Our Gibraltar cat sit had come to an end, and it was time to start the journey back home. After four hours of boring motorways, and heavy traffic as we passed Seville, we decided to break the journey and overnight in the village of Alte, in Portugal’s Algarve.
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I had never heard of Alte before, but Jonathan had been rereading one of his favorite books, “The Drifters” by James A. Michener. A novel published in 1971 about six young people who travel together through Spain, Portugal, Morocco, and Mozambique.
The village of Alte is the main setting of the chapter Algarve and is recommended to them by a customs officer who wants them “to know Portugal at its best.”
Today, Alte is promoted as being an unspoiled village in the Algarve with its whitewashed houses, traditional chimneys, and cobbled streets. Maybe not quite so unspoiled these days with its many cafes and artisan souvenir shops surrounding the village church but we arrived after the day trippers had left from Albufeira and the other resorts along the Algarve coast and it was quite charming.
At the eastern end of the village, just past the school, are the springs (fontes) for which Alte is famous for. The area around Fonte Pequena (little spring) is quite picturesque. Located in front of the ‘Fonte Pequena Inn’ which looked rather nice but sadly was closed when we were there, there’s a small paved garden dedicated to Alte’s famous poet, Cândido Guerreiro..with tiled plaques on the wall with some of the poet’s works on.
As I struggle to learn Portuguese, I enjoyed boring Jon with my terrible translations, but it was interesting to read the poet’s works that were posted around the Fonte Pequena.
Porque nasci ao pé de quatro montes
Por onde as águas passam a cantar
As canções dos moinhos e das fontes,
Ensinaram-me as águas a falar.”
(As the place where I was born lies encircled by four hills
Through which waters run singing
The songs of fountains and mills,
Waters taught me to speak.) – Cândido Guerreiro
Not many restaurants appeared to be open in the evening, so after enjoying a beer by the fonte grande (big spring), we walked around town in search of food, buying wine and cheese in a local mini-mart as a backup just in case we couldn’t find a restaurant. With a little help from Trip Advisor, we found O Folclore.
Now we have found a few good restaurants on our travels in Portugal but quite often – sorry Portugal, food over here is often rather bland, and overcooked but we struck lucky this time. Jon had fish, and I had the vegetarian. Both were delicious. We then headed back to our cute little one bedroom house Alte em Ferias, we had found through Booking.com.
The next morning, we could be home in less than three hours if we chose motorways but the surrounding countryside looked so pretty, we opted for a more scenic route.
We headed towards Monchique, just an hour away for breakfast. Monchique is a market town located in the Serra de Monchique, a mountain range that separates the Algarve from the Alentejo region. It’s a beautiful drive through forests, small villages and very different to coastal Algarve.
The roads are, and the scenery is spectacular. We parked by the central square, briefly wandered the cobbled streets before relaxing in an outdoor cafe with coffee and a toastie.
Monchique is famous for its Medronho, a liqueur which has an interesting but rather strong taste and honey.
From here, we took a brief detour and drove up to Foia, just a few minutes drive from Monchique. It’s the highest point in the Algarve at just over 900 metres. It’s a good view from here, but it was slightly hazy and windy the day we went. On a clear day, it is possible to see Cape St Vincent in the west to Faro in the east.
Afterward, we continued our drive through hills and forest, farmland, small rivers, and lakes, passing white-washed house and villages, forced to drive slowly by traffic jams caused by cows on the roads and headed towards Vila Nova de Milfontes on the Alentejo coast. There are some beautiful deserted beaches to be discovered on this stretch of coastline.
We enjoyed a delicious seafood spaghetti lunch at Porto das Barcas, just on the outskirts of town close to a small fishing port. While we enjoyed our lunch, we noticed several hikers walking past. Apparently, Vila Nova de Milfontes is part of the Rota Vicentina, a series of hiking trails along the Alentejo coastline. Now that looks interesting for a future trip down here. But for now, it was time to return to our home on Portugal’s Silver Coast.