Friday, 26 February 2016
Cruise and Land Tour in Portugal - July 3rd/2015....
Leaving Lisbon, we drove south to the Serra de Arrabida Mountains - a Natural Park covers much of it. The park covers the small range of limestone mountains which stretch east-west along the coast between Sesimbra and Setubal. It was established to protect the wild, beautiful landscape and the rich variety of birds and wildlife, including eagles, wildcats, and badgers. The sheltered, south-facing slopes are thickly covered with aromatic and evergreen shrubs and trees such as pine and cypress, more typical of the Mediterranean. If allowed to grow uninterrupted and continuously, the shrubs will become as large as trees.
The first stop was in Setubal. The tour guide had a specific purpose for stopping here - the farmers market which has won international awards, especially for its wide variety of fish.
Leziria Plain of Ribatejo - this stop at a Horse Ranch turned out to be very interesting. We were given the following information regarding the Lusitano - a prehistoric breed which goes back tens-of-thousands of years. They bring these horses along slowly - for the first three years of their lives, they are put out to pasture and then they begin to ride and train them. By six years of age, they have turned completely white from their initial dark colors and, unlike other horses, the Lusitano can move sideways. When asked about the relationship between the Lusitanos and the Lipizzaners in the Spanish Riding School in Vienna - the farm owners said the Lusitanos turned into Lipizzaners after the six-year period for turning white. The value of these horses ranged from about $20,000 for mixed breeds to about $80,000 for the pure-bred Lusitano.
While at the farm, we were told an interesting story - the founder of the farm was a Mr. Jacinto, and King Carlos I and his wife Amelia visited the farm to buy horses. During the King’s stay, Mr. Jacinto and the Queen had an affair. Mr. Jacinto was so deeply affected by the affair, and the impossibility of continuing it, that he grew a long beard and became a recluse for the rest of his life. They emphasized that this was a true story, but not in any history book.
Lunch was included, and was served at the main house on the horse farm. There was the usual olives and hearty bread - we started with pumpkin soup; the main course was a chicken and vegetable stew with rice; and the dessert was a custard flan. The wine was unlimited and a soft drink of cucumbers, mint, and lemon in iced tea was available in pitchers on the table.
We stayed at the Pestana Vila Sol Spa and Golf Resort in Vilamoura - a very nice resort. There were rooms in the main building and individual townhouse-type cabins. - I had a very nice room in the cabins. We stayed at this resort for two nights.
We went to downtown Vilamoura along the docks. Many boats and yachts were moored in the docks, and there were many restaurants and tourist shops lining the wharf.
We had an included dinner at the Mariscada restaurant. There were the usual olives and bread and some appetizers - deep-fried fish fritters, cheese, smoked ham. I selected their fish soup; the main course was a fish stew with shrimp, cod, oysters, crab, mussels and monk fish (which is a substitute for lobster) and potatoes. The wine was unlimited, and they also served an almond liquor with a slice of lemon. Dessert was a cake slice topped with almonds and caramel.
Photos belong to Phil Bianco.