Around the World... One Journey at a Time. Around the World... One Journey at a Time.






Portugal: Day 10

by Kathy 10. April 2011 16:39

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<< Day 9: Marvão, the Eagle’s Nest | Day 11: Seaside Caves of Portimao >>

 

Roman Ruins and Bones in Évora

The hill-top village of Marvão was enveloped in clouds this morning. The white thickness added to the eerie sense of being in a medieval time-warp.


As we left through the skinny stone archways, we were grateful for the tiny size of our rental car.

Today we would be driving about 80 miles to the city of Évora, in the Alentejo area of Portugal. As we wound our way down through the mountains, we saw many old stone houses that looked like they were still occupied:

Lest I give the wrong impression, however, the number of older buildings was balanced by that of large modern homes:

The asphalt stretched right up to the front doors of many houses in the smaller towns—I wouldn’t want to step out without first peeking around the corner to see if any traffic was whizzing by!

We passed through the city of Portalegre, with its castle and beautiful cathedral:

While at a stop light, we noticed some gigantic nests up in the high branches of a tree:

And there was a large stork heading toward it, carrying an object in its beak—food for the baby birds, perhaps?!

The gentle rolling hills had many scrubby-looking trees that we thought might be cork trees. Here are some of them with a herd of grazing cows:

Some country homes:


Portugal surely was the land of castles and cathedrals. Spires, towers and turrets were everywhere. The castle in Estremoz seemed to have a split personality—a stone fortress on one side, and a white palace on the other:

Castelo de Evoramonte, a national monument, had a distinctive rounded shaped with its massive turrets:

On the outskirts of Évora were the arches that supported the 5.5 mile aqueduct named Água de Prata Aqueduct (Aqueduct of Silver Water), built in the 16th century to bring water into the city.

Évora has a rich history, having been an important city for both the Romans and the Moors before the 12th century. It was also chosen by several Portuguese kings to serve as court headquarters in the 15th and 16th centuries. The old town center has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Entering the old town area:

One of the main attractions for us was the Roman Temple of Évora (often called the Temple of Diana):



I had seen many photos of the temple, as it is a key landmark for the city. However, it truly was jaw-dropping in person.

Historians believe that the temple was built in the 1st century A.D. in honor of Julius Ceasar Augustus, the first Emperor of the Roman Empire. The name “Temple of Diana” refers to the Roman goddess of hunt, and seems to have been bestowed in the 17th century when a Portuguese priest made up a legend that connected the temple with the goddess.

The temple was largely destroyed in the 5th century when Évora was invaded by Germanic people. The remaining portions of the temple were transformed into part of a castle tower during the Middle Ages. The tower was used as a butcher shop for about 500 years, until the early 1800’s. During the 20th century, the temple was rescued from its medieval trappings and restored.

The rocky shambles in front of the temple used to be stairs:

The podium under the temple was made of large granite blocks.

The 14 columns were also made from granite, although the Corinthian capitals and bases were made from marble that was quarried from the Estremoz area, to the east. Evidence also exists to suggest that the temple was once surrounded by a water basin.

Here are Genevieve and I at the base:

Our hotel tonight was right next to the temple. We were staying in the Pousada dos Loios, a former convent that has been transformed into a lovely hotel.


The hotel rooms were the renovated cells of the convent—too small for a family of four—so we had reserved a “suite” that had a sitting area where we could put two extra beds for Genevieve and Sebastian. We had no idea what to expect, and we were just floored when we opened our door. The walls and high ceiling of the sitting room were painted with images and patterns, like those found in an opulent palace.

Here is a close-up of the ceiling:

The bedroom colors were more subdued, but the room was still very nice:

And there were two bathrooms. (Yes, two.)

We are not used to such luxury when we travel. For a split second, I half-expected a staff-member to appear and say, “Oh, I’m sorry, we gave you a key to the wrong room!” But no, this was our room. Let me tell you—there was a lot of giggling and laughter behind our closed door.

Our room opened with a heavy-duty, old-fashioned key:

I loved the key so much that I incorporated it into one of my paintings later:

For lunch, we set out to find a restaurant that was highly recommended in our guidebook, which had a hand-drawn map of the area.

We loved the narrow cobblestone streets:


The map wasn’t quite accurate . . . but we eventually found the right place:

We love it when guidebooks are spot on about a glowing recommendation. At Restaurante 1/4 p`ras Nove, the food was great, service was friendly, and there was a definite warm vibe.

Sebastian, our shellfish connoisseur, was very happy with his meal:

And Genevieve, who is very fond of carbonated water, said that the Agua Castello (Castle Water) brand was “extra bubbly.”

Very content, we set off after lunch to explore the rest of the city.

