We had two nights to get from the yoga retreat in Albir to Lisbon to meet Dan’s sister Suzi, about 9 hours away. We decided to break it up, and stopped off in Toledo for one night, followed by one night in Evora.
It was about 4 hours to Toledo, which to be honest was the most boring drive of the trip so far. The start was great, with a very dramatic landscape that looked a bit like the wild wild west, but eventually just settled into a harsh desert landscape with not much to look at, except for an unbelievable number of wind turbines scattered across the hills.
When we arrived in Toledo, we discovered that our car was too big to fit in the car park, but we managed to find a park on the street. It was a boiling hot day, but once we’d stashed our luggage at the hotel (Hotel Sol) and recovered from the heat, we made our way up to the main square to explore for a few hours.
We wandered around and discovered a lovely old town with little winding streets and not many tourists compared to the big cities we’d been through. We jumped on the tourist train, and it took us not only through the old town, but also outside and around the old city walls.
Inside the town there is a beautiful church, winding little streets, and lots and lots of beautiful old buildings.
The old city is a mix of Christian, Jewish and Muslim influences, where many religions and people lived side by side relatively peacefully for centuries. You can see it in the mix of architecture throughout the city, although there have been periods of unrest and apparently a lot of buildings, particularly Jewish synagogues, were destroyed.
The old city walls are very impressive – the whole city is beautifully preserved.
The views of the city from outside the old wall were incredible, and thankfully the train stopped at a lookout point that provided beautiful views of the old city from across the city. The train was worth it just for those views alone.
After the train ride, we needed some food. Earlier in the day we’d walked past what I thought was an organic shop with tables out the front, so we made our way there. It was actually a building with a range of restaurants and bars over about 4 levels. At the top was a rooftop bar with beautiful views of the sunset.
The sunset was so beautiful, and the colours changed and deepened into dusk while we watched.
At the entrance to the building was a salad and juice bar, so we bought some salads for dinner that were unfortunately not as good as they looked, but they filled our bellies and that was enough.
We were both really keen to get up early the next morning and walk around the outside of the city along the river, but sadly the air conditioning didn’t work in our room, and the walls of the hotel were paper thin, so we didn’t end up having a great nights sleep. But ah well. Maybe next time.
All in all, Toledo was a great place for a stopover.
The next day we made our way to Evora in Portugal, another 4 hour drive. This drive was a lot more interesting than the drive to Toledo, and it went pretty quickly.
Our roadside lunch stop wasn’t very inspiring, but I loved that there were chickens, geese and fowl just roaming free all around the place.
Once again, we found it hilarious and amazing that there was a sign welcoming you to a new country, the language changes, and that’s it. No passport control, no toll to pay, just a road sign.
Evora is another old walled city but it has a very Portugese feel to it that is distinctly different to anywhere else we’ve been. Beautiful white washed buildings with bright orange and blue paint, the simplicity makes it feel like a seaside town even though it’s a couple of hours inland. In fact, we both kept feeling what felt like an ocean breeze but it couldn’t have been.
We stayed at Hotel B&B Evora, which is in a building that used to be a bullring. I was mildly worried that I’d feel awful being in a place like that, but to the contrary the building has been converted into a really modern comfortable hotel and I loved that it was no longer being used for bull fighting.
We wandered the 5 minutes up the road to the “main square”, which was almost deserted but had a couple of restaurants in the middle.
Evora is a very pretty little town. There is a big city wall and an ancient ruin in the middle of town. It was very quiet compared to the other big cities we’ve been in recently, so it was a nice change of pace.
There’s a beautiful big church, and a lookout point over the city.
Apparently the region is famous for making cork, and you could buy all sorts of things made out of cork, including hats, coats and bags!
Dan had looked up the best restaurants in Evora, and we settled on Momentos for a late lunch, we were just in time as the kitchen was about to close.
There was a very short tapas menu, and we quickly settled on a three salad platter, and a seafood platter. Well, it was SO delicious.
The three salads were an anchovy and roasted capsicum/bell pepper salad, a watermelon and buffalo mozzarella salad, and a prosciutto and melon salad. All beautifully light and a great mix of flavours. I loved the watermelon and buffalo mozzarella, it had a drizzle of balsamic over the top and was just delicious. I will be re-creating that one at home (once we have a home again!).
The seafood platter was made up of a local cured sardine in oil, garlic and chili, a shrimp cocktail, and a cured tuna with apple that was almost meat like. I loved the shrimp cocktail, perfectly cooked with a yummy sauce. I think Dan loved the tuna the most, but it was truly all delicious.
It was a light and healthy(ish) meal.
For dinner we set out for Botequim de Mouraria, a hole in the wall that is ranked as the number one restaurant in Evora on Trip Advisor. It only seats ten people, so we were sceptical about getting a seat but thought we may as well give it a go. We arrived and there were two couples ahead of us waiting for a spot at the bar. The second couple gave up, which was very lucky for us as we ended up being the last diners to be seated for the night!
The restaurant is run by a husband and wife dynamic duo, the wife is the master chef in the kitchen, and the husband is front of house extraordinare. He was really lovely and made everyone feel special. In fact, he takes a photo of every group that eats there, puts them up on an electronic photo frame up on the wall the next night, then prints them and pops them in huge photo albums sitting next to the bar. Very sweet.
We had a baked cheese with bread, and mushrooms for starter. The cheese was delicious but filling, and the mushrooms were really well cooked but drenched in oil (you can probably tell from the picture!). Very rustic fare.
For mains, we shared cod that was mixed into a very light, fluffy omelette, and a pork steak that was really tender and very flavoursome. I would never think of making a pork steak but it was really good. The meal came with crisps, and a tomato, onion and cucumber salad.
It was a really great evening with very good, rustic and filling food – made exceptional by the service and size of the restaurant.
The next morning we wandered around looking for some breakfast. We quickly discovered that Evora doesn’t do breakfast. We walked around the town three times, and finally settled on a place in the main square