August 19, 2015
Gordon: The village of Monsanto, where we are staying tonight, was voted “the most Portuguese village” in 1938. However, as Ruth commented “How can it be the most Portuguese village when it is unlike any other place we have been in the country?” Monsanto truly is extraordinary. It is situated on an isolated hill high above the the surrounding plains. From the castle on top you can see 30 kilometres in any direction. As a result the hill has been occupied by successive civilizations since the Paleolithic. The town itself is both carved out of the native granite and constructed from chunks of it. Most of the “streets” are too narrow and irregular to allow the passage of vehicles, making it a perfect maze to wander on foot.
We are staying in a delightful guesthouse (Casa Pires Mateus) run by everyone’s doting aunts, Edit and Nati. They do not speak a word of English or French, but we have been getting on wonderfully. They have even flattered my rudimentary knowledge of Portuguese by having me translate for a couple of other English speaking guests. It has been difficult to practice my Portuguese, because most of the locals switch to English or French, if they speak it, or cease talking to us if they do not. It has consequently been a real treat to talk with the Aunties.