A Stop on the Way From Lisbon to Barcelona

Refugio da Vila Casa Rural from the garden side

After our long odyssey of from Prague to Santiago di Compostela and dropping off our clients Betty and Bob Whittemore at the airport in Lisbon, we headed about 90 minutes south and east of the city into the heart of the Alentejo district of Portugal. We’re on a mission to find a source for handmade and handpainted ceramics. We’d found these in an artisan’s cooperative in the village of Alte, Algarve some years ago but the owner of that store decided to close over the winter and so we lost our source.

A gorgeous staircase lined with painted panels leads to the bedrooms on the first floor

Before scouting for ceramics, it was time for an overnight at the Refugio Da Vila in the village of Portel, located southeast of the larger city of Evora. We’d booked a room for one night over the internet but once we were inside this lovely mansion and shown to our room, we immediately changed our plans. “Are two nights possible?” I asked the lovely young receptionist, Leonora. “Of course, be at home,” was the response.

One of many paintings along the hallway

We did just that, settling into a huge junior suite with king-sized four-poster bed, couch, chair, massive bathroom with clawfoot tub and a domed ceiling full of beautiful stucco designs. The public spaces of this house were just as inviting. There were reading and relaxing nooks all over the place and we tried them all. Dinner on the first night was simple, cheese, bread and wine out on the terrace as a thunderstorm brewed. The next night, we had dinner in the excellent restaurant, which offers cooking courses.

This was a place we truly did not want to leave, but duty calls in Barcelona. With regret, we said good-bye to new friends Miguel and Jean and Sofia and turned our wheels to the east and Spain.

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