Saturday, June 11, 2016

Evora to Obidos - Day 5

Friday, June 10, 2016
Today was billed as "olives, oaks and Obidos." The real treat was spending the day on a working family farm. This was an experience you could only get with a specialized tour company and it was refreshing to be away from the bustle of tourists at other sights. 
We drove about 2 hours from Evora where we arrived at the Rovisco Garcia farm. It has been in the family for generations and now comprises about 4,500 acres. It started out as a cork farm but has expanded into olive oil, wine, pine nuts, alfalfa and "tourism."
We boarded a green wagon pulled by a tractor and toured the farm.
Our guide was Gonçalo, a son in his early 40's who now manages the farm. His parents (who are my age) and his grandparents (91 and 96) are still very much involved.
He gave us a good overview of cork. 
A cork tree must be 18-25 years old before it can be harvested. Then it can only be harvested every 9 years. The first 2 harvests have no commercial value. A tree can produce new bark 17 times so a tree is good for 150 years. 
They are so valuable that even though this one fell on the road, it was better to build the road around it since it is still alive and producing.
The trees are numbered to show the last year harvested. This one was done in 2000.
The bark is still harvested manually by teams of 2 using a special axe. Care is taken not to cut into the wood of the tree. Harvest season is June and July when the tree perspires and the bark is easily released. The bark comes off in large slabs.
Thirty percent of the cork goes to produce wine corks, but it accounts for 80% of the revenue. The rest has other commercial uses. Gonçalo said corks still provide the best seal for wines over plastic and screw tops.
He took us out into the field to get a better view of his farm and to show us his pine trees.
It takes 3 years for a pine cone to produce pine nuts, but the tree is always growing new cones.
Along our walk we saw wildflowers in bloom everywhere.

Afterwards we had lunch at the family home, which was pretty spectacular.
They even had a party room for groups like ours.
Lunch was dogfish (shark)
as an appetizer, chicken pie for entre,
and strawberry ice cream with fresh strawberries picked that morning. Maria Antonio, the 91-year-old grandmother, ate at our table and was delightful. 
Gonçalo and his sister Sophia run the day to day operations and are pictured here with Robert, our guide.
Following lunch (which was over at 3) we boarded our bus and drove 2 hours to Obidos. It is described "post card-perfect because it looks just like you expect a Portuguese village to look like, complete with an old castle on a hill and a 14th century wall.
Since we arrived late in the day, we did not have too much time to explore, but here are some quick highlights and views of the city.
The main gate in the wall has blue and white tiles depicting the town's history.
Apparently there were many more but they fell off in the 1755 earthquake.
I walked along the wall, which offered some great views,

but logistically became a little sketchy.
I plan to have some more photos of the city tomorrow.
Tonight dinner was light after all the food and wine at lunch and another early evening.

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