King of the Hill!!

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Flag of Portugal  , Alentejo,
Saturday, July 3, 2010

This morning we left Lisbon starting our grand tour of Portugal going east and northeast.  Our first destination was the World Heritage city of Evora.  

On our way to the city, we made a slight detour to visit the Cromoleque dos Almendres.  What is that you ask, well it is a site where hundreds of menhirs are assembled in a large circle reminiscent of the Stonehenge in Britain.  It dates back to the Chalcolithic era (2500-1800 BC) and was out in the middle of olive and cork trees.  It sure would be nice to know what exactly was happening here so long ago.  A little ways down the road, we walked a narrow path that led us to a single tall menhir planted in the ground.  I looked and looked but did not find Obelix or even Idefix which I though for sure would be there.  Oh well, maybe we will see him later on.

The city has been in existence for centuries, once lived in by Romans, Visigoths, Arabs, and Portuguese in succession.  It is a city almost completely surrounded by defensive walls built over the years with some of the houses built directly into the wall.  It is very well preserved.  At the top of the town, stands the Roman temple of Diana, which was actually not built for Diana but for the roman emperor and is remarkably well preserved for being so old.  To its side is the Castle of the Duque do Cadaval palace with its two remaining Towers (we chose not to visit this one).  

Behind the Roman Temple stands the Evora Cathedral which looks more like a fortified castle in some spots than a religious establishment.  It dates back to the early 13th century and is a classical example of the transition from the Romanesque to the Gothic style of architecture.  The main entrance is flanked by two medieval bell towers that look much more like defensive towers than what one expects of bell towers!  On each side of the door are some very nice sculptures of the Twelve Apostles.  On our visit of the interior, we went up to the Choir which is high above the main floor and vary richly decorated in wood carvings all around the seating area.  At the center stands a grandiose pulpit type topped by an angel (used for the very large song books).  We then climbed to the top of the cathedral and walked on the roof for some great views of the city with its magnificent buildings and extremely narrow streets.  Simply beautiful.

On our way back to the car, we stopped to say hello to my friend Obelix (those of you who know french comic books will understand) and discuss the Menhir he left behind.  The name of this little cafe was Obelix and they and they had him painted on the side of their company car. It was funny.  Our next stop outside the city walls was the Agua da Prata Aqueduct built in the 16th century to bring water from a spring some 9kms away.  We stopped there and had our picnic lunch before continuing our journey northwards.

We stopped in the city of Estremoz hoping to visit the castle but alas, it is now a hotel.  We did however enter and walk around the lobby for a bit just in case some treasure was hidden there.  Not so but a nice stop along the way to Marvao our last stop for the day.  There were a lot of small villages and towns doting the countryside along the way with castles and fortifications all around that would have been nice to stop at and visit.  Sadly, had we done that we never would have made it to our destination.  There is always so much more to see than you have planned!!!

As we approached Marvao, we could see a large castle nestled at the top of the mountain.  It reminded me of the Moors castle in Sintra and one in Kohor, Montenegro.  Built on the top of the mountain right into the rock, precariously hanging over the edge.  Well, much to our surprise, those walls surround the small town of Marvao and we would be staying there for the night.  What a thrill!  We drove passed the city gates and entered this centuries old town.  The car barely fit thru the gates and down the very narrow cobblestone streets.

I walked up to the top of the town to explore the castle and walk its battlements.  What a sight! Not only is the castle amazing by its size and location, but the town has created a gorgeous little garden at the entrance worthy of french or English gardens found around 17th or 18th century palaces.  It was truly amazing.  I knew Mom would really enjoy this, so when I completed my hike around the battlements and keeps of the castle, I went back to the hotel to share this with her.  Since it was quite hot, we took the car up (that's an experience in itself), parked right at the top and visited the gardens.  I think she enjoyed that.  Since we had the car, we went all the way down the mountain looking for the Roman Ruins.

Needless to say, we got lost but took a very nice drive in the countryside.  The town - really just a wide spot in the road - at the bottom of the mountain had a very large swimming pool with an adjacent one built right in the river.  Oh how I want to jump in but alas my swimsuit was wayyyyyy up on top of the mountain :(

We did finally make it to the roman ruins which were so so.  A great day came to an end in a beautiful little hotel.  We decide to have dinner like civilized people for once in the hotel.  I ordered the tomato soup with egg - a specialty from the region.  What a great choice!!!  I will try it at home someday.  Fresh tomatoes, green peppers, bread, onion and an egg added at the last minute.  YUMMY!!!
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Rebecca on

OK, I want to chat with Obelix too!!! Still hunting down narrow streets, I see! Still challenging your driving skills?

tiramillas on

Thanks. I visited Marvão about 30 years ago, but no pictures survived from that travel. I have just connected with my reminders!

Dewi on

Great photos of Marvao, I can't wait to visit again especially for the November Chestnut Festival where the streets are lined with stalls selling genuine Portuguese handcrafts, artists demonstrating their traditional skills, various street artists and folk music. And of course chestnuts and delicious chestnut cakes, and of course candy floss for the kids!

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