Quinta Photo Galleries
Surrounding the Quinta the countryside is famed for its rugged beauty. Sparsely populated due to its geographical location it nevertheless has pockets of rich soil, which are cultivated intensively, but given some water in the form of rain and no matter where one looks there is a wealth of wild flowers. The complete absence locally of pesticide and herbicide use promotes an abundance of flora seldom rivalled within Europe.
The most rewarding time of year for exploring this part of our paradise is from late March through to the end of May, when the surrounding vegetation blends effortlessly with the Quinta's garden.
The latter continues to blossom throughout the year due to its proximity to and therefore ease of irrigation, whereas, once the summer heat begins the unwatered vegetation roundabouts lies dormant for another year, and our garden is a beacon for the local fauna, reminding us every day of the multicoloured beauty and joy of Spring. The garden has been designed and planted by the present owners from its inception to be a multi-faceted haven for all wildlife and has several distinct habitats, whilst still continuing to be a garden that humans too can enjoy.
Outside of the garden, but within walking distance of the Quinta, there are hidden valleys that retain their greenery right through the year also, and here again one really feels the peace that comes from a truly untouched countryside, unchanged it seems from the time that Man first ventured into these tangled hills that define the lower margins of the Alentejo, a region as distinct from the villa-encrusted Algarve as it is from the wide open expanses of the true Plains to the north. To follow the goat trails up the Secret Valley to Maria's Bar, where cool drinks reinvigorate one for the return trip, is to be immersed not only in the beauty that the local flora provides, but also in a culture and pace of life that is sadly missing for many of us nowadays.
Should one take the time to visit the Plains, which lie an easy hour's car journey to the north-east, one finds oneself immersed in a totally different landscape, where the land undulates gently to the horizon, dotted here and there with a stand of eucalyptus or scattered Holm oaks. This is the bread-basket of Portugal, and where the land is not under cultivation is the preserve of vast flocks of sheep, still herded throughout the day by solitary shepherds and their dogs. Bitterly cold during the winter and baking hot during the summer, this area bursts forth in Spring with a carpet of flowers that is indescribable in its beauty and limitless in its expanse.
Or go west from the Quinta; an hour's journey in this direction brings you to the rocky and windswept Costa Vicentina, where yet another botanical jewel is found. The sandy and acidic soils found here promote a completely different habitat which is exploited wherever a seed can lodge long enough to germinate, a tough proposition when the wind is taken into account. The flora found along these cliffs are so far largely untouched by the mass expansion of tourism that has blighted so many of Europe's once pristine habitats during the last thirty years, and, due to the cooler climate, last well into the hot summer months in all their colourful glory.
The lawns close to the water's edge are inviting whatever the season, and many hours are contentedly whiled away, book in hand, relaxing on a sun bed, watching the ripples on the lake and contemplating the business of the butterflies and Hawk moths as they flit from one flower to another. Then, as the sun starts its inexorable slide towards the hills on the horizon, one may feel the slightest twinge of guilt at having done nothing but relax all day. Don't worry! This can easily be erased by a quick walk "around the block" before we meet for pre-dinner drinks on the terrace, there to describe in all its fretful glory, the wonderful day you've spent letting the worries of the world take care of themselves for once.
But no matter how you wish to spend your time, active to the point of exhaustion or exhausted at the prospect of action, the beauty of the flora in and around the Quinta is often the defining memory of a holiday here in this Paradise in Portugal.