Location: Whitby, Ontario, Canada

Born in Malta but in Canada since age 5. Has written three books and presently does several columns about wine and food for various magazines.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Day Two/Three: Groceries and Evora

Getting Familiar/Trip To Evora
Alentejo can be described as a large region of small towns, farms, wineries and  and fabulous scenery. One can look out over hills encrusted with grape vines, cork and olive trees interspaced with small but vibrant historical towns and villages.
The closest town to us was Redondo . These towns had one thing in common and that is that there was no rhyme or reason for the pattern of streets which confused drivers such as I even with a GPS. The voice would say “go right” but which right as there were sometimes three possible choices and of course if you did not get it right---“Recalibrating” was the response.
The first day that we were here was spent mainly getting our bearings and spending some time taking in the atmosphere. We went to the grocery store and purchased some supplies at the “Supermarket” which was in Redondo. It carried most of our needs. We basically did not do anything.
Alex had to leave for Bruxelles early in the morning and had woken up early in the morning, worked his horse and gave some last minute instructions to his workers. He then was off to catch a flight armed only with a light bag. I remember me saying to myself, I must start traveling much more lightly. It would make my trips far easier.  
Soon we (I) was alone. Yet it was not hard to be alone since most of my time whether with or without someone is “alone”. Some go through life in the midst of a crowd and be part of it while others like me may be with a group but still feel/think  “alone”!
Our initial plans were to go to Evora but the most were suffering the attacks of “Jetlag” and by the time all got up it was time to plan the next day’s trip.
Trip To Evora
With Alex gone and us by ourselves we took up some of Alex’s suggestions and went to the historic town of Evora.
Evora is an ancient place first settled by a prehistoric people that used it as a lookout and reference point. It later came under Roman domination and though the name was changed by various leaders such as Julius Caesar, the name of Evora withstood the test of time and is still------Evora.
Evora occupied a special place in the ancient world and many of Rome’s famous writers such as Pliny referred to it. The Romans settled the area and built temples and aqua ducts. It was an important strategic city on the way to Rome as well as important for silver and wheat. There were others who conquered and governed the area. The Visigoths and the Moors each left their mark on the city and region but none had the effect of the Romans.
The Portuguese era began after the Moors left. The area had been under Moorish control for four hundred years but the only thing that was left of major historical significance was what the Romans and Portuguese founded within the city itself. Evora was made a World Heritage Site in 1986. 
The City
Evora was a fortress city with the inhabitants living within tall walls----some over one hundred feet high. This was the norm for people living in those days for the threat of invasion forced many to live within the confines and security of armed walls.
A person could enter the city via one of several gateways. Confusion could easily reign supreme with the maize like structure of the city streets which seem to crisscross in every direction.
Each street was filled with various curio shops, pharmacies, shoe stores, clothing shops and a myriad of street cafes. Touring the city was easy as all one had to do was park in one of the large parking lots and either walk via a self given tour or take a shuttle bus to the main square called Praca do Giraldo.
This square was once the main market place used by the Moors in the 12th Century was named for Giraldo the Fearless who via many surprise attacks took back the city in the name of Christianity and Portugal. He was made Governor of Evora in appreciation.  During the 16th century one of Portugal’s kings lived in Evora for 30 years. Another famous Portuguese lived here. Famous explorer Vasco Da Gama lived here and his house could be found by tourists but no one was allowed to enter.  
Evora had a plethora of historic Architectures, monuments, items and  hidden treasures. The whole fortress city could be seen by taking that self guided tour but also had special guided walks and shuttle busses that will do the same job for those who were not fussy on the walk.
Some of the most sought after spots were: The Aqua Ducts built by the Portuguese in the 16th century;  the Roman Temple from the first century AD; the 12th century Cathedral of Santa Maria de Evora plus its museum for fine historic relics, the “Chapel of Bones” which was founded by in the 17th Century and other items such as Public Gardens were people went to relax amidst floral beauty. One thing that one had to remember about Evora, when people were walking, they literally were walking on history for many of the buildings and hotels are built over Roman ruins and even the Cathedral is built on the remains of a Muslim Mosque. As a matter of fact it seems that whenever some major construction occurs, some Roman relics in the form of floor tiles or baths such as the one found inside the Town Hall that was found when there was some building repair.
We toured the site for awhile then decided to go back home. The rest of the evening we spent having supper an d drinking some delicious Herdade Sao Miguel wine.
End of Day Three