Day 11: Ruins, Rocks, and Rain

We were up and at ‘em early today, hitting the road before 9am. Our mission was to get to the city of Evora, which was about an hour away. While it was no problem navigating roundabouts, traffic, pedestrians, and narrow streets to reach an underground parking garage near the center of town, once inside Jim couldn’t decide which spot was the perfect. Back and forth we went between spots, all within a 10 square foot radius in the tight garage space, the tire rubber squealing on the smooth concrete floor. Meanwhile, other cars came in, parked, and the occupants were seated for lunch by the time we emerged. That’s okay, Jim was pleased, Miss Cleo was safe, and the garage attendant looked impressed with Jim’s selection.

P1120977

Roman Ruin

Since it was overcast and a little drizzly outside, I asked Jim – twice – if he wanted his rain coat, and was told no twice. The second no had a twinge of that special irritation reserved for occasions when a husband thinks his wife is mirco-managing, but really she only asked the second time because she wasn’t satisfied with the first answer. But no it was, so we were off.

We found the tourist information office (TI), procured a map, and then our first important business was to stop for a coffee. Unsurprising, the rain started coming down a little harder during our coffee stop, precipitating Jim to announce he needed his raincoat. Back to the car we went, and I felt like the parking garage was a second home by this point.

Ok, now we were ready.

Water-themed day:  aqueduct and rain

Water-themed day: aqueduct and rain

Evora’s Old Town isn’t very large, which was a good thing because the rain didn’t look like it would stop anytime soon. We wandered around, looking at an ancient Roman Temple from the first century A.D., found a house where Vasco da Gama reputedly lived, found a palace (St. Michael’s), eyeballed a cathedral, and then scrutinized the large aqueduct that runs through town before giving in to the now-steady rain.

Standing tall and proud and in the middle of nowhere

Standing tall and proud and in the middle of nowhere

The car was right where we carefully left it, and we took off to the outskirts of Evora to put eyes on some special rocks. We turned off a nicely paved road onto a tire-rutted and muddy one, continuing on for a few kilometers before reaching a sign for the Menhir dos Almendres. Undeterred by the fact we were the only car stopping and parking here, we hiked out to see it. The Menhir dos Almendres is a single 10-foot tall rock that was stuck in the ground during the Neolithic period. Its function is unknown, and what else is unknown is why we hiked out to go see it in driving rain on a muddy, slick path. But we did. And what we found is a 10-foot tall rock stuck in the ground, shrouded in mystery.

The next group of rocks we saw was significantly more interesting, as there were a whole bunch of them (95, to be exact) arranged into a loose oval shape amid a lovely cork forest. This arrangement (called Cromeleque dos Almendres) pre-dates Stonehenge by 2,000 years. The function of these rocks is also unknown but it’s likely their placement has something to do with the sun, moon, and stars. It was pretty remarkable to walk among these good-sized, heavy rocks and marvel at how a group of people managed to maneuver them. I wondered if there was a head woman directing traffic, telling the men, no, just a scooch to the left, wait, no, a little more to the right… and where are your raincoats?

Ancient Google calendar

Ancient Google calendar

Speaking of which, the rain started coming down in buckets so we elected to hit the road, meandering our way north-ish through cork forests, olive groves, cows, sheep, gleaming white towns, most of which had a castle looming above, and eventually getting on hilly, twisty, and forested roads to our hotel, the Hotel Lusitania in Guarda. Guarda, I’ll have you know, is the highest city in continental Portugal at about 3,400 feet (1000-ish meters).

The hotel had an indoor pool, so we availed ourselves to this feature before opting to eat dinner at their restaurant rather than go out into the elements again. It was delicious, I was able to try the local specialty Serra cheese, which is a product of the fine sheep we passed along our drive, and Jim had the buffet, which was fish-heavy and he was able to try another Portuguese specialty of cod balls. That is cod meat mashed up and mixed with a few other things shaped into a ball shape, not the actual cod’s balls. I don’t think.

It felt like it had been a long day in the car, so we turned in early with high hopes of a nice sleep before we were back at it the next day.

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