Portugal - Part 4 - Evora

I awoke in my quiet bedroom at my brother's flat , sheltered from the deceptive heat outside. Gone was city noise of an active Lisbon replaced by the laughter of nearby school kids enjoying a break from their lessons.

My hangover was pretty tame considering the amount of drinks I'd had the night before which was almost certainly down to the smaller measures you receive in bars and supermarket beer packs.

My brother made a much appreciated breakfast with some local sausage that went nice and crunchy as it browned yet had a kind of crumbly texture to it with some egg in a quick and easy omelette.

We then ventured back to the city which was only around 7 minutes walk to hit the old defensive walls, more comforting than oppressive.

As we walked around the fortress to get at one of its many entrances a lady on a mobility scooter stopped to let us pass, something very common amongst the locals when they are in control of a wheeled vehicle. In Evora cars will stop to let you cross even when it is their right of way!. It felt as if they treat their cars like horse drawn carriages, showing little hostility toward pedestrians.

As my brother listed the sight seeing options available to us we stopped off at a nearby cafe so I could sample another custard tart ( pastel du nata ) this time with the all important rocket fuel shot of coffee. If you don't add sugar the intensely flavoured oily pick-me-up leaves you pulling faces but then you are more appreciative of the crispy gooey tart on your plate.

After some face pulling while hearing about the local area and getting some education on the rules for pronouncing portuguese words we headed to a nearby local park. It was a place of true serenity a well tamed garden peppered with trickling fountains and peacocks wandering meer feet away. One male was getting particularly amourous with a nearby female so we gave him some space to avoid a 'beaking'.

We wandered to a local cathedral, epic in its opulence and magnificence, then to the chapel of bones, a place filled with skulls and bones more impressive than unsettling. My brother's girlfriend works in a science lab studying this and other such historical gems and said they estimate the boney contents of 5000 bodies line the walls and ceiling!

As you enter the chapel the words above your head read 'our bones are here we wait for yours' :)

My brother then took me around the main cathedral where we headed up to the roof. At that point I struggled to appreciate the view as I started to feel some panic from the height I was now at. After around 5 minutes I made it back down the horribly narrow stairway to stroll around the vast corridors below where monks would have sat contemplatively before we went onto the univerity passing some roman ruins on the way still in very good condition. Impressive considering their age.

The university which was once a monastery, was quite small and quiet. My brother told me to be mindful it was an active univerity, the lecturers are known to dislike tourists who wander into lectures unaware of the disuption they have caused. I peered into one empty room to see an altar looking back at me, a little peculiar in a place of learning.

Evora cathedral , very impressive inside

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More opulence in Evora cathedral, Portugal

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Evora cathedral

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Dem bones!

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Tiling in church in Portugal

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Many many skulls in the capela dos Ossos, Evora Portugal. Actually not at all creepy

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Top of Evora cathedral

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After those few hours of wandering and exploring it was lunchtime so we headed to an eatery near the univerity, apparently quite a popular haunt for students where I had a beer ( an imperial measure ) and a popular dish of egg, ham, chips with rice. It felt like quality greasy spoon, it was lip-smackingly good ( I didn't smack my lips ), again it was really cheap and just so damn nice.

I really don't eat pork that often but I just couldn't really avoid it in Evora. I had assumed fish would be big on the menu and it probably is but my dining experiences at that point had almost all been of the pig. Also there had not been a single whiff of Peri Peri sauce anywhere, I was now fully dismissive of Nando's cultural relevance.

I remember after our meal we went over to the council building where inside is the ruins of some roman baths including the area where poor souls would work to keep the water warm for, I assume, the priviledged bathers. It was like a little museumn section in a civil building, really rather cool.

Another coffee and , without hesitation the chance to try another local cake , this one made with chick pea we then went back to loiter in the flat for a few hours before heading back out to meet some locals as my brother's Girlfriend finished work.

After a few more beers sat outside on a raised wooden platform in the street with the worlds slowest Portuguese waiter I chatted to my host's friends. An Italian, a french woman and an actual Evorian( maybe a real word? ) who liked to temporarily pretend he was from Israel if anyone asked where he was from. Our numbers grew and our Italian friend suggested we try a Brazilian restaurant just down the road.

The restaurant was all you can eat and eat we did! There was a buffet with pasta type dishes, cubed cheese , that sort of thing but more fruit added to otherwise familiar dishes like potato salad. Once a few plates had been consumed and more wine and beers ordered it was onto the main course of meat.

The waiter would hurry out from the kitchen holding large hunks of skewered meat , nicely roasted and salted he would cut several thick slices off the slain beast for each diner. This must have continued atleast 10 times with varying levels of rarity , some of the slices so raw it was almost unbearably chewy. It was still amazing and all for the extremely good value of 15 euros.

For the English our money goes a long way in Portugal but I heard the average monthly take home for a local is around 500 euros, so not great for them.

I remember in the Brazilian restaurant the owner would stand at the opposite end of the bar looking over at us while we ate. I mentioned this to my brother as it is always a bit unsettling to be watched as you dine, he then pointed out there was a TV above our heads showing the football, I felt a berk.

It was then onto a late bar back in one of the main squares in this idyllic little city. An old grand building which felt like it could be a well maintained squat. Without ID I had to get a temporary pass :

" Tonite you come in , but tomorrow with this pass you cannot come" said the lady at the front desk half way up the huge stairway in an authoritative yet still friendly tone.

The place was full of rooms, some had teens sitting watching TV on old sofas, others with table football, a special function room with a large private party added a bit of mystery to the place while we headed out onto the terrace, the smell of weed lingering lighgtly on the air as we looked out over the city and beyond.

The bar back just inside the door was relatively busy , always one or two people getting served but nothing like the 3 deep queues you get in Bristol's late bars like Mr Wolfs. One of the bartenders had the coolest wolverine side burns and a leathery waste coat.

We drank the local wine and more beers and chatted to an ex-pat with the biggest grin and chilled demeanor. I also got talking to a local, a young lad who was vocal of his frustation at current world politics while also laying into the roma gypsies who are despised by so many Europeans with a passion before I was lectured on the illuminati's influence on world affairs. I had to disagree a little with this observation, although I am happy to replace illuminati with large multi-national corporations.

The bar was pretty friendly, certainly not unfriendly , people jostling around with little drunken hostility, old and young seemed to mingle nicely. It was just a different experience to bars in the UK. Not that I am complaining, it was just different.

At one point there was a sudden and rapid change in the atmosphere as a member of staff ran by hissing 'Police, Police!' , but the dramatic raid was luckily a false alarm.

It was around 4am when we left the place, we wandered back through the beautiful little streets out into the nearby residential area where pavements were sometimes optional, crickets chirped and lizards scuttled away to safety from our heavy footfall.

It was just so quiet and pleasant when we emerged from that late bar, no revellers slumped over park benches eyes rolling into the back of their heads, litter overflowing from bins or groups of lads guarding their kebab trays while eyeing up the sole few remaining drunk girls, people were still cheerful and functioning.

Again I slept well that night with a pleasant buzz from the whole day, evening and early morning having soaked up more of a different social experience to the one I am more familiar with back home.

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