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Artist's home makes a sweet Alentejo guest house

Posted by Patricia Borns  August 22, 2011 08:13 AM

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mahdina4.jpg You don't have to drive across the Portugese Alentejo to get to the Atlantic Ocean and Sines, but there are good reasons for doing so. One is the Alentejo itself, and the other is dawdling along the way at rural guest houses like Herdade de Matinha.

The Alentejo has many such houses, although they're not necessarily well advertised or situated on A2, one of the main roads. We heard about this one by word of mouth.

malidinha6.jpgMatinha is the home of a wonderfully gifted painter, Alfredo Moreira da Silva, his wife Monica Belleza de Miranda, and their three children. Located about two miles from the ocean and Costa Vicentina National Park, it's a bit tricky to find. If you get yourself to Cercal, drive toward Vila Nova de Milfontes and the blue sign will appear marking their entrance down a long dirt road

maldinha2.jpgMatinha's two main buildings are of the long, rectangular, tile-roofed, and thick-walled Alentejo kind, renovated to be comfortable but still farmhouse-rustic. The colors and textures of the decor are as warm and bright as da Silva's paintings. Outside, the grounds burst with flowers, fruits, and herbs, and with porches and nooks for enjoying them. The property flows with a feeling of endlessness into the surrounding pine woods and ochre hills.

IMG_1847.JPG Our time at Matinha was like filled with hikes on rosemary-scented paths, reading under the grape arbor, admiring da Silva's canvasses in progress (just don't bug him too much), riding the horses to the beach, and gathering with our fellow guests around some of the most creative meals in the Alentejo.

A small double room for two with breakfast costs $182 a night.

As for Sines, not everyone will want to follow in the footsteps of its native son, Vasco da Gama, as I did (the dour but successful Age of Discovery explorer was a character in my fledgling novel). But do go for the outcrops of silvery beaches dotting the Costa Vicentina national park, which preserves the craggy Atlantic coast from here to the Algarve. It's one of the few coastal places in Europe that still feels wild. Bring food for picnicking in the pine wods carpeted with soft needles and your surfboard for long, hollow summer waves in the 3- to 5-foot range.

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