Tuesday, July 16: This morning, while Jo and I have a leisurely breakfast, she tells me she wants to show me the castle before we leave for the bus station in Faro this morning. She kindly offers to take my excess clothes with her to Britain when she returns home later this week so that we can avoid wasting time queuing at the post office this morning. She says she doesn’t have much luggage and she can easily take it home, where it will probably be much cheaper to send it by surface from Britain. I agree to take her up on her offer and give her 30 euros to mail the stuff from Britain. (However, later, once I arrive home in the USA, I get the parcel way too early for her to have sent it by surface; so I suspect she mailed it by air!) She’s way too nice!! She also lent me her small Lisbon guide and asked me to mail it back to her when I return to the USA.
So, much to Jo’s and my relief, we forgo the post office and get me all packed up and showered. Then we head out to have a quick look at what’s left of Tavira’s Castelo. Outside the Castelo, we can see the pretty yellow rooftop of Convento da Graca, the pousada of Tavira. The Pousada de Tavira, Convento da Graça, is located in the Santo Agostinho Convent, founded by Dom Sebastião in the sixteenth century. (Pousada de Tavira, Convento da Graça)
Pousadas de Portugal is a chain of luxury, traditional or historical hotels in Portugal. Formerly run by the state, they are now run by the Pestana group, which in September 2003 won a public bid for the sale of 37.6% of mother company Enatur and for a 40-year running concession.
The Pousadas were created in the early 1940s by Government Minister António Ferro, also a poet and playwright, who had the idea of creating hotels that were both rustic and genuinely Portuguese. There are now 44 Pousadas installed in historic buildings (Wikipedia: Pousadas de Portugal).
The remains of the Castelo are surrounded by a small but pretty garden. According to Lonely Planet Portugal, the defense might date back to Neolithic times. It was rebuilt by the Phoenicians in the 8th century and later it was taken over by the Moors. What remains now is a 17th century reconstruction. We can see views over Tavira from the ramparts and steps and the octagonal tower. The gardens are very pretty and shady.
It’s really hard to get a picture of the overall Castelo because of the gardens within. Outside the castle walls sits the Church of Santa Maria do Castelo, built on the site of a Moorish mosque; it holds the tombs of Dom Paio Peres Correia and his knights. The church dates from the 13th century and the clock tower has been remodeled from the original Muslim minaret (Wikipedia: Tavira Municipality). It is the main parish in Tavira.
Parting Tavira, and leaving Jo, is such sweet sorrow! She and Mick drive me the half hour to Faro, where I catch the 11:15 Rede Expressos bus to Evora. When I get on the bus, I see there is no bathroom, which has me a little worried for what will be a 5-hour bus trip. But I’m told by the bus driver that we’ll make a stop at a halfway point. Jo and Mick kindly wait in the bus station until my bus takes off, and then I’m on to the next leg of my trip through Portugal.
The bus ride is fairly uneventful. I listen again to Brett Dennen on my iPod nano (I’m obviously addicted to his songs!), read about Evora in my guidebook, and look out the window at the dry golden plains, the rolling hillsides and green vineyards of the Alentejo, which covers a third of the country.
I finally arrive at Evora’s bus station, which is quite far from the center of town, and catch a taxi to my hotel, the PENSÃO POLICARPO. The hotel occupies a building dating from the end of the 16th century, which was in earlier times the manor house of the Counts of Lousã (Pensão Policarpo).
This noble house has an imposing principal façade which faces south, and thus offers a panorama over the Alentejan plain.
On the other side, the house opens on to a small patio.
My room is quite simple. It has a sink in it, but the bathroom is a shared bathroom down the hall. The fact that the room has a sink makes the shared bathroom situation a little more acceptable.
The receptionist at the hotel is very friendly. Every time she greets me, she says “Holaaaaa!!” in a sing-song voice with the “la” very drawn out; she makes me smile with every greeting!
I get settled in and study the map and the guidebook and head out to explore the town.