So reluctantly we left Elvas but although disappointed about that we were looking forward to our next destination, the nearby town of Estremoz.
With some difficulty we found our rural accommodation and after settling in we set off into the town to explore. I find that I am rarely disappointed with places that I choose to visit but almost immediately I knew that this was one of them.
I cannot fully explain it. Maybe it was because we had really liked Elvas and this didn’t compare, maybe our expectation bar had been raised too high, maybe it was because we turned up in the middle of the siesta, I don’t know exactly what it was but we just didn’t take to Estremoz. The guide book said that it was a town of dazzling marble but we found it dull and untidy. Sorry Estremoz.
I suppose it didn’t really help that the accommodation that we had booked and came highly recommended didn’t exactly match the reviews.
We spent an hour or so around the town centre without finding anything of special interest so we hastily abandoned the place and made instead to the old town and castle which are high above.
This was an interesting place sure enough, the original town of Moorish Estremoz settled around the castle sited on the highest point around but very much abandoned now as the town and its residents has had the confidence to leave the security of high walls and battlements and spread out in the modern town below. The people that are left cling on to crumbling houses with sinking roofs with views of the stars, cracked plaster walls and weather scarred timbers. If this place doesn’t soon get some tender loving care and investment then it will sure enough become a ghost town.
The walk to the top took us through neglected streets and gardens, some youths played football and tinkered with motorbike engines. Litter collected in the corners. They eyed us with suspicion. I eyed them with equal suspicion. I felt uneasy, I didn’t feel comfortable there. By contrast at the top was a five star Pousada hotel which to me seemed hopelessly out of place. Extravagance amongst poverty just seems incompatible and wrong. There was a bar/restaurant with a roof top terrace with good views over the marble quarry spoil heaps and we liked it there so being a confessed hypocrite I booked a table for dinner later that evening.
So in the late afternoon we returned to the accommodation that we didn’t really like very much and spent an hour or so around the swimming pool that only someone with a disease death wish would have considered using. I understand that Lord Byron used to swim the Grand Canal in Venice but I doubt very much that he would have risked this stagnant water. We sat and swatted away the flies, drank some wine and waited for evening and a return to the castle restaurant which turned out to be excellent despite the fact that some people thought it was acceptable to smoke cigarettes in the room and the owners and staff didn’t seem to mind.
The food was good, Kim had roast lamb Alentejo style and I had black pig pork cheeks. It was quite expensive. We had walked nine miles today.
We slept well but at the breakfast table there was a plague of flies of Biblical proportions which meant that everything was completely inedible including the tea and coffee so we abandoned it as soon as we could, paid up, left and set off or the city of Evora. We didn’t even look in the rear view mirror as we left, we were just glad to leave. Sorry Estremoz.
Just a short ride out of the town we arrived in the small town of Evoramonte with an impressive castle sitting at the very top so we left the main road and drove into the village and took the single track road to the castle. Inside the walls was a small community with a church and a graveyard, more crumbling houses and a few tourist shops.
The castle is rather unusual, it doesn’t look like a medieval castle at all but more like a German World-War-Two concrete bunker or a modern farm grain silo, very stout and very strong but also very ugly. We paid the entry fee (senior’s rates) and climbed to the top. There were some magnificent views over the plains of Alentejo but today was exceptionally windy and as a gale whistled through the stone battlements it was even quite difficult to retain balance and not get blown away and over the top.
Evoramonte was an interesting short stop over but now we continued our drive to Evora, the capital of the Alentejo region and the largest city in Portugal south of Lisbon, also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I had high expectations of Evora as we drove in and found our hotel close to the centre.
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