Évora, Estremoz, Elvas: east to Extremadura (Espanha)

Évora was the first UNESCO-listed place that we visited in Portugal.  It’s a walled city known for its huge cathedral, the São Francisco church, a small Roman temple, and an impressively long Roman aqueduct that’s still used to bring water to the city.  We visited all those.  Évora’s probably known for other stuff as well, but we didn’t visit those.  Évora gets high praise from internet users.

Like many historic cities in Europe I expected Évora to be crawling with tourists.  It wasn’t.

IMG_20190326_124701 by bryandkeith on flickr

IMG_20190326_125451 by bryandkeith on flickr

IMG_20190328_093725 by bryandkeith on flickr

IMG_20190327_123420 by bryandkeith on flickr

IMG_20190327_123157 by bryandkeith on flickr

Évora’s iconic building is a Roman temple with a few columns left.

IMG_20190327_101138 by bryandkeith on flickr

Unlike the cathedral in Faro, Évora’s cathedral is more impressive for its architecture than for its altars.  It’s certainly worth going up to the roof and looking around.

IMG_20190327_103456 by bryandkeith on flickr

IMG_20190327_103001 by bryandkeith on flickr

IMG_20190327_105625 by bryandkeith on flickr

The Gothic vaults in the cloister:

I think this is a Gothic vaulted ceiling by bryandkeith on flickr

For me the most impressive structure in Évora was the Roman aqueduct, still delivering water to the city after 2000 years.

IMG_20190326_155533 by bryandkeith on flickr

IMG_20190326_161037_43 by bryandkeith on flickr

Within the city, buildings were built right into the arches of the aqueduct.

This photo isn't great, but I'm trying to show how the buildings are built into the arches of the aqueduct by bryandkeith on flickr

Everyone who goes to Évora wants to the visit La Capela dos Ossos (Chapel of Bones) attached to the São Francisco church.  The chapel is built with the bones of 5000 friars, the idea being to remind people how transitory life on earth is.

IMG_20190327_125109 by bryandkeith on flickr

It may feel a bit macabre to pay 5 Euro just to see so many human bones, but the entrance fee also gets you into an exhibition of an incredible collection of 2600 nativity scenes, collected all over the world by a family in Évora.  So with the dead friars you have a celebration of life.

This one might have been Peruvian by bryandkeith on flickr

From Japan by bryandkeith on flickr

IMG_20190327_132802 by bryandkeith on flickr

From corn husks by bryandkeith on flickr

IMG_20190327_134116 by bryandkeith on flickr

Additionally there’s a museum about the convent that used to exist on the same site, and in the entrance to this whole complex, more of Portugal’s ever present azulejos:

IMG_20190327_124404 by bryandkeith on flickr

The altars in the São Frasncisco church make up for the ones in the cathedral.

IMG_20190328_095104 by bryandkeith on flickr

IMG_20190328_095840 by bryandkeith on flickr

And detail of more inlaid marble work:

More inlaid marble like I saw in Beja by bryandkeith on flickr

“Where does all that marble come from?” you’re wondering.

Well, between Évora and Elvas we visited Estremoz, Borba, and Vila Viçosa, famous as Portugal’s marble towns.  Portugal is the second largest exporter of marble in the world (after Italy) and the vast majority of Portugal’s marble comes from this area.  We saw our first quarry just across the street from the supermarket in Estremoz.

IMG_20190329_155209 by bryandkeith on flickr

IMG_20190329_164407 by bryandkeith on flickr

Between Borba and Vila Viçosa the small road open for bicycles went right through a large quarry area.

IMG_20190330_094311 by bryandkeith on flickr

IMG_20190330_102803 by bryandkeith on flickr

Vila Viçosa was a rich town for its size because it was the winter home of the Duke of Bragança.  Here’s the duke’s palace:

The Ducal Palace (Bragança; in Vila Veçosa) -- it's probably useful to know ahead of time that non-Portuguese language tours are only availble Tuesday through Friday (11:00 for English, 15:00 for French); entrance is 7 Euro/person for a one-hour guided to by bryandkeith on flickr

Marble is so common in this area that they even use it for the curbs as you can see in this photo of a 16th century church:

IMG_20190330_125301 by bryandkeith on flickr

Some more nice rural Portugal riding brought us to Elvas, another UNESCO-listed city.

IMG_20190328_160837 by bryandkeith on flickr

IMG_20190329_122012 by bryandkeith on flickr

IMG_20190329_103301 by bryandkeith on flickr

Elvas is a heavily fortified garrison town close to the Spanish-Portuguese border in an area that the Spanish and Portuguese fought over for centuries.  We stayed at our first campground of the trip in Elvas and coincidentally again ran into Ryan from Calgary, the one whose photo I complained about not having in my last post.

Ferda and Ryan by bryandkeith on flickr

The campground is next to the Sanctuary of St. Jesus Piedade with an interesting collection of ex-votos (expressions of thanks after asking for and receiving a miracle), including a model of the church made from 6000 matchsticks.  Here’s the real deal:

This churches houses an interesting collection of ex-votos, essentially thank you notes, gifts, and photos for miracles performed.  My guide there spoke excellent Spanish (getting close to the border, getting easier to communicate!).. by bryandkeith on flickr

In the morning before parting ways we explored the 17th century aqueduct with Ryan.

IMG_20190331_122838 by bryandkeith on flickr

IMG_20190331_124300 by bryandkeith on flickr

IMG_20190331_124338_44 by bryandkeith on flickr

I don’t want to dis (too much) this engineering marvel, but it was built 1600 years after the aqueduct in Évora and unlike that one is no longer in use.  What did the Romans ever do for us??!!

It’s hard to appreciate Elvas’ fortifications except from maps and aerial photos, but Ferda and I locked up our bicycles and enjoyed wandering within the walled city for a couple hours.

IMG_20190331_134436 by bryandkeith on flickr

IMG_20190331_140748 by bryandkeith on flickr

IMG_20190331_141140 by bryandkeith on flickr

IMG_20190331_142524 by bryandkeith on flickr

From Elvas’ walls it’s easy to see the Spanish city of Badajoz not far away.  Time to say goodbye (temporarily) to Portugal for a short route through Extremadura.

Continuing on the water delivery infrastructure theme, I’ll end with a couple photos of the many fountains we’ve seen and used in Portugal.

We saw many impressive fountains in Portugal. by bryandkeith on flickr

IMG_20190329_143604 by bryandkeith on flickr

This entry was posted in Bicycle touring, Portugal and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Évora, Estremoz, Elvas: east to Extremadura (Espanha)

  1. Douglas Keith says:

    Bryan, your photos and adventures in “bikingaroundagain” continue to amaze and enlighten. Beautiful photos! You’ve got to start writing a book!
    Doug

  2. Mike Painter says:

    Mistyped the email address, lol.

    Wnnderful pics and narrative as always.

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