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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The road took us to Sesimbra, a small coastal seaside town with stretches of lovely sandy beaches, and music bellowing from loudspeakers set up along the promenade. As it is a fishing town, we were regaled with displays of fresh fish outside restaurants, where it was cooked on open barbeques. With the sun shinning, we enjoyed an inexpensive lunch in the open air.
     It is worth noting that restaurants put such things as bread, paté, local cheeses and butter on the table, and charge extra for each item. If you don’t want some or any of them, send them back and you won’t be charged.
     Our second night we dined at nearby Setubal. Leaving the car, we had to climb a flight of steps, passing a chapel tiled in blue and white, to reach the pousada. Set in the S. Filipe fortress, we enjoyed stunning views across the Sado estuary and the Troia peninsula while sipping glasses of muscatel made from local grapes.
     Our next stop took us to Evora, a UNESCO world heritage town encompassed by a 14th century wall. The buildings have not changed since the 16th century. Fortunately, in every town we visited there is a tourist information centre which is centrally placed and provides information on the local environment.
     We had wanted to take advantage of a guided bus tour but found that, as with all national monuments in the country, most buildings are closed on a Monday, and therefore it wasn’t running. The streets here, as in most of the places we visited, are cobbled and uneven, and tend to be hilly, so wearing comfortable shoes is a must.
     Although there is a pousada in Evora, we had been recommended to the one in Estremoz towards the Spanish border. The country isn’t very wide, but unless you are driving on the motorways, for which there are tolls, the roads can be very windy and a journey can take longer than you might have expected.
     The pousada at Estremoz, once a castle, is very grand. It was one of the most important fortresses in Alentejo, and one of the favourite residences of the country’s kings and queens. Vasco da Gama received the royal standard here, and the place itself conveys grandeur. The sweeping staircase and the dining room with its high ceilings are particularly outstanding.
     Such things as hairdressers or beauty treatments are not available at pousadas. Here, as with some other pousadas, there is a lovely outdoor swimming pool. Worth noting are the hairdryers in the rooms which are old-fashioned with flat nozzles, so if you do need a good one to style your hair, bring it with you.
     As the places we stayed in are historical, there are two types, historical and regional, they tend to be located in out of the way places, so nipping to a local shop or hairdresser is not a possibility.
     Portugal, at least in the most of the areas we visited, is extremely poor and therefore it is worth bringing everything you need with you rather than hoping to buy it here. Another drawback is that the shops, such as they are, tend to be closed for a couple, if not three hours at lunchtime.
     This was our problem when we visited Arraiolos, the centre for carpet making. Here, you can have a rug of any size handmade to your specific design and colour. Visiting historic places, you soon become accustomed to the distinctive style of weaving.
     Vineyards are everywhere. The pousada arranged a visit for us to the J. Portugal Ramos 400 acres of vineyards. Several varieties of grapes are grown, and our tour included not only the cellars but their bottling and labelling plant. Tastings are available for a small fee, but as I was driving we just bought a bottle of their Marquês de Borba, a DOC Alentejo wine. Another ‘must’ to visit in the area is the Vila Viçosa, used as a summer house for the Royal Family, and now run and owned by a private foundation. The Vila has been beautifully restored and houses many tapestries and paintings. Many of the ceilings are painted, too. Every month concerts are held in the 16th century chapel, which if you are lucky enough to be there, are open to the general public, unlike the beautifully maintained gardens. This area is also famous for its marble, of which quarries can be seen while driving around the area.
     From Estremoz, we drove north to the Flor da Rosa in Crato, a notable example of medieval architecture. Once a monastery, built in the 14th century by the Military Order of Malta in the time of the Crusades, a new part has been added housing modern bedrooms. Excavation work is still going on, and entry is via this. The area is particularly favoured by walkers, as we discovered from some of our fellow guests.
     En route, we visited the Alter do Chão. Covering 800 acres, Portugal’s oldest stud farm. Included is a carriage museum, and one relating to horses and the dress of people involved, dating back to the Middle Ages. Training courses are held here on riding, coupling, falconry and carriage-making, with an open air arena used for events throughout the year.


(above) A bedroom at Crato