After escaping the flea-ridden room in Albufeira (feira means festival in Portuguese) we took a bus to Faro and then a train to Evora, in the Alentejo region. Evora was a delight – in the mountains and a museum-city, now a UNESCO
World Heritage Site. There has been a town there since the time of the Celts, who named it Ebora, and one of the most famous monuments of the Roman temple of Diana in the town. It is a ruin, but some of the columns still remain. The food was excellent – pork and clams being a traditional Alentejo dish and I recall one memorable meal when I asked for a wild duck dish, and my chef friend decided on the pork and clams. We should have been conscious of our mistake when the young waiter who prided himself on his spoken English, suggested that we started with the pork dish and then have the duck. However at the time we were tucking into the fresh bread and cheeses I suspect and weren’t paying attention. There were carafes of wine too of course. The size of the dishes was ridiculous and two people could easily share a portion. The pork dish duly arrived and it was enormous! We then had the duck, after a long pause, and failed on a dessert, but kept on quaffing.
By the time we paid the bill – well after midnight, I waddled out of the restaurant and rolled downhill to the hotel we were staying in. At least we didn’t have to go outside the confines of the old walled town!
The trip itself was impressive as we went through cork oak (Quercus ruber) forests and saw men stripping the cork from the trees. The scenery was truly amazing, with stork nests on electricity pylons all along the railway route. There were platforms on the pylons especially for the storks.
The little railway stations were hardly what you would recognize as such. They had gardens full ot red bell peppers and chilli peppers used in piri-piri sauce. I was told that the secret of making this is to add whisky to it. The station master would come out and wave a flag and the train would move off and I guess that was the station master’s job over for the day. I was impressed because we had to change trains, at one point in the middle of nowhere, and there was our next train, waiting for us on the opposite platform which was about 2 feet away from where we got off our original train. Brilliant! You wouldn’t get that kind of connection from a railway company in the UK.
It wasn’t difficult to find a room as it was the winter season and so we haggled a little at a Best Western Hotel and got a room for a ridiculously low price.
I thoroughly enjoyed our stay in Evora and would recommend it to everyone. The architecture there had a significant influence on architecture in Brazil, and it has quaint whitewashed buildings (as do those on the Greek Cycladic islands), with the old town still with buildings from the 16th and 18th centuries. Evora was the residence of Portuguese kings and this is still apparent. If you go to Portugal try to take in some of the Alentejo region.