day 14 :

friday, 8 june

By mid-morning we were on the road, heading out of Porto. Dozens of old men had set up their fishing poles and lawn chairs along Avenida de Paiva Couceiro, a road on the north side of the Douro river, chatting with each other and eyeing their lines. An hour later we took a break for lunch at the Mealhada rest stop, famous for their sandes de leitão (suckling pig sandwiches). A bit further, and we arrived at Mosteiro da Batalha (the monastery of Batalha), which has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The monastery was built over the course of two centuries, so you can see several different architectural styles employed throughout the enormous building, with Gothic and Manueline being the most prominent. The central nave seemed incredibly tall, given its relatively narrow width compared to its 106-foot height. At the north end of the building was the Tomb of the Unknown Warriors, which was guarded by two soldiers. It cost a few Euros to visit the cloisters and unfinished chapels, and it was well worth it to see the detailed Manueline carvings in those areas.

We got back on the highway, and wound our way to Évora – a UNESCO World Heritage City, and the primary destination for our entire vacation. As we started to head east, away from Lisbon, the landscape quickly changed from lush hills with tall trees to a flatter vista of scrub brush and smaller trees. One of the major highways was closed (again, confusing our GPS), so we took a two-lane local road and were stuck following a hay truck for a long while. The hay, packed in cubes, was stacked fifteen feet tall on the semi-truck's flatbed, and stray strands flew off the cubes onto our car continuously. We eventually turned onto a different road, but we're convinced that by the time the truck reached its destination, its entire load of hay blew away.

We arrived at the beautiful Convento do Espinheiro in late afternoon, and quickly got settled in to our room. The Convento was to be the luxurious site of our friends Beatriz and Eric's wedding tomorrow, therefore many of the wedding guests chose to stay here for a night or two.  A few hours later, we caught a ride into Évora to go to dinner at Fialho with many of the other wedding guests. Over the next five hours we talked with guests who had flown in from all over the world, ate excellent Alentejo regional cuisine, and were serenaded by the local classical guitarist.


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