Dr. Hoffer's Travel Site This site was last updated 08/04/10
IBERIA2001 #32 Evora to Beja to Faro
As we are leaving the city of Lisboa, we stop to see the major church in Alfama as well as Sao Vicente, then work our way north to cross the Rio Tejo at its widest point over a very beautiful a very long bridge. It seemed like crossing Lake Ponchatrain near New Orleans.
On the other side we enter the large province called Alentejo (=below the Tejo). It is split into the northern half whose capitol is Evora and the southern half with Beja as its capitol. We drive southeast for 88 miles (Marcia) through fields of cork trees to reach Evora and the Pousada dos Loios.
Julius Caesar conquered this area and when he made peace with the Lusitani here it was called Pax Julia. He laid out huge farms for the growing of grain which still exist today. Half the world's cork is produced here. They strip the bark from the tree every ten years and it grows back. You can see the red areas where the bark was removed. It was only in the 17th Century that cork became popular for wine bottles.
The Pousada is in the center of a completely walled in city (Evora) which has been declared a World Heritage Site by the UN. The remains of a Roman Temple to Diana (photo/night) sits right next to the entrance.
The Pousada used to be a convent and it has been preserved beautifully. We got room #01 on the first floor right next to the cloister where people were having dinner. The rooms used to be the cells for the nuns. I changed quickly and ran down the hill and through the streets of the old town which is very nice. I run by a TV store with CNN on and am forced to see the planes hit again and I'm snapped back to reality and start screaming "bastards" into the night air. Just then a little old lady coming around the corner is startled by my loud scream to the night sky. You have to control your emotions. I think that life as we know it will change forever in so many ways, some for the good. America needed a wake-up call, what a horrific way to get it. It came to me as I crossed into the main plaza, that the one positive effect of this tragedy will be that the rest of America (and the world for that matter) will appreciate the greatness I have always seen in George W. Bush (I knew then he would handle this well.) Because of the qualities I saw in him, I picked the Texas Governor to run, win the nomination, win the presidency and become one of the best presidents this country has ever had – in 1998.
I get back to the room and it is hard to turn CNN off, it is our only connection to home. We have a cappuccino in the Pousada bar, then go into the cloister for dinner (literally 3 feet away). The special wine they grow here is called vinho verde which is white with a little sparkle. We had a bottle of that and I tried two Alentejo specialties, the bread soup and migas de porco, both of which I will not order again. Marcia's swordfish was so salted she had to send it back. Not one of our greatest dinners, but a lovely setting. After dinner we took a stroll through town and on our way back heard live music coming from inside a walkway so we went in and there was a pretty courtyard with many people. They didn't have wine so we ordered two typical Portuguese liquors. The three men tending bar asked me if I was American. When I said I was, they told me how sorry they were and that they supported us. Same thing happened when I came out of the men’s room. Tears started to well up and I choked it back. It touched me. We listened to the singer, then walked back to the Pousada, watched CNN and got to bed at 2:30.
I woke at 11 and by 1 PM I was running the outside walls of the city just before it got too hot. I enjoyed a cortado at Salao de Cha (Tea House) and read a Portuguese newspaper I bought telling of the events. The diagrams helped and surprisingly I understood a lot of it. They had photographs of many of the hijackers and when I studied each of their faces, I decided that the ringleader was Mohammed Atta. Just from his face I felt he was the one, there was such hatred in his face. I ultimately found out many months later that in deed he was the ringleader.
We checked out of the Pousada, viewed the Roman Tempio of Diana in daylight (photo), toured Evora's Museu which was very nice with many paintings of the life of Mary. We visited the Church of Sao Francisco (photo) which has a chapel next door that is similar to the one we didn't get to see in Rome (near Via Veneto). The walls are made of the skulls and bones of 1500 monks. As I looked at it, I couldn't help thinking of NY and how many more died there. There is also a desiccated corpse of a man (photos) and a child hanging on the wall, fairly gruesome, especially at this time. The inscription on the door states, "We, the bones are waiting for yours."
