Day 11 – Day off in Reguengos de Monsaraz
Starting Point: Reguengos de Monsaraz
Ending Point: Reguengos de Monsaraz
Today’s Distance: 0 km
Total Distance: 704 km
Cycling is wonderful but it also makes the days off even better. I slept in late, had a nice breakfast, caught up on a few errands, and set my sights on visiting the medieval town of Monsaraz. But before I made my way to the castle, a friend in Lisbon insisted I try out a restaurant for lunch on the way there called Sabores de Monsaraz in the town of Monsaraz proper. It was quite busy when I arrived (always a good sign), and many of the tables were reserved, but the staff were very kind and found a place for me. I soon understood why my friend’s recommendation was so strong. Not only was the food delightful, the owner, Isabel, was a graceful force of energy who simultaneously waited tables, chatted with customers, and doted on me like a favorite aunt I hadn’t seen in years.
Lunch was beautiful, delicious, and fresh. This part of the country always serves bread in little cloth bags which is the kind of cultural flourish that I adore. Following my rule of always asking, “What is the specialty here?” Isabel quickly asserted that I order the porco preto. It’s a regional specialty of pork made from a particular breed of black pig which is fed mostly walnuts, rendering a tastier meat.
After being well nourished by both the great food and great service, I was ready to go explore the castle. I said my goodbyes to Donna Isabel while promising to return in the future, a promise I have every intention to keep.
Entering Monsaraz was like entering a living museum. Occupied at various points by the Romans, Visigoths, Moors, Jews, and finally the Portuguese, history radiated from every stone. Imagine if these walls could talk.
Strictly due to the importance of viticulture to the region, of course, it seemed prudent to have a wine tasting on my day off from cycling. São Lourenço do Barrocal is a vineyard turned hotel and winery in 2016. The well-kept and family-owned estate still produces their own label of wine and I was given a tour of their facilities before I indulged. Aside from using the typical oak barrels for aging, the vintners also use massive stone pots called Talha to produce a traditional amphorae wine that had all but disappeared from the region it once dominated.
What better way to complete a day off than sampling traditional wines straight from the vineyard on a historic property?