Monsaraz - Vuelta a Iberia - CycleBlaze

October 26, 2019

Monsaraz

Today’s ride

Today’s ride south to Monsaraz presents a bit more of a challenge than yesterday’s easy cruise to Estremoz.  It’s a bit longer, the winds are at best neutral, and it’s quite a bit hillier.  Not long after leaving town we face a moderate climb over a low ridge, a fairly steady four mile ascent that gains about 800’.  Not bad, but the first climb of significance since Marvao.  Then, 25 miles of easy, beautiful riding through dehesa and vineyards before coming to the final, stiff climb up to the famously beautiful fortified village of Monsaraz, the Pearl of the Alentejo.

The O Gadanha hotel has made upgrades since we were here last. Their WiFi really flies now, and they have a bike room. Last time we just wheeled them into the lobby, I think.
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Leaving Estremoz through the south entrance, the Porta dos Currais.
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The day’s ride has a bit of contour to it, starting with an 800’ climb over the ridge ahead.
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Last photo until the top. Easier to just keep at it.
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The reward
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Back on the Alentejo wine route.
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For the next five miles we bike through this steppe-like landscape of scattered oaks. Much like the dehesas in Spain, but with an essential difference.
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This is a montado, since we’re in Portugal now. Otherwise, the same.
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Apples and acorns
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Santiago Maior and a lunch break ahead. We’ll stop at that blue church on the far right.
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Video sound track: Shadows, by Simon Wynberg

This one. Igredja de Nossa Senorha dos Remedios.
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Cooling his wheels during lunch break.
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Awesome country. We’ve been encountering scenes like this for weeks now. We’re not getting bored with it yet.
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The first red deer we’ve seen for awhile. This one ran across the field and then stopped when it reached the safety of this patch of brush. She’s got her eye on Rachael as she bikes off.
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Monsaraz, from below. We’ve a steep mile ahead of us before we reach its walls and cobblestones.
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Casa Dona Antonia, our home for the night.
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In Monseraz

We arrive at our room mid-afternoon and hang around there for awhile, doing a bit of laundry and waiting for the village streets to thin out a bit as day trippers start to depart.  Then, we make a walking circuit of the village, its walls, and its castle.  Unless you really linger, it doesn’t take long - it’s a tiny place, and you could probably complete the circuit in fifteen minutes if you wanted to.  We don’t, of course; but an hour and a half is just right for us to enjoy a leisurely stroll, stopping to admire the beauty of the place and the views across the Alentejo and east into Spain.

Portugal is filled with amazingly beautiful places, it seems; but Monsaraz really is exceptional.  Like Marvao, it’s another ancient hilltop walled village guarding the frontier, its fortifications developed by the Knights Templar.  And, like Marvao and Estremoz, it’s a place we visited on our first visit to the Alentejo.  For about a week we’re roughly retracing that itinerary in reverse.

And, like Estremoz and Marvao, our memory of this place has grown dim even though it was just six years since we were here last.   It’s unsettling seeing these places and realizing how much we’ve forgotten - how could your memory of a place like this ever fade?  On the plus side, it means that revisiting it feels as fresh and full of wonderment as the first time through.

I suspect this too will pass, and these memories will dim with the years.  I guess we’ll have to just keep wandering, and maybe return again in another five or ten years.

We embarrass ourselves at dinner again tonight, with a pair of reasonably sized starters (a delicious bean and tuna blend, and a tomato salad) followed by enormous entrees.  We’re going to have to change something here, obviously.  Tomorrow, we’ll try ordering just the entrees and see how that goes.

The view from the balcony outside our room.
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Another view from our deck, to the northwest.
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In Monsaraz
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in Monsaraz, walking the striking schist walls. Rachael is wishing she’d worn her walkers instead of her sandals.
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The view west from the castle ruins.
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In Monsaraz. The orange lichen-encrusted schist adds a lot to the incredible beauty of this place.
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The view east across Alqueva Lake, the vast reservoir formed by the damming of the Guadiana - it’s the largest artificial lake in Europe. The Spanish border runs down the middle of the reservoir, following the original course of the river. We’ll be biking across that long bridge tomorrow on our way to Moura.
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A view back through the village, from the castle.
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The parish church of Monsaraz, Nossa Senhora da Lagoa.
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One of the bell towers of the parish church.
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A detail of the parish church.
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A close-up of one of the bells that will waken us tomorrow morning.
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Again, the parish church.
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The best sunset of the tour, from the deck off our room.
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From our deck, again.
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A last look at the parish church.
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Ride stats today: 40 miles, 2,600’; for the tour: 1,089 miles, 58,900’

Today's ride: 40 miles (64 km)
Total: 1,091 miles (1,756 km)

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