When we checked out at Melia Palacio de Lousa, the friendly lady at the hotel reception gave me precise instructions and a handful of copies of detailed road maps, to help us find our way to Castelo Branco (our next stop) without getting lost somewhere on the way again. We followed her advice closely and found ourselves passing through some very pleasant countrysides.

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A village cafe in the middle of Portugal's countryside. They serve very good espresso and the owner, an old man in his 60s, actually knows where Taiwan is ('Formosa' is the name he uses). In fact, many older Portugese know about Formosa and the troubled history between the Nationalists and the Chinese Communists.

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All along the way there are countless olive grooves and orchards. In contrast to Spain, olive grooves and orchard fields all have a rugged, even 'wild' feeling.


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At a small village en route to Castelo Branco (I forgot the name of this little place but it is worth a lunch stop), we stopped for lunch and wander around the small streets for a while.

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We realised that towns and villages in this part of Portugal are much tidier than their counterparts in the western half of the country. Not sure why this is so, but the quality of infrastructure get better as we drove away from the coast towards the border with Spain. 

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The lush green valley and unknown little villages in the middle of Portugal. We did not follow our maps strictly. Instead we drove and stop whenever we see something interesting or unusual.

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Many houses in Portugal and Spain have such beautiful tiles on the exterior walls.

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We arrived on time (!) at Castelo Branco. In fact we did not expect to arrive on time, because we thought we would definitely lost our way again. As a result we had plenty of time to check-in at our hotel, walk around the town and have a drink at the  pretty local park.

Castelo Branco is certainly off the beaten track, as it is an industrial town (textile and light industries) but its city centre is extremely tidy and compact. There is an old fortress on the top of the hill, near the Melia Tryp hotel where we stayed overnight. From the ramparts of the fortress you get a wonderful view of the whole town and the surrounding plains.

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This park in the centre of Castelo Branco is very well-maintained, with several water fountains in the courtyard.

Here I have to recommend the hotel we stayed at in Castelo Branco: Melia Tryp Castelo Branco

Located on top of the hill overlooking the town, the hotel has ample free parkings and its restaurant has excellent view of the town (especially in the night). The buffet dinner is good, with many choices of fresh salads, exotic fruits (including my favourite,  freshly cut mango, very seldom seen or served by hotels in Europe - not even the 5 stars in Germany or Italy have fresh mangos on their buffet tabels), excellent Brazilian beef steaks, pastas, rice dishes, desserts etc. The room is simple but clean and for the price of 50 euro per room per night, I won't hesitate to stay here again.

Copyrights 2009. All Rights Reserved. All text and photos by YC Cheng.

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