First impressions of Portugal (Alentejo, Portugal)

We arrive in Portugal late in the afternoon. The next day it is raining so it’s perfect for me to sit in my aunt’s lounge room and work. My first impressions of Portugal will have to wait until my third day in the country. But what a lot of impressions I get.

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Like the rest of this European trip, Portugal’s urban landscape is dominated by churches, both big and small. But churches here are unique in that they are generally white; sometimes painted with the typical blue, yellow or pink borders that I will come to associate with this small country to the west of Spain.

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We visit tiny villages with cobblestoned or paved streets and whitewashed walls. Borders around doors and windows make the villages seem bright and cheery, even when they are run down.

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And run down many places are. This is a poor country and not everyone has the money to maintain their properties.

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My aunt explains that there is a market in every village. It’s usually a few locals selling vegetables, fruits and fish that they’ve grown or caught. The markets are small and have been enclosed in small halls near the village centers. It’s a great place to buy cheap fresh produce and support the local economy.

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A windmill catches our attention. It’s short and fat like the ones we saw in Vejer de Frontera. But can be differentiated by the blue borders.

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Nearby is a castle and old church. Castles and forts will become a common theme in Portugal too. Had I realised this, I might have come here sooner for I love a good castle and even enjoy a ruined one.

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I’m making the most of Mum still being here with some fun photo ops.

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A fishing port presents a change of pace. But it’s a natural place to go in a country with a long sea-facing coast line. There’s piles of nets and stacks of squid traps. Fishermen repair and sort gear while boats in various states of repair and disrepair bob in the water or sit on shore.

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The fishermen here are thrifty and creative. Instead of buying poles for their buoys they use sticks salvaged from the woods.

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Cats have colonised the port. They laze around in the sun as though kings of the terrain. Many have blue eyes and thick coats, rather than being the usual skinny mangy green eyed cats that usually live in places like this. A lady is feeding some of the felines, which is probably why most look so good.

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We visit Vasco de Gama. He was only my favourite explorer during primary school history lessons. I don’t remember the first thing about him except that he was my favourite. I even liked him better than Marco Polo, who did run a close second.
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We end our day at the beach, rounding out an almost complete first impression of the sights Portugal has to offer. The beach we go to has gravelly sand. The colours pop in the late afternoon sun.

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There are a few shells around. Just the right amount to provide some interest. The shells are delicate and pretty. This one reflects the colours of some of the houses.

Over the coming days I will become better acquainted with the Alentejo region of Portugal. It’s a beautiful area and has all the things I most like when I travel. Today’s journey was just a taste of things to come (subsequent posts will include place names).

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