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Published: June 26th 2017
Geo: 38.7167, -9.13333
We left Seville at 8 am and drove north-west towards the border with Portugal. We stopped for a break after 90 minutes at a roadside cafe Le Gran Familia. These roadhouses are far better than the ones we have in Australia.Our road took us through agricultural land and, more importantly, many vineyards.
Our first major stop was at the town of Evora. This is an UNESCO world Heritage protected site. There has been a town here since Roman times and it has a city wall and typical narrow streets.We all walked together to San Francisco's church. While others explored inside we were drawn to the small handicrafts shops on the other side of the square. these contained many handmade products and lovely artefacts from cork handbags to jewellery to linen and rooster figurines. In one shop Fletcher found a tiny elephant carved from a semiprecious stone and of course had to have it. We then walked up the narrow winding street to the top of the hill where we found the Roman temple of Diana, goddess of the hunt. This was well preserved with a half a dozen columns on a very sturdy base, We looked down from the city
walls and out to the horizon. An excellent view. Then it was time for lunch.Next to the temple was the Palais Loios, once a convent now a boutique hotel. The menu looked inviting and though it was now 12-50pm the waiter said they only opened at 1pm. He eventually showed us a table in this lovely courtyard dining area. Here we had a lovely lunch, the highlight of which was the Creme Brulee for dessert. These came in small jars and were delicious.We also enjoyed a bottle of green wine from the north of Portugal.
. We returned to the bus and continued on our way towards Lisbon.After a 2 hour drive we approached the city over the 25th April bridge which crosses the Tagus river. The river is wide and overlooking this is a statue of Christ with arms outstretched, a copy of the one in Rio.The architecture is impressive. We drove through the city streets and down to a central plaza dominated by a large statue of the Marquis de Pombal who was in charge of rebuilding the city after the 1755 earthquake which killed 60,000 people and largely destroyed the medieval town. Of course there have been
settlements here since Roman times. Not far from here was our hotel, the Real Parque.
After checking in we did not want to go far for dinner. A few streets away we stopped at a small local cafe, Bic e Agra. Here we had a stone cooked sirloin steak. I've not had one done this way before. The waiter brought out an extremely hot square stone on which was a large sirloin steak dressed with garlic. It was cooking on one side and I could slice some off and cook it to the degree I wanted. We had chips and salad to accompany it. It was a tender and tasty piece of meat. To accompany that we first had a half bottle of green wine and then on the waiter's recommendation, a Papa Figos red from the Douro area. This was very good. To finish the meal we had a Pastel de Natel, the Portuguese custard tart that is ubiquitous here and is very yummy. The whole meal cost less than 50 Euros.
The next morning we could sleep in a bit as we did not leave on our city tour until 9am. Our local guide, Sandra was there bright and early
but our new bus driver, Paolo, got lost and it was not until 9-20 that we left for our sightseeing.Our first stop was to be the Belem Tower but because there was a celebration of the anniversary of the establishment of the Republican National Guard we had to drive a long roundabout way to get there. The Belem Tower is situated on the edge of the Tagus river. It originally sat in the middle of the Tagus until the earthquake altered the river's passage. It was built in the 16th century and its facade is .impressive. From there we walked to the Monument to the Discoveries. Portugal, like Spain, became very rich in the 16th century because of South American discoveries, especially from Brazil. This monument remembers those who sailed the Atlantic . The towering stone plinth resembles a sailing ship and along each side there are figures representing the varied individuals involved in these enterprises. At the head of them all is Henry the Navigator.
From here we walked across the the road and towards the elaborate Monastery of the Jeronimos. This was where the ceremonies were taking place and as a huge bonus we watched the National Guard parading
along the streets. The horse guards were first followed by marching troops. This was then followed by the cars, boats, armored vehicles, swat teams, motor bikes, bicycles..... You name any form of transport and it was there! We managed to cross the road during a lull in the proceedings and as we went into the Monastery the mounted band cantered past playing their hearts out.
