Enchanting Évora, Portugal's
Laid-Back Museum City
Story and photos by Tom Weber
head now beginning to clear following that mid-morning wine
tasting session, the intrepid "band of merry media"
and I 29 travel journalists and photographers invited by Insight
Vacations (Insight) to sample a portion of its premium-escorted Iberian
Adventure through Portugal and Spain - step down off the motor coach,
cross the cobble and check into the M`AR
De AR Aqueduto, our digs for the next two nights that's located
in the heart of the historic district of Évora, Portugal's Museum
This five-star boutique hotel-spa, with
64 suite-rooms, occupies the old Sepulveda Palace, a magnificent structure
from the 16th century that's framed by the arches of the Aqueduto da
Água de Prata (Aqueduct of Silver Water).
While I drop off my bags inside 223, splash
some water on my face and check my camera kit, feel free to have a quick
look around before we head straight out to soak up the history of this
capital city of the Alentejo and a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Gathered around the Corinthian-columned
ruins of the Temple of Diana, a 2 AD Roman structure, we start jotting
down notes as Maria José, Insights' animated local art historian,
begins her narrative: "Évora's roots date back more than
2,000 years to the days of the Lusitanians, and during Portugal's Golden
Age, this museum-city became the residence of the country's royal family."
Maria José adds, "Its unique
quality stems from the whitewashed houses and their wrought-iron balconies
dating from the 16th to 18th centuries."
An enchanting place to delve into the past,
Évora's 14th-century walls protect the labyrinth of narrow travessas
that lead to a striking variety of architectural works in Romanesque,
Gothic, Manueline, Renaissance and Baroque styles.
Take Sé, the medieval, fortress-like,
Gothic cathedral of rose-colored granite, with its ornate main portal
of apostolic sculptures and a unique statue of a pregnant Madonna.
There's the atmospheric (read, spooky)
Cappella dos Ossos (Chapel of Bones), a dimly lit ossuary inside St.
Francis Church where the walls are lined with the skeletal remains of
more than 5,000 lost souls.
Or, the town's focal point, Praça
do Giraldo (Giraldo Square), once the epicenter of countless bloody
and violent events of the Portuguese Inquisition, today it's a tranquil
spot lined with restaurants and open-air cafes, like Café Arcada,
an Évora institution, where I duck inside to enjoy a few more
of those delectable pasteis de nata (egg tarts).
Spectacular architecture and rich history
aside, Évora a member of the Most Ancient European Towns
Network is also known for its superb food, like the mouth-watering
regional dishes of the Alentejo served up daily by Patricia and Joao
at Maria Luisa, a casual restaurant in the historic center's Praça
1º de Maio (First of May Square).
Gathered around a mesa, the "band
of merry media," armed with 25 or so sets of cutlery, flies into
action on Insight's euro, savoring an array of mouth-watering dishes
and local wines, including my fave: lombo de porco preto (grilled
black Iberian pork tenderloin).
My belly now on the verge of exploding,
I forgo the courtesy ride on the motor coach and make my way back the
old fashioned way, on foot, along the lamp-lit cobble of Rua Cândido
Meanwhile, back at the ranch (M`AR De AR
Aqueduto hotel-spa), I'm being turned down actually suite 223
is following my triumphant day in Évora, the Museum
For complete information on Insight's 112
premium and luxury-escorted journeys around Europe, just click HERE,
or call toll free 1-888-680-1241, or contact your travel agent.
Get a good night's sleep, because tomorrow
we'll need to be firing on all cylinders when we climb a steep hill
to a whitewashed village, hop on board a sailing barge, and put the
feedbag back on for more of that to-die-for Alentejo regional cuisine.
Bons sonhos (Sweet dreams).
World-Class Wines at the Alentejo; Cascais
and Sintra: To the Edge of the Earth; Framing
Lisbon's Mosteiro dos Jerónimos; Pastéis
de Belém; The
Age of Discovery Began in Belém; Walking
the Decorative Cobble of Lisbon