Friday, February 23, 2024

Why dazzling Estremoz is Portugal’s most underrated town

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Though perhaps not quite well-accoutred enough for a longer stay, what Estremoz was able to offer seemed perfectly calibrated for a low-key weekend break. There was a clutch of museums, good for a morning mooch, best of which was the huge Berardo collection of azulejos (tiles) splendidly displayed in the baroque Palácio Tocha. 

On my strolls around town I had fun spotting the local marble in ever more surprising guises, from benches to bathtubs, sinks to staircases, cups to cobbles. A particular pleasure was Estremoz’s legion of bric-à-brac shops – among them Casbablanca, a hole-in-the-wall locale where French interior-design maven Aurèle Lefaucheux held court, mixing and matching Alentejano crafts with mid-century vintage pieces and Moroccan carpets. 

On Sunday morning, I walked through the battlements into the alleys of a fortified upper town where orange trees hung over whitewashed walls, their branches laden with ripe fruit. An occasional car rattled by on the undulating cobbles. In a patch of rough ground within the castle walls, a donkey brayed. 

From the top of the picture-book medieval tower crowning the town, built (of course) entirely in bright white marble, I looked out over a modest urban sprawl which fizzled out into a gentle landscape of olive groves and vineyards.    

Late at night, through my bathroom window at Casa do Gadanha, I caught another beatific vision: the citadel where I’d stood and gazed that morning, shining in the moonlight with a strange neon glow. 

Essentials 

Paul Richardson was a guest of Casa do Gadanha (00 351 268 249 790; casadogadanha.pt), which has double rooms from £120, including breakfast.    

TAP Portugal (flytap.com) flies from London and Manchester to Lisbon from £97 return.  

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