The lure of superior cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil brought us to Cuba. The exquisitely rich Manantiz olives are grown on the left bank of the Guadiana River on land that has belonged to the same family for over a century. We met family member Lucilia, who lives in town and has a cozy retail space from which to purchase the liquid gold the Herdade (“Homestead”) de Manantiz produces. Highly animated, she was eager to show us information about the oil, especially its inclusion in a coffee table book of the world’s most impressive olive orchards. After visiting for over an hour, we loaded our purchases into the car, paid a quick visit to the nearby bronze statue of Christopher Columbus (who legend says was born–or at least lived–in Cuba) and moved on to…what else? More ruins.
The Roman Villa of Pisões was discovered by farm workers in 1967 by accident. It is only a few kilometers away, off of IP6. and although we were following signs to it, they unexpectedly stopped appearing. Just as we were about to give up, we discovered a solitary man standing in a neighboring field. He kindly gave us directions.
Since the area has not been fully excavated, we weren’t sure if we’d be able to see anything of interest, as some of it is now fenced off. That was enough to keep Carson out, but we were rewarded for our persistence by viewing exquisite monochrome and polychrome mosaic floors with both geometric and naturalist designs.
It was time to head further south to spend our first night in the region known as the Algarve. Driving back to the main road we looked for the man who’d assisted us, but despite the fact that he’d had no car, he had disappeared as mysteriously as he had appeared, leaving us to wonder if we’d really ever seen him at all.