The View From Your Window Contest: Winner #231


A frustrated reader lashes out:

Jesus, could you get any more generic? Scrub brush, an outcropping with a wooden cross, telephone poles, white buildings with red-tiled roofs, a medium-sized range of hills in the background!? An image is beginning to crystallize in my mind of the typical winner of this contest. He is fat, bezitted, wears a carpel tunnel brace and cookie-crumb littered shirt. And he HAS NO LIFE!

So basically:


We love our contest players just the way they are. This one has a highdea:

Something tells me that Granada, Spain – right near the Alhambra. It could be intuition, it could just be the haze of a Saturday wake-and-bake.

Another is thinking the West Coast:

Joshua Tree National Park in Joshua Tree, CA. If that is not correct I am confident it is near there. I was at the Park two weeks ago and it certainly looks like it’s taken near the North entrance of the Park. The town in the background is Twentynine Palms.

Spinning the globe, this reader is going to need a nice red sauce:

When I first saw the contest picture, I said, “if this isn’t Italy, I’ll eat my hat.” Shortly thereafter, my dad found a white cross on some rocks just outside Palermo. Since then, I’ve found another similar cross in south Sicily. That, and the architecture, makes us 90% sure we’re in Sicily. The only other option is Tuscany, but the architecture there is softly different, and I doubt you’d return to Tuscany so soon after the Siena VFYW. Problems of terrain and building style — this window is so unique — mean we can’t find where. But I hope we’re close!

A sanguine reader adds, “Thank you for a few moments of Google touring Umbria – Cortona, Assisi, Abruzzi … it’s all good.” Most everyone correctly guessed some part of Europe this week, but this reader takes us to the right country, albeit the wrong town:

That view is from the village of Monsanto, Portugal. Beautiful place. Rocky:


I’m not sure exactly where the view is from, perhaps the Pousada de Monsanto, but I’m not sure if it’s the lobby, or the breakfast/dining room.  Or maybe someplace else, another hotel.

Another reader almost made the same mistake but recovered to nail the correct village and hotel:

Today’s entry comes from a window in the Pousada de Marvão hotel in b-e-a-utiful Marvão, Portugal.

I found almost no helpful hints hidden in this photo (even the seemingly helpful cross in the bottom right quadrant was useless). If the winner reveals some obvious, forehead-slap-worthy clue, I’m going to be pretty crushed. Searching things like “red tile roof valley” yields results for places far and wide: Costa Rica, Venezuela, Indonesia, all of Europe.

While trying to figure out if the palm tree in the lower left corner would yield anything interesting, I found my way to the Wikipedia entry for the European Fan Palm (Chamaerops). One of the countries this particular palm grows in is Portgual. A previous contest led me to mistakenly spend an awful lot of time in Portugal looking for red roofs. Was it about to happen again?

I Googled “Portugal Red Roof Village” and there it was – some place called Monsanto. The very first result features a giant boulder that seems to match the type of rocks in the lower right hand corner of our entry:


I fruitlessly spent the next hour surfing the various villages around Monsanto and trying to piece together the right angle for the window. Nothing worked. I started typing an entry saying that if I had to be wrong, Monsanto was the place to do it. It is seriously lovely.

Before hitting send, I took another peek at my Google Image results and it turns out another lead was sitting there right in the third row. I started poking around Marvão and it was mere minutes before I found my way to the Pousada de Marvão and this week’s view. I think this pull quote from Marvão’s Wikipedia entry says it all:

Nobel prize-winning author José Saramago wrote of the village ‘‘From Marvão one can see the entire land… It is understandable that from this place, high up in the keep at Marvão Castle, visitors may respectfully murmur, ‘How great is the world.’’

Both Monsanto and Marvão were worth making a virtual visit to and I’d love to see them in person. I’m grateful to this contest for showing me that they exist.

As always, Dishheads have been there:


Above is a photo I took a few weeks ago. You can imagine my surprise when I saw this month’s View From Your Window entry. It is taken from Marvao, Portugal, with Santo Antonio das Areias in the distance. I am guessing the photographer was staying in the Pousada de Marvao.

Another rhymes his way to the right window:

My very first guess came way too soon,
Eager elation! I shot for the moon.
Sometimes I suffer, in triangulation,
From Premature Extrapolation.

The town? Well that much I knew in a minute,
Which place, was the tough one – I just couldn’t win it.
But noticing patterns of discolored stone,
That match your sill, the Pousada is known!

Pasted Graphic

Balcony view, the sure winning play,
The room is 210. How I know, I won’t say:

Pasted Graphic 1

Street views in Marvao? Endless rewards!
But this is, for US, all that Google affords:

Pasted Graphic 5 copy

But sad to say, that player also blundered,
For only this veteran, nailed the room number:

My first inclination was to search Spain given something about the landscape. I have spent a fair amount of time in Spain searching for other windows. Instead I bounced around Mediterranean countries looking for elongated, red roof tiles and eclectic chimneys similar to those in the contest view. The closest I found was the fortified town of Monsanto in Portugal. It had similar roofs, chimneys, as well as large boulders and outcrops. This prompted a search for Medieval fortified towns of Portugal on high promontories (appropriate for the soaring swifts in the contest photograph). A photograph of Marvão caught my eye because it included the distinct chimneys in the contest view. It was then obvious that the dark brown chimney to the right was, instead, a guard tower on town’s fortification walls. All other clues check out.


