Café Crem

Art, Music and Words around The Coffee Table

Death in the Gypsy Quarter – Portugal 25

Castle dwellings in Campo Mayor

Castle dwellings in Campo Mayor

Reluctantly, we headed South East, the Spanish border ever-closer. We intended to spend the last few days at a campsite in Portalegre, a big town south of the delights of Marvao. As we drove around it, looking for the campsite, it certainly looked spectacular, but our enthusiasm waned as we made our fourth circuit of the town without so much a glimpse of a tent. There followed a desperate 25 kilometer detour out into the wilderness to try and get onto the right road, and at the very end, we found the campsite. It had closed down.  We decided to leave Portalegre (which is obviously Portuguese for “no camping”) to its own devices, and we headed for the border town of Campo Mayor.

Campo Mayor’s campsite was thankfully clearly marked, and we parked up for two nights by a beautiful reservoir, spoiled only by the huge quantities of rubbish abandoned along its shoreline. This kind of thing is such a rarity in Portugal, and was quite upsetting.  It seemed as though all the rubbish had been bagged, but the local authority had never collected it. Mystifying. I had to stop myself thinking the Spanish influence had pervaded across the border.

They say an Englishman's home is his Castle, but the Portuguese take it literally, building homes in the Ramparts!

They say an Englishman's home is his Castle, but the Portuguese take it literally, building homes in the Ramparts!

The town itself was fantastic. Wonderful labyrinthine streets, and the old Castle ramparts had been adapted by poor families and transformed into housing! I’d never seen such a thing, it was fascinating. The town boasted two beautiful churches, and as Miki and I took our bikes to explore behind a huge convent, a man emerged from his house gesticulating wildly and shaking his head. He seemed to be imploring us not to go up a particular street.

As we climbed higher towards the Castle, it became clear that the area to which that street had led was the Gypsy quarter, and a woman told us there had been a murder there, just the day before.

Santa Barbara was powerless to prevent the Murder on her doorstep. No more offerings to her!

Santa Barbara was powerless to prevent the Murder on her doorstep. No more offerings to her!

Sadly, my image of the Gypsy (contrary to the stupid, romanticised, fortune-telling version) as a thieving rogue who’ll rob you blind then stab you in the back was only reinforced. At any rate, I don’t know whether they killed one of their own, or one of the townsfolk, but I tried not let it affect my overall view of this wonderful country.

We lingered in the town for a while, enjoying a coffee, before steeling ourselves for the mainly uphill ride back to the Campsite. The cafe played its part in acclimatising our return to Spain – run by a Spanish guy, with a Spanish pop station pumping from the speakers. I’d forgotten how fast they speak, akin to being spoken to by a machine gun!

The Castello at Campo Mayor

The Castello at Campo Mayor

On our final morning, we left Campo Mayor , and just a few kilometers down the road, crossed the river that marked the border. We bade our beloved Portugal an emotional farewell, pledging to return again soon. But our holiday had one more wonderful surprise in store for us, as we headed into the Spanish region of Extremadura….

Miki prepares to execute a death-defying downhill freewheel maneouvre

Miki prepares to execute a death-defying downhill freewheel maneouvre

Kev Moore

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July 24, 2008 - Posted by | Art, coffee, culture, life, photo, random, travel, writing | , , , , , ,

4 Comments »

  1. Wow…look at those arms! Another marvelous round of pitchers.

    Have you ever wondered why some people say ‘pitcher’ instead of pick-chur” ?

    Comment by sittingpugs | July 25, 2008

  2. I guess its from the same school of thought that uses “gonna” instead of going to!
    As for Miki’s arms, she’s a bit sporty y’know (thankfully she gets me bike riding and swimming too, so I don’t become a sedentary old git) BTW Pugs, coming soon a collection of “animalia” inadvertently captured on camera this trip!

    Comment by kevmoore | July 25, 2008

  3. Kev Moore a sedentary old git? Well, swimming or not, you should see him on stage, jumping up and down and right and left all the time! He is pretty fit our Rocker!
    As for my arms, oh God, I hadn’t even seen that Kevin had shown me so naked here… 🙂

    Comment by Miki | July 25, 2008

  4. Yay for animal cameos! I’ll be on the look out.

    Comment by sittingpugs | July 27, 2008


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