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Walking in Ervamoira wine farm – Portugal

Walking in Ervamoira, a wine farm in the Douro Valley, Portugal where they produce Port wine and table wine.

It'spectacular and unexpected to see a planted vineyard where is so warm and so dry that only olive, almond, and fig trees could grow and nothing else can.

The merit belongs to Ramos Pinto the famous Portuguese winemakers.

José Ramos Pinto was looking for a more flat estate to able to have a mechanized vineyard structure and found this estate that, at that time was called Quinta de Santa Maria.

The farm was “re” baptized as Ervamoira, like the book from Suzanne Chantal.

This is one of the warmer and drier areas in Portugal so you may want to avoid the summer months because it will be too hot to walk. During winter it can also be too cold … extreme temperatures, very characteristic of inland regions of the northeast regions.

This area, called Fôz Côa, is quite known due to an impressive set of prehistoric drawings. In case you want to visit the engravings, you will need to go to the Tourist Office at Vila Nova de Foz Côa and get a guided visit.

Remember, above all this is a wine region so taste the wonderful wines you can find here, both table wines and Port wine. I tasted (several times) their white Port wine and is delicious.

A special thanks to Sónia Teixeira the official guide of the Ervamoira and a lovely host.
From Chãs to Ervamoira’s premises is a 7,5 Km walk with 390 m descent (blue line of the map) and from Ervamoira’s premises until Chãs is a 9 Km walk with 375 m ascent (red line of the map), taking into account that you might want to see the engravings in the meantime.

Enjoy yourself.

David Monteiro

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Lac Negre, Pyrenees – Spain

Lac Negre, Pyrenees - Spain

A landscape can get stuck in your mind for many reasons not just because is astonishing. Sometimes you just don’t know why but you keep remembering the picture you mentally took or maybe you did it with your camera as well.

The Lac Negre, Black Lake in Catalan, is the case for me, it just pops up in my mind once in a while.

I keep going there on tour and, in between the 200 lakes of Aigüestortes National Park, this is the lake I better remember. I just don’t know why … yet.

Anyway, for your information, the Lac Negre is located here. It’s easy to access if you park your car at the Cavallers Dam parking lot here.

You can take the trail at the right side of the dam face upstream and you will find some signs pointing to the mountain hut Ventosa i Calvell. By the way, a mountain hut in Catalan “refugi”.

It will take you around 2h30m walking to the mountain hut and there you will find the lake.

Although I already did this walk a few times, usually I arrive at Ventosa i Calvell coming from another mountain hut while doing a trekking tour called Carros de Foc.

The water of the lack seems black because of some algae, the dark color of the granite and also because it never gets too much direct sunlight.

The best picture of the lake is during sunrise. Although for a photographer can seem obvious is also to say that during sunset the landscape can be quite flat, it loses the sensation of depth.

For several years I crossed this place during the first week of June when the mountain huts were starting their season and the scenery was always different. Sometimes it was all white from the snow/ice and some other years the snow/ice was long gone and everything was green under a deep blue sky.

I’m leaving you with some pictures of the lake, the mountain hut and where you can see also a mountain range on the background called Bessiberri.

Would you like to visit this lake?

David Monteiro

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Arrabida Natural Park, a special walk (part 4/4) – Portugal

Arrabida Natural Park, a special walk (part 4/4) – Portugal

Sesimbra is one of the jewels of this quadrant

South/West Quadrant

When I turn to the quadrant W/S and face down, exactly where we will have to go to get out of here, I see some crosses on the silhouette of the hills to the sea. They belong to the Arrábida Convent complex.

By their modesty and quiet life, isolation and description, this convent always has an aura of mystery around it. Looking at the road we see a complex of old buildings and, further up, across the hills, a set of shrines and crosses that give us the feeling of being meditation cells of the monks of the convent.

The construction of the Arrábida Convent dates back to the 16th century and today covers four structures: the Old Convent, the New Convent, the garden and the Bom Jesus sanctuary.

A local curiosity refers to the existence of a chapel prior to the construction of the convent and it was a place of pilgrimages. A long time ago, four of the friars who came to join the convent, lived for two years in excavated cells … hard life.

Toward the West, we can’t see the village of Sesimbra because is in between two hills. Sesimbra is a small fishing village with a very busy port and also has a beach that is filled with swimmers during the summer. Summer nights in Sesimbra are animated by the numerous restaurants that serve fish dishes grilled on barbecues in the middle of the streets. 

Continuing West we have the Cape Espichel, whose sea view is also fabulous and is an excellent spot for night photography on Full Moon days.

Maybe it’s time to walk down … This is a great walk that I will repeat whenever I can, perhaps in the gallery of the most emblematic walks in Portugal.

One day I will walk up here to stay overnight and see the sunrise.

David Monteiro

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Arrabida Natural Park, a special walk (part 3/4) – Portugal

Arrabida Natural Park, a special walk (part 3/4) – Portugal

Facing Lisbon from the hilltop.​

North/West Quadrant

In this quadrant, you can see Lisbon and from the city, I can only distinguish little more than a jungle of houses that seem to be glued to the Sintra Hills, is the effect of a view from a far distance because, in reality, Sintra is a 30 minutes drive from Lisbon.

