Thursday, March 29, 2012

Roadtrip Random: Castro Verde

Our last couple of posts have been about our trip back to the States and what we ate there. This is our attempt to catch up with our blogging and also to get back to posting about life over on this side of the Atlantic. On our way to Lisbon (yeah, we went to Lisbon, last year, over Labor Day weekend, we know, we're terrible) we planned to stop for lunch about halfway through the 6 hour drive. Meghann thought that meant somewhere around Albufeira (you can see it on the map, the town right before we started heading north), but Graham did not and just kept driving. Which resulted in one of those arguments discussions about how we're both hungry and there's no place to eat and we're in the middle of nowhere and we're going to starve. We both turn completely cranky and unreasonable when we haven't eaten. So, Graham pulled in at a gas station and asked where the closest town with a restaurant was. And that is how we found ourselves in Castro Verde, Portugal - possibly one of the best, most random, roadtrip discoveries ever.

Despite being hungry, we were instantly intrigued by the little town and had to check it out. We parked the Mini on uno of the cobblestone streets and took a short walk.

The buildings were mostly whitewashed, but some were accented with bright paint and gorgeous tile work.

There was also a church, which was pretty but plain on the outside.

When we got to the door we realized that it was only the outside of the church that was simple.

We took a quick look inside and were pleasantly surprised. The inside was covered, floor to ceiling, with blue tiles. We would have liked to wander around (which is normally fine to do) but there appeared to be a meeting going on and we remembered that we were starving.

There were several restaurants, but for whatever reason, we chose this one. Who doesn't love a restaurant with a knight(?) on the sign?

(After doing some in depth research googling, we learned that Afonso I was the first king of Portugal. He triumphed over the Moors during the Reconquista and established independence for southern Portugal. And he also has a restaurant named after him. So, he's kind of a grande deal.)

The meal started off with olives.

And queso, of course.

For appetizers, we ordered the shrimp piri-piri which was delicious. Piri-piri is a spicy Portuguese marinade which is mucho mas caliente than traditional Spanish dishes.

Graham also ordered some barbecued pork that he said was really flavorful.

For our main dish, we both picked soup, which came in grande bowls. Graham's was a meat stock full of vegetables and potatoes. Meghann's was a fish soup with lots of cilantro. Both were served with hunks of bread in the bowls. Pictures can't do it justice - it was so, so bueno. And so diferente from traditional Spanish food where we live, which tends to be simpler, without as many herbs and spices. We had heard from other people that Portuguese food is amazing and after just one meal, we were believers.

Graham finished the meal with a café solo, while Meghann sat there feeling like a bad European resident, because she doesn't drink coffee.

After lunch, we decided to see what else Castro Verde has to offer. As we walked out the door of the restaurant, this donkey cart went by on the street.

We have no idea what this building is, but it looks like some sort of combination of Portuguese architecture and pagoda.

Just like in España, there were well-dressed older gentlemen passing their dia by socializing and strolling.

There was modern art, featuring a tree and pigs.

And an old windmill.

As lovely as Castro Verde is, it was time to get back in the car and head to Lisbon. One last shot of the church, before we drove out of town...

Have you had any great, unexpected roadtrip finds?

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