614-615: Setubal Peninsula

614 – Tuesday 31st January 2017:  On the Move Again – To Setubal

It rained!  And we packed up (wish I’d taken down the washing line yesterday!) and left our home of 15 nights.  Whilst nothing like as clean and cared for as Turiscamp in Lagos, Lisboa Camping has serviced pitches, the best hot and high pressured showers and helpful staff.  Handy for Ikea and a shopping mecca (if that’s your thing), the airport (and we did several trips there with picking up the hire car, Alison’s visit and my trip home), a bus into town or a short taxi hop around EUR10 with a dog!

Having not done a major shop for 15 days, something to do with a number of good lunches out, our cupboards were bare.  We headed for Palmela, a hill top village with the must-have-as-all-towns-do-castle, a Lidl and LPG.  Leaving the Boys in Jez, I filled a trolley, approached the till and realised how out of practice in shopping I am … I’d left my wallet in Jez.  Quick phone call to J to ask him to bring it to me.  No – not going to happen.  He’d damaged his back wiping Oscar’s paws.  I found him leaning over the kitchen in more pain than I’ve ever seen him (bar the massive dislocation of his shoulder).  Alternate Ibuprofen and Paracetamol and a heat pad administered.  And I did get back to pay for the full trolley load.  Next stop was diesel and LPG.  With having emptied grey and black waste, filled with fresh water … we are in a state of utopia … everything full that should be and everything empty that should be.   Just the slight issue of J’s back pain.

Rather than attempt to park near Palmela town, which looked narrow with no ‘spotter’ to assist with parking, and it was in the clouds so the promised views would not have delivered, we headed towards Setubal (pronounced Stubal!).  I recognised a car park from one of the parking apps we use as we drove past and pulled in.  Really handy for the town.  Whilst J rested, I donned waterproof trousers etc and wandered Setuba with O.  I KNOW the weather makes a BIG difference, but Setubal was pretty uninspiring.  A number of recent attempts by the council to ‘prettify’, and yet a lot of run-down and high rise areas.  In search of something ‘pretty’ I found the colourful fishing harbour, Igreja de Jesus (truly special) and the Bull fight Torre (not even photo worthy) and a couple of parks with odd sculptures and one with an EU funded helipad (!).  About to give up and write off Setubal, I wandered back via the old town.  A number of narrow dirty streets with cafes and men hanging about on corners, but then into the old town proper.  Lovely squares and charming shopping streets.  So in conclusion, worth a half day visit and judging by the size of the small boat fishing fleet and the number of fish restaurants, good for lunch.

J still in a lot of pain, so we opted to stay put in our car park overnight.  We were one of 8 ‘vans.

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Run down and high rises.

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In the middle of a roundabout … wonder if these damsels have a mermaid effect and cause accidents.

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Aah … the Igreja de Jesus.  Designed in 1494, pink Arrabida (local) stone … the first Manueline style edifice.  Looks great ….

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… but surrounded all round by graffiti.

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Dodgy pic, as I had to take this from the doorway, whilst trying to keep O just about outside.  But the twisted columns and the tiles really were something.

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One of the parks … another area had plastic flying dolphins.

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The Spanish star shaped fortress is just visible through the mist.

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615 – More Moscatel

Oscar and I walked along the front away from the town this morning and the sun was out in force.  Favourable impressions of Setubal improving.  On our return the fishing harbour was ‘bustling’ with men hanging about and chatting … no doubt about where today’s best catch might come from.

We’d booked another Moscatel tour and tasting, but Jose Maria de Fonseca is right in the middle of Vila Nogueira de Azeitao town with no room for Jez.  Having parked a little outside the town, I walked to Fonseca to apologise that two people had become one.  No problem … I had a one-to-one tour with an excellent English speaking young lady.  Not a lot to see compared to the Bachaloa tour we did with Alison, but very good value at only EUR3.  


Jose Maria de Fonseca started the winery in 1834 on land he claimed as a debt.  Daddy was in tobacco so funded the start up.  I had not realised that the vines produce some grapes in year 1, but a decent crop in year 2.  In only 3 years did Fonseca not produce wines:  2 years during the Spanish Civil War as Salazar the dictator sent troops and supplies to support Franco and 1 year during the Second World War … despite being neutral, Portugal sent supplies to both sides and wine was not considered a staple!


Unusually the 8th generation of family still own the winery, although they no longer carry the Fonseca name.  The family lived in this house until 1970s.  Now most of the family are in Lisbon, but the chief wine maker lives locally.


