We arrived at our accommodation way too early to check in so we simply abandoned the car and made our way towards the city centre across a wasteland car park and a punishing steep hill which lead to the Praça do Giraldo, the main square of the city and where brisk but expensive business was being done in pavement restaurants and bars.
It was rather pricey (well, I thought so) in the swanky city bars so we moved quickly through to an adjacent artisan square and a bar that was busy with local people enjoying good food so we found a table and ordered a simple lunch with prices much more suited to our budget.
Évora is an interesting city and has a busy history. The Romans conquered it in 57 BC and built the first walled town. During the barbarian invasions Évora came under the rule of the Visigothic king Leovigild in 584. In 715, the city was conquered by the Moors and during this period the town slowly began to prosper and developed into an agricultural centre with a fortress and a mosque.
Évora was captured from the Moors through a surprise attack by Gerald the Fearless (what a fabulous name) in 1165 and the city came under the rule of the Portuguese king Afonso I in 1166 and then for a few hundred years or so it then flourished as one of the most dynamic cities in the Kingdom of Portugal.
With two days in Évora we didn’t plan do a lot of sightseeing today so after lunch we wandered through some colourful streets and collected pictures of doors and then strolled back to the hotel where we squandered the afternoon around the swimming pool and drank some beer and wine and played cards.
During the walk we had spotted a promising looking restaurant for evening meal, a simple, rustic sort of place popular with local people so we had no hesitation walking back there in the evening. We enjoyed a medley of starters and the Kim had roast lamb Alentejo style once again and I had a salted cod with vegetables. We had walked eight miles today.
Next morning after an average hotel breakfast we set off again into the city and before going anywhere interesting started, at Kim’s insistence, with a haircut because she complained that my thatch had become wild and untidy and I had to agree that she was absolutely right.
Shock over (the haircut an the bill) we went first to the a first-century temple, dedicated to the cult of Emperor Augustus and which unlike the rest of the Roman city has survived for two thousand years because five hundred years ago the structure was incorporated into a medieval development. That building has gone now but the Temple remains. It is not especially outstanding for a building of antiquity but remarkable simply because it is still there.
Close to the Roman Temple is the Gothic Cathedral of Évora and we purchased a combined ticket for the interior, a climb to the very top and to visit the cloister. We made straight for the top where there were expansive views across the Alentejo and beyond, next we went to the cloister where there was a lecture from a cross Frenchman.
There were two sets of steps to the top and we started to climb. Suddenly the Frenchman was ahead of us coming down. He insisted that we were using the wrong set of stairs and that we should turn around and go to the bottom and let him continue his descent. There was no official indication that he was correct but to avoid a diplomatic incident we did as he asked. This however wasn’t good enough for him and he insisted on following us and giving a lecture on stair lane discipline. He was wrong, he was definitely wrong and Kim told him so but that just provoked him to carry on. I wanted to explain to him that I needed no advice from a Frenchman on lane discipline when they can’t even drive on the left hand side of the road, which is of course the right side of the road.
From the Cathedral we explored the narrow streets, stopped for lunch and then made our way out of the old city walls to see the Aqueduto da Água de Prata a six mile long sixteenth century aqueduct which once supplied water to the city centre. Not as picturesque as the aqueducts of either Elvas or Tomar but impressive nevertheless.
By mid-afternoon we were tired of walking so we followed the city walls back to the hotel where we spent the afternoon at the swimming pool with a bottle of wine.
In the evening we returned to the same restaurant where there was an odd incident with an Eastern European lady diner who was dressed for a fine dining experience but finding herself in a rustic Portuguese restaurant with nothing on the basic menu that suited her she had a vociferous argument with the owner who eventually ran out of patience, invited her to leave and received a round of applause from all of the satisfied diners.
I had artichokes and cod stew and Kim had a salad and Portuguese slow cooked chicken. We had walked nine miles today. We had enjoyed our two days in Évora but tomorrow we would be packing up and heading back south to the Algarve.
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