Tag Archive | vacation

Medronho

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Fallen in love with a brandy liqueur I discovered in the Algarve.  Medronho is wonderful!  The liqueur or in Portuguese, licor, is made from the fruit of the medronheiro (medronho) or strawberry tree (Arbutus unedo,) that grows wild in the arid, rocky parts of Portugal.  The brandy smells and tastes delightful, fruity, sweet and flowery. The distinct overtones of honey are from honey added to create liqueur with up to approximately 30% alcohol content.

This stuff is delicious!  It is called firewater by the locals because it warms as it flows down your throat.  Medronho is a truly native spirit.  The strawberry trees are not farmed, but grow wild. Farmers pick the fruit from their trees to make preserves and jams and to ferment for the alcoholic drink.  Because it is made in small batches by local farmers, there is never a big supply of medronho and the price reflects that.  Luckily, since it is taken in small shots, or as I like it, over ice, a little medronho goes a long way.

There are different varieties of the brandy made from strawberry tree fruit.  Some is just plain, straight aguardente de medronhos with as much as 48% alcohol content, some is sweetened with honey to make the licor and some is special, aged medronho. The licor is a lovely golden color from the honey.  It is my favorite.

I purchased this little bottle for 4 euro in a gift shop at The End of the World, Cape Sao Vicente, the most southwesterly point in Europe.  The bottle only held 2 oz, one shot, but I could feel the effects. It is very warming, even at the 17% alcohol content of this particular brand.a2

I brought one small bottle home with me from my recent trip to Portugal, to share with my husband.  Last night we had it and now all that is left is the forlorn glass remains.  I put it in the window with some of the unprecedented three-plus feet of snow we have as background.

The rain running down the window could represent my tears at the empty bottle.  Sure wish I’d loaded my luggage down with medronho, although I may not have gotten so much past customs.  The brandy is not available in America except via airmail from Portugal.  Guess I’ll just have to go back to the Algarve!

Here are links to a blog site about the medronheiro tree, its fruit and alcohol.

http://www.saomarcosdaserra.com/blog/medronho-much-more-than-a-drink

http://www.saomarcosdaserra.com/a-way-of-life.php

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More Algarve Portugal

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Beach at Armacao de Pera

Back in Maine after a seven day stay in the Algarve of Portugal, the return to winter is a rude shock. The Algarve, the southern or bottom region of Portugal, borders the Atlantic just before the waters become the Mediterranean.  The weather is very similar to that of coastal regions farther east in the warm areas of the Sun Coast of Spain, the beaches of Provence, France and the coast of Italy. It is an arid region with plenty of sun.  The cool waters of the Atlantic are more chilly to swim than those of the Mediterranean.

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Fossil shells in the sandstone cliff

The Algarve coastline consists chiefly of very tall sandstone cliffs, perhaps a hundred feet or more in height, that are a pale orange and yellow and riddled with layers of petrified shells.  Interspersed among the cliffs are numerous pocket beaches and also some very long expanses of open beach with marshy lowlands. The sandstone of the cliffs is easily eroded, creating endless sea stacks and cave grottoes.  Shown above is a pocket beach with a tiny natural doorway in the bottom of the cliff that I climbed through when the tide was up.  My footprints were the only ones in the sand.

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Sea stacks near Lagos

Near our hotel a farmer kept a small herd of goats.  He took the animals out in the evening to free graze on the top of the cliffs.  The nimble goats raced and jumped along knife edge trails.  Any second I expected to see a goat fall cartwheeling from the heights, but no animals were lost.

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Goats on the cliffs

Although the climate is arid, the Algarve teems with plant and animal life.  Birds call all day and small reptiles and mammals scurry in the underbrush. Orange, lemon, tangerine and other citrus, and fig trees grow in orchards and in peoples’ yards.  Olives and grapes are abundant.  Agave and cactus plants pop up everywhere and flowers abound.  On a walk to the mercado (grocery store) I passed this lovely little wild orchid thriving in a neglected planter.  It is the common Mirror Orchid, so named for the reflective purple-blue central area of the flower.

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I wish our stay in Portugal could have been longer, but duty calls and all vacations must end.

One day I hope to return to the Algarve to further explore the coastline and surrounding mountains. This region was the last to leave Moorish control and medieval buildings or their ruins are on my list of future explorations.

Sunny Portugal

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Here is a photo from our hotel room balcony, lovely Armacao de Pera, in the Algarve of Portugal. The weather is warm and sunny, in the 60s and 70s F, with a nice breeze. Birds are singing in the tree tops. The roar of the waves on the yellow sand beach is muted by the distance but constant.
The sandstone cliffs are filled with fossil shells. Slowly the ocean works into the cliffs, crumbling them back into sand. In some places grottos and sea stacks form, interesting for photography and exploration.