Part III of our Central Portugal Trip (Part II here)
We next drove back to the main freeway (A23) from Monsanto and headed south to try and find the town of Marvao. The drive from Monsanto to the freeway (N239) was beautiful as we wound our way through fields of colorful spring flowers scattered with ornamental-like cork trees. We weren’t very familiar with how cork actually was harvested (from the bark, which grows back on the trees every seven years), but found this article very explanatory.
Finding Marvao was a little difficult as the phone was still not working properly. Fortunately we found a map in the glove compartment so we could make our way the old fashioned way.
Marvao is also a mountaintop village, although not as high up as Monsanto and the mountain isn’t a rugged. Here, they could build “regular” homes and have decent size streets that could run flat and parallel along the side of the mountain. The fort is a little more rebuilt than the Monsanto fortress, which provided a little more to see and explore.
I enjoyed this description of Marvao from Rough Guides:
Very pretty hilltop town with a well-preserved castle and stunning views over the countryside and into Spain. Lots of nice cafes and restaurants. By the time you’ve negotiated the winding road up to MARVÃO you’re ready for sensational panoramas, and the remote border outpost doesn’t disappoint. From the dramatically sited rocky outcrop high above the undulating serra there are unbeatable views, while within a complete circuit of seventeenth-century walls lies a higgledy-piggledy town of fewer than a thousand residents, inhabiting neat houses with granite windows and pitched red roofs.
We again had been fortunate that there were not a lot of tourists, making it easy to get around and see the sights. In Belmonte and Marvao we stayed at Pousadas do Portugal hotels. They are a hotel collection that manage and market old historic properties, such as convents and such, in popular villages and towns throughout Portugal. Both hotels we stayed at were very nice; big rooms, good amenities and friendly people. And well-priced. The Marvao property has great views from the dining and bar areas, but not from many of the rooms, although they make up for it in space and centrality.
Leaving Marvao we had a beautiful drive on IP2 towards Evora, which reminded us of places we saw in Tuscany with rolling field-covered hills, broken up by lush trees (in this case, oak). We stopped along the way at Estremoz, a town that is famous for its marble, both for commercial purposes and for building the town. They must have a lot of it as they use it for the sidewalks, curbs, decoration around doors and windows, and cover the church and tower inside the gates.
Next we went to Arraiolos, which is famous for its rugs. Plenty of rug stores but other than rugs, not a whole lot more to see. It seems each town has its own trim colors. For Arraiolos it is purple. For Evora, we would discover it is gold or a rich yellow.