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You wouldn't be here if you weren't curious.*

Hi! I'm Elena! Welcome to my travel blog Creativelena.com.
For me, it is all about “life-seeing instead of sightseeing”: Join me as I create, eat & live my way around the world. Curious?

*Check out my book, “The Creative Traveler’s Handbook”, for learning more about what we mean by creative travel. Travelling means the world to me, makes me fit for everday life and sometimes, I trust, also calmer on the inside. Read this blog with a smile, share what you love and remember to check back regularly: After all, when was the last time you did something for the first time?

Alentejo for all the senses: Where to eat, sleep & stay near Lisbon in Portugal

The Alentejo region is Portugal’s largest country district and immediately serves a host of more superlatives: Richest in culture. A most beautiful landscape. Huge, simply huuuge in food. Humblest in people. And authentic beyond imagination. “Everyone is just so friendly here”: What echoes as a ripple throughout our group of international travel writers, who we have come to explore the Alentejo ahead of this year’s World Food Tourism Summit #WFTS15 in Lisbon, is amplified each time by the mirth & warmth of the Alentejo people.

 

“People and their stories are our greatest asset here in the Alentejo. Today, close to 40% of all visitors come from abroad in order to relate to the unique serving of food, culture & storytelling here.” Says Ruben Obadia, himself one of the greatest storytellers of all!

Ruben, if not travelling in Asia or managing a series of well-reputated travel & architecture magazines, simply loves to show & share ‘his’ Alentejo with us. “You will find everything in Alentejo but noisy nightclubs and fast food restaurants. People here are really down to earth, in the most literal way of the word possible. Luxury travel in the Alentejo defies the ‘glitz & glamour’ notion found elsewhere. Let me show you what we mean by that. Aaaah, bom dia caro amigo …!”

And off he is, introducing us to yet another one of the local personae that we are about to meet here in the Alentejo. But first of all, let me start by showing you where the Alentejo district actually is. The markers you can see on this map are the cities of SinesBejaBarrancosMonsarazEvora and Vila Viçosa that we have visited in the upper Alentejo region, just south-east of the Portuguese capital city Lisbon.

 

Rather than going through each place one by one, let me “feed them to you slowly”, with all the passion & care we have received in slow-travelling through them. Let us start with the happiest topics of all:

Food. As in: Restaurant Visits & Local Producers not to be missed when travelling in the Alentejo.

First of all, you must go to a place called “Arte & Sal – Casa de Peixe” near the city of Sines on the Atlantic Sea Coast. I usually refrain from phrases like “You must!”, but Carlos Barros and his team are worth the emphasis and recommendation. “The fish you are eating has still swum in the sea this morning”, a fact he prides himself on for maintaining consistent quality levels across all of the food being served here.

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Meet Carlos Baros, our local man & host at Arte & Sal - Casa de Peixe ...

Meet Carlos Barros, our local host at Arte & Sal – Casa de Peixe …

 

... still dreaming about this wonderful fresh fish meal today ..!

… still dreaming about this wonderful fresh fish meal today ..!

 

Then, there are “Casa do Porco Preto” in the city of Barrancos and “Horta da Moura” near Monsaraz. Brace yourself …

… for some of the greatest superlatives of all kind: Eating fresh (!) olives from a nearly 3.000 year-old olive tree (well and alive!) and allowing melt-in-your-mouth ham to vow you just cannot exist as a vegetarian … here in the Alentejo district at least.

For sure, all the cheese, bread & olives we tried were delicious as well. But oh, that ham … and perhaps even more importantly so: The story behind both local producers of fresh Alentejo delicacies. Come take this picture walk with me …

Arriving at "Casa do Porco Preto" - the "House of the Black Pig", has more of a homey comfort to it ...

Arriving at “Casa do Porco Preto” – the “House of the Black Pig”, has more of a homey comfort to it …

 

... than the actual "getting-behind-the-scenes" of this awarded ham production: Some 260.000 (!) pieces of ham are currently stored and matured here ...

… than the actual “getting-behind-the-scenes” of this awarded ham production: Some 260.000 (!) pieces of ham are currently stored and matured here …

 

We simply love to dig in ...

