Location: Whitby, Ontario, Canada

Born in Malta but in Canada since age 5. Has written three books and presently does several columns about wine and food for various magazines.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Day Five: July 2nd 2012: Portugal's Past Leads To A Delicious Meal

The ride to the medieval village of Monsaraz was reasonably mundane. The two  lane, road wound its way through the sun burnt fields of yellow and brown. The village appeared high on a hill bearing proudly its presence. The road started to climb and climb.
We reached the summit ( or almost the summit) where we parked our Peujeux wagon and took in the view. What a view it was! Below us as the Alentejian Plain complete with waterways ----a mixture of colours: blue, brown, yellow, green and red. Nature was the artist and the human hand could not have done any better. Pictures were taken and our attention was then turned to the village wall behind us.
Like most of its kind, it was a walled city complete with all the amenities of life. The one thing was that the streets were so narrow that I made sure to park the vehicle outside the gate and we walked in. Walking was not such a problem as the walled village was small and all of it was easily accessible.  
Once inside we found a piece of living history since the preservation of the ancient place was so complete. The “eye” would fall on beautifully formed door-ways, walls lined dazzling displays of floral colour of red and pink from various bushes, old balconies from the 17th and 18th centuries, cobbled streets, Gothic portals and towers and of course the ever present wall that lined the village were there---much as they were so many hundreds of years ago. All this was against a backdrop of dazzling “whitewash white”. 
The village itself looked over the Alentejian plain and every so often as we walked, we would get a glimpse of the land below. Steps leading up to the top of the ramparts led to an even more spectacular view from a height of about fifty feet above the level of the village floor.
Quiet was the rule and the walls, village houses and streets seemed to absorb the sounds of everyday life thus making the silence more profound. The silence would be broken once in awhile by the muffled sound of a vehicle or the resonating sounds of footsteps on the cobble stones.
There were small curio shops and some artsy types to keep collectors happy but generally speaking the whole village was as it seemed to have been many years in the past.
One place that I came to enjoy was a restaurant near the main gate called “Xerez”. Located just to the right as one came in, the restaurant offered a number of local dishes one of which the “Bacalhau Xerez” I particularly enjoyed. It consisted of well cooked codfish, potatoes, vegetables and possibly flour. All I can say is that it was delicious and only wished that the others enjoyed their food as much as I did. Not to say that they didn’t but as far as I was concerned a sandwich did not measure up to a fine , fine fish meal.
We ended our visit by meeting a very gregarious Canadian who came to live in Portugal with his family. He was from Vancouver and had actually not been to Vila Vicosa where he and they were going next.
For us it was back to the farm and an end to a fun day.
End of Day Five