A beautiful medieval town about 1.5 hours outside Lisbon
We decided to cut our Lisbon stay a bit short to get out of the big city and into a smaller town. After researching the top destinations in Portugal, we landed on Evora (EV-ra), a quaint medieval town that has its original Roman outer wall and some other bits of Roman and medieval architecture.
We’ve had a wonderful time these past two days and would highly recommend that folks come here for a weekend stay. It’s beautiful and easily walkable, filled with excellent, tiny restaurants, and there’s delicious wine everywhere you turn.
Here are some of our highlights:
We waited 30 minutes to get in, but it was totally worth it. The chef came to our table and explained the various Alentejo cuisine menu options, which where listed on a small chalkboard, then he had waitresses show us the raw meats, fish, and mushrooms that were in the various dishes. We asked to share a starter of mushroom and pumpkin soup, followed by meals of tuna and pork. Because of the chef’s love for food and treating guests spectacularly, we got a cheese/bread/olive oil app, a free stacked fried mushroom app, and a free plate of fresh grilled root veggies to go with our dinners.
I could barely eat a third of my dinner. This was, without a word of exaggeration, the best meal I’ve ever eaten. The servers were very attentive, and we had delicious red, white, and green wines. The chef is also the owner, and it’s very clear he loves the locally sourced, biologica (organic) food he proudly prepares and serves. We loved every minute of this experience.
Capela Dos Ossos (The Bones Chapel)
The city was getting overcrowded with its dead, so the priests decided to unearth the bones and use them in the walls of their church. Yes, it sounds creepy, but it was actually very strangely beautiful — and, we thought, a very practical use of something that each of us is going to become. Just think of it like using reclaimed wood on your floors, I guess.
The Church also has an exhibit of 6,400 nativity scene figurines that were donated by a local couple who collected them from around world. Scott really liked the ones that were in old matchboxes. 🙂
(You can also see a video of the Capela de Ossos below.)
The Evora park is also former jardims (gardens) of the royal family and, later, a Franciscan convent. We had a light lunch here of local goat cheese, chourico (the local chorizo), bread, and wine that we bought at a small market for about USD$6.
While we walked around the park we ran into some old church ruins and lots and lots of peacocks just wandering around. Totally random and totally beautiful.
(Again, there’s a video of the peacocks at the bottom of this post.)
There’s a ruined, but still mostly standing Corinthian temple in the center of town that dates from the 1st century, reputedly erected to honor Emperor Augustus. We saw it during both day and night, lit by floodlights. Both times were amazing. In addition to this temple, the Roman-built city walls still stand in many places surrounding the original outline of Evora. There’s also a Roman aqueduct in great condition.
Since many people told us about the wonderful wine in this region so we decided to do a wine tasting at a family owned winery, Ervideira. Our favorite of the four wines we tried was what they call their “invisible wine,” which is made from red grapes but looks like a white wine. We bought a bottle and had it with our lunch in the garden.
To Sum Up
For these two days, we stayed in a nice, but cheap hotel with two twin beds. It cost USD$98 for both nights. We’ve both slept incredibly well. I think our bodies are still getting used to walking so much — in Evora, we had one 7.4-mile day and one 3.9-mile day trekking around the city.
Tomorrow we are off to Porto via a train, a metro, and then a budget flight (USD$26 for two plane tickets on RyanAir!).
Connie & Scott