This post is by Emily (Bates College)
Our program took an amazing two-day trip to Evora. We first went to the Herdade do Esporao Winery. It opened in 1267!! It is the largest in Portugal and the views from the restaurant and wine-making facilities part are unbelievable. There were acres and acres of grape vines, and we ate lunch overlooking a valley with grape vines and a small lake. In the distance were beautiful mountains. We ate with the doors open and fresh air blowing in. The meal was amazing – we ate family style with dozens of different dishes served to us over the course of an hour or more. It was by far the best food I've had on this trip and included octopus salad, bean salad, cheeses and meats, breads, pastries filled with (separately) sautéed onions and beef, chicken/pork salad, squash soup, cheese cake, sweet bread with brie, cheese and ham mini-sandwiches.... I was so full afterwards!! We also sampled both a red and white wine and the four different olive oils that the winery produces.
After our meal we got to wander around outside for a bit – there was a neat pool and garden with the same amazing views. We then went back inside for our tour of the wine-making facilities. First, we were shown where the crush the grapes in giant vats and next where they ferment. This winery uses barrels made with US oak to age their wine prior to bottling.
We also saw the bottling and packaging area – this was automated and very interesting. I wanted to see how they get the cork into the bottle, but unfortunately that was in a different room. We next went into the underground storage areas, which were basically like giant caves. It was so dark and cold and cool down there... After the tour we got to lounge in the beautiful sun and shop at the company store.
After breakfast we went first to the gothic church of Sao Francisco. The interior arch and shape is larger than most and very famous, and there were lots of little altars on the sides of the church where these beautiful scenes/saints were depicted. They were added/decorated/redone over time, so Nuno (our director who also teaches the art history class) was telling us that they do a good job of showing the change in art and decorations over time. Next, we went to the Chapel of Human Bones. This was so interesting – literally the walls are made of femurs and skulls. You can only see the end/joint part of the femurs because they are going back into the wall and the skulls are used as the arches within the church. Finally, we went to the Se, or Cathedral, of the city. This was also beautiful, but the cloisters were the more interesting part. We were able to explore – after going up a huge and pitch black spiral staircase we were afforded a beautiful view of the valley surrounding Evora from the second story. Interestingly, next to the Cathedral, there is a Roman Temple (from when the city was a Roman one, prior to becoming Portuguese). The juxtaposition of these two very different, but equally beautiful, places was very cool!! After another filling buffet lunch, we had free time and then returned to Lisbon – a long, exciting trip to Evora!
(Roman temple with the Se in the background)