MyCompass

Q&A


By Ilona Kauremszky


Q: I've never been to Portugal before. I'll be having a brief stay next month and will be visiting Evora among other areas. What can you tell me about this place?

A: Designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, Evora is the capital of the province of Alentejo and is part of the region of Planicies (Plains). It is a land of wide plains dotted with cork trees, olive groves, vineyards, and a drive to this area of Portugal is truly worth a visit.

Once here, be sure to roam along the cobbled-stone streets of this medieval walled city. In the main square, the Roman Temple of Diana stands as a marker of the ancient civilization that once flourished here. Across from the temple is the 15th century Loios Convent, which is now open as a luxury pousada. Thick stone blocks form the lobby's staircase. Once you ascend to the top floor, rich tapestries and painted frescoes adorn the old walls.

Since hunting has been a popular sport for centuries, the local menu is traditional cuisine with lots of wild rabbit, pheasant and venison plus some of the best wine. Afterwards, visit the Holy Spirit College which was built around 1559. Still in operation, it is said to be the finest preserved university in the country. The Romanesque Gothic Cathedral should not be missed. Statues of the apostles flanking the sides of the main portal greet your arrival. The cathedral houses a unique organ said to be the oldest in the country.

A stroll through the streets offers a kaleidoscope of Moorish-influenced buildings. When I ventured here, we stopped at the House of Bones where "people are just dying to get in." Over the entrance a sign reads, "We are waiting for your bones." The House of Bones Chapel, although quite ghoulish, with skulls and bones covering the walls, warrants a visit and is certainly made more thrilling when accompanied by the color offered by a local guide.

You'll also come across some of the most exquisite handicrafts here. Beautiful painted pottery, tapestry and some intricate wood and cork designs.

For other travel-related information to Portugal, contact the Portuguese Trade and Tourism Office. The address is 60 Bloor Street W, Suite 1005, Toronto, Ontario M4W 3B8 or telephone (416) 921 7376

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