Mexilhoeira Grande (85), Portugal
13 rooms • 29 pers. max.
The area from Lisbon southwards is mostly taken up by the rolling plains of the Alentejo. Its decisive role in the overthrow of dictatorship in the 1974 Revolucao dos Cravos (revolution of carnations) is universally recognised. Home to the great latifundios (large farming estates), the workers from which support any outlet for their anger at the unfair employment policies, this 'Red' region is the antithesis of its northern mirror-image. As flat as the north is craggy, with its liberal attitudes and weaker religious ties, it is an area whose people are very welcoming, albeit slightly wary of strangers. Highly agricultural - olives, cork, pigs - the colours of the landscape offer every imaginable shade of green, stitched together in a blanket of tranquillity, interspersed with vibrant yellow gorse, exquisite purples and blues and a solid base of earthy russets, chestnut and ochres of rich tilled land; an artist's dream.
Evora, the capital, is sheer poetry - if you can fight through its tourists to see the famous temple of Diana, old university and monastery (now a splendid pousada).
Elvas, on the border with Spain, of great historical importance in bygone battles against the invading Spanish and Arab forces, and it has a fantastic aqueduct.
Borba and Redondo are small one-horse towns, but the wine is worth a taste.
Arraiolos is the home to handmade tapestries and rugs, and exquisite blue and white dwellings.
The Algarve, Down into the Algarve, away from the hassle of tourist boom towns the area offers a variety of trips into the hills of Monchique, a spa town sporadically damaged by forest fires. From Lagos and Cape St Vincent, from whence sailed the navigators of old, to Silves, Tavira and Vila Real on the Spanish border, a car journey can whisk you away from timeshare touts, and English grub signs, to a tranquil, colourful environment, especially so in early Spring, when the orange and almond blossom make this part of Portugal an exquisite place to visit.