In this direction I can see many vineyards and, although I have difficulty to distinguish them, I know that two wine producers that are considered to be in the gallery of the best wine producers in Portugal: Quinta da Bacalhôa and José Maria da Fonseca.

Somewhere there you can find Moscatel grapes used for the production of the famous wine “Moscatel de Setúbal”. The “Moscatel de Setúbal” wine is considered the best in Moscatel in the world. “Moscatel de Setúbal” wine is a fortified wine of amber color, which I love.

Watch this 2 minutes and 30 seconds funny and interesting video that pretty much explains the “Moscatel de Setúbal”.

In the small village of Azeitão one can also find two other extraordinary products: Azeitão cheese and pies of Azeitão (Tortas de Azeitão).

The cheese of Azeitão is a small cheese made with sheep’s milk, yellow-colored and very soft, buttery, excellent for spreading on toast.

Tortas de Azeitão is a small cake rolled up, made from flour and eggs, and is delicious.

to be continued …

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Arrabida Natural Park, a special walk (part 2/4) – Portugal

Arrabida Natural Park, a special walk (part 2/4) – Portugal

At the Formosinho hilltop.​

North/East Quadrant

When I turn on eastbound I’m in the direction of Setúbal, despite not being able to see the city I can see the end of its industrial belt which creates me mixed feelings. In my mind is contradictory the need for development with the awareness of a natural environment conservation of a diversified place as the river Sado estuary.

Looking in the direction of Alcochete, almost facing the north side, I try to see the Ribatejo plain areas but I can’t any longer distinguish the settlements.

Setúbal, where our famous 18th and 19th-century writer Bocage was born and to whom is attributed a lot of anecdotes and naughty sayings.

to be continued …

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Arrabida Natural Park, a special walk (part 1/4) – Portugal

Arrabida Natural Park, a special walk (part 1/4) – Portugal

I’m at the top of the Arrábida Hills. Around me a breathtaking view makes me wonder why don’t I come here more often … I love this spot.

The look on my teammates faces is tells me they can’t find words to express themselves. They are expressing fragmented and disconnected ideas, is amazing.

We are at the summit of the Arrábida Hills. Is called Formosinho, has 501 m high and is the highest point of the Setúbal’s District.

For many mountaineers reaching the mountains’s summits is an end in itself. I do not feel that call.

For me reaching the summit is interesting, sure is, but I tend to value more the all journey, the going up and the returning from as a all.

This is not a difficult summit to climb neither represents a true challenge in any way. So, what on Earth make’s it so interesting?

The type of view we can have from here is so diverse and so full of details that there are not many summits like this, is one of a kind.

From here we see the sea, the mountains, other small ridges, the cropland with vineyards, the fruit tree fields, the urban sites … is so diverse that for each side we turn we have a unique setting. 

The vision of the sea is the one that attracts me the most, there seems to be an endless beach. I fell in love by this 360-degree vision. 

For ease of explanation, in the map I marked the Formosinho summit with a red dot and I divided the post in the 4 quadrants of a compass. In counterclockwise I will write about each quadrant at a time.

South/East Quadrant

The Tróia peninsula dominates the landscape, a long tongue of sand headed by some buildings I know to be with summer apartments. More into the ocean, in front of the “head” of this peninsula, there is a large sand outer ring that during the low tide it turns to an immense beach.

On the river Sado side, I imagine the dolphins I can see when I’m there. I know their names, which gives me a pleasant sensation of familiarity.

Tróia has a quite interesting Roman heritage I will explore in a dedicated post.

From Setúbal to Tróia there’s a ferry that crosses the river. I always liked this crossing, is an excellent boat trip.

From the top I can see some green dots moving on the river, are the new ferries crossing the river.

Here I cannot see all of the river Sado estuary but to by seeing this river mouth I remember some hidden places in the estuary which are authentic treasures, such as the archaeological station of Abul with its Phoenician heritage.

In this quadrant by the sea is where you will find the most impressive beach area of the surroundings. Portinho da Arrábida, Figueirinha and Galapos are really the best beaches around … crystal clear waters, fabulous.

to be continued …

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Visiting Portugal – where to go, what to visit?

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Visiting Portugal – where to go, what to visit?

Where to go, what to do when visiting Portugal?

Where to go, what to do when visiting Portugal, must be the question I answer more often in this context.

Of course, the answer will always depend on who is asking. Not everyone enjoys doing the same things.

Not only will depend on individual preferences but also depends on the time and money you have available to spend in this country.

My answer could be very different for those who want to visit Portugal for walking vacations or for those who want to spend some time in Portugal relaxing on the beach or visiting museums.

However, I will try to simplify the idea and try to draw a plan to the visitor who wants to spend some time in Portugal, having active vacations but not necessarily for walking in the countryside.

Will be a plan for a visitor who values visiting areas with some History, values tasting the Portuguese cuisine and local wines, and is also interested in our cultural differences.

