We only have a couple of days left with Ken and Jan Cooke and we decided to spend a couple of days in Evora, a town about 2.5 hours away. It is a world heritage site and by all indications, worth a visit. It also puts them much closer to Lisbon where they are off to next.
We have really been avoiding the main highway as we want to see as much of the countryside as possible. What we didn’t realize was that the road we chose was one of the windiest little roads I have ever driven. The scenery was very nice from what I could see (focussed on keeping the car on the road) through a bit of forest where they harvest cork. Interesting to see how they carve away the cork bark from the rest of the tree. Unfortunately, there is nowhere to pull over to take any pictures. Mario Andretti would have been proud as we navigated through all the hairpin turns.
I must apologize to Jan as she does not like or take this kind of a drive well and we stopped in a small town cafe for a refreshment so everyone could catch their breath.
The rest of the drive was fine as we left behind the road that would have been perfect for a motorcycle with images of scraping the pegs on each corner.
We also broke up the trip to explore a medieval castle in the town of Beja. Very well maintained, it conjures up images of knights and damsels in distress. Certainly worth a visit since it was on the way!
On entering Evora the GPS led us through the narrowest of streets and blind corners to our hotel located in the core of the inner city. We booked the Pousada dos Loios for the very reason as everything was very walkable. The hotel is an old Monestary and the rooms are actually called cells where the monks used to sleep. Thankfully modernized, the room was very comfortable and the feel of the hotel was wonderful. The rate was about 80Euro and included a full and very tasty breakfast.
The first thing that hits you as you approach the hotel are the ruins of a Roman era Temple of Diana. In remarkable condition, the Temple is right outside the doors of our hotel and marks the fact that Evora was on the main road to Rome and as they say “all roads lead to Rome”.
Unfortunately our day of sightseeing in Evora was a colder (I know it’s all relative when you live in Saskatchewan) and overcast day. However, there were some spectacular sights. The first of these was the St. Mary’s Cathedral. As all churches in Europe seem to be, the interior of the church is very ornate and one has to appreciate the construction and motivation behind the building of the church.
We opted to pay for the entrance to the church, the tower, the cloister and the museum. So next stop was the tower. Climbing a very narrow, steep and winding staircase up to the tower brought a great surprise…we could walk on the roof of the Cathedral. This has only happened once before to us in Barcelona, so this was very interesting. Great view of the city and the church bells which did ring for us when we were on the roof.
Descending down the steps, the cloister was next and was very nice. The pictures below will give you a good idea of what it was like.
The museum was interesting although no photos were allowed. A great many church artifacts but I am not much of a museum person and after a while one old icon after another became a bit boring. Glad I went but an hour was too long.
From this cathedral we walked down to St Francisco Church primarily to see the chapel of the bones. We had seen a similar chapel in Faro but this one is much larger and contains many more bones. It is a reminder that we are all mortals and the sign over the chapel entrance reads “Our bones in here wait for yours to join us”…
We wander the streets of the old walled city being drawn by old, narrow, winding roads through the main Giraldo square which up until a couple of years ago, was a market and a livestock trading area. In days of the Inquisition, many were burned at the stake as heretics in this square as well. Our goal is to find a place where they do Regional wine tasting and with some luck and some skillful map-reading, we did indeed find it. Every week, they sample wines from the area from 3 different producers and we enjoyed sampling several wines from the Alenejo Region. She was kind enough to also point out a few wineries that Karen and I could have lunch at on our drive home (more below) as well as a nearby restaurant we could have today’s lunch at.
We ended up at Restaurant O Fialho, rated #10 in Evora by Trip Advisor and recommended by Rick Steeves as well. We had an absolutely amazing meal and would highly recommend the octopus salad…it was fantastic. The octopus was so tender and Karen even enjoyed it…a high rating from her as she is not an adventurous eater. Some great wine to accompany a great meal. Our gracious thank you to Ken and Jan for treating us to a magnificent meal.
Wandering back to our hotel via some sightseeing of a Roman Aqueduct and Archway, it was definitely nap time and that gave us time to get hungry again as our plan was to visit the Trip Advisor #1 rated restaurant in Evora…Botequim da Mouraria.
I don’t know what I was expecting but it was more than the 12 seat bar/restaurant we found. None-the-less, the proprietor welcomed us in with his limited but very passable English and suggested some of his best dishes. I think I enjoyed the calamari the most but mostly enjoyed his hospitality and the atmosphere of this quaint space. It was very interesting watching him as bar tender, waiter, chef and chief bottle washer…he was very busy but yet made time to chat to all 12 patrons of his full restaurant. In the end, he treated us to a shot of what we can only describe as home-made, 100 proof hootch. He called it a peach something.
Time to say goodbye to our dear friends, Ken and Jan Cooke. We have had enjoyed their company immensely and are sad to say “Ciao” (yes, they say Ciao here).
On the way home we decide to stop and have a wine tasting and lunch at one of the wineries recommended to us at our wine tasting. It’s on the way home and looks good. In fact it was so good that we were there for over 3 hours and the hospitality was excellent. The place is called Mercade dos Grous and it’s not just a winery but also a hotel and convention resort. As travel agents we are always keen to check out facilities that we might recommend to our clients at some point down the road.
A highlight of our winery tour was that one of the assistant winemakers was doing a barrel tasting to determine how the wine was aging and he invited me to taste from the barrel…very interesting talking to and tasting with him.
At first, we thought the wine tasting was expensive. It was 9 Euro each to taste 2 different wines. Karen chose her usual white wines and I chose a red tasting. We did our tasting in conjunction with our lunch and what was exceptional was that there gave you a healthy pour (1/2 a glass) and asked if you wanted more before going on to the next wine. The disappointing part was that I was driving and couldn’t drink that much.
After the lunch and tasting, they drove us around the property showing u s one of their rooms, the stables, animals, etc. Located just outside of Beja, it is not likely someplace we will be selling but it would be ideal for an incentive or specialty group.
We had one more chance at a round of golf before moving to our second location here in the Algarve and this time we drove to Casto Marim, which is close to the Spanish border. The day was unfortunately quite chilly and very windy…reminiscent of golf in Saskatchewan in the fall!
Moving day arrived and we sadly packed up our possessions moving from the eastern part of the Algarve in Olhao to a more westerly location in Lagos. We truly enjoyed living in a typical Portuguese community with everything right outside our door. However, we are excited about our new location and that Karen’s sister and brother-in-law, Dianne and Richard are also coming for a visit. More on that next week.
Thanks for following along in our adventure!