Marcia had lunch in the central plaza while I raced over to the main Se Catedral before it closed at 5:00. The main attraction was again climbing to the tower for good views of Evora (photos). Manuel called while I was there and told me we could not get into the center of town for Cordoba, and that we would have to stay in Beja Pousada for two nights because Faro (in Algarve) was full. So I went to the guidebooks and with the help of the man at the Pousada got reservations for a hotel in Cordoba right in town and a place in Faro. Manuel is very busy with all the cancellations and people stuck due to the tragedy, that he wasn't able to spend the time.
We finally headed out of this pretty little town and drove directly south 52 miles to the city of Beja and the most gorgeous Pousada of them all, as far as furnishings go. They must have spent millions on this one. We decided to eat in the old town and walked to Luis da Roche and after the last Portuguese customer left, he turned the TV to CNN while we ate dinner. I was able to get my favorite thing, ostrich, which was very good, if not the best I've had. We relaxed with a glass of Pousada 20 port in the beautiful bar and after watching CNN went to bed at 4 AM.
Beja is the hottest place in Portugal and can reach temperatures up to 120 degrees so I woke at 9:45 and by 11 I was running to the old Castle (photo) followed by a cortado at Cantinho do Castelo. I then toured the Castelo and the environs of the old town and went on my quest to find internet. They told me to go to the library which is always open. Well when I got there at 2:00, it was closed and wouldn't open until 2:30. While waiting, I struck up a conversation with a city policeman. After chatting for a half hour, I went in exactly when they opened the door. When I asked for internet she tells me "Impossible, all the time slots have been signed up for today." Boy, was I burning. I went out and over to the cop and told him. He then takes me to his personal apartment (15 min walk) and up 5 flights of stairs. He lets me get on his computer and do my email. His name is Manuel Ambrosio and he is a very nice fellow, married with no children yet but says they are trying very hard without success. I told him to relax, forget about it and take his wife for a vacation to Madeira (the Portuguese island). He likes to cook, so I gave him Aunt Elsie's recipe for candied yams as we walked back; he said he would let me know how they turned out.
We tried to buy a bottle of the Pousada 20 when we were checking out but told us it was too difficult and that we could buy it more cheaply at the nearby supermarkets. We drove to two of them and they never heard of it. We will try in Madrid. Marcia drove the 83 miles south and then a little west to get to the southern Atlantic coast and the pretty little tourist town (Brits) of Albufiera.
We went to Fisherman's Beach and had some chicken (frango) at Cafe Oceano and everyone was English. I began to feel a little achy, tired and had a slight sore throat. We walked through the town and all the shops, looking for Pousada 20 at about 8 liquor stores to no avail. Marcia drove the remaining 28 miles east to the capitol of the Algarve province, Faro, as I was feeling even worse. We checked into the Hotel EVA, watched CNN and then walked to the old town to have the other half of the chicken at Versailles. My first piece was bad and I made her (reluctantly) get me another one which was fabulous. We walked back, CNN again and got to bed at 11:30 (unusually early for me.)
The next morning I was rolled out of bed by a blaring siren like you would hear for civil defense. It wasn't until later that I figured out that this was the European Union's noon tribute to the U.S. dead, but that it would have to be at 11 AM in the UK and Portugal. I felt miserable for all sorts of reasons, but collected myself to go out and run. As I looked at the marina plaza near the hotel, I noticed all the Portuguese flags at half-mast (photo) and it made me cry. After walking to the Se Catedral, climbing the tower and taking some pictures of the city of Faro, we headed out of town to cross the Spanish border 30 miles away. We had spent 15 days in Portugal and all of it was wonderful except for Porto. We have been on the Iberian Peninsula for 40 days now. Now on our way back to España.
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Kenneth J. Hoffer, MD
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