21-24 October 2019
Our campsite was an easy 2km walk from the centre of the UNESCO World Heritage city of Evora, which is also the main town of Alantejo. It’s a great place to explore on foot as it is both compact and attractive with lots of little backstreets. The old parts inside the walls retain a Moorish feel and even outside it feels as if it hasn’t changed for a long time. You don’t have to walk far before you are back out in the countryside. Nowadays it’s an agricultural hub but it was once an important crossroads and of great commercial and cultural importance from the Romans through to the mid-1700’s when politics sent it into a decline.
We visited the city’s cathedral, the Sé, built after the defeat of the Moors in 1165. An atmospheric place with great views from the roof, well worth the climb.
The adjoining Cathedral Museum housed a collection of probably priceless church treasures – statues dressed in stiff brocades, jewel encrusted reliquaries, robes embroidered with gold and gems, and paintings with their colours still vivid centuries later. It was a sombre place loaded with symbolism but devoid of context and Danny hated it.
We checked out the Roman Temple whose remains stand at the heart of the city, at it’s highest point, next to gardens from which you can view the countryside beyond or, if you’re that way inclined, view the comings and goings at the large old police station next door.
And we sampled coffee and cake on the historic square of Praco do Giraldo and wandered in and out of the old shops – we have a fondness for chandlers and never come out empty handed. We visited more than one and succumbed to some more “essentials” for the van.
We even got Danny a haircut at a great little barbers shop who provided Kate with a free beer while she watched.
But we will remember Evora most for its food. Inspired by Monsaraz we gave in to the temptation to explore regional cooking a bit more and treated ourselves to a lunch and a dinner.
Our lunchtime exploit was at a wonderful old place called Botequim da Mouraria. With seating for only 10 at the tall bar we got the last seats and the “FULL” and the door locked behind us with a FULL sign prominently displayed. It was lovely.
The owner helped us to order a selection of ‘dainties’ that came from the tiny kitchen as they were ready, and we enjoyed watching our fellow guests being served whilst we waited. Oh boy was it good. Pata Negra hand carved from a huge ham on the counter; to the best clams we have ever had cooked in olive oil, lemon and their own juices sprinkled with coriander leaves; mushrooms filled with olive oil, sprinkled with salt and roasted which went so well with the slices of cured sausage fried alongside 8 quails eggs.
And even though we were full, our host insisted we try a bit of each of his desserts so we ended up with a plate each piled with tart of eggs, almonds & pumpkin; a small cheesecake; a piece of cinnamon-poached quince all garnished with walnuts and fresh pomegranate seeds. Simple and delicious.
For our evening out we went a little bit more up-market at a very popular locals restaurant we had found on our wanders outside the city walls – O Parque dos Leitões, where the crisp white linen table-cloths belied the more than reasonable price of the food. When we arrived the table was laid out for us with a selection of delicious-looking small appetisers and it broke Kate’s heart to send it all back – in fact she weakened and kept the soft ewes cheese with the top cut off for crisp toast soldiers to be dipped. But we were here for the main event – Roast Goatling (we assume they mean baby goat), Roast Suckling Pig, and a helping of Migas which we had been told we MUST try in Evora. A regional speciality that they refer to as bread pudding it is actually cornbread which we think is an acquired taste – we found it stodgy and quite bland although the place was packed and the Migas was going down a treat on every other table.
We thoroughly enjoyed them both and agreed that the charms of the little back-street bar-restaurant would draw us back to Evora in the future. In the meantime, writing this has made me hungry………