Visit: 5th December 2016
After flying from Madeira to Lisbon, my family and I rented a car and hit the road for a 4 day trip around mainland Portugal. We set off across the Vasco da Gama bridge – at 7.6 miles it is the longest bridge in Europe. Heading into the country’s interior I was surprised to see that storks are prevalent here, with several nesting on practically every electricity pylon along the route. Portugal has some of the best (toll) roads in the world, so were soon at our first destination, 80 miles east of the capital: the ancient Roman city of Évora.
The sight that first greets visitors is a well-preserved aqueduct that cuts through the main car park. Walking into town along a busy cobbled street the traffic noise was a little horrendous, but soon we had entered a pedestrianised square where we sat down to lunch.
Apart from the aqueduct the major legacy of the Romans is a temple to Diana, goddess of the hunt. There isn’t any signage explaining how or why the temple remains in such good condition, so it remains a bit of a mystery to us.
Next to the temple is a more modern religious building – though modern is a relative term. Évora’s cathedral was completed in the 13th century after Christianity had firmly taken hold of Portugal. Dad and I went up onto the roof to get a view over the town.
In the 15th century the city became the residence of the Portuguese kings, which marked an upswing in its fortunes. Urban planning was instituted and the town developed a uniformly Portuguese style of whitewashed terraces. This style was superseded in later years by the tiling style typified in Guimarães, but Évora is the best surviving example (it was unscathed by the widely-destructive earthquake of 1755).
I haven’t been to Brazil but they say that walking around Évora feels like some of the earlier Portuguese colonies in the New World. A number of these are World Heritage Sites themselves, so watch this space.
We spent only about three hours in the city in total before continuing our journey eastward to the border town of Elvas. Having seen a miscellany of souvenirs fashioned out of cork for sale (think cork handbags, cork ties, cork shoes etc.) we began to notice the abundance of cork trees littering the route – something the region is well known for producing a lot of.