Monday, January 27, 2014

Évora, Também

Traveling from Lisbon to Évora was a reminder of just how nice it is to be in a place with efficient mass transit. Saturday morning, we left our hotel and walked down the street and around the corner, a half block total, to the #726 bus stop. We had to wait for, oh, maybe 4 minutes before hopping on a bus to Sete Rios, where we went across the street to the Rede Expresso bus terminal. We bought our tickets and 30 minutes later were headed to Évora (Wiki can tell you about Évora).


We had wondered if three nights would be too long a stay here, but shouldn't have worried. Évora is charming, large enough to have lots to see and do and small enough to easily walk across the old town within the walls in about 15 or 20 minutes. More importantly, located in the center of the Alentejo region (the 'bread basket' of Portugal), it is known for great food and wine.

The center of Évora is Praça do Giraldo, named after Gerald the Fearless, the Medieval knight who defeated the town's Moorish rulers in 1165. Images of him are everywhere, almost always on a horse, waving a sword after chopping off some Muslim heads, also shown.

Praça do Giraldo Gerald the Fearless

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Off to the side of the plaza is a small corner where older gentlemen congregate to ponder the recent obituaries posted on a bulletin board and sit in the sunshine.

Today's Obituaries

The City Museum was surprisingly good, in a recently restored building. We noticed another freshly painted building across the street, the Fórum Eugénio de Almeida. Intrigued by posters for a traveling art exhibit from Germany called INTER[IN]VENTION, we found one of the best collections of multi-media installations I've ever seen.

We visited a half-dozen churches, walked through the public gardens, saw Roman ruins, explored the University grounds, watched peacocks display their feathers for indifferent peahens, tasted a sampling of Alentejano wines (free!) and went to the top of the Sé (cathedral). We also went into the Chapel of Bones, built by a Franciscan monk and completely lined with bones and skulls to remind us that life is short.

Évora Capela dos Ossos / Chapel of Bones

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And yes, we ate really well. A specialty of the region is porco preto, black pork, named after a breed of pig native to the Iberian Peninsula. The swine feast on acorns and wild herbs and the result is incredibly tasty, tender pork. The first night we had dinner at Fialho and I had sliced black pork tenderloin. The second night we had dinner at 1/4 para as 9, where I had black pork and clams. The last night we had the best dinner of all, at a tiny place called Botequim da Mouraria, huge black pork steaks. Every meal was of course washed down with rich, tasty Alentejano vinho tinto.

Botequim da Mouraria Botequim da Mouraria

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The next day was dull and dreary, a walk through the rain to the bus station. Back in Lisbon it was still raining so we stayed in our IBIS hotel at Oriente until it was time for one last Portuguese dinner. The last morning we had to wake up at 4 a.m., took a cab to the airport at 5 a.m. (and got taken for an extra €5 by the dishonest driver), and were in the air to Madrid before 7 a.m.

Click here to see all the Flickr photos from our trip to Lisbon and Évora.