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Iberian Adventure:
Enchanting Évora, Portugal's
Laid-Back Museum City
(Dispatch #9)

Story and photos by Tom Weber

M`AR De AR Aqueduto hotel sign

y 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 City.

the Aqueduto da Água de Prata (Aqueduct of Silver Water)

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).

inside the writer's suite at the M`AR De AR Aqueduto

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.

Satisfied? VAMOS!

Maria José, Insights' animated local art historian

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."

ruins of the Temple of Diana in Évora

Maria José adds, "Its unique quality stems from the whitewashed houses and their wrought-iron balconies dating from the 16th to 18th centuries."

scenes in Évora

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.

architectural works of various medieval styles and a unique statue of a pregnant Madonna, Évora

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.

skeletal remains at the Cappella dos Ossos (Chapel of Bones), St. Francis Church

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.

the Praça do Giraldo (Giraldo Square); pasteis de nata or egg tarts at the Café Arcada

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).

menu at the Maria Luisa restaurant

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).

wine and mouth-watering dishes at the Maria Luisa

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).

lamp-lit cobble of Rua Cândido dos Reis

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 dos Reis.

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 City.

Iberian Adventure brochures from Insight Vacations

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.

the whitewashed medieval village of Monsaraz

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).

Related Articles:
Sampling 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

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Let Tom know what you think about his traveling adventure.

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Feedback for Destination Bosnia: Inside Sarajevo's Tunnel of Hope

Spent time in Sarajevo in the fall of 1973…beer was excellent!

--- David

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Hi Tom,

I must say, you're photographs are always amazing. They are top notch. You bring so much class to Traveling Boy. It's photographs like yours that make me want to go out and do my own traveling. Please don't get tired of sending us your amazing adventures. It's such a delight for the soul.

--- Raoul, Whittier, CA

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Hi Tom:

I'm also an American living in Italy. I've read with interest your blog and articles. I'd like to speak with you regarding residency and citizenship for Americans in Italy as you do seem to have a great deal of knowledge on all of these subjects. Would it be possible to give you a call on the phone? If so, please let me know how to reach you. If not, I can ask my questions via email.

Thank you!

--- David

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Hey Tom – Wow! Love those photos – they are so super that they make me A) Want to start eating NOW. B) Go there myself. C) See all that pristine beauty that looks so restful and peaceful. Great story, superb pix!!! Bravo!!

--- John, Los Angeles, CA

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Feedback for Destination Southwestern France: Saint-Émilion

Good job, Tom, and timely info. St. Émilion is in the list of places Jim Hayes and I will visit in September 2014. If we get the chance, we will exploit your experience to enhance the trip!

--- Bobby Harper, Dameron, MD

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Feedback for Vicenza Walks – Monte Berico

I lived in Vicenza for 4 years in the U.S. ARMY from 1963 to 1967. A wonderful place to explore. Palladio’s works are amazing. Have been back twice since and find new places to visit. My favorite is MONTE BERICO where I have some wonderful photos of my family.

--- Dr. Albert Pizzi, Hanover, MA

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I liked the new TB particularly the Vicenza article that took me back as a youth when we lived in Naples and travelled up there for a baseball tourney (U.S. Military Bases dependent schools played each other.)

Took me back to the plaza.

--- Bill

Feedback for A Canterbury Trail (Sutri)

Very interesting note. I have wedroned which route the early pre-Christian and Christian pilgrims travelled to Rome from England. Is it still possible to travel the Francigena trail?

--- Pawel

You can find out more info on walking tours of Via Francigena at this site: Thanks for stopping by and commenting..


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Good article, enjoyed reading it. Saved your recommended sights for future use.

--- Dardenne Prairie, MO

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You're going to be great at this Tom. Congrats.

--- Donna Vissa -Montreal

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