Alentejo - Beyond the Tagus

  • By mt
  • 07 Aug, 2017
View from Castelo de Vide Castle in the Alentejo, Portugal
The Alentejo wine region in southern Portugal is gaining fame for it's idylic scenery, excellent local foods and world class wines. The name quite literally means, Beyond the Tagus. If you didn't know, the Tagus (Tejo in Portuguese) is one of the main rivers flowing through the Iberian peninsula and it's estuary in Lisbon marks the beginning of the gentler rolling fields of the south. 
By mt 12 Sep, 2017

What is the best thing after a great bike ride? How about some delicious crusty bread, spread with with fresh butter, dunked in virgin olive oil or some tasty tapenade? Time and again we are told by cyclists on our bike tours in Portugal that one of the things they love most is the bread - or pão in Portuguese. Despite beautiful cycling on low traffic roads, scenic monuments, exceptional hotels and exquisite meals - the bread does make quite an impression.

What is the secret you may wonder? Well, that's simple: half and half, stone ground flour, a generous touch of salt and a wood fired stove. You can enjoy the simple gastronomic treat of a pão Alentejano from the Alentejo wine region , or a delicious wedge of corn broa in the Minho on our vinho verde bike tour in northern Portugal. Whether on the side of a hearty Portuguese soup or simply dunked in olive oil, this is a loaf to write home about!

By mt 07 Aug, 2017
The Alentejo wine region in southern Portugal is gaining fame for it's idylic scenery, excellent local foods and world class wines. The name quite literally means, Beyond the Tagus. If you didn't know, the Tagus (Tejo in Portuguese) is one of the main rivers flowing through the Iberian peninsula and it's estuary in Lisbon marks the beginning of the gentler rolling fields of the south. 
By mt 01 Jun, 2017
August, in Portugal, is the traditional month for saints' festivals. In Portugal's northwestern-most province, the Minho, this is especially true. One of Portugal's most beautiful areas, it is incredibly green and lush, over-run with hydrangeas and rambling roses. The little granite villages are bordered with vineyards. Tall granite poles support the climbing vines. The vines are responsible for the delicious fizzy red or white wine, known as green wine/ vinho verde , drunk by all the locals since Roman times.

On the weekend closest to Aug 20th, the old town of Viana Do Castelo, sitting regally on the banks of the lovely Lima River, plays host to the medieval festival of Nossa Senhora do Agonia / Our Lady of the Sorrows. A misnomer for such a colorful, happy festa! On the first day, there is a blessing of the fishing fleet with the streets near the docks decorated with colored sawdust and flowers by the fishermen's wives . A procession from the church carries the image of Our Lady of Sorrows to the docks to ensure the fisherman have a bountiful safe year.

Most local ladies wear their regional dresses of bright red embroidered skirts with flowered scarves on their heads or their wedding dresses of black velvet trimmed with jet beading and lace - both weighed down by the family's fortune in gold jewelry! On the Saturday, there are parades of massive floats representing the different villages in the area, girls showing off their dresses, fair clowns wearing giant papier-mache heads and, of course, ranks of drummers beating enormous tambors!

All of this is backed up with the most prodigious agricultural fair you've ever seen, selling every thing you could possibly imagine. Anyone want a borosa ox? Or a flax spindle? Or a hand-held plow? Most business is done by the farmers in the time honored tradition of haggling and drinking -until a satisfactory price is reached.

In the evening, there is wonderful grilled fish and chicken washed down with vinho verde. And, later, LOTS of dancing finished off with an exuberant display of fireworks. Good food, wine and entertainment. Viva Portugal!
By mt 16 Mar, 2017
I was locked in the bathroom. I pushed and shoved but the door wouldn't budge. The only window was a tiny skylight. I was stuck in a bathroom at a remote gas station on a dusty mountain pass in the middle of Morocco. I heard male voices outside and they started pushing on the door, mild panic set in, I thought this is the moment I'm kidnapped and bundled into a carpet. Finally the door burst open and several men fell over each other in a pile at my feet. They were smiling and obviously very concerned from my well being, I thanked them profusely and steeped into the fresh air. I felt embarrassed and foolish to have felt threatened when throughout my first visit to this extraordinary country we had received nothing but the warmest hospitality, kindness and above par service in every way. Morocco constantly surprised me and always for the better. Shallow preconceptions and stereotypes were crushed and that's why travel is so important.

Below are 5 reasons you'll love Morocco but if you join us on our Morocco bike tour and you'll find the list could be infinite. The Kingdom of Morocco is large and mysterious enough that it draws you back again and again and of course it's always best traveled on the seat of a bicycle.

The unique ambiance of Marrakesh, one of the most thriving market towns in the world. It's retained its aura of African exoticism with guaranteed dry heat, the heady atmosphere of its souk, its celebrated monuments and the nearby High Atlas all offer a universal appeal. It is a fascinating city but like all things in Morocco it's best to take things slowly and not rush through it's precious monuments.

The beauty of the snow capped Atlas Mountains . Rising immediately south of Marrakesh are the highest and most dramatic range of mountains in north Africa. This jagged horizon of ethereal blue peaks draws you in through lush valleys, mountain villages, kasbahs and a string of Berber souks where the economy of the plains meet that of the High Atlas.

Experience Morocco’s exceptional hospitality from the singular riads to the magnificent Kasbahs. One of the greatest joys of travelling through Morocco is the sheer variety of accommodation where you are always received with the warmest welcome. You can spend one night at the top of the Atlas in a remote kasbah gazing at the stars and the next in a luxurious oriental dream.

The spices of life from one of the most flavorful of world cuisines . Morocco has a varied and distinctive national cuisine from the simple to the very sophisticated. One of the most striking features of Moroccan cooking is the quality & freshness of the ingredients. Wandering the souks you see the pyramids of fruit, vegetables and nuts so fresh and pure they seem like a new species. The produce comes from the land without pesticides, chemicals, hormones or preservatives.

Explore the maze like medina’s and haggle your way from medieval crafts to the latest tech or why not trade your iPhone for a museum piece? Something that I came very close to doing on my last trip had we managed to unblock my phone. Arab cities were designed with the souk or market at the center of the community. Islam has none of the Christian anxiety about mixing trade and worship. The streets around a grand mosque are usually the busiest and the richest. The outer walls of mosques are commonly obscured by workshops and stalls where rent helps pay for the upkeep of the building.

Just 5 points on what could be an endless list. Pick your favorite and find out if Morocco is your undiscovered paradise with Cycling Centuries Bike Tours.
By mt 02 Jan, 2017

If you're looking for a magical escape this summer we've got the perfect trip for you!   Cycling through the Minho  Green Wine region feels like you've stepped back in time to an ancient fairy tale land.  On this easy going tour we roll through medieval villages with colourful folk festivals hailing from pagan times through to the coast of northern Spain where Columbus' ships landed on their return from the New World.

The 17th century Manor's with lush gardens and private vineyards are the perfect end to a day of riding through gorgeous valleys exploring the many green way cycle paths running parallel to the crystal rivers. The evenings are warm and topped off with a cool glass of delicious, light green wine tickling the palate in a perfect match for a fine dinner.

With a comfortable balance of small back roads and scenic cycle paths, this tour offers riders of every level a great introduction to  Portugal , one of Europe's least known and most charming countries. If it sounds like a curious part of the world to you, that's because it is!   Get in touch  to find out more.

By mt 02 Jan, 2017

Of all the visits on our  Alentejo bike tour , one of the most special is the pottery village of São Pedro do Corval. With a ceramics tradition dating back centuries, and family businesses just as old, its a delight to see that potters wheels are still spinning in the 21st century.

Despite the Roman origins of the trade of spun pottery in Iberia, traditional Portuguese pottery was influenced heavily by trade with China, dating back to the voyages of Vasco da Gama and perhaps even earlier.  With the Moorish occupation of the Iberian Peninsula, motifs of vegetal and geometric of the Islamic culture became popular and remain so to this day.

Although the pottery sold these days is mostly decorative, the majority are excellent for serving up hot or cold food and adding a wonderful splash of color to any table setting.  So if sun, fun and colorful crafts are your thing, check out our  Alentejo bike tour  for all that an much more!

By mt 02 Jan, 2017

All Cycling Centuries Bike Tours feature exceptional local food, some meals are familiar and others decidedly not so. Few culinary delights could appear less appealing than  Açorda . This very Portuguese bread stew has been likened to stuffing or chowder, and don't knock it until you have tried.

Even the most squeamish eaters come round to the delicious blend of bread, drippings, garlic and cilantro, which is making my mouth water even as I write these lines! No better place to sample  Açorda  than along our delectable  Alentejo Bike Tour , where food and wine are simply to ride for.

By mt 15 Dec, 2014
Easy, that's the Alentejo. Slow down and smell the wildflowers, stop and listen to the quiet; bells from the sheep in a distant field, the first cuckoo, a burbling brook. Feel the warmth of the sun warming your body as it settles in the sky.

Time works at a very different pace in the Alentejo and that's the pleasure of this region just under the heart of Portugal. No need to check phones or watches just follow the sun to your next destination. For this and many more reasons is why National Geographic choose the wonderful Alentejo as a "must see" destination.

Experience this delightful destination on Portugal's Blue Coast following the wild Atlantic along the Alentejo's Rota Vicentina into the Algarve. Sweeping ocean views, rugged headlands, endless beaches and the freshest catch with a cool glass of white wine to finish the day.

Or follow us into the interior of the Alentejo on our Alentejo bike tour with it's magnificent fields of wild flowers and aromatic herbs, incredible towns made of marble, and the fantastic white washed walled villages looking out over the river Guadiana to Spain. At the end of the day every meal is a delight with fresh, organic ingredients flavored with all the wonderful herbs from the days ride.

No doubt the Alentejo is a must see destination. Either bike tour is available as a fully supported guided trip or a private or tailor-made guided trip.
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