Jo’s Monday walk : Santiago do Cacém

‘Where shall we go for our anniversary, hon?’  Greeted with the usual shrug and ‘anywhere you want’.  After 31 years I know he doesn’t mean this literally, and current circumstances are such that even I hesitated to suggest anywhere too exciting.  Chicago, Japan and the Isles of Scilly passed fleetingly through my mind, before I settled on a more practical choice, the Alentejo.  Not too far, in driving terms, from our Algarve home, and much of it, for us, still uncharted territory.

The Troia peninsula, just south of Setúbal, holds great appeal, but it’s high summer and the beach hotels are expensive and likely too busy.  So, pointing my nose in that general direction, I settled on slightly obscure but potentially interesting, Santiago do Cacém.  A castle and a church, perched high on a hill.  What could be better….?  Yes, that was the spouse’s reaction when he saw the height of the hill in question.  But we started slowly, chancing upon the TI, beautifully located in gardens, and with an adjoining café.

I freely admit that I had little idea of what else there might be to see, but the gentleman in the TI was very helpful.  We had already passed signs for the Roman ruins of Miróbriga, on the outskirts of town. Time to start a gentle ascent to the castle.  There’s nothing I like better than a meander through quirky streets of crumbling houses, shored up by their smart neighbours, and with a smattering of compelling street art.

A towering pink fire station, dangling laundry, a neglected church with chorus of cherubs and Manueline doorway, a square with pelourinho (or pillory) and magnificently rusted door handles.  Not a bad haul for a couple of streets.  And the tiny courtyard with the shrine to a beloved pet.

So many distractions, I had scarcely noticed the gradient of our climb but finally we reached the Castelo de Santiago do Cacém, built by the Moors.

Originally the castle had 10 square towers and semi-cylindrical turrets, externally defended by a barbican, some of which have survived.  The ancient church of Santiago is integrated into the south east wall.  I had forgotten that the castle, abandoned in the 1700s, had become the town’s cemetery in the 19th century.  Glancing through the archway I saw the tombs and hesitated, not wanting to be disrespectful.  The palace and gardens of the Condes de Avillez adjoin the castle, and for a while I wandered in their atmospheric shade.

Then realisation dawned, and we entered the grounds of the ruined castle.

Rarely have I been in a more serene and lovely place.  I wandered among the tombstones, marveling at the details, and then climbed to the castle walls.  A solitary caretaker was busy removing and tidying, and gave us a cheery wave.

Reluctantly I made my way back through the stone archway, but there was another treat to come.  The door to the Santiago Church was ajar, and I stepped quietly inside.  A lovely young woman beamed at me and gestured that I should come in and enjoy the beautiful surrounds.

The gilded wood carvings told of hours of craftsmanship.  We exchanged smiles again, behind our masks, complicit in our appreciation.  Heading downhill, there was still a colourful surprise in store.  An art gallery, maybe?  I wasn’t sure.

I hope you enjoyed today’s wander.  We had the best view from a hotel room that I can remember in quite some time, and we made it to the top of the hill.  Next week I’ll take you to Miróbriga and the Roman ruins.

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Thanks again everyone, for the appreciation and for keeping me company on my rambles.  Not too many walks to share this week, so please find time to visit.  And if you have a walk you’d like to share, feel free!

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Another week gone.  Halfway through an Algarve summer, where I sometimes feel the need to escape the heat.  Santiago do Cacém was rather a lovely place to do it.  Have a good week and see you next time!

140 comments

  1. What a delightful walk Jo – I feel like I could have been there myself. Such a beautiful place with the charming buildings, the colours, the castle and the church. How poignant the shrine to a beloved pet too. Belated happy anniversary to you both! xx

  2. A belated but heartfelt happy anniversary to you both. Your walk shows that a town doesn’t have to be famous to provide immense pleasure and beauty. I definitely enjoyed your walk.

  3. RJo – How did I miss this?!! And what a lovely visit to celebrate your anniversary. Those photos really sparkle, and the walk just kept offering one treat after another. The digital picture frame on my shelf is flashing photos of our visit to Portugal, and I am sitting here missing the allure of travel, but you made it just a bit easier with your walk. Many thanks – Susan

    1. We liked it very much, hon. We were torn between here and Alcacer do Sal but liked this better though the situation of the other is interesting. 🙂 🙂 Missed you yesterday. Preps in full swing?

      1. Good to know . . .and yes juggling crazy amount at moment. Today though i am trying to have a blogging catch up as I miss you all lots! All being well will be back next Saturday

  4. This was a total delight, Jo, wandering with you on this adventurous walk filled with surprises around every corner. Your photos, so plentiful, were a great joy to behold, quirkiness and elegance and richly historical. Many artful angles, too. I liked this line in your narrative because it so demonstrates you: “There’s nothing I like better than a meander through quirky streets of crumbling houses, shored up by their smart neighbours, and with a smattering of compelling street art.” Thanks so much for taking us with you on this romantic celebration — and congratulations!

    1. It’s always good to have an appreciative audience, Jet, and though I know you have more time on your hands than usual, I do very much appreciate you spending it with me. Thanks so much! I suppose the good thing about your current situation is your imagination will have time to go a-wandering. Another book in progress? 🙂 🙂

  5. This really was just recently? I am envious…I miss traveling so much. We aren’t even trying an overnight in our area yet, because the virus is still too prevalent. So this was a real treat, with those impossibly clear, blue skies (which by now you are totally used to), the fabulous old buildings and all the rest. All beautiful! And Happy Anniversary! 🙂

    1. Thanks so much, Lynn. 🙂 🙂 Yes, the anniversary was 12th August. We weren’t sure if we should go, but it’s a peaceful corner of the Alentejo, a couple of hours drive from ours, and we decided that the hotel would appreciate the trade. They are working so hard to keep things spotlessly clean and reduce risks. So far this part of the world hasn’t been greatly affected and the economy, which is seasonal and all tourism, has been decimated. Of course, the worst could happen with the return of tourists but there is only so long you can put your life on hold.

  6. Lovely walk Jo. Happy anniversary too, 31 years is pretty impressive. That’s Pearl Plus One isn’t it? Some wonderful photos of the walk especially the cemetery ones, we love an old cemetery. Really interesting places.

  7. What a charming walk! It did not seem a bit crowded. There was so much to take in. I enjoyed the murals, too. I love your photos shooting through the shapes of doors and tunnels. Very artistic. 🙂

    1. Hi, Marsha 🙂 🙂 Thanks very much! I always enjoy putting the story together. There never seems to be enough time for the follow up though. I must be enjoying life here too much!

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