We were off to our next-to-last stop, Evora. I'd read that it was an old walled city, medium sized, with a university. I expected Grenada without the mountains.
Evora is southwest of Marvao but since we picked up the car in Spain we had to return it to Spain. If we left it in Portugal we'd incur a 600€ drop off fee, a hell of a fee that I didn't see mentioned in the original quote. So our first leg is to drive to Badajoz. The rainy drive took us back via windy 2-lane roads and a tree-covered countryside. And it was uneventful except for being waved over by a Portuguese policeman on a short stretch of interstate at the Spanish-Portuguese border. Turns out the Opel's Spanish license plates identified me as a possible tourist and therefore a source of information for a tourist opinion survey. My opinion: don't have a cop pull me over for a survey.
Speaking of driving, I encountered many "velocidade controlada signs, typically where there are likely pedestrians. It's a special speed limit sign. Adjacent to the sign is a radar gun. If the radar detects a speeder it triggers a stoplight a short distance ahead. The stoplight turns red in both directions so everyone shares the punishment. Running a red light carries a hefty fine, heftier than a speeding ticket.
Badajoz is a good sized city that is probably not a tourist destination. We dropped off the rental car, walked to the bus station, and then took the bus to Elvas followed by another bus to Evora.
Evora is a town where restaurants close on Monday. Except one, an Italian on the other side of town. It was good and along the way we got a view of the town's old aqueduct.
Our first morning in Evora was rainy. We ate breakfast in the hotel, a meager meal of ham and cheese and coffee americano. We were staying at the Pensao Policarpo, well located and cheap; charming, too, if you don't have your glasses on and don't need hot water.
Evora is said to be a town for the young and the old, university students and retirees, but not much in between. Sort of like Victoria, home of the newly wed and almost dead. On the main square we saw a lot of retirees during the day. A popular morning gathering place is in front of the CME board (Camara Municipal de Evora or municipality of Evora) where obituaries are posted. At night the university students came out, filling the cafes and squares.
The town was first settled by the Romans in the second century BC and it has some Roman ruins and a long aqueduct. So our plan for the day was to check out these sights by doing Rick Steves' city walk. We saw city hall, Roman ruins, the cathedral with bone chapel, and the aqueduct. Lunch was quiche, cappuccino, and pastry at what became our go-to cafe, Restaurante Muralha.
Inside city hall we saw the ruins of a Roman bath, discovered while excavating under the building.
Next to Saint Francis Church is the Chapel of Bones (Capela dos Ossos), a room that is almost completely covered with human bones. Over the doorway is the inscription We bones in here wait for yours to join us. Three monks created the chapel as a place to meditate on the transience of material things surrounded by reminders of mortality. Creepy and also a bit Halloween.
Saint Francis Church itself is not one of your better looking churches. The outside is nondescript and the inside is garish, with walls of statuary covered with Trumpian gold leaf. Adding to the the effect was the plastic doll-like faces on some of the sculptures. Doesn't help that I'd overdosed on Biblical scenes by this point in the trip.
Tonight's dinner was at Salsa Verde, a vegetarian buffet. It was good though the proprietor's coughing was disconcerting.
Today we skipped the hotel's breakfast and instead went to Restaurante Muralha. We visited the cathedral and climbed to its rooftop for a view of the city. In the afternoon we walked the aqueduct to the edge of town. For dinner we returned to Salsa Verde.
I especially liked Evora in the evening, walking the narrow and windy cobblestone streets, like Marvao's but without the latter's smooth center stones, squeezing to the wall as cars go by, the little shops and cafes and restaurants squeezed in here and there hidden till you are right in front of them.
We ate breakfast at the Pensao Policarpo then walked to the bus terminal for the 12:30 to Lisbon, which was 12.50 per person for the ninety-minute trip. I found Evora a fine town but I was ready to go to Lisbon.