We simply love to dig in …

 

... and have finished our tasting in no time: Thank you so much for this "Presunturismo" visit here in the Alentejo!

… and have finished our tasting in no time: Thank you so much for this “Presunturismo” visit here in the Alentejo!

 

Next, it is more countryside style travel ...

Next, it is more countryside style travel …

 

... arriving at beautiful "Horta da Moura" farm estate, olive grove, restaurant & accommodation ...

… arriving at beautiful “Horta da Moura” farm estate, olive grove, restaurant & accommodation …

 

... a sweet spot to return to any time for its great food ...

… a sweet spot to return to any time for its great food …

 

... and unique "pieces of storytelling": Those olives were harvested from this almost 3.000 years-old (!) olive tree in front of me. WOW. :D

… and unique “pieces of storytelling”: Those olives were harvested from this almost 3.000 years-old (!) olive tree in front of me. WOW. What an honour to have tasted !!!

 

Cheers to that with great friends in the good company of the Alentejo people.

Cheers to that with great friends in the good company of the Alentejo people.

 

How about heading over to a really good wine estate now? Herdade do Monte Novo e Figueirinha as well as Cartuxa both provide excellent tasting opportunities.

Filipe & José speak several languages between them, have won many (international) tasting awards for their wines & olive oils and run a successful “Quinta“, or “Herdade” wine & farm estate near the city of Beja. All of them are reasons to appear proud, yet what I find here is essentially, the “spirit of the land”: Filipe talking to us openly, nonchalantly, with his several months-old daughter bouncing on his arm. José stressing how much he still wanted to learn, talking to me in really good German, about the wine & olive oil production on his farm plucking fresh lemons for us from a nearby tree.

And Ana? Her enthusiasm on introducing us to the “Eugénio de Almeida Foundation” that Cartuxa Wine Estate just outside the city of Evora belongs to is almost indescribable. So much heart & infotainment there on this rainy Wednesday morning that it leaves me speechless, having worked as a wine tourism guide myself during my (wine) tourism studies. I love it, and recommend you both places to go: Not only for the excellent quality of the local produce. But even more so for the heartfelt storytelling & warm welcoming that the Alentejo people know so well to provide.

We like our wine: José is happy to share his winemaking secrets with us ...

We like our wine: José is happy to share his winemaking secrets with us …

 

... welcoming us to his "Herdade Novo Figueirinho" near the city of Beja.

… welcoming us to his “Herdade Monte Novo e Figueirinha” near the city of Beja.

 

By the end of the visit, I feel part of the family. Very sweet here, too: Thanks for a lovely visit!

By the end of the visit, we all feel part of the family, too. Very sweet indeed!

 

Cartuxa Wine Estate, just outside of the UNESCO World Heritage City of Evora ...

Cartuxa Wine Estate, just outside of the UNESCO World Heritage City of Evora …

 

... has us welcomed by dear Ana Santos, whose enthusiasm sparkles as much as her knowledge about the local wine production here ...

… has us welcomed by dear Ana Santos, whose enthusiasm sparkles as much as her knowledge about the local wine production here …

 

Love the local bread & spicy olive oils that come with the wine tasting here ...

Love the local bread & spicy olive oils that come with the wine tasting here …

 

... eating, drinking, tasting & sharing simply make people meet. Cheers to our #winelover visit in the Alentejo!

… eating, drinking, tasting & sharing simply make people meet. Cheers to our #winelover visit in the Alentejo!

 

When in Evora, do not miss a chance to hear the famous "Cante Alentejano", itself now distinguished as Intangible World Heritage, too ...

When in Evora, do not miss a chance to hear the famous “Cante Alentejano”, itself now distinguished as Intangible World Heritage by UNESCO, too …

 

... an honour we experienced at the local "Confraria da Gastronomia Alentejana", or Local Brotherhood of Gastronomy ...

… an honour we experienced at the local “Confraria da Gastronomia Alentejana”, the welcoming Local Brotherhood of Gastronomy in the city of Evora …

 

... more food and truly warm-hearted people here.!

… more food and truly warm-hearted people to show the way here, too.!

 

Let’s talk accommodation options now. After all this wine & food tasting, surely you feel a little tired..? We certainly were: Luckily, the Alentejo has many answers as to where you can lay your head.

