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11 June 2018

discovering fundão, portugal

the municipality of fundão is situated in the central area of portugal, in the region known as cova da beira, and is a plentiful valley of more than twenty villages all flanked by the gardunha hills. the area is a hub of mining and horticultural operations, most well known for the production of fruit, olive oil and wine - just a few of my favourite things! we set out to explore the region on our second day in the country, and here are some of the best bits...

the cherry orchards of the aldeia de alcongosta

the fundão cherry is a lot more than a simple fruit. to the region, it is associated with major companies, it's a global brand, and it has led local tourism to join forces with local agriculture in order to support and ensure its beloved product thrives. it's also the heart of the cherry route, and home to the annual cherry festival which sees fundão come alive with cherry blossoms, ripe, red fruit, and a hoard of locals celebrating the longer days and beautiful landscape together in the sun.

the orchards of fundão also form part of the reforestation of the region of serra da gardunha; adopting and planting your own cherry tree is a way to get in touch with the land, and help in the restoration and regeneration of nature for generations to come. and, i can guarantee that planting a tree of your own is the best feeling, too. i'm giving mine four to five years before i go back to visit her.

lunch at herminia restauante

fundão is known for its varied cuisine and traditional dishes, all inspired by local produce and flavours. we stopped in for lunch after our morning of cherry tree planting, and were overwhelmed with offers of stews, breads, pumpkin jam and crisp white wine, followed with a trio of desserts. sweet rice millefeuille, panna cotta and eggy puddings rounded out a very filling meal of smoked sausages and rice, fried cherovias a moda beira, and absolutely delicious trout on a bed of greens that i didn't realise was full of bones until i almost choked on them. regardless, the local dishes were just what we needed to keep us going for the rest of the afternoon.

wandering through castello nova

the historic wee village of castello vova is nestled in the hillside of the serra da gardunha, and offers one of the most beautiful views of the whole region. there was no way our coach could have made it down the narrow cobbled roads, so it dropped us at the top of the gorge and we wandered down slowly, in the late afternoon sun. the name of the village comes from the fact that a new castle was built there to replace an existing one that didn't quite meet the defensive needs of the region, but to today's standards i doubt that the new one would either.

there are natural springs dotted all around the village, and the water is so clean and fresh that families were filling their gallon bottles up from taps plumbed into the rocks on the side of the street! the village was adorable, and there were hardly any people to be seen; other than a man and his son bottling water, the only other sign of life was a wee nonna sticking out a window to see who we were and what we were doing taking photos of her house.. worth it, though. this village was well worth the trip!

waking up in hotel principe da beira

we didn't get to the hotel until late - very late, so we missed out on seeing the sun set over the hills. but, after a few glasses of wine with the rest of the group and a solid sleep (with the curtains open) in the converted monastery, i managed to actually wake up to the sun rising - and my god, what a stunning sight that was; well worth the early start! with morning came the farewell to the fundão region and everything it had offered (namely: cherry treets, traditional food, and cobbled villages), and a promise that i will mostly definitely be back.