Saturday, January 14, 2017

Monsarez

When we arrived in Evora we had no intention to go to Monsaraz, but at the insistence of our host we did the trip anyway. It took us about an hour and half on bus through beautiful rural countryside and towns. It was difficult to get many pictures from the bus but here is one of a church in a town where all the houses were painted white with blue trim...


Monsarez was the end of the line and seeing that it is not tourist season we were the only ones to go that far being dropped off around 1:30 and picked up again at 5:30. It was a huge bus so they weren't making much money that day!

It is located at a top of a hill that you can see for miles...


It has been inhabited since Prehistoric times and has been ruled by many including the Romans and the Arabs.Deserted after the plaque of 1527 it regained importance thanks to its strategic location as an armed fortification. The battlement walls give it a Medevial aspect with a village inside that seems frozen in time.

Don entering one of the gates, there are no vehicles allowed inside the walls.


The views from the walls were gorgeous looking out over the countryside...




There are lots of vineyards and olive groves as far as we could see. The lake is manmade to provide irrigation to the area and is the largest artificial lake in Europe.

The streets here are narrow and very hilly with beautiful views around every corner...



Since it is winter here we did not see many people around, even the locals were scarce. In fact, it seemed as we had the place to ourselves. Apparently in the high season this placed is very crowded, but not today. .


There were a few shops opened with bright displays of local crafts...


 
Everyplace in this little town was spotless...




Even the curtains...




The town had a small square with the Mother church located there...


With a pillory built in the 18th century in white marble from the region.

The church was built in the 16th century to substitute for the original that had been contaminated by the plaque


We found one restaurant open with no one in it but the staff who didn't seem that happy to see us, but we managed to get something to eat. The menu was in Portuguese and no one spoke English, this is what we got...

 
Bread, cheese and olives to start and a large plate to share with tomato,lettuce, rice, fries and tasty spicy short ribs.  


It was cold on top of the hill so we kept walking and as the sun started to go down the light was amazing...



Here I am with my many layers trying to stay warm...


And Don playing, " King of the Hill"...




There were lots of plants and flowers on our walk around...




Even cacti and these spiky red flowers are everywhere we go...

Fragrant lavender...


And these purple flowers that I think grow as annuals at home...


Orange trees everywhere 



And a single rose...



As we were leaving the shadows were reflecting off the houses and stones, it was a beautiful and magical place...



Evora,Portugal

We left Lisbon on a train to Evora and we're ready to move on...


A journey of about an hour and half brought us to Evora which is about 160kms away in the south central Alentejo region of Portugal. It is a wine growing region and it wasn't long before we could see miles and miles of vineyards...


We took a taxi to our accommodations as it was too far to walk with our bags and the streets were all cobblestones so we didn't think our wheels on our carry ons would survive.

We were met by our lovely host, an out of work sociologist who rents out rooms in her beautiful house to make ends meet. Our room is large with an extra single bed which looks like this...


Notice Don's  bag to the left and my things spread everywhere, fine when the room is large but a problem when it's not! 

Evora is designated as a UNESCO heritage city because of it's many monuments and historical sites. It is very clean and very white with most buildings painted white trimmed with yellow.


The town is full of very narrow streets made of cobblestones and churches on every corner...

 



Just around the corner was a restaurant which our host recommended and it had the best food yet...

 These were the entradas, which are the starters. They bring these out to start the meal even though you don't order them, and of course you have to pay for them. These were delicious, one being octopus and the other being marinated mushrooms.

The place was packed with locals as we were the only tourists there, fortunately the young woman who was in charge spoke some English and could explain the menu to us. We ended up having a fish soup with a " small shark" and a bean and pork soup. The portions were huge so next time we will only order one to share...



Very typical restaurant decor, this table was soon occupied by a multi generational family who consumed lots of food. We couldn't believe how much people ordered compared to what we would order at home. 


Evora is quite a walkable city, especially within the walls of the old town. It has about 50,000 people and is a vibrant university town. 

We walked around some of the outside of the old city where the walls are still well maintained...


It also has an aqueduct which was built in the 16th century that still supplies water to the town.


Famous for it's buildings here are a few examples 


The church on the main square

Fountain in the Main Square. 

One of many churches...

Another...





Most of the churches were open to visit and they were grand...


 

This lady was saying the rosary...



In this church there was a choral group practising and with the acoustics they sounded marvellous...

 
The singers...


Attached to the St. Francis church which was built in the 15th century was an interesting display of Nativity Scences from around the world, the collection had over 2000 and some were on display. They were wonderfully creative and here are some of my favourites...

 
These were from Portugal but there were examples from over 80 countries, including this one from China...


There was also a religious art exhibit with many examples of this saint who is the Patron Saint of Portugal. For you trivia buffs, it is Saint Anthony...


And then there was the Chapel of Bones with an entrance inscription which read, Us bones that are here, for yours we wait



Some details...


This chapel was built from the bones and skulls of over 5000 people exhumed from cemeteries and churches throughout the area. It was used as a burial place for monks and important people, as well as a meditation space. How would you like mediating here?  

As we walked around we came across lovely squares to stop and rest...



We spent a couple of hours one morning catching the sun and reading an English newspaper, yeah!


There were also interesting ruins of a Roman temple built in the 1st century, showing that many people's had occupied this space since Prehistoric times. 


That day as we walked around we would come across a large troupe of scouts who were visiting, they were resting here...


And of course there are the people of Evora, this women trying to sell Don a knife for five euros...


This lady who was scrubbing her restaurant...


This older gentleman who was wearing the traditional coat of the region, made of wool with a fox collar...

These people relaxing in the sun...




And often with a beverage...


Many like us were bundled up for the cold...


As can probably be seen from the photos Evora was a very relaxing stop, it was quiet, clean and colourful, and we enjoyed our visit here. 

It was made all the more comfortable when we returned back to our accommodation to a warm fire...


Which was supplied by Don, reminded us of the cabin...





And a usual supper of this...


So again, a stop that did not disappoint and one we would recommend, and tomorrow we move on.