European Escapades

The Magic of Serpa




a beautiful welcome to portugal
A Beautiful Welcome to Portugal.

We leave Seville on a Sunday and wonder as we head out of Dos Hernandas via the ring road, whether we should have looked for a petrol station before leaving town. Our lack of knowledge of the town and the thought of a service stop along route won over and we leave Seville behind us. The further we got away from the town the bleaker it looked as we saw no signs for services and fifteen miles out the red light finally comes on the dashboard, blatantly telling us we should find petrol. Tapping the TomTom for gas station POI’s, I note one a few kilometres on and sure enough as we come around a curve in the highway we spot a Repsol sign towering high above the landscape just off of the next junction. Pulling off we find an open petrol station ready to serve a full tank of diesel to us. Why I wonder do we seem to wait until the last minute to fill up with petrol? It seems a bad habit with me anyway and whilst it may be a fairly safe thing to do it the UK, the distances in Spain are that much larger and the Spanish still closed on Sundays. Make a note to oneself, fill up when you get to a quarter of a tank, it’s a lot less of a worry than hunting for an open petrol station in an area you don’t know.

Coming up the N433 we pass a number of good wild camping spots and regret not stopping as we pull into what can only be described as a rather tired looking site charging €20 for the privilege of an overnight stay. Not wanting to move any further into unknown territory and across the border just yet, we decide to stay the night and stock up on food and cash the next day before we enter Portugal. As we drive into the site we move away from the stationary encampments of the Spanish at the top of the site and progress on down to lower tiers, where there seems to be only one van parked up. Turns out its a British van and we park halfway down the camping spots far enough not to be on top of the other van which seems to have spread out and taken around three pitches. As we set up the table and chairs, not that we are going to use them as the weather is a little inclement and cloudy, down from the reception come the couple than own the van. Seems we made a bad move as we have spoilt their perfect lonely view again, we wave politely at Victor and his wife who we seem to have bumped into for a second time. Guess what the next morning they are gone and we laugh and hope that they are not bound for Serpa or Beja in Portugal as we may get to see them again tonight.

a perfect perch for a stork
A Perfect Perch For a Stork.

We don’t know what it is but as we pass the now desolate border crossing into Portugal, a transformation seems to occur as the fields seem to get more colourful and the one or two lone houses shine out at us in morning sun. Somehow the views seem to want to welcome us to a new and interesting country that is Portugal. We laugh as we follow the electricity line running parallel to the road, as atop of virtually every one of the electric poles is a humongous birds nest and sitting within or standing tall is a large stork surveying the landscape around it. I cannot remember seeing any birds so wondrously large and in your face as these birds were in the UK and we are delighted to experience the sight. It seems as if the electricity poles where designed for a dual purpose and the birds have taken full advantage of this glorious perch we have provided for them. As we drive over the crest of a hill we are greeted by our first town of Portugal and it a beautiful sight. The white painted houses with bright red clay tiles seem to shimmer in the sunlight and give the town an almost magical appeal to it. All thoughts of continuing onto Beja are now out of our minds as we decide to explore this our first Portuguese town. We find the campsite and whilst it’s not on the scale of the Spanish sites, it has everything we could want and at only €7 a night. It had clean and functional toilets and showers, electric, water and with the use of a swimming pool next door. Whilst no onsite WiFi was available, we were pointed in the direction of town where there was free WiFi access.

the ramparts of serpa
The Ramparts of Serpa.

The town of Serpa itself is a little gem and includes the remains of the ramparts of a Moorish castle originally built in the 13th century. You can walk around the footpaths that follow the ramparts and enjoy views of the town and countryside around it. Entering the town itself you are charmed by the the narrow winding streets glistening with the small block paving so loved in Portugal. The friendly townsfolk will happily serve you the local delicacies, such as the sweet curd cheese tarts and the local cheese known as Queijo Serpa made from ewe’s milk. I partook of one of the cheese tarts whist we sat at a local cafe using the free WiFi and enjoying a lunchtime beer. They also do numerous other produce such as bread, olives, honey and a local wine. We bought a few bottles to try back at the van and then headed off again to explore the small church just off of the square, before heading back to the campsite. For our first taste of this fair country, this town made us fall in love with Portugal almost instantly and we now look forward to moving further west and onto the Atlantic coast experiencing further delights of Portugal.

This entry was posted on Saturday, May 15th, 2010 at 5:42 pm and is filed under Travel Stories. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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