ISSUE 10, July 2004
John Pine: A sociable craftsman
Jumping for Joy: Skydiving for charity
Quarterly Communication: Speeches of: the Grand Master, the Pro Grand Master and, Report of the Board of General Purposes
Supreme Grand Chapter: Address of the First Grand Principal and Report of the Committee of General Purposes
Royal Arch: Cheshire gives a lead
  Walking with the greats: Bath Masonic Hall
Motoring in style: Classic Vehicle Club
Masonic education: A daily advancement and Events for your diary
Travel: Portugal
Library & Museum of Freemasonry
International: A warm welcome in Malta
Masonic ritual: Spoilt for choice
Public relations: Sheffield; Dorset; Chelsea Flower Show; Freemasons' Hall
Letters, Book reviews, Gardening

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Exploring rural Portugal

A rural scene of vendors along a cobblestone street in Sesimbra


Stephanie Voyager heads for Portugal to enjoy the delights of various pousadas

© Richard Bickel / Corbis

I wanted a holiday that took me into the countryside, away from the hustle and bustle of a big town. I had heard about pousadas, the state-owned historic dwellings of Portugal – monasteries, palaces, and castles that had been turned into hotels – and decided to find out what they were and what they had to offer.
     My girlfriend and I collected our Budget car which had been booked in London from the airport, but was surprised to find that although I was insured, it carried a 750 euros excess. Not wanting an excess, I was obliged to pay an extra 102.34 euros for the week so it’s worth taking this into consideration when comparing prices.
     Our first stop was Palmela, where our pousada, originally a castle and then a medieval convent, was perched high up on a hill. Fortunately, our car was small, as access is via very narrow, winding streets, with a very sharp ascent at the pousada.
     It was well worth the effort, particularly as we had left Lisbon in the rush-hour traffic, and here we entered a place that immediately enveloped you in a feeling of peace and serenity. We dined in a grand room which used to be the refectory, and tried some of the local dishes.
     Although I am adventurous with my food, I did find, in the areas that we visited, that the chefs are heavy-handed with the olive oil, use a lot of coriander, and produce very sweet desserts. Keeping this in mind will definitely help you to choose dishes to suit your palate.
     Wine is grown in most areas of the country, and so at each new stop we were able to try a different local variety without breaking the bank. We had planned to eat one night at each pousada and one night out, but found that some were situated in such out-of-the way places, that it was more practical to eat in.
     Palmela is ideally located to visit the Arrábida nature park, covering an area of 26,700 acres including a mountain range. The road is steep with fortunately very little traffic, although I am not sure how it is in the height of the summer. The views are wonderful. The park is also a perfect place for a picnic or a long country walk.