I’m in Evora, almost 2 hours away from Lisbon, it is Tuesday. I got here yesterday and I have three nights booked, before heading to Faro. My trip is now more than 1/2 over. Part of me craves home and my bed and my routine. The other part of me is loving the ways I’m pushing to explore and do things differently. My eating, sleeping and drinking (coffee and alcohol) habits have changed.
From Lisbon I made a day trip on Sunday to Sintra, a 40 minute train ride to the small, historic and touristy site of the Moorish Castle, among other things. It was lovely but all those crowds… Ugh. I cut my day short in order to avoid a last minute rush to get the bus to the train station. Pop over to my Facebook page to see the photos I took in Sintra, and my ramblings about the day. I made my first real error in judgment.
Monday I took time off to do some writing and take care of packing and business–getting dollars converted into euros; going to the ATM machine at a MultiBanco and getting myself to Evora. I had failed to make a train reservation earlier and it was sold out for my departure time, so ended up having to take the bus. That was fine–it was the nicest, cleanest bus I’ve every ridden on (except from the Bolt from Bellingham, WA to Seattle). My seat mate spoke no English, but we managed to communicate. We got out my dictionary and both searched for words. He pointed out all the cork trees and tried to explain how cork is made. Every 9 years they strip a layer off of the tree–this can be done for up to 100 years, I think. I’m fascinated, but not enough to spend over 30 euros to trek out to a cork farm. So instead I bought 2 slabs of cork that still have bark on the outside–just so cool looking. Now I realize I need one for myself. There are whole shops dedicated to cork products from the touristy to the very pricey! I bought a few things for family and am now officially carrying too much to pack in my suitcase! Oh well…….
My bus friend, a realtor it turns out, asked if I was walking to my hotel–by using fingers to make a walking motion. I gave him a “don’t know” gesture and he offered to drive me, dropping me off right at the door. The kindness of strangers. If only he’d helped me get my bag up the 22 marble stairs!
I’m staying in a quaint little hotel, 14 rooms, within a quick walk to the city square and most of the sites. Evora is relatively small–the historical section is all contained within the historic stone walls. It’s a much easier pace here and the squares seem to be filled with families in the early evening–children running around and playing.
I’ve been hit up by a few beggars but that’s about it. I have also noticed a couple of people with mental illness wandering around–not unusual, we are all similar despite geographic location. One young man I’ve now seen twice. He’s well-dressed and seems relatively calm but talks to himself–carrying on a very long and animated conversation. He sat at the table near me this afternoon and I realized he’s French. Musicians on the street, lots of tourists in bright shades of lobster skin–not wearing their sunscreen. Wives leading along bedraggled looking husbands. Teen groups wandering around. And every hour the cathedral bell chimes. It’s 6pm as I write.
I ate an a restaurant with outdoor seating last night; one I had spotted while wandering around earlier. Delightful. I ordered a traditional Alentejo (the region of the country I’m visiting) dish–Acorda, dry soup. It was a mushy bread mixture with roasted garlic and a raw egg yolk that the waitress stirred in, with clams and beautifully cooked shrimp. I had a second glass of their house wine, red the preferred here, and a dessert that I can’t pronounce the name of. The waitress tried to describe it in English, saying it was more fluid than cake. Wonderful… with a glaceed plum on top and a light sprinkle of cinnamon. As I wandered back to my hotel I could see the moon over the lights of the square.
Today was a leisurely day of wandering around in Evora… the Church of St. Francis and the adjacent Chapel of the Bones (as gruesome as it sounds), then a sitting in the garden before meandering down to a flea market–I had hoped for something different; it was like a large gathering of people selling things you’d find in Walmart. One section with lots of clothing, then some tables with pots and pans, etc. There were food trucks around the edges. The truck selling hot dog like sandwiches was inhabited only by men. I contemplated strolling in but they seemed a little less polished than the men I had seen in other parts of the town. I figured there were no women there for a reason.
On one hand this doesn’t feel real. I think I was having breakfast when I looked around and thought about what I was experiencing–a million miles away from home and all alone, soaking in these beautiful sights and seeing so much that is vastly different from my world. I took a picture of myself at dinner sitting alone at a table at the edge of the walkway–people looked over at my table constantly. Not looking at me, but my food. This woman at the table, behind the sign that says, “closed”. She can either be sad and all alone–or she can be content, all alone and intentionally having a good time-independent of what her relationship, or travel, status is. I’ve spent a lot of time and effort trying to be ‘not’ alone–compared to that, this is easy.
More to say, more photos to share but the internet is iffy tonight and I’m tired!
Also published on Medium.