During our #winelover #foodlover travel days in the Alentejo, we have been hosted by two top establishments called Pousada de São Francisco in the city of Beja as well as the rather luxurious Alentejo Marmóris Hotel & Spa. Both places provided a good insight into the local culture & history of the Alentejo, what with the latter featuring the story of local marble trade with countries such as Italy or even the Arab states! The Marmóris Hotel & Spa itself is almost completely made up of marble and located in the historic town of Vila Viçosa, the former residence of the Portuguese kings. 

Pousada de São Francisco, on the other hand, is a former convent turned luxury style travel accommodation, featuring unique architecture and – naturally – great food.

Arriving at Pousada São Francisco ...

Arriving at Pousada de São Francisco …

 

... I am welcomed by the unique architecture and comfort of my (historic) room ...

… I am welcomed by the unique architecture and comfort of my (historic) room …

 

... and naturally, the Portuguese know how to put food on the table (once more) in the form of beautiful desserts ...

… and naturally, the Portuguese know how to put food on the table (once more) in the form of beautiful desserts …

 

... the food stories do continue in this place, at Alentejo Hotel Marmóris & Spa in the city of Vila Viçosa ...

… the food stories do continue in this place, at Alentejo Hotel Marmóris & Spa in the city of Vila Viçosa …

 

... a hotel featuring luxurious marble (bathroom) decoration ...

… a hotel featuring luxurious marble (bathroom) decoration …

 

... as well as unique city at its doorstep, with Vila Viçosa being a place full of history here in Portugal.

… as well as unique city at its doorstep, with Vila Viçosa being a place full of history worth exploring here in the Alentejo.

 

Last but not least, I am tempted to say “just go for the ride”. Feel the magic. Take in a deep breath. Allow the local rhythm to slow you down. And marvel, forever marvel, at those pretty little ‘aldeias’ & wide open spaces of the Alentejo.

“Water has changed everything”, is a phrase we often here around the local towns of Barrancos & Monsaraz. It is here where the river Guadiana has been turned into one of the greatest reservoir lakes of Europe, called “Alqueva lake“, covering a surface of almost 200 square kilometres. “There are people that live here who have forever had to fight lengthy periods of drought. Now, they are moved to see their land in a new light: Green, that is.” Indeed, looking out and over from pretty little Monsaraz, the land of gently undulating hills and spurs in this part of the Alentejo does look very green. And so do the hills around Barrancos (it is still early spring though, mind you), what with all their cork trees lining the roads in a pleasing landscape feature. Have a look out here.

Road trips in Alentejo ...

Road trips in Alentejo …

 

... are something to delight heart & soul.

… are something to delight heart & soul – especially in the beautiful season of spring.

 

We are headed to a sweet little "Aldeia" mountain village called Monsaraz, sitting high atop a hill spur ...

We are headed to a sweet little “Aldeia” mountain village called Monsaraz, sitting high atop a rocky hill spur …

 

offering us views across the entire country.

offering us views across the entire country.

 

A perfect opportunity to relax, unwind, and feel the magic of the season.

A perfect opportunity to relax, unwind, and feel the magic of the season.

 

If you need even more persuasion to travel in the Alentejo, refer to a “succulent selection” of my #winelover #foodlover photography here in this Flickr photo album:

More about the Alentejo can also be found looking at my fellow foodlover’s travel blogs:

Enjoy! “Boa appetite”, dear readers. 😀

Disclaimer: I have been invited by Turismo do Alentejo on this #Winelover #Foodlover trip around Alentejo. All opinions are my own.

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Written by Elena

Elena writes about creative destinations, shares her personal travel stories and brings inspiring photography & interesting news updates home to you. Her mission is: "Continue to be amazed at this world, one creative travel experience at a time."

Ready for learning even more about creative travel?

Elena has recently published "The Creative Traveler's Handbook". Chock full of inspiratinal stories, travel tips and advice, it offers everything you need for planning and managing your next creative escape, addressing beginners and experienced travelers alike. Here's how to get your hands on it now!
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#STSHamburg Social Travel Summit: "Your blog is a business. Treat it as one."

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