day 15 :

saturday, 9 june

We met up with friends from Seattle over breakfast at the Convento this morning. What a change from the last few weeks, where suddenly there are people here that we know, and we can speak to them in a language we all understand! After some good food and bad coffee, we split up for a few hours: the girls went shopping in Évora while the guys went sightseeing. Évora was conquered by the Romans in 57 B.C., and in the center of town there survives a 1st century Roman temple – there isn't a temple like this anywhere else in Portugal. After seeing the temple, we went to the 13th century cathedral and toured the nave, cloister, and roof of the cloister; you had to walk up a very small circular stone staircase to get to the roof, but it was worth it for the dramatic views of the town and surrounding countryside. All of this sightseeing was making us hungry, so our groups met up at Taberna Tipica de Quatra Feira ("Typical Wednesday Tavern"). There was no menu, so we just ate plate after plate of Alentejo food that our waiter brought out to our table – things like black pig (two ways: roasted and grilled), a stuffing-like side dish with cauliflower shaped to look like a loaf of bread, a round cheese with a melted center from the nearby town of Arraiolos, and a couple of typical desserts. We all left stuffed and happy. After a bit more sightseeing and shopping, we went back to our hotel to get ready for the wedding.

As you probably guessed from the name, the Convento do Espinheiro was originally a convent, built in the 15th century with a chapel on-site. The wedding ceremony took place in the chapel, with the service all in Portuguese. Eric and Bea had made a wedding program that described the mass in both Portuguese and English, so we were able to follow everything except for the homily. As the married couple exited the chapel after the ceremony, the guests showered them with rose petals, then we all moved to the interior courtyard for hors d'oeuvres and champagne. After a while, someone suggested that we all go up to the roof of the Convento for a different view of the courtyard. What a great idea – it was early evening, and the white-washed walls of the Convento glowed in the warm sunlight, contrasted against the gradated blue sky. There was a small bell tower that a few of us were brave enough to climb to the top of. The risk was well worth the 360-degrees panoramic view of the countryside.

We then walked to the reception hall for dinner, where we enjoyed course after course of excellent food – Dawn's favorite was the mushroom soup with truffle oil. This was followed by a slideshow of pictures and video from the couple's childhoods, college days, and the recent years that they've know each other. After the cake cutting, our tiredness finally got the better of us and we headed up to our room around 1AM. What a day!


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