Europe

Portugal on the Plush

written by | Posted on May 1st, 2009

The next morning, it was time again for an early morning drive out of Lisbon and heading west towards Evora, located in the Alentejo Region, a beautiful area rich with undulating plains and olive trees stretching out as far as you can see. In Reguengos, we made a stop at still another winery, the famous Esporao Wine Estate and took a tour of the wine production facilities there—a truly remarkable operation where 10,000 bottles of wine are produced each hour for both global and regional distribution. After the tour, we tasted some of the delicious wines served with local cheeses and olives and enjoyed a scrumptious lunch before heading on to Evora.

Like all the other towns we visited here in Portugal, Evora does not disappoint. The guided tour of this charming little city includes a visit to the Temple of Diana and the town’s beautiful medieval cathedral that still serves the modern bishop of the region. There is one particularly unique attraction here that’s a bit macabre, but interesting all the same—the Bones Chapel, located near the cathedral. For some reason, Franciscan friars decided the best way for people to feel better about leaving this mortal coil, was to build a chapel comprised of human bones. We’re talking about what we assume are thousands of bones placed in the walls of two very large chapel rooms. Mind you, there’s no doubt about what you’re viewing because it’s anything but subtle—skulls, femurs, you name it, it’s there.

After a tour of the city, we headed off for an overnight stay at the Convento do Espenheiro, a former monastery complete with a rather large church right inside that was built in the 15th century, as was the rest of the monastery. It also held the royal assembly of King John II in 1481, so you’re talking about some serious history here. In keeping with its membership in the Starwood Luxury Collection, the rooms are spacious, luxurious and elegant with beautiful views of the grounds and the surrounding countryside. Dinner was served in the property’s restaurant—Divinius—and you got the sense of sitting down to an elegant medieval banquet. The menu focuses on the local Portuguese cuisine, with an emphasis on flavoring with the local herbs and bread made right on the premises in a medieval oven—absolutely delicious.

The next morning, it was back to Lisbon for a brief tour of the city and another overnight stay at the Lapa Palace Hotel. With limited time available, we did manage to see some of the city’s more famous attractions, including the Belem Tower and the Jeronimos Monastery, a pretty elegant place for a bunch of monks who took vows of poverty. We also took a stroll through The National Coach Museum with its huge collection of ceremonial royal coaches dating back to the 17th century.

Finally, it was off to the Lisbon airport for the Tap Air Portugal flight back to Newark. We’ve got to say, the Lisbon airport can be a somewhat confusing airport to navigate, primarily because of the signage that puts more of an emphasis on the ticket desk numbers than on the gate numbers, which leaves you stumbling around a bit before you get your bearings. Just tell clients to head for the lounges or the duty free area after they’ve checked in their baggage and finding the gates will be a lot easier. The executive class on Tap Air Portugal was superb, as it was en-route and we highly recommend it.

For more on this trip to Portugal, visit “On the Road with Rick Shively” at recommend.com.