Due to its geographical position bordering Spain, and the animosity that existed between the two countries down the years, it seems that just about every town and village in the Alentejo has some kind of defensive remnants—and Juromenha right on the banks of the Guadiana River that divides Portugal and Spain is a fine example.
Once an important powerhouse, the fortress at Juromenha looks out across the peaceful river and beyond to the plains of Olivenza in Spain. Today, left in ruins, it is a shadow of it’s former self and when you visit it is hard to believe that it once played such an important role in the on going skirmishes with the Spanish.
I own a copy of a lovely coffee table book called ‘As Mais Belas Vilas e Aldeias de Portugal’ (Portugal’s Most Beautiful Towns and Villages), which I bought way back in the 1980s—and even though I have moved country a couple of times in the interim, I still have the book with me.
One of the most intriguing places that always stood out for me was the village of Pavia, in the Alentejo, and it makes sense that it was one of the first places that I wanted to visit when we moved here in 2020.
As most of Portugal is slowly coming out of lockdown, we decided it was time to venture out and explore the local countryside a little better. It was also our five-year anniversary and a good excuse to dust off Olive, our 1971 VW beetle, and enjoy a little bit of a road trip.
Estremoz must have one of the most beautiful town hall buildings in all of Portugal. Although the Convento dos Congregados, Nossa Senhora da Conceição of the Congregates of the Oratory of São Filipe Nery de Estremoz, to give it its full name, has a rather unusual history in that it took 300 years to build!
The typical Alentejo country town of Sousel actually falls under the district of Portalegre and is located 17km from Estremoz, reached by following the winding N245 road northwards. There is nothing very remarkable about the town itself but it does have a great miradouro or viewing point from which to survey the surrounding countryside.
According to a report from CNN, those interested in stargazing in the Alentejo may be in for a treat this Christmas as the planets of Jupiter and Saturn will appear to be almost touching—something that hasn’t occurred since the year 1226!
The two planets, the largest in our solar system, will best be visible on the night of the winter solstice – December 21 – when they should look like a ‘double planet’, and the closer you live to the Equator the better you will see them.
As our first Christmas in Estremoz approaches, and because of Covid-19 it is under very strange circumstances, we are pleased to see that there will be some festive cellebrations still taking place.
One of these is the 14th Exhibition of Nativity Scenes (XIV Exposição de Presépios de Estremoz) that showcases works by local artisans and is open to the public at Galeria D. Dinis from December 5 2020.
It is no secret that Portugal’s Alentejo is full of historic places that in some cases date back to Neolithic times. It is a land that encompasses many secrets of humanity and this is what makes it such an important part of Portugal’s cultural heritage.
On Sunday June 7th Estremoz and the whole of Portugal witnessed one of the most anticipated moments of the year—the presentation of the winner of ‘Got Talent Portugal’ 2020, and to say that Estremoz was probably the proudest town in Portugal is an understatement. Two young men from our town won the main prize and proved that Estremoz is not only rich in natural beauty and vineyards, but also in talented people.