The Monastery was originally that, a place for the monks and nuns. Part of it collapsed during the earthquake but the main part of the church did not thus sheltering the Royal family who were attending Mass at the precise time that the earthquake hit. The church had been built by King Manuel 1st in his version of Gothic, now called Manueline and is very intricate in design . There are the tombs of several royals here, the male coffins resting on the backs of elephants, At the entrance to the church are two important tombs, one belonging to
the National poet, Luis de Camoes and the other to Vasco de Gama. All that first year history kept flooding back!! After the church we walked through the cloisters where we could see the earlier influence of
the Moorish kings in the beautiful tiles.
After boarding the bus again we were taken to a high point of a beautiful park where there is a modern sculpture dedicated to the April 25th 1974 people's revolution when the dictator Salazar was overthrown. It is symbolized by a carnation and is an important event for the Portuguese with the establishment of the Republic and democratic rule. Two tall towers with wreaths attached are dedicated to Queen Elizabeth 2nd of England after her visit to Lisbon in 1957. The two countries have a long history of friendship and I've found most Portuguese speak excellent English.
We were then driven down to the old town which stretches from the main square all the way to the sea. Some wonderful buildings here, with the narrow streets now mainly malls and many shops and restaurants dotted about. Sandra and Lucy took us to a famous Pastel de Natel shop where we were treated to the custard tarts and a glass of delicious white port. From here we were given the rest of the afternoon to wander and explore for ourselves.
We walked down to the Praca Rossio, the main square which has a wonderful Theatre
at one end. Walking through an archway we entered the Rua Augusta which is now a pedestrian mall and has many restaurants down the middle. At the first side street we could see Eifel's iron structure of the Elevator, rather out of place with all the elegant buildings around it. We continued across small streets where almost miniature trams run along very narrow tracks. The Rua Augusta terminates at the Praca de Comercio which borders on the harbour and sea wall.This is a grand area and we decided to take Sandra's recommendation and have lunch at the Museo de Cerveja on one side of the square.We sat in the sunshine with plenty to see while we devoured our very nice meals. Fletcher had opted for some Garlic prawns while I had a chicken breast stuffed with spinach and cheese. That green wine was also in evidence though we had tried the beer to start with.
While we were finishing lunch Jenny and Rod wandered by so we all went together back to the Praca Rossio where we boarded the No. 12 tram. This took us on a half an hour ride up to the top of one of the seven hills
where the Castle St Georgio stands and back again. A fun trip. Then we shared a taxi back to the hotel where a short rest was necessary after such a busy day.
The previous evening as we were walking back form dinner we noticed a very elegant looking restaurant about 100 metres from the hotel We had exchanged banter with the waiter at the door who told us to come back the next night. This we decided to do. The restaurant is called the Comendador Silva and we had told some of the others about it. When we returned we found that Rod and Jenny were already there and finishing their meal. They gave it the thumbs up as they tackled their desserts. The menu was interesting and innovative with the description being modern Portuguese. I chose the Seafood bisque for entree and Fletcher had quail. Both were beautifully cooked with the bisque flavoursome and smooth and the quail in a tasty sauce. For main course I wanted the rabbit dish but they were without rabbit so on the waiter's recommendation I opted for the partridge accompanied by a rich risotto while Fletcher chose the Crawfish spaghetti. They came and extracted
the very fresh crawfish from the tank at the front of the restaurant.for inspection before cooking it! Both dishes were sensational. My partridge was soft and tender and the rice very rich but sumptuous. Fletcher said his spaghetti was cooked perfectly with the crawfish soft and full of flavour. We definitely agreed it was easily the best meal we had had on the whole trip. We finished with desserts, me having an interesting version of citrous meringue and Fletcher with a traditional Portuguese pudding. The wine was also excellent. Our waiter, who was from Brazil, took us down stairs to show us the cellar and the other dining room. We couldn't understand why the place wasn't packed but he said they sometimes are full and other times quiet. Anyone who goes to Lisbon should definitely eat here!!!
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