He’s a quiet, undemonstrative, unassuming man; happy with his lot and living what most people would perceive to be an idyllic life in the small town of Vila Nova de Milfontes on Portugal’s Alentejo coast. He and his wife Idalia run Casa do Adro, one of the wonderful, yet uniquely different, guesthouses on the Costa Vicentina.
António Costa José has reason to be content. Vila Nova de Milfontes is a delightful place, sitting on the banks of the River Mira close to where it empties into the Atlantic Ocean. Narrow cobbled streets lead to the fort and market square, while the waymarked Rota Vicentina long-distance footpath soon takes walkers out to the beach and along the cliffs.
The charming Casa do Adro is one of the oldest buildings in the town, and exudes great character and warmth thanks, in no small part, to the tireless efforts of Idalia, whose mantra is “let them eat cake – go on, just one more slice”
While Idalia is making sure that no-one leaves hungry by pampering you with deliciously warm hospitality (and the most scrumptious chocolate fondant cake you will ever taste) within the house itself, it is António who makes sure that as walkers approach, their every need will be met long before they reach the town. You see, António has taken it upon himself to offer a free and completely voluntary taxi service to walkers heading for Casa do Adro.
The Rota Vicentina follows the coast closely for most of its way but at Vila Nova de Milfontes it has to head inland to cross the road bridge over the River Mira. This comes at the end of a long day’s walk, so António positions himself in his car on a certain road in the town that offers panoramic views of the beach on the other side of the estuary.
Here he sits and waits, and waits… until he sees the familiar figures of Inntravéis*
walking along the sand. He can recognise them now – rucksacks, no dogs, no children, just the steady pace of someone who has walked a fair distance and is now ready for a rest.
Spurred into action, he revs up and heads off to intercept them on the far side of the bridge, offering them a lift back to the hotel and thus saving tired legs the last couple of miles along a tarmac road. Many of them will be thankful for this service and jump in; some may decline, determined to complete the walk under their own steam – though everyone he greets is pleasantly surprised to see him and his ‘Welcome to Casa do Adro’ sign. He is not offended should he be waved on his way; after all, no-one was expecting to see him, it’s just part of the service.
Not that it ends there. The next day, fortified with succulent fresh fruit and more cake, walkers set out on the next leg of the journey to the next hotel, Três Marias, safe in the knowledge that António will never be far away and is always ready to offer a lift, should it be needed…
[*A new word is creeping into the Portuguese language. Inntravéis
has been coined by our Alentejo hoteliers to mean not just any old holiday-maker, but specifically ‘Inntravel customers’. An honour indeed.]