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Convento São Francisco de Mértola

Lonely Planet

"This former 400-year old convent, across the Ribeira de Oeiras, 500m southwest of Largo Vasco da Gama, has been owned since 1980 by Dutch artist Geraldine Zwanikken and her family. In a true labour of love, they have gradually transformed the ruins into an extraordinary place, most simply described as a nature reserve and art gallery. The organic garden is full of herbs, rare plants and flowers, watered by a restored Islamic irrigation system."

"This hauntingly beautiful and rustic former convent, overlooking Mértola and the Rio Guadiana should be a mandatory sleepover for all tranquil souls. It has a variety of accommodation options, including monks' cells, a funky studio and a lovely room with veranda. There's a cottage (solar powered) on the grounds for those after complete seclusion."

"Highlights include Geraldine's modern artworks, and, gracing the former chapel (if they are not in temporary exhibitions elsewhere), the kinetic installations of renowned artist, Christiaan Zwanikken, Geraldine’s eldest son. The nearby riverside is devoted to specially constructed nests for storks and lesser kestrels. Don't miss the detour to the nora (well) en route to the convent building (follow the signs and enter the door underneath - we won't spoil the surprise). Go with time up your sleeve - there is more than meets the eye in this inspiring place."

Lonely Planet 2009

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