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Published: March 19th 2007
Last weekend we got together with our American classmates for another road trip. This time we went to the Algarve region in southern Portugal, and also made a stop-off along the way in the town of Évora.
We left Coimbra on Friday morning and arrived in Évora around lunch time. We had lunch near the main square in town and then made our way to one of the more famous (or infamous) sights in town, the Capela dos Ossos, or Bone Chapel. Lindsay and I had heard about this chapel a year ago from one of Lindsay’s classmates in Monterey (thanks Paco Loco!). The bone chapel is a small room attached to the Sao Francisco church and the walls are made of the bones and skulls of over 5,000 people. All things considered, the story behind it is not really that scary - the bones were just collected by three Franciscan monks in the 17th century from several old graveyards that were getting too full. What was slightly scarier was the sign above the door that said “Nos ossos que aqui estamos pelos vossos esperamos” - basically, “We bones that are here await yours.”
After the bone chapel, we
did a walking tour through the streets of Évora. Évora is a UNESCO World Heritage site, so everything was very freshly painted in white with bright yellow and blue trimmings, and it was a very nice walk. We stopped off at a few other sites in town including the castle-like Cathedral and some Roman columns (Templo Romano) that are the best preserved Roman monument on the Iberian peninsula. They looked nice, and it was kind of cool to see them standing right next to the big cathedral, but they weren’t too exciting. I think I like the ruins in Conímbriga (near Coimbra) better.
We arrived in Lagos, a town in the south-western Algarve, just after dark. Lagos was fun for us because the area gets a lot of foreign tourism and so there were things there that can be difficult to find in other parts of Portugal. This includes Angus steak-houses (where we had dinner the first night), Thai restaurants (where we had dinner the second night), and bars full of rowdy British and Australian people (this was more just interesting, rather than something we go out of our way to find.)
On Saturday, we drove west from
Lagos to Salema, a beach town that another one of Lindsay’s Monterey classmates had recommended (thanks Tina!). Salema has long stretches of beach with beautiful colored rocks on the shore - red, yellow, and black stone in interesting formations. This was our first stop and we were so excited about the beautiful scenery and the warm weather that we actually did (okay, tried to do) cartwheels on the beach. From Salema, we drove to Sagres and visited the Sagres fort. The fort sits on a point surrounded by steep cliffs that drop down to the ocean on three sides. There wasn’t too much to see at the fort itself, but there were great ocean views and fishermen perched on the ledges casting their lines off of 100-foot cliffs. We made two more stops in Sagres - a beach popular with surfers called Praia de Beliche, and the south-westernmost point in Portugal and continental Europe, Cabo Sao Vicente, formerly known as the end of the world. There was a lighthouse and some pretty amazing cliffs at Cabo Sao Vicente. Before heading home, we drove a bit further north from Sagres to a beach on the western coast called Praia de Arrifana.
We got there just in time to have a drink at a café and watch the sunset.
Before heading home on Sunday, we spent a half day in Lagos. We took a boat tour of the cliffs and rock formations on the Lagos coastline with a very talented tour guide. He maneuvered the little fishing boat in and out of grottos, bays, and other precarious looking places in the middle of some pretty big waves. He did all of this while telling us the names of rock formations such as the wedding cake, the Titanic (complete with glacier), Charles de Gaulle (big nose), and one, which he prefaced by apologizing to the ladies in the boat, called the biggest penis on the Iberian Peninsula. After such a fun weekend, we were sad to have to go, but we’re looking forward to getting back to the Algarve when my family visits in May.
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