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Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Cruise and Land Tour in Portugal - July 5th/15....

In driving to Monsaraz, we made a coffee-break stop at a small town called Portel and I took a nice photo of the medieval castle on the hill  There were some olive trees which were a few hundred years old.   Displayed in the city park was a noria  - this is a machine, used by the Moors, activated by water power and used for lifting water into a small aqueduct. 

We passed the bull ring in Ameira   Outside the bull ring was an interesting statute depicting town people wrestling with the bull - this is exactly what happens in a Portuguese bull fight.  After the cavaliero fights the bull from horseback, some brave town people charge into the bull ring and try to tackle the bull to the ground - this only happens in Portugal. 

Due to the geographic position of Monsaraz, the hilltop always occupied an important place in the history of the municipality and was one of the oldest settlements in southern Portugal.   The fortress walls remain intact and the keep commands dramatic views in all directions - the castle keep was one of the most interesting sites.
The visit to Monsaraz was an optional excursion for €32 and it included a snack of hearty bread and wine with olives, goat cheese and smoked ham at a restaurant within the castle.  The visit to Monsaraz was enjoyable and worthwhile, although I do not understand why they made it optional and charged more money.  It probably was not far out of our way to the next location, Evora, and we needed to do something or visit some place in the morning and Monsaraz was an excellent choice.  We were on our own inside the castle; there was no tour guide for this visit.  The snack which was served at the restaurant was simple, and could not have cost them much.  
Just outside the castle walls, the century plant is a species of flowering plant originally native to Mexico and the US in Arizona and Texas.  If the flower stem is cut without flowering, a sweet liquid called aquamiel gathers in the heart of the plant.  This may be fermented to produce the drink called pulque.    
For lunch -  Ice Cream...

Evora has a history dating back more than two millennia.- its name means “of yew tree”.   The monumental Corinthian temple in the center of town dates from the first century and was probably erected in honor of Emperor Augustus. 

We covered the major sites in Evora during the guided tour - The Roman Temple of Evora, Cathedral of Evora  and the Church of St. Frances, where there is a Chapel of Bones.  This gruesome chapel is totally covered with human skulls and bones from the remains of 5000 monks.  Created in the 17th century, the mordant reminder at the entrance reads:  “We bones that are here await yours.”

We stayed at a nice hotel - the Mar de Ar Muralhas.  In the back of the hotel, there were medieval Moorish walls.

Supper at the hotel included - olives and rolls on the table; a mixed green salad with tomatoes and olives; chicken and vegetable stew with rice; a flan for dessert and unlimited wine.

Photos belong to Phil Bianco

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