One of the earlier bottle filling machines … 4 bottles a minute.


Whilst French and American Oak barrels are used (foreground), these beautiful big’uns are made of Brazilian mahogany.  They impart no flavour to the Moscatel.  The Oak barrels are only used for so many years fto flavour the red wine and then moved to storing Moscatel.


A Fonseca chandelier hanging in one of the cellars …


… casting the Fonseca emblem on the floor.


My two glass tasting … the Periquita red was the first Portuguese table wine to be bottled.

Being so close to the restaurant which we ate at with Alison  (recommended by Bachaloa), it seemed silly not to stop by … so we did.  Again we started with the local DOP Azietao cheese, followed by codfish, potato and cream bake and chicken baked in orange … again yummy.


We passed Sesimba on the way to our overnight destination, so again I left J resting whilst O and went to discover, and I quote: “the old town is a maze of steep narrow streets with the Santiago Fort (now a customs post) in the centre overlooking the sea”.  Well, at least O got a run on the beach!  Very ordinary … perhaps it comes alive in summer when the Lesbians (darned predictive Applespeak) – Lisboans – flock here.  Perhaps I should change guide books and predictive!?


Sesimba:  the fort is the bit jutting out and break the beach into two.

Our overnight destination is another peninsula: Cabo Espichel.  Sheer cliffs dropping into the sea on a windy and bleak outcrop. A good few miles from anywhere and Pilgrims flocked here from C13 after a local ’saw’ the Madonna coming our of the sea astride a mule … no mention of her clothing ore perhaps she covered her modesty with her hair (Lady Godiva perhaps)!   Between 1701-1707 the impressive Santuario de Nossa Senhora do Cabo was built and Pilgrims were accommodated in the rooms either side that you see below.


Back home each of these arches would now contain a craft shop or cafe.  Here some roofs were falling in and all windows bricked up. Actually I prefer this natural state.



No photos inside, but it had stunningly worked statues in each alcove and the ceiling was painted in 1740 by Lorenzo da Cunha, considered one of the best fresco painters in his time … this ceiling is the only of his work to have survived the 1755 earthquake.


This is all that remains of the Opera House, where the Pilgrims were entertained, often by travelling Italian troupes.


View across the the lighthouse, where O and I walked, avoiding two lads on quad bikes.


Looking back to the monastery … you may make out a tiny black dot on the top of the cliff.  Some muppet has ignored common sense, all the signs about the strong wind and risk of falling and crossed the barrier to stand right on the edge!


Just below the lighthouse … a derelict military installation complete with concrete gun installations … not sure why or when. 


Jez is in the centre of the pic and tonight we are blissfully alone with just the wind (not just Oscar’s snoring) for company.

603 – Bacalhoa Wine and Palace: Lisbon Day 3

603 – Friday 20th January 2017:  Moscatel Winery and Palace

I’d done a bit of research about a Moscatel of Sebetul tastings having acquired a bit of a taste for it.  A useful English ex pat lady (http://juliedawnfox.com) had written up the Bacalhoa winery and I’d pre-booked a tour for us and Alison.  At only EUR 6 each, we really did not know what to expect other than:

  • it had to be pre-booked
  • the owner had a private art collection which we would see
  • there was the winery and the palace and we needed a car as they were 3km apart.
We pulled into the carpark in plenty of time alongside a blue terracotta army!  As we approached the reception, we were told that we would be doing the palace first and escorted in a mini bus.  Off we set … out fellow English speakers were two Lithuanians accompanied by a Lisbon resident for the US.  This proved to be another … ‘Goodness, how lucky were we’ moment, as the American lady not only brought all her visitors here and had visited 12 times on a tour, but knew the vinyard/palace/art collection owners and had been to parties here.  Again, how lucky: our guide George was enthusiastic and took much longer than the tour planned.  The Palace was crammed with gems of art.  The owner of the vineyard had made his money extracting gold from waste rock in Africa and is the 9th richest man in Portugal … and with an amazing art collection.  This is spread between his various properties and public museums, including one on Belem, which we’d seen the outside of yesterday.  As well as tiles dating form Moorish times, there were paintings, sculptures etc.  The gardens came alive under George’s explanations of the pleasure gardens … hidden courting benches, sailing on the pond and summer houses.
The American lady added odd snippets of insider knowledge about how the family made their money and having been thrown into the pond at parties.
After the palace, we were driven back to the winery … but wine had to wait … we were taken around the art galleries of the private collection.  We were so close to the exhibits … in fact we had to tell Alison to put her hands in her pockets as she wanted to stroke everything …  A slight wobble sound and Oh shit, from her had us seriously concerned at one point!  The Art Deco has me wanting to redecorate … along with the marble bathrooms (see previous post)…. James, how do you feel about going back to work to pay for it all?
Finally George was able to move our enthusiastic group along to the wine tasting.  An indifferent white, a stunning red, but at EUR10, not our normal drinking wine.  And thus onto the Moscatel.  A bargain at EUR4.10, so I bought a case.  Augmented by a couple of bottles as a gift from Alison.  I was interested in the difference between the 2 yr old and the 10 yr old … thought I’d buy 1 bottle as a comparison … so I asked George to point it out to me … and he gave me a tasting.  Aged P’s … I bought 2 bottles, plan to drink one and give you one … wonder if it’ll make it home.
The American lady was amazed that we’d discovered this tour as it is not marketed.  It really was an amazing trip and the staff recommended a local restaurant in an ordinary local town that was not only good value but stunning food.  We had the local DOP (which means it should good) Azeitao cheese … you cut off the top, relying on the linen band to support the side walls and spoon out the gooey unctuous cheese from within …  Alison had a huge prawn, I – a salted, onion, potato and cheese bake and J had the most amazing tender steak.  Fantastic.  What an amazing day when we had no idea what to expect.  And how lucky were we!




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Misty start to the day, but we crossed the 25th April Bridge.  It may be longest in Europe, but it was a bargain compared to the Severn Crossings (James used to be the MD) at only EUR1.75!

From the web site:

Bacalhôa Museum (Main Winery)

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Behind every great wine, there lies a great story.

Join us for an unforgettable visit of Quinta da Bassaqueira and discover its history which brings together wine, nature and art.

We invite you to discover different collections divided into three thematic groups expository:

“Out of Africa” is an exhibition dedicated to the Queen Ginga and three Landscape Wonders from Angola – the Dark Stones from Pungo Andongo, the Tundavala Gap and Kalandula Falls. 

What a Wonderful World! It is a gateway to an atmosphere of glamor and perfection. It is being carried away by the Art Nouveau and Art Deco, is to let yourself be captivated by the euphoria of the Roaring Twenties, is to let yourself go around by the bright colors and metallic shades.

Portuguese Tiles from XVI to XX Century, used so lush and unparalleled in any European country, the tiles, which proliferated for more than five centuries in Portugal, eventually became a genuine contribution to our country’s cultural heritage and artistic world.

During the tour, take the opportunity to taste the wines and fully appreciate the pleasure which can be found in the degustation of wines.
From the tasting room, admire the tranquil scene of the Japanese garden, in which some of the works of the sculptor Niizuma are exhibited, along with a Kaki tree, the ‘great-granddaughter’ of the only tree to survive the Nagasaki bomb.

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By the car park contained some unusual art … just  hint at what was to come.

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Some of the wine is matured in these steel containers.  Others in 2 year old French oak barrels and the better stuff in American red wood – the same used for Scottish whisky and Sherry … hope they have a lot of trees.  The barrels do last about 40 years though and cost nearly EUR1000.

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A large playfellow for Oscar.  Some of the olive trees were over 2000 years old and had been replanted from before the Barragem Alqueva was dammed.  It is great having explored enough of a country to be able to make connections and say “We’ve been there”.

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The front of the palace that a Queen (forget which) built as a playground for her son.

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Marble and all on piece with Vasca da Gama.

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Parterre with 5 hidden benches for whatever couples got up to centuries ago!

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Originally the water had boats on for the royals to play with, but apparently the son of the current owner, who lives here, throws guests in!  Private information from one of the group who knew the owner’s family and had been to parties here.

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The Portuguese tiles original had colour, then when the trade routes closed so did access to certain pigments, so the tiles became only blue until the C19.

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It is a new vineyard planted in the 1960’s … the first two bottles are on the table.

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The current owner and art collector is within the top 10 most wealthy Portuguese and he is fascinated with Catherine of Braganza.  This is the original marriage contract.

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Just a small part of the Art Deco museum.

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Absolute abandon.

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Almost life size.

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Some of the 2 year old Moscatel raging on French Oak barrels.

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Wine aging in newer barrels with priceless tiles all around the cellar.

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Alison using her decaff tea bags for a bit of eye therapy during lunch.