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Last Saturday, my friends Liz, Scott (Lisbon Diaries), and their two girls invited me to join them for a day trip to Évora.
Since my primary mode of transportation is my feet, my range is relatively limited.
Yes, I can hop on a bus or train and go somewhere, but then there's the issue of the dog. Milo can be alone for about 7 hours—he's managed for longer, but I prefer to leave him for no more than six hours without relief. With public transit, I need to factor in more time than if I had a car.
Day trips would be so much easier IF I had a car—then I could take Milo along!
Never mind that car business, for now I remain a pedestrian—but I'm happy for the opportunity to go somewhere nearby when a friend with a car invites me. So off to Évora we went!
What the Heck is an Évora?
Évora dates to Roman times; one of the highlights in the old town is the first century CE Roman temple that marks the highest point in the city. A vibrant mid-sized Medieval walled town of 50,000 inhabitants, Évora is situated in the rural Alentejo, the largest city in the central part of that region.
The Alentejo is often called the real Portugal, as many of its villages still maintain ancient traditions, arts, and crafts. The Alentejo evokes an earlier time with expansive golden plains dotted with vineyards and cork oaks and the quintessential white-washed, red-tiled buildings.
Évora is a university town (the University of Évora is the second oldest university in Portugal), so the population fluctuates with the school year calendar. Students strolling the ancient cobbled streets infuse the town with a youthful and dynamic spirit. Although we didn't tour the university, I understand it’s worth the 3 EUR entrance fee.
Roman Stuff Everywhere!
The Templo Romano de Évora, or Roman Temple of Évora, dates from the 1st century CE and is considered the best-preserved Roman artifact in the Iberian peninsula.
Owing to the Temple's well-preserved nature, Évora became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1986.
Made from marble and granite, the Temple is just one of many vestiges left behind by the Romans who occupied Portugal for more than 700 years (3rd century BCE to 4th century CE).
During the Romans' reign in Portugal, they established cities and governments, built aqueducts, roads, and other infrastructure, and farmed the land producing wine and olive oil. Additionally, the Romans left a significant remnant behind as the Portuguese language has its roots in Latin (source).
In the 5th century, the Temple was partially destroyed during the Barbarian Invasion, and it served as a slaughterhouse during the middle ages. Fortunately, all that nasty stuff has been cleansed from the Temple remains. With its fourteen Corinthian columns still intact, it stands as a reminder of Portugal's and Europe's past.
Even though you can't enter the Temple, all sides are visible and, of course, Instagram-able. Good luck snapping a photo without someone's selfie in the background, though.
Beyond Temples & Romans
Although we didn't spend much time in Évora, I found the town enchanting.
Évora is what people probably imagine when they think of Portuguese villages in the interior. Dripping with charm, small cafés and shops with slightly askew doorways painted bright colors line the pedestrian streets and alleyways.
Shops and street carts sell pottery, textiles, medieval trinkets, and souvenirs like refrigerator magnets; leather goods, and cork, cork, and more cork—purses, hats, wallets, cups—you name it, Portugal makes 'em out of cork!
The five of us had a fantastic veg/vegan lunch at Salsa Verde, then wandered around looking for…what else? Coffee! In fact, we stopped twice for beverage breaks, as you do in Portugal.
Could I Live There?
Every time I'm in a new town or city I ask myself (quietly in my head so as not to frighten passersby), "could I live there?" Not just when in Portugal or Europe, but when I was in the States, too.
So, could I live in Évora?
Based on a few facts like climate, remoteness, and population size, I’d say no.
It's a delightful town to visit, and I'd like to spend a weekend there, but because it's located in the interior the summers are hot and winters are cold. Without the breezes from the Atlantic to mitigate the heat, it's a solid no as climate catastrophe mounts.
And, you'd definitely need a car in Évora, which, at this point, I'm not interested in (you couldn't drive in the historic walled city, anyway).
I don't want to support an outdated, destructive industry by purchasing a fossil-fuel-propelled vehicle.
However, I could be convinced to consider this little electric number. But that's another newsletter/essay for another time.
Évora was once on my "to consider" list of places to move to in Portugal.
So I'm glad I satisfied the itch to see it, and it's as lovely and charming as I imagined, but the isolation and transient student population would get to me after a while.
But good news! There's a train that runs from Setúbal to Évora, so I need to find a hotel that accepts pets so Milo can join me for a getaway weekend—but not in mid-summer or winter!
Clearly, I'm not a travel writer. These are just my impressions of a beautiful medieval town in the country's southwest region.
I've barely scratched the surface of the marvels that await intrepid visitors (like the Capela dos Ossos that I’ll see next time), so if this is your favorite town, great—I don't need convincing, I really liked it!
As a place to live, though, Évora isn't for me (but it might be for you). Tell me, have you been to, or do you live in, Évora?
Afghanistan girls soccer team given asylum in Portugal (as were 100 students and teachers from the Afghanistan National Institute of Music, among other Afghan refugees)
Substitute US for each mention of England or Britain —> On holiday in sunny, sensible Portugal, I realised England is bad, actually (h/t, Jo) The Portuguese use masks to keep COVID at bay, while the English rely on nostalgia and a misguided sense of national exceptionalism
I win! Slow Living Bingo via Treehugger
Muito obrigada, to these generous readers:
Rosene, Donna, Sara, Bill, Peg, Dana, Teresa, Joana, Susan, and anonymous someones for supporting me and my writing through Buy Me a Coffee.
It’s not necessary, but I always appreciate it!