I will also consider this visitor prefers to see the sites in a more relaxing way rather than jumping from site to site in a frenetic race … more quality instead of quantity.

In relation to the time length, I will consider two possibilities: 7 days and 14 days.

For both options, I find it fascinating to do the trip from North to South, in which the city of arrival will be Porto and Lisbon the departure city where there are more flight connections with the rest of the world.

7 days: 2-Porto; 1-Guimarães; 1-Fátima/Óbidos; 2-Lisbon; 1-Sintra/Cascais

14 days: 2-Porto; 1-Guimarães; 1-Viana do Castelo; 1-Pinhão (Douro Valley); 2-Coimbra/Fatima/Óbidos; 3-Lisbon; 2-Évora and surroundings; 1-Sintra/Cascais; 1-Setúbal/Tróia/Arrábida

Each of these sites has a remarkable History, different customs, and typical gastronomy and wines to accompany and I will write about these places on this blog.

Join me to tour in Portugal.

David Monteiro

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Group travels are like wine and friends

Our shared life experiences, like those we may have during group travels, have a special place in our hearts, they have their own little house there.

They are so special that to access to those memories in full we will need the set of keys we own together with those folks we shared the moments.

We can even remember those moments by ourselves, revive all the details in the comfort of our homes, post the pictures in a blog or tell about those magnificent adventures to friends that will listen all the words we will say … but it will never be the same, there will be always something missing.

However it only takes a couple of seconds after joining our adventure buddies and the keys will open all the doors of the house and the sun will fulfill our hearts with joy and laughter.

A good wine will always be a good wine but it gets much better when shared with friends.

Carpe diem.

David Monteiro

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Walking and photographing in Picos da Europa – Spain

Walking and photographing in Picos da Europa - Spain

It truly pleases me to write about walks that are usually not mentioned in travel books or magazines. It’s like sharing a small world I found.

Mentions about the walk from Bulnes until Sotres are rare and those I find once in a while do not say much.

This is a walk for photographers. It gives us three opportunities of getting impressive pictures and also be there at the perfect hours of the day … well … the weather conditions are a different matter, please be aware that this happens in a mountain environment so the weather can be a challenge to take into account.

About photography, one thing is to have the opportunity for a shot something else is to actually turn it into reality. For me is still a work in progress, fortunately, some of my guests were able to capture amazing pictures.

The trail goes from “Bulnes la villa” until Sotres, has 9,5 Km with a gain of 850 m in altitude and a 450 m of descent. Not too difficult, moderate level, perfect for photographers.

1st photograph – Overnight in Bulnes to captures the lights of the villages when they are turned on in the evening. You will have sunlight while having the lights of the villages. Be quick because the sunlight will go away quite fast due to the high mountains surrounding the village.

2nd photograph – At the end of the ascending part of the trail, you will see the majestic Naranjo de Bulnes at your right … can’t miss it, it’s huge … an impressive limestone massif with 2519 m high. The light is usually at it’s best around midday due to the mountain “verticality”.

3rd photograph – Just before starting the steep descent towards Sotres you will see a valley with quite a few constructions that you will understand that they are not for humans. In fact, they were built to protect the cattle during bad weather moments. The place is called Moyeyeres, is an “invernadero”. The best view is from far … but that is just my point of view.

I leave you with my suggestions and I will keep looking for the right moment … not too easy because I’m usually here with guests (not my moment) but I will have come here just to capture the moments.

Have fun, I know I will 🙂

David Monteiro

Location: Bulnes, Spain

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A hiking adventure at Sierra de Gredos – Spain

At 110 Km Norwest from Madrid you will find the landscape of the book “For whom the bell tolls” from Ernest Hemingway and a perfect location for a hiking adventure.

If I remember well, I read the book “For whom the bell tolls” when I was 18 years old or something like that. At that age I was far from imagining that one day I was going to lead tours there or even to climb to its summit, the Almanzor.

When I read the book I was fascinated by the description of how the earth shacked when we made love with Maria, I admired the strength of Pilar and I could only imagine the mountains landscape in my dreams. One have to realize that back then there was no internet where I could go browse about Gredos, the closest thing I had was the local public library and there was not many books about such a place.

Anyway, this mountain range is like a mini Alpes, it really looks like it but in a much smaller scale. With its snowed granitic needles and its “U” valley one have the sensation of being in much higher mountain.

The highest summit is the Almanzor with 2,592 m (8,504 ft). If you want to know more about the origin of the name Almanzor, please visit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Almanzor

Sierra de Gredos is a lovely place to go for a walk, both during the winter or summer time.

Although during the winter is usually completely covered with snow, the walk from the parking area called Plataforma until the mountain hut Elola is well marked and there is always quite a lot of people doing it, especially during weekends.

But if you want to climb to the Almanzor summit or similar, you better know what your doing or hire a mountain guide. I can’t remember how many time I climbed this summit with clients and quite often we find people in trouble during the way up without proper guidance … please don’t do that.

Just the walk until the mountain hut is already a wonderful memory and in the mountain hut you will find something very important: beer 🙂

Have fun.

David Monteiro

Location: Hoyos del Espino, Spain