Tuesday 7th May – Day 12
Thank you to all of you who spotted the typo in the last entry. It is your contributions that makes blogging such a collaborative task!
We are in Portugal! More specifically we have arrived in Evora.
Evora is a charming little town (actually it is a city, but it feels like a town, even more than Derby does) with an old centre that is preserved in a 17thCentury time warp, full of narrow, twisting streets with once grand buildings, that now have a touch of ‘shabby chic’ ness about them. Don’t get me wrong; it has a really classy feel about the place.
Evora is famous for being a university town since 1559 and is now also something of a foodie’s Mecca, as it has a growing reputation for its traditional cuisine. It has all the essentials you would expect of a mediaeval city; a large, attractive town square (and lots of little ones too), an imposing, 12thCentury, gothic cathedral (Vasco de Gama had his ships flags blessed here before setting off to discover the Orient (he came across Spurs and West Ham a few decades later), the remains of a Roman Temple and plenty of cafés, serving good coffee and Pastel de Natas. It even has a rugby club!
But the highlight for Wendy was that the man in the Tourist Information Office had told her that there were three post offices in town that sold Motorway Toll Cards and he had marked them all on a map and drawn on the route to get to them! Off we strode with a sense of purpose that had been missing since yesterday’s disappointment at the motorway services. At last she was going to get her hands on a fabled €40 toll card that was going to be our key to all the motorways of Portugal.
Leaving the dog with Andy and Lesley, who were safely tucked up in a café about to enjoy the delights of the aforesaid Pastel de Nata, we scurried around the corner to the nearest post office. Breathlessly we waited in the queue while that woman in front of us debated the merits of the various techniques for tying up parcels with the assistant behind the counter, and then; It was our turn!
“Please may I buy a €40 toll card?” asked Wendy in her best heavily Portuguese accented English.
“No!” replied the assistant; “We only sell €5, €10 and €20 tickets.”
Wendy was crestfallen; until, like a ray of sunshine sweeping across her beautiful face, the realization dawned on her that she could buy two €20 tickets instead! Oh joy and rapture unforeseen!
Our pleasure remained undimmed, even when none of our credit cards would work in the post office machine and we had to pay by cash instead. The small problem this created, was that we might be unable to reclaim any balance remaining on our card when we leave Portugal.
My highlight of Evora was the Capela dos Ossos. In the 17thCentury, faced with overcrowding in the cemeteries and with plenty of time on their hands, three monks started decorating a side chapel to their church with skulls, limb bones and even vertebrae. This had been completed to create a startling effect and not without a certain black humour. Above the entrance was carved the famous reminder…
Nós ossos que aqui estamos pelos vossos esperamos.” Or
“We bones you see in this poor state for you and yours do sit and wait”.
As you can see from some of the photographs, Andy and Wendy continued their collaborative project to take inventive, artistic pictures that capture the spirit of the places we visit.
After a brief stop at Intermarché (prawns for €8 a kilo! That’s tonight’s starter sorted) it was farewell to Evora and off to the coast.
Our drive through the Alentejo region of Southern Portugal, was through one of the poorest regions of Europe but the largest producer of corks in the world. We drove past miles and miles of cork oak fields (I wonder if these are called Dehsa as they are in Spain?) that are used to provide the 30 million corks a day Alentejo produce.
We joined the coast at Sines and drove along a narrow coast road watching magnificent waves breaking on to miles of empty beautiful beaches. The large carparks, built for the peak summertime crowds I suppose, were empty except for the motor homes of surfers, who were huddling in the lea of their vans as the sea was too rough even for them to venture out.
No dusty, barren carparks for us though, we pulled in to the brand spanking newly refurbished Costa do Vizir campsite in Porto Covo.