SWEET SPOT

THE AGRI­CUL­TURAL, NEVER-INDUSTRIALISED ALENTEJO RE­GION OF POR­TU­GAL IS STILL JUST ENOUGH OF A TOURISM SE­CRET TO OF­FER GLO­RI­OUSLY RUS­TIC SECLUSION TO THOSE IN THE KNOW.

The Australian - Wish Magazine - - MOTORING W - MARIA SHOL­LEN­BARGER

Let me tell you: when I first started go­ing to Com­porta, no one was there. No one but farm­ers, fish­er­men and lo­cals.”

It’s my third day in Por­tu­gal, and I’m won­der­ing whether this claim is go­ing to be­come a re­frain. I’m talk­ing to João Ro­drigues, the owner of Santa Clara 1728, one of Lis­bon’s loveli­est small ho­tels, where we are shar­ing a break­fast. Opened in 2017, Santa Clara is Ro­drigues’s restora­tion of an 18th­cen­tury town­house on a charm­ingly raggedy square at the point where Alfama be­gins to blur from heav­ily traf­ficked tourist haven into nor­mal (if still highly pho­to­genic) neigh­bour­hood. Ro­drigues is a bit of a Re­nais­sance man, who pi­lots TAP jets in his day job and moon­lights as a bril­liant hote­lier: be­sides the unas­sail­able Santa Clara, there are two other small ho­tels, one of which is Casas Na Areia, in Com­porta – the one­time fish­ing vil­lage less than 90 min­utes south of Lis­bon that has be­come a mag­net for some of the Con­ti­nent’s most com­mit­ted jet­set­ters.

Some of them, like Ro­drigues, would prob­a­bly be happy to tell you all about how They Were In Com­porta When; cer­tainly it’s what I’ve been hear­ing from the hand­ful of them I know. Com­porta is where the largely agrar­ian Alentejo re­gion meets the ocean – where a hin­ter­land of pris­tine coastal-pine forests gives way to glit­ter­ing wet­lands planted with rice ter­races (a main­stay crop in this part of Por­tu­gal for cen­turies), which them­selves abruptly end in a spine of tall dunes, tra­versed by only a hand­ful of mostly un­paved roads. Be­yond those dunes are some of the emp­ti­est, most pho­to­genic beaches in Europe, bor­der­ing an At­lantic that has shed all trace of its con­ven­tional grey, break­ing

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.