Day 06 - Wednesday, March 29, 2017 - Talk with Évora University Students; Walking Tour of Évora; Influence of Rome; Évora Cathedral; Church of St. Francis; Afternoon at Leisure; Portuguese Cooking School
The sun was breaking over the Roman Temple as we woke to the 7:00 am church bells. Although the temperature was 46 degrees, the forecast was for the high 60's by the afternoon.
Our breakfast was in the cloister, with a refreshing view of the orange trees heavy with fruit. Margarita and Jessica, students from the local university came to the pousada and walked with us to the campus of the University of Évora.
The young women wore the traditional uniform of the students; a black suit, skirts for women and slacks for men. Both genders wear white shirts, black ties, and long black capes. They answered our questions about student life, the curriculum, and the general costs of education in Portugal.
The costs at the university are approximately $3,000 per year including room and board. To enter a public university students have to take three successive exams. The higher the score earned, the better chance of a more prestigious program. Those who do not do well on the exams go to private schools.
The high school students who choose the technical branch tend to have more chance of employment and make higher salaries. However, the status of a university education is so important in the culture that students are willing to pay more to go to school and make less in a low paying job if they cannot get a job in their field.
At 10:15 our city guide Maria began our tour of Évora. She gave us more information about the origins of the university started in the 1559's by the Jesuits. After being abandoned, it was converted to a high school, an orphanage, and it was then restored as a university again in 1973.
Maria explained before we began our walk that on Thursday the president of Chile, Michelle Bachelet and Portugal’s president, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa were coming to Évora, for celebrations at the university.
Preparations were being made all over the city, the presence of security and advance teams were everywhere. Many streets were roped off and those shopkeepers were stressed because of the lack of customers today. We decided that touring the community today was much better than being in the chaos tomorrow.
We continued the morning’s walking tour of Évora that is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We visited the Sé (Cathedral) and Maria explained that a simple church was enlarged in 1280-1340 and that it served as a walled fortress for the town. Like all medieval structures it had a source of fresh spring water and a huge area for storing grain in case of a siege.
The next stop was at the St. Francis Church. The highlight of this church was a smaller chapel built by the Franciscans in the 1400’s reminding everyone that no matter the wealth on earth, life and death are great equalizers. The sign over the entrance door was translated as “We bones that are here, for yours we wait”.
Maria took us for a morning restroom stop at the Municipal Market – deserted today because of the security. Rikardo bought each of us a banana, a real treat, as we have not had them since coming to Portugal.
We continued our walk to the City Park, once part of the palace gardens. A statue of Vasco de Gama was prominent as one walks through the gates as he lived in Évora for several years.
At the main plaza, Praça do Giraldo, we said goodbye to Maria ending our morning activities. Gennie bought a few stamps and postcards, as today was our last day in Portugal and unlike the European currency, postage stamps are unique to each country.
We shared a light snack and a soft drink and then took our belongings back to the hotel. Maria had told us we could go back later in the day to climb the steps of the Cathedral Tower.
Not wanting to miss an opportunity for photos and great panoramas, we paid three more Euros and took advantage of the bright blue sky and the sunny day. The views were spectacular and the climb to the top was well worth the effort.
We went back to our room, checked our messages, and began the process of preparing the highlights of the day for GarciaTrips. The desk staff told us that there would be many security guards in the pousada as the President of Portugal was staying with us.
At 5:00 we met Luis and he took us on a tour of the city on the outside of the walls. Our evening was spent at the Portuguese Cooking School run by Sofia with Chef Narciso and assistants Veva and Maria José. We were divided into two groups to learn to make a gourmet meal using the local ingredients and in the traditional Portuguese style.
Vic was in the appetizer and dessert group and Gennie joined the salad and main course group. For two hours we were learning new techniques in the kitchen and enjoying the company of our cooking teams as well as the food we had prepared.
The meal was Sangria, Vinaigrette Carrots, Chick Pea & Tuna Salad, Fresh Codfish with Potatoes and Eggs, Pork with Sautéed Potatoes and Rosemary, and for dessert Baked Apples with Cinnamon Custard. Sangria flowed during the whole preparation and the meal so everyone left Sofia and her crew satisfied and very well fed.
This was our last evening in Portugal. Tomorrow we cross the border and go to Spain. We learned so much about the Western country of the Iberian Peninsula. Here are a few more facts about the language of the country.
The population of Portugal is about 10.5 million but Portuguese is the mother tongue of some 220 million, around 200 million of whom are Brazilian. Portuguese is also the official language of Sao Tome, Angola, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, East Timor, Equatorial Guinea, Macao, and Cape Verde.
Accommodations: Convento dos Lóios, Évora, Portugal - - - Meal: B & D
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Today was MOST interesting and vividly described. I thoroughly enjoyed reading where you walk, what you ate and the rides. Fascinating!! I tried 3 times yesterday to make a comment, but it would not go through. Maybe this will today.
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