The history of Évora goes back at least to the time of the Celts and then the Romans arrived and made it an important military fortification. Things slipped a little after the fall of the Roman Empire, but surged once again under the administration of the Moors. However, Évora truly came into her prime during the 14th to 16th centuries when it became the seat of the royal court. Of course, the scholars and artists flocked there to be near their patrons and the arts flourished as well.
When the last of the Avis royal line died in AD 1580, Spain stepped in and seized the walled city. The royal court decamped and Évora slipped from the attention of much of the region. French forces plundered what remained nearly two hundred years later and massacred the citizen defenders. Évora today is a well-preserved city as a result. Had there been more economic success, there is no doubt that much of the city would have been torn down and/or redeveloped.
Today, Évora is a popular university town, with a population smaller that it was during the Middle Ages. The narrow labyrinthine streets make it difficult for vehicle traffic to maneuver, but that too helps to keep the city more charming for visitors. Évora is a popular weekend getaway for Lisbon’s well-to-do, and this in turn supports the local hotels and restaurants. There is plenty to see and do here, but strolling through the small streets is one of the most enchanting activities of all.
KAPOORS ON THE ROAD
We had set off from Lisbon with the intention of making a counter-clockwise circuit of the southern part of Portugal, with Évora being our last destination in the loop. The summer crowds were long gone, but in some ways, we were happy to arrive on a weekend so that there would be a little of a lively atmosphere in the town. We had a great deal of difficulty navigating the one-way streets and finding our hotel tucked just off a narrow main street, on an even narrower lane. Luckily, we had booked ahead and they had reserved a parking spot for us or else it would have been impossible to leave the car within the city walls.
The extra loops we were forced to make as we circled, found ourselves in dead-end streets, and backed our way out again into the evening ‘rush’ meant that I had a pretty good lay of the land by the time we finally reached our hotel. We parked the car and didn’t touch it until it was time to leave a couple of days later. We walked most of the streets of Évora, and I took dozens of photos of the dramatic ruins, now incorporated into the shops and homes of the current residents. We’ve seen no place like this anywhere in our travels so far.
Évora seems to close up early in the evenings and one has to search during this time of year for something to do after dinner. I stopped at the tourist office to see about where we might be able to hear some Fado, the distinctive ‘blues’ of Portugal. To our delight, we were directed to an address that just happened to be directly opposite our parked car, just around the corner from our hotel. We spent another wonderful evening, having a delicious meal and listening to the hostess, a young man and young woman sign their hearts out for us. Unforgettable.
Everything was going very well for us, until I went to plug in my computer and found that the power cord had given up the ghost. At first it seemed like a near disaster, but then I realized that we were due to return to Lisbon in a couple of days, and I had seen an Apple™ store, newly opened, on one of walks through the upscale neighbourhoods there. My only concern was that we would be returning on a Sunday and in a staunchly Roman Catholic country, I was doubtful that the store would be open.
I asked for advice from the people working at the reception desk of our hotel, but though the controller used a MacBook herself, she told me she orders everything online and has it delivered to Évora, within two to three days. That wouldn’t work for us, so we decided to change our plans and spend the weekend in Sintra, an area of heavily-wooded hills north of Lisbon, filled with castles and fortresses, a place that we planned to see as a day trip from the capital. We managed to use the hotel desktop computer and book a nice hotel in Sintra and then we set off to enjoy some more of Évora’s charms. I was slightly disappointed at the overcast skies, having just come from the Algarve where we had enjoyed bright sunshine and not a cloud in sight. The cooler weather was welcome, but photos of stone buildings turn out so much better in bright sunshine than they do when the light is more subdued.
Just before we were due to leave the hotel, I managed to talk to a younger employee at the reception desk and learned that there was a possibility that we could find a MacBook power cord at the vast modern shopping mall near the equally massive Vasco de Gama suspension bridge. We were given the names of three possible electronics shops to check and the best news was that the entire shopping complex is open 7 days a week.