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Saturday, 6 March 2010

Easy as 123

Australians often have a winning, no-nonsense way of summing up a situation; travelling around this part of Portugal, Mike and Theresa have introduced us to the ABC, Another Bloody Castle. This Portuguese-Spanish border is dotted with castles and fortified towns; they are all spectacular, but after a visiting a few you can be forgiven for deciding to skip one or two, particularly when it is raining.

Monsaraz is an exception that is not to be missed; a beautiful fortified village and castle in a lofty setting above the Barragem de Alqueva, Europe’s largest reservoir. Monsaraz is a picture-box village and provides fantastic views over the surrounding countryside. The reservoir, opened in 2002, was not surprisingly controversial as it flooded 200 prehistoric sites, millions of trees, habitats for Lynx and Eagles and a village. As is often the case, the economic arguments won over any concerns about the environment.

In Evora, we met up with Mike and Theresa again and shared ABC experiences. Evora is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with a Roman Temple, Medieval Walls, cobbled alleys and 16th Century mansions and most certainly on the tourist circuit. We did look around all these sights, but were most interested in the headgear people around here wear; for men, the flat cap is most common, while women sport versions of the pull on hat or headscarves. The hat shop in Evora was a serious shopping emporium and not for a giggling hat-trying-on-types like us, so we only gazed in through the window.

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