Once I found the hotel, it became clear that the contest view was from a balcony and not a window. There were no signs of glass or window framing or fixtures. Photographs from a balcony at Pousada de Marvão had much the same view and identical stains on the granite balcony sill as those barely visible in the contest photograph (see illustration). It is a fairly small balcony on the corner of one of the hotel’s cobbled-together appendages and can be seen in photographs of the hotel’s northeastern façade (see illustration). Based on guest reviews of the hotel, the room is probably #312 (said to be a small room with balcony). Room 310 is over the kitchen which is located northwest of the contest balcony with space for #311 between them. Number 311 is a double room with a terrace balcony which is also visible on the building’s façade.

Views from these fortifications are spectacular and the towns charming, but thoughts of their original purpose and use is actually quite sobering. Maybe it is all the ISIS coverage.

Another former winner looks in on Marvão:

You can see the parish of Santo António das Areias below (similar, but zoomed in picture here).  And Spain is beyond those faraway hills.  The area is within the Serra de São Mamede Natural Park.  For the Room number, I’ll guess #12.

Second staged picture

Looking at the list of local events on the town’s website, I have some disappointing news to report.  We all missed the 31st annual Feast of the Chestnuts on Nov. 8 & 9 (pictures here) and the pig slaughter in the nearby village of Porto da Espada on Nov. 15.

To paraphrase Andy Zaltzman of The Bugle Podcast, this week I felt like a bad French restaurant.  “I [almost] ran out of thyme.”  But I got there in the end.  (And if you haven’t heard The Bugle, you might listen to John Oliver and Andy’s fuckeulogy to Bin Laden available here.) Thanks for the contest.

Chini had a little more trouble than usual, but it’s not because of carpal tunnel:

Discipline, discipline, discipline. It’s everything in this contest. Unfortunately, I started out this week with none and wound up wasting an hour or more of precious free time fruitlessly searching the Iberian plains. Then, later on Saturday, I applied my usual methods and presto! Location found in fifteen minutes. You lose focus in this game for one second …


This week’s win goes to another veteran without a victory:

There is no view quite like that from Suite 210 of the Pousada de Marvao, looking northeast towards the hamlet of Santo Antonio das Areias,  And I should know, since I was chamber maid at that establishment for several months while working my way through hospitality school.  YES!  We can see it below, oh so clearly circled:

Screen shot 2014-11-16 at 12.31.59 AM

And I’ve got a picture of the view!  A different picture of the same exact view!


It’s possible that I have it because I am insane and have wasted another day trying to please you!  Or perhaps I took it while cleaning.  It was such a beautiful day!  Oh, and I know I found some bridge in China, and a water tower in Mendocino, the I Street Bridge in Sacramento, some other bridge on the Oregon Coast and many more.  I am lucky that way, and have lived a varied and exemplary life.  But time to send me the book so that I can retire from such craziness and return to crosswords.

But why retire when all your future submissions can now be prefaced by “A former winner writes”? Speaking of prefaces, this week’s submission doubles as The View From Your Honeymoon:

The photo was taken from the window of room 312 at the Pousada de Marvao in Marvao, Portugal on September 12, 2014. We were there during our honeymoon (on our way from Lisbon to the Douro River valley.) Marvao is a fortified town on top of a mountain near the Spanish border. Our room had a lovely balcony, from which this picture was taken and on which we ate dinner, drank wine, and looked out at the valley below while it got dark and the lights came on.


I would say the photo would be a hard one with the lack of any real distinguishing features, although I might be surprised as Marvao was named both a UNESCO Heritage Site candidate and was in the book 1000 Places to See Before You Die so people might recognize it from visiting.  The town is beautiful, and everyone there was friendly (and quite willing to deal with my extremely poor Portuguese.)  Coming from a large city, the quiet from the lack of traffic and general noise was incredibly restful.  I highly recommend visiting if you happen to be in Portugal (or western Spain – it’s right on the border); tour the castle, walk the parapet of the medieval walls, and watch the sun set from one of the high points in town.

I do have one caveat – I wouldn’t recommend it for those with a fear of height.  The drive up is winding, with some very steep cliffs very close to the edge of the road and a marked lack of guardrails.  Drive slow and drive careful, and when you arrive at the top of the mountain, have some port to relax.  (Also, on your way down, if you’re headed northwards, Google’s directions are not your friend – it sent us down what I would charitably describe as a horse trail.  Lots of fun in a rental car!)

Lastly, the View From Your Heat Map (zoom in by double-clicking an area of interest, or drag your cursor up and down the slide):

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We’ll do an easier one next week. See you all on Saturday!

(Archive: Text|Gallery)