On Top of the World, Ma!
The Serra da Estrela (which translates to “Star Mountain Range)” includes mainland Portugal’s highest point (6,539 feet / 1,993 meters) above sea level. Unlike most mountain summits in the world, you can drive right to the tippy top. So we did!
Here are some panoramic shots from atop the mountain. The temperature was almost exactly 32 degrees, or in the much more sensible measurement of celsius: zero. It was easily the coldest we’ve been since we’ve been to Portugal, except for that time I got locked in a walk-in freezer after thinking it was the men’s room.
We drove up one side of the mountain and down another, and both were slightly harrowing, made all the more so after we noticed many of the guard rails were made of stone. I’m not sure I’d trust the stone not to break in a thousand little pieces if rammed with any amount of force, meaning we’d break into yet another thousand pieces when we hit the ground two million meters below.
But as you can see, we made it safe, sound, and chilly.
The road led by this massive wall, the other side of which was crawling with crazed zombie Mexicans just like in World War Z. Oh wait, those weren’t Mexicans, those were Spaniards! Good thing Portugal already built a huge wall! Actually, it is the non-water side of a dam. At least we hoped it would stay non-watery.
At the top, they have about five different stores, each offering various cold weather gear, cheeses and meats. Because nothing says “keeping warm” like cheese and meat.
The funny thing was, each of them offered almost exactly the same thing, even though some of them were side-by-side and even shared the same entrance.
They each had display cases filled with aromatic cheese and meats, always with a friendly offer of some samples, and each of them had snow gear and souvenirs, apparently all purchased from the same very talented distributor salesperson.
It was like being in a strip mall with five 7-11’s in a row.
On the plus side, you could try on a hat exactly like this in five different stores!
During our explorations, we took a small detour on a road with no idea as to where it led. It ended up being a pretty hairy drive, with drops off the side that would’ve turned our VW Polo, Marco, into a pancake… covered with raspberry syrup from our bodies, if you know what I mean. But we survived, with the added bonus of confirming that the sweat glands in our hands work just fine, thank you.
Here is a slide show of some of the sights we saw in the surrounding area:
The next slide show is filled with incredible vistas of the countryside, unmatched by even that of the highest castles we’ve been on.
On the way down, we stopped in a little town called Manteigas.
As you surely must know by now because of all the Portuguese lessons you’re taking in preparation for your visit to us in Portugal, “Manteiga” means “butter.”
Accordingly, I assume those are terraces are where they grow buttercups. Because buttercups are what they make butter out of, right? Carolyn says “no way.” I say “whey.” She says, “I curd of told you that.” I say, “Tit for tat!”
You don’t want to have butterfingers when you’re driving on the roads leading to the town. You’d turn into butter squash pretty quickly.
I think this is a butter stream where they churn all the butter, kind of like Willy Wonka did with his chocolate rivers. Or maybe they were churning margarine, it was hard to tell because at that point in its production butter is clear, as we all know.
Despite the fact that butter can be a little fattening, it was a charming village. We had some pizza there, because everyone knows when you go into a Portuguese town named “Butters” you have to have pizza. The crust was, of course, buttery. We were going to have pepperoni, but we decided on da udder one.
A picturesque view of a butter farm. You can tell by all the buttercups and milkweed.
Okay, don’t have a cow, you know I gotta milk these cheesy jokes for all they’re worth, right? What? They’re not worth much? Oh, well, you’re getting what you pay for. I guess I’m the butter of my own jokes. Dough!
Anyway, we very much enjoyed the drive through the mountains. The scenery was awesome, the views were to die for (literally, if you made one wrong turn), and it was great to see some snow, even if the yellow snow didn’t taste anything like butter.
But the best news is… this is the second-to-last entry in the Portugal Road Trip Saga! Just one more to go!