Monday 1 October 2012

From pillory to post

Today's been one of those "you're not on holiday - this is a job" days, starting at almost 5am with jetlag and homework with Lonely Planet and brochures. The walk I took around the village was nice, with cats and sunshine and sheep with tuneful bells, and much leaping to the side of the cobbled roadways as cars flapped past; but breakfast was a foodie exercise with far more discussion than eating.

And then we were packed up and on the road again for a full day of history and architecture, and lots of warfare too. We went back to Marvao again for a proper look, and that was lovely, climbing up onto the castle ramparts and looking across the wide plains into Spain, and back down to the main square where the pillory stands, well-used during the Inquisition - but it was nice that they'd put the effort in to decorate it, I thought. Then we went to nearby Castel de Vide for more of the same, plus Jews, who had a hard time of it there (surprise!) and whose story is well told in the former synagogue. The town was also very pretty, full of steep narrow lanes lined with potplants and sunflowers growing through the cobbles, and more cats, and birds in cages peeping and twittering. We had lunch there, at the same restaurant as last night, and again ate far too much; and again there was far too much discussion of it, which is what happens when one of you is a food writer, I suppose, but it had me hankering for the days when it was considered ill-mannered to talk about what you were eating.*
Elvas came next, after an uncomfortably - not to say scarily - fast drive to catch up with the clock. This town, which also has a pretty pillory, is enclosed by an impressive series of star-shaped walls, built in succession from the 9th century, and from the walls of its keep we looked out towards other smaller forts. One of them we went to, where model soldiers stand next to pyramids of cannonballs and the museum is full of glass cases of caps and medals and swords, a spiked ball on a chain cutely called a 'morning star' and other delights of warfare that left me entirely cold. We had earlier bumped into a Brit in the street who had spontaneously launched into an enthusiastic review of one of the forts, though, so I'm guessing it's a man thing.

And now we're in Borba, at an eclectically-designed boutique hotel with such things as a genuine confessional screen hiding the shower stall, and the others have gone out for yet another no doubt deeply discussed meal but I'm giving my belly and brain a break and staying in tonight. I've done enough work today.

* And then the God of Coincidence suggests I could be pilloried myself for hypocrisy in sneering at food writing, reminding me that I've done it myself: overnight I received the pdf of that story I laboured over - it must be said, with very little enjoyment - producing a review for Vacations & Travel of Queenstown restaurants, in most of which I have (so far) never set foot. But I live in hope, and if/when I eat at these places, I shall be properly respectful of what's on my plate.

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