Upon waking in Seville it was time for a cappuccino, a dessert, and a walk to the Europcar office, the one at the train station. We were off to Marvao. We expected to drive through a forest of cork trees to get to a town perched on a hill shared with a castle. Another settlement that exists thanks to its impregnable situation. We rented the cheapest car, a Mini-sized but soggier Opel Adam. It had a slick stop-start and felt rock solid on the highway.
We quickly came to refer to the car as Adam. I drove Adam a half hour of Seville streets followed by an hour of four-lane divided highway followed by a few hours of windy two-lane roads followed by parking at the end of the road, just below the town. Along the way we stopped at a cafe for 1€ espressos and at a rather seedy store for groceries. We saw a lot of what I quickly realized were cork oaks, some showing bright red as if freshly injured skin.
Our hotel, Estalagem de Marvo, was very charming. Everything about it was well executed, the proprietors helpful and friendly, and so it joins Ronda and Granada and Tangier on the list of really nice places to stay. Estalagem de Marvo includes breakfast which is needed since Marvao is so small it doesn't have the patisseries that other cities offer. The hotel's reception room doubles as the town's only grocery store.
After breakfast in the hotel we walked up to the castle that shares the hilltop. At 1.3 entry is a bargain. The Castle grounds are extensive and well maintained and it is all open to unimpeded exploration. The grounds feature a cistern and walkways along the walls and slit windows and expansive views, The stone was slippery in the rain and many of the walkways narrow and lacking in railings. Castles weren't built to code.
The first castle to be built on this site dates to an 8th century Islamic knight, Ibn Marwan. The current Castelo de Marvo dates to the 12th century King Dom Dinis. The castle was remodeled during the 17th century so it has two set of walls. The inner walls are from medieval times, the outer from the "Guerra da Restaurao", the war between Portugal and Spain that began with the Portuguese revolution (1640) and ended with the Treaty of Lisbon (1668). I felt some of this history wandering around inside its walls, looking through slit windows, standing in a cramped stone guard tower, looking down to Marvao and further to the neighboring countryside. A commanding spot indeed.
The afternoon turned to rain so we relaxed by the fire in the hotel.
We were up early as daylight saving time ended in the night. Yesterday's fog was gone. Breakfast was in the hotels comfortable dining room. The friendly husband set out a buffet of coffee, juice, fruit, cheese, ham, bread and a dessert.
We'd a goal for the morning, to reserve a table at the Sever restaurant, which meant we had to walk to the neighboring town of Portagem. The town is in clear view as Marvao is on the hill overlooking it.
We walked to the town wall, passed through an arch, crossed the road then started down a trail past a convent. From here we were soon on the Road to Portalegre. Though we weren't going as far as Portalegre, just to Portagem. As we walked we were largely in the shade, from cork trees, many showing signs of harvest, plus other oaks and pines. The road's stones were laid out in lines and stars. It was tranquil. It also felt well trod.
After about an hour we entered Portagem. Here the Sever river runs constrained by a cement channel. In stark contrast to the stark colors and lines of the modern channel there stands a beautiful old stone bridge. We walked along the river and quickly found the restaurant where we made our reservations.
We hiked back up the hill to Marvao to eat lunch and plan the rest of our day.
In the afternoon we took Adam for a drive to the nearby town of Castelo de Vida. The town promised a castle to check out. After a short drive, maybe 20 minutes, we arrived and parked and walked around. Lunch was at a cafe where we ordered local, mine had duck and rice, Paul had pork, egg, and rice.
Castelo de Vida has tight hilly streets, very small townhouses especially next to the castle, a crumbly castle, and great views. Unfortunately there is no charge for admission to the castle and it shows, it looks completely neglected and like it continues to deteriorate. The only gauntlet you must pass is the man who will not stop talking. He guards the door to the sad archaeology museum in the castle.
We walked the Jewish quarter where we wondered what is the purpose of the water bottles by so many doors. We soon returned to Marvao to relax then we took Adam back down the hill to an excellent local-cuisine dinner in Portagem. We had a chickpea-codfish appetizer and entrees of lamb with coriander sauce and a steak.