Thursday, September 17, 2009


There’s a little town in Portugal’s Alentejo region called Mértola which is thousands of years old. Located on the Rio Guadiana, navigable 50km inland from the ocean, it has been the home of Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans, Moors, and the Reconquista Christians. There has recently been discovered a wall from the Iron Age.

Today, old Mértola is a little village of whitewashed buildings painted with broad strips of yellow and bright blue on steep, rolling, bumpy cobblestoned lanes in the lee of a once impregnable clifftop castle.

When I arrived, a brief rainshower after several dry months had raised an incredible perfume from the trees and soil which stained the air with a spiced incense of sandalwood and nutmeg, like antique wood. Every breath of air in the whole town smelled of it. I stayed in a bed and breakfast run by a friendly guy named Carlos which was so comfortable, like being at home, and I was so charmed by Mértola itself that I stayed for two nights.

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