in history, Serpa dates back to the pre-Roman era and has, at various times, been occupied by Celts, Romans, Moors and the Spanish. Just 30 kilometres away, Beja (known to the Romans as Pax Julia) was their southern capital of Lusitania. Near to the Guadiana river and the border with Spain, Serpa was a defensive stronghold, belying its current peaceful nature.
Leaving the square, I’m confronted by the bell tower of a church and a mighty flight of steps. Mounting them, I am level with the rooftops.
But the surprises don’t end there. Turn a corner, and how about this for a castle entrance?
A nervous glance overhead and I’m into the castle forecourt and gazing around. Plinths display remnants of gleaming stone frieze and a flight of steps leads tantalisingly aloft. Since I was here last work has been carried out to make the castle walls more accessible (including a lift). I climb with mounting excitement until, finally…. I can see for miles!
The castle keep was damaged by Spanish invasion, and in 1295, following the Reconquista, King D. Dinis ordered the reconstruction of the castle and a walled fortification. These were added to in 17th century. I stay up there for a long time, examining each and every angle, entranced by all that I can see. Can you spot my final destination?
Eventually the aqueduct lures me off the wall. I can really do no better than let Becky tell you all about it. She and her husband are enthusiasts.
My idea of a grand day out, I hope you’ve enjoyed it. Our road home through the Alentejo was enhanced by a brief visit to Mina de S. Domingo, with it’s striking church and lakeside walks. An adventure for another day.
It’s a stormy prospect in the Algarve this week. Part of me hopes that it won’t disrupt tomorrow’s challenging walk, but part of me won’t mind if it does. Becoming lazy in my old age! Not sure if I will share a walk with you next week as I’m off to the lovely city of Jerez on Wednesday. When I return I’ll only have a few days left in the Algarve, and plan to enjoy them. Meantime, thanks to all my contributors. It must be time to get that kettle on and settle in for a good read.
Starting our walks with Anabel this week. A little damp but lots of diversions :
You could say that Jackie has a fondness for food, as well as sunshine :
Lady Lee loves both of those. This is a wonderfully colourful post :
It’s a white world, in Irene’s eyes, whichever way you look at it :
Something completely different from Geoff (and his Dad) :
And from my lovely friend, Drake, who recently lost his Dad :
Becky’s walk last week ended in tears, or certainly a great degree of discomfort. Hope you’re back to normal, Robert!
Staggeringly beautiful in the sunlight, join Carol, Down Under :
Eunice was losing sleep over this one. Last Drop Village sounds tempting :
That’s it from me, for now. Take good care, and join me soon for another Jo’s Monday walk!