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davidx Evora - A travel report by David
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Evora,  Portugal - flag Portugal -  Évora
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davidx's travel reports

3 ‘E’s of 2 ’A’s

  21 votes
Page: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
Unlike the three towns in the other Alto Alentejo [the two As] report, Elvas, Estremoz and Evora [the three Es] are all known for different things; Evora for beauty and Diana, Estremoz for marble and Elvas for fortifications.

Evora - temple of Diana and Pousada
Evora - temple of Diana and Pousada
I felt considerable sadness as I moved to the second phase of my holiday, leaving the lovely hilltop places of the Serra de São Mamede behind me for what I could only think of as the three Es. I was to realise quite quickly that although it was all very different, it was great in its own way. Buses at weekends are very limited and this determined the order for me – Estremoz for a night and part of a morning, Elvas for a long afternoon and early evening and Evora for two nights. According to the Rough Guide on Portugal Evora, which is a world heritage site, gets many visitors in the summer but other parts of Alto Alentejo do not. In December there was no such difference. I seemed to comprise the entire non-Portuguese speaking part of the population. At Faro airport the world changed back to largely Anglo-Saxon. Oddly enough the Christmas decorations were a bit of a disaster from my point of view. Although they were everywhere good and imaginative, they introduced masses of cable into almost any major urban view and, to me, spoiled the appearance of some very fine buildings. What was far more irksome was the music blasting out from transmitters in every street in the main shopping areas. I became positively weary of a white Christmas and of a very restricted range of carols – ALL sung in English except for a single verse of Adeste Fideles in Latin! However these were only pinpricks. The time spent in these towns was a real delight. In later sections I shall try to pick out points particular to the three but here I would simply stress that in all of them much of the joy was simply wandering about and coming across fine buildings or interesting streets. For example I wanted to get from the public park in Evora to have a good look at the aqueduct. I used the town map and picked the shortest available route, a route with no apparent interest. In terms of specific sights to write up, this was a fair impression – but I enjoyed every moment of it.

Favourite spots:
Evora Cathedral
Evora Cathedral
Evora’s greater size and its truly palatial buildings must make it the winner. The Roman temple attributed, possibly falsely, to Diana was the only thing I’d heard about. It does add to the appeal of the top of the city but I was disappointed that it wasn’t possible to go up into it You can visit all the specific sights of Evora in less than a day and there’s no problem in walking between them. Other than the aqueduct, they fall into two areas. From the centre it’s only a short walk up to the top of the city. Here you notice first the Roman temple and the Cathedral. The architecture of the latter runs from the Romanesque of the 12th century, when it was started through Gothic to Baroque. The former Archbishop’s Palace is now a museum, unfortunately closed for restoration [Dec 05.] Nearby is one of Portugal’s most splendid Pousadas [as Spanish Paradors.] No problems going in and looking round some areas for only a cup of coffee, pricey it’s true but big! Continued - ‘Sights.’

What's really great:
castle and Pousada - Estremoz
castle and Pousada - Estremoz
Estremoz is rather wonderful. As it’s slap bang in the marble quarry aria and both marble and labour were dirt cheap here, this material is used for all sorts of unlikely buildings such as public toilets and quite a humble café may have a very fine staircase. Pavement and road tiles are frequently of marble. Although it’s not a hill like those further north, the old castle, the Pousada and the Church de la Rainha Santa form a spectacular ensemble above most of the city and there are old streets immediately down from them towards the centre. The other peculiar characteristic of Estremoz is its weekly Saturday market, like a cross between a flea market, a car boot sale and a produce market. All sorts of trivia and some real antiques are simply spread about the ground in a small part of what must surely be one of the biggest surfaced outdoor carparks in a place of its size, the Rossio Marquês de Pombal. There were five adjacent stalls selling ewes’ and goats’ milk cheeses!

Evora - but what is it? [see under pubs]
Evora - but what is it? [see under pubs]
Evora cont.
Next to the Pousada is the astonishing church of São João Evangelista, ordinary though impressive outside but absolutely covered from floor to ceiling everywhere inside by azulejos [decorative tiles.] These apparently date from the early 18th century. Next to that, on the other side is the Palace of the Dukes of Cadaval, still used by the family but with parts open to the public, reached by a long passage round the walls. If you follow back by a little winding passage by the cathedral, there’s a very steep road down to near the Policarpo, where I was staying.
The other part of the city that I much admired was to the south. Here you can find the spectacular church of São Francisco with Manueline features and, adjacent to it the Capela dos Ossos, [Chapel of Bones.] This is a pretty literal description and its gruesome character is not reduced by a horrible notice that these bones are awaiting yours!
Just below is a lovely park with excellent trees.
Continued - ‘Pubs’

Policarpo - top entrance
Policarpo - top entrance
I stayed in the Residencial Policarpo in Evora for my first night and returned for the weekend nights. It was once the summer palace of the Counts of Lousa and is highly recommended in several guidebooks – rightly. It’s quite close to the centre and very close to the high cathedral area.
En-suite rooms are heated by a ceiling thing that you can turn on or off or adjust by means of a thing like a TV remote control. Breakfast – pretty good – is served from 08.00 to 10.30.

At Estremoz I’d boobed by confusing the name of one pension with the address of another in my record – so I wasn’t sure I was at the one I’d booked. I was, the Miguel José. However I can’t recommend it for winter in spite of its being very cheap. No heat!!

The aqueduct at Elvas
The aqueduct at Elvas
Not ‘Clubs’ but Aqueducts – both connected with liquid I suppose!
Both Evora and Elvas have what is left of aqueducts built in medieval times in the first case and mostly in the 16th century in the second. They could hardly be more different, though to an aqueduct addict like me both are immensely interesting. The so called ‘silver water' aqueduct at Evora no longer carries water, silver or otherwise. Moreover, the only example I have seen, most of its single storey of arches is filled in with houses.
The aqueduct at Elvas is, to me, one of the truly exciting features of the place. It runs about seven kilometres and in places is apparently five storeys high, though I was well impressed with the four storeyed part I saw just outside the gates. The thought that it was worth constructing such a huge edifice for the small channel of water it carries says volumes about the value of labour in the 16th century!

Aqueduct at Evora
Aqueduct at Evora
Evora concluded
In the public park there is a palace of D.Manuel, where it’s said that Vasco da Gama was given the command for a trip to India. Just near it is an old ruined building about which I have so far found nothing. Can anybody help?
Lastly I should mention the Giraldo Square in the very centre with its splendid buildings and arcades. Yet I come back to the introduction. Evora retains its basic Moorish layout and it’s worth spending a bit of time here and just wandering. It’s indeed a beautiful city.

Websites: http://www.manorhous – excellent.
http://www.portugalvirt –contains fine numbered map.

Part of the market - Estremoz
Part of the market - Estremoz
I doubt I should have found the Choupana at Evora if it had not been recommended by the Policarpo, where I was staying but the recommendation was sound enough. Like most places it’s easy once you know! Face the Turismo from the Praça do Giraldo and there is a road down immediately to its right. Take the one parallel to this next on the right and the Choupana is a short way down on your right. It’s very much a snackbar layout but for less than €20 [£13.73 or $23.70] you can enjoy a deliciously cooked meal of soup and a ‘small’ [outrageous misuse of a word] or ‘half’ [even worse] portion of fish or meat – take advice from the waiters - with pudding, bread, butter, olives and half a bottle of wine. Not bad, I think.

Other recommendations:
The castle over an Arab arch
The castle over an Arab arch
Elvas disappointed me a little, which says more about me than about Elvas. Situated as it is, only a few miles from Badajoz in Spain, it has been heavily fortified for a very long time. As a result there’s nowhere that you can get an overall impression except the air. I was dim enough not to have anticipated this but to have in mind something more like Marvão, where the whole outline is always clear in the mind even when parts can’t actually be seen. Moreover the castle itself, being part of ancient fortifications, is virtually a ruin and doesn’t compare with some of the others I saw. It is the later fortifications that are now architecturally more impressive. I’m afraid the museum was closed for works as well and it is said to be a most interesting building. However the town has a really old Arab quarter where you come across arches and some of the 17th century buildings are really fine.
Go without silly expectations and you will find it a great place.

Published on Saturday December 31th, 2005

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Sat, May 27 2006 - 09:15 AM rating by mistybleu

David, a delightful read, with great illustrations.

Wed, Mar 22 2006 - 02:13 PM rating by sajjanka


Sun, Jan 01 2006 - 03:13 PM rating by bootlegga

Great photos!

Sun, Jan 01 2006 - 08:38 AM rating by jorgesanchez

David, you are master writing reports!

Sat, Dec 31 2005 - 09:43 PM rating by gloriajames

Hiya david
A very charming report!

Sat, Dec 31 2005 - 02:16 PM rating by eirekay

Sounds like a marvelous journey! I always find the Aquaducts amazing!

Sat, Dec 31 2005 - 11:56 AM rating by marianne

I loved this: Not ‘Clubs’ but Aqueducts – both connected with liquid I suppose!

Reading your report makes me want to go to Portugal, and I realise that we have only seen a very small part of the country.


Sat, Dec 31 2005 - 09:13 AM rating by jesusferro

So glad to read your new and excellent reports, and about Portugal, a country I love very much (see my portuguese pics).

Sat, Dec 31 2005 - 07:13 AM rating by rangutan

A very long report but enjoy reading it. If you have a picture of the old ruined building near the Evora public park, i'll try get info on it.

Sat, Dec 31 2005 - 06:18 AM rating by horourke

Wonderful detail and some interesting points for further research

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