Evora in the Alentejo – discovering food, wine and new friends

Roman Temple of Diana, Evora Our visit to Evora in the Alentejo region of Portugal was a complete fluke. We were planning a drive from Santander in northern Spain, to the western Algarve, and it seemed a good place to spend a couple of nights.

As we did our research we realised this small town had an enormous claim to fame as a UNESCO world heritage site and is immersed in history. An added bonus was that it sits in the centre of the Alentejo wine region.

After much checking of websites we booked in at the ADC Hotel just inside the ancient city walls and within walking distance of the old town.

We arrived mid afternoon after a 5 hour drive and as we passed under the impressive ‘Aqueduct of Silver Water’ we began to realise the town held many historical attractions and asked ourselves if 2 nights was sufficient to do it justice.

ADC Hotel, EvoraAt the charming ADC Hotel we were immediately welcomed by Alexis, an American intern from central Florida.  Alexis couldn’t do enough to make us feel at home.  She arranged for our car to be parked in the secure underground parking lot, whisked our luggage away, sat us in the pretty courtyard and brought us a jug of white wine sangria, a delicious light alternative to the traditional Spanish red wine version.

After we had drawn breath she sat with us and explained about the hotel, Evora itself and all the restaurants nearby that come recommended.  The ADC Hotel offers an imaginative menu of light meals and tapas during the day.  But breakfast was my downfall – an unsurpassed spread of local and organic produce topped off with American delights such as pancakes and French Toast.

Church of St Francis, EvoraWith map in hand we took an afternoon stroll around the pretty walled city to get our bearings, ending up by the Roman ruins of the Temple of Diana dating back to when Evora was an important Roman military outpost.  We continued on to the imposing Cathedral, a massive building combining Romanesque and Gothic architecture.

St Francis Church is a real landmark dominating the centre of the Old Town.  Attached to the church is another popular, but unusual, tourist site – the spooky Chapel of the Bones, where over 5,000 skeletons are cemented into the walls.  The Chapel was constructed in the late 15th century by Franciscan monks who decided to free up space from over 40 local cemeteries and used the skeletons to ‘adorn’ the walls of their new chapel.

Herdade do Esporao winery For some light relief – the next day the hotel arranged a visit to the Herdade do Esporao vineyard about a 45-minute drive away.  The wine tour was fascinating with the chance to buy excellent wines from just €5 a bottle.  The winery has a restaurant overlooking the vineyards with an innovative menu of local and organic produce.

Alentejo also boasts a large collection of prehistoric stones known as megaliths, some of them predating Stonehenge by around 2000 years.  The ADC Hotel has a resident archaeologist who will take you on a private tour (€25 per person) of the main sites nearby, bringing these ancient monuments to life.

Too soon it was time to hit the road to the Algarve, we felt we are were leaving old friends behind at the ADC Hotel and I was so impressed by the area that I changed my return journey plans to stay another night.

I have since discovered that Evora is just 130 km from Lisbon so I feel a long weekend coming my way soon!

For tailor-made holidays in Portugal Silver Travel Advisor recommends Sunvil Discovery.

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Sally Dowling

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