Nearby was an archway from the old Roman wall that had once enclosed the city:

The Cathedral () of Évora had two different towers that were completed in the 16th century:

The cathedral was first started in the 12th century, after the Moors were driven out of the city by Geraldo the Fearless. The new Christian rulers wanted to build a cathedral dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The cathedral was initially very modest, but it was enlarged and modified over the centuries in a blend of Gothic and Romanesque architecture.

The massive granite exterior, and the crenellated center over the doorway, were similar to the Lisbon Cathedral.

The cobblestone streets of historic Évora were not intended for wide, modern cars, but they were perfect for our wandering feet. Sebastian (then age 5) got his usual piggy-back.


Genevieve had plenty of energy:

Our small walkway opened onto a courtyard on the side of the 16th century Church and Convent of Our Lady of Grace (sometimes called Graça Cathedral). We felt as if we had stepped into a wonderland:

In stark contrast to the fortress-like appearance of the Cathedral of Évora, this ornate façade had flowers, columns, a delicate bell tower, and four giants holding two large orbs:

The giants are known as Meninos de Graça (Children of Grace), and they were created to represent the four corners of the earth and the universal power of D. João III (King John III).

We were mesmerized by the sculptural details, especially the giants. Later today, we would wind our way back to this church so that we could ogle some more.

Continuing onward, our next stop was the famous Capela dos Ossos (Chapel of Bones), next to the Church of St. Francis. The chapel name comes from its interior, which is lined with human skulls and bones.

There was a small fee to enter, and we also paid an extra fee for the right to take photos.



The chapel was created by a Franciscan monk in the 16th century. His alleged intent was to get people thinking about the transitory nature of life and how they would soon pass away, leaving their bones behind. Near the entrance was a sign that read, “Nós ossos que aqui estamos, pelos vossos esperamos," (We bones that are here, wait for yours.)

The bones were purportedly taken from about 5000 graves from nearby cemeteries, and they had been stacked into neatly arranged patterns.



I had been the one who had persuaded Ben and the kids to come with me to Capela dos Ossos.  While Sebastian and Genevieve might like the design of a skull and crossbones on their toys or clothing, they were not so impressed when faced with the real thing.  In fact, Ben and the kids unanimously agreed that the bones were “creepy.” They only stayed for a few minutes, and then waited out in the courtyard while I lingered inside.

Afterward, we found a café with small outdoor tables, perfect for an afternoon snack of gelato and espresso.

Nearby was the main plaza, Praça do Giraldo, with the Church of Santo Antão at one end:

Details of the church:



The square was named for Geraldo the Fearless. During the Inquisition, the plaza was the site for many executions. Today, it had a much more peaceful atmosphere. In addition to the rows of café tables, it had a fountain and outdoor sculpture, and was surrounded by nicely painted apartment homes and shops.


Another beautiful church was just two blocks away:

Sometimes it is the simple things in life that are so fascinating to the kids—like the drainage ditches with loud, rushing water in the middle of one plaza:

We reached the backside of the Roman arch that we had seen from the other side earlier today:

Eventually we looped our way back to the pousada and that lovely Roman temple that remained just as exciting to us no matter how many times we saw it:

In front of the temple was an open garden:

From the garden wall, we had an expansive view of the city:

The garden had several large pieces of sculpture. These two seemed to share a common theme involving a man and woman:


Sebastian and Genevieve created their own artwork by drawing two hearts in the dirt:

Love was in the air! We had all shared a special time as a family in Évora—another city in Portugal that had swept us off our feet.


Back to Portugal Index Page

<< Day 9: Marvão, the Eagle’s Nest | Day 11: Seaside Caves of Portimao >>

Comments (2) -

4/11/2011 7:28:03 AM #

becky

i'm loving portugal.  it's a little surreal to see how much the kids have grown up - but what an amazing trip.  again, we're just going to walk in your footsteps one day.  the temple was amazing.  you don't realize the scale until you get to the picture of genevieve and you.  love it (especially picturing it surrounded by water)...

becky United States | Reply

4/11/2011 9:55:13 AM #

Kathy

Becky, I'm so happy that you are enjoying our Portugal stories. Portugal was magnificent--better than we ever dreamed it would be. There seemed to be a surprise around every corner. As always, I appreciate your comments. K.

Kathy United States | Reply

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Planning Our Adventures

For us, each journey begins with the initial heart pangs to venture to a certain part of the world. Then the ideas start coming together . . . ahh, the possibilities . . . and the dream evolves gradually into an actual plan. But, oh, the joy of the dream!  Click here to learn more about how we plan and prepare for our journeys.

Where Are We Now?

Click here to discover where we are now, as well as our uncoming travel plans.


Words for the Heart

“. . . and then the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

Anais Nin