Before leaving Setubal this morning we walked around the downtown area stopping at several churches.
|Setubal St Julio Cathedral|
|Tile Painting in the Cathedral|
Once on the road we drove south, driving through areas where there are groves of cork oak trees. Cork is actually the bark of the tree. It is waterproof and heatproof. It also is tasteless and odorless, thus a good product for corking wine.
Harvesting cork is done by skilled people. If there is a slip of the knife causing the cut to be too deep, it will kill the tree. Also cork cannot be harvested more than every 9-10 years. It takes that long for the cork bark to re-grow. When the cork bark is removed there is a layer of raw red undercoat until the new bark begins to reform. After the cork is removed, a number is sprayed on the tree, telling everyone in which year it was harvested. Portugal is the world largest producer of cork, turning out 30 million corks a day.
Since corks for bottles are round, the remnants of the cork are used in many other ways. It is usually ground and formed into shapes for decorative items, but also Birkenstock Shoe Company uses it for the soles of their shoes.
Cork trees simply grow anywhere and everywhere – some in groves, but many simply spread across the hillsides. Often cattle or sheep are grazing under the trees.
|Stork on its nest|
|Cork tree harvested at least once - Notice the girdle line|
As we traveled farther south we began seeing olive trees, and the citrus groves. We also saw fields of yellow flower and red poppies. It is springtime. Today was a beautiful day. While in the sun you did not want a jacket, but if you were in the shade, the breeze was slightly chilly.
We stopped in the village of Alte. It was a pretty white-washed hill town, sitting in picturesque rolling hills of cork, olives & citrus.
|Chimney Filigree in Alta|
We continued on to our night’s reservation at a Pousada in the village of Estoi. At one time this Pousada was Palace. Due to the expense of keeping up these grand structures, the government now owns them and has updated them into elegant hotels. Sometimes the work is ongoing, and in this one there are still areas that are under renovation – such as the chapel.
We decided the spend the extra several times to enjoy the ambience of historic Pousadas. This is our first such night. This Pousada has a whole new wing built to the accommodate guest with the amentities that are expected today. We are free to roam through the Palace, and the Gardens which we did this evening and probably will again in the morning as there will be different light.
|A couple interesting characters we saw today|
|Red Poppies growing wild|