During our time in Portugal, we drove north from Odiaxere to the mountain village of Monchique. Monchique is famous for its spas, honey, and firewater (aka moonshine). After parking our rental car we meandered down to the town square. We enjoyed an espresso and cappuccino in the blazing hot sun, while watching a sculptural water feature that looked like a water mill. Then it was time for some shopping! I picked up this rustic leather satchel, and we had a great time looking at all the gorgeous cork and leather items for sale.
The store below sold honey and firewater created by the families of Monchique. Behind every type of firewater was a picture of the gentleman who made it. All the products were certified and regulated by a special agency, and packed a punch – 75% alcohol! Yiiikes.
Chris and I saw the beautiful old church perched atop a mountain, and decided to take a walk up to it and see if we could get a tour of the inside. We made our way up the cobbled empty streets, some of which had built-in staircases…
We passed an antenna made from a soccer ball ^^^
When we reached the top of the hill, a few middle-aged men were lounging around outside, eyeing us suspiciously. One of the men motioned for us to follow him – I was a bit hesitant, and didn’t really want to follow a stranger into an abandoned church that had a spattering of graffiti on it…but Chris convinced me to follow along. Inside, the man and his family (with many young children), were living as squatters. They slept in a loft-type area above the courtyard, which was filled with vegetable gardens and chicken coops. The man generously allowed us to tour the abandoned church that was beautifully derelict.
When we finished exploring the church, the man led us back out through his home. In a small corner was a little store. We bought a few lemons, clementines, and piri piri peppers that were hanging on the wall. The man was happy to have sold some produce, and we were happy to have met him and been invited into his unique home. This was definitely a highlight of the trip. We ate our tiny clementines in a cork grove just outside the church, before making our way back down to the town.
We had a bit of a difficult time finding a place to eat lunch. We didn’t want to eat at a tourist spot, which seemed to be abundant in the main square. When we’d go to a non-tourist spot, they would refuse to serve us or even come to our table to take our order. It definitely felt hostile at times. Finally we found a family-run restaurant, where we enjoyed olives, cod, french fries, and pork. Of course, we had chocolate mousse for dessert – which is so typical in many of the Portuguese restaurants! Yum.