Second day in the Alentejo
Jul 15, 2008
|July 15 2008
Our day started with our traditional Portuguese breakfast. Once finished with our meal, we were off to Evora.
As we entered the city we came across the Roman aqueduct. We parked outside the sity walls at a parking lot next to the aqueduct. Our next task was to navigate to the tourist information office, with no map or signs giving directions. Eventually we made our way and found a very entertaining employee who did not speak English, but in perfect English told us the information we needed. He had a great sense of humor and was the manager of the information center. It’s always good to start the travel day of with some fun. He gave us a complete map of the city and we were on our way.
The first destination was the chapel of bones. Something morbid to remind us that we are all physically destined for the same end. We toured the adjacent church of St. Francis, which was built in the 14th century. However, when the Cisterians monks who maintained the church were disbanded in the 19t century, by royal decree, the local elite class paid for and had installed elaborate Baroque alters in the chapels. This is a very simple church, so these stand out like a sore thumb. Bob mentioned this several times and the stark contrast was very noticeable.
Our experience getting water after leaving the church was a little bit tainted. The little old lady running the shop, overcharged us and then didn’t give us all of the bottles she had charged us for. Taking the high ground we kissed off our couple of bucks and headed out to our next destination.
At the Se, the cathedral in Evora, we found more stark 15th and 16th century interiors. The cloisters were very different from the ones we witnessed in Belam. The heavy stone structures made it feel like we were barely outside. Joseph and I did have a good time climbing the very narrow, circular staircase to the 2nd floor of the cloister, which was actually the roof. We found some OK views and some better 16th century marble reliefs on the walls. We went down another spiral staircase and hoped that the door at the bottom was not locked, since we did not think we could turn around in the stairwell. It was not, and we were able to reunite with Bob to tour the cathedral. A very beautiful interior, which much more closely matched it’s original construction. Joseph and I thought about climbing the tower, but the additional 3 euro each kept us grounded.
After all of this touring, we needed to fill our bellies. Joseph decided on a restaurant out of Rick’s Steve’s guide book, and we were off to the restaurant. What a treat! This was a great restaurant. The waiter was very helpful. He even told me his favorite dish, but did not recommend it to me, because it was a strong flavor and tourist do not usually enjoy it. The dish is an Alentjo specialty using garlic, coriander, bread, pepper, and pigs feet. It was a very strong flavored and heavy dish, which had a rich thin gravy more than a broth. Joseph had a steak from wild pig, or as we know it boar. I was able to try a piece of his meal, and boy did he choose right. The outside was crisp and slighty salty, while the interior was super moist. The interior of this meat really did melt in your mouth. Those of you that think I cook good pork; well this was twice as good. Bob enjoyed a tomato soup that was thick with vegetables and bread. He enjoyed it but decided to leave most of the bread behind. We washed our meal down with the house red wine, which was dispensed into a ceramic carafe from one of the four wine barrels in the dining area. When we had finished our meal we each sampled the house cherry liquer and then enjoyed a refreshing dessert.
To work off this large and extensive meal, we decided on seeking out all the Roman ruins. This turned out to be a little disappointing. The roman baths were inside the city hall, and was comprised of one room. The roman temple was similar, in that you turned the corner and there it was but you were not able to explore the ruins like in Greece or Italy. The church that we ducked into was well worth the entrance fee. The blue azulejo tiles were exquisite. This church was purchased by the Duke of Chival, who had it restored and purchased the palace next door. We also toured the palace and it was a very sparese look into the vacation home of a 19th century aristocrat.
We walked to the Roman aqueduct and had ice cream (pre-packedged) from a mini-market and leaned up against the arches. Those Romans built useful things, a place for us to lean against and eat our ice cream cone. The walk to the car was swift and all downhill. Once inside we blasted the AC and headed back to Estrimoz.
I needed to catch up on the journal, because I was getting two days behind. We sat in the living room of the hotel and I typed, Joseph read and Bob went in and out to smoke. Once I completed one day and the outline for the other day, I rushed to get dressed for my run. The run was 60 minutes and other than the beautiful vineyards, I had a run in with a shepherd. About 5 minutes after the turnaround of my run, I ran into a flock of sheep, a dog, and a man crossing from one meadow to another on my side of the street. I switched sides to give the dog plenty of space. A neat sight to see while running in this foreign country.
We had another exceptional dinner at the hotel. This time Joseph and I had Brazilian Beef. This is when they bring you your steaks raw, and a heated stone and you cook them yourself on the stone. The cooking try also had three sauces to place on the meet before or after you cooked if you so desired. Joseph and I had a lot of fun sizzling our steaks at the table. I tried a new desert, basically like a shortcake with cream and sugared coffee granuales. It was delicious and the really classy touch were the toasted almond slivers on top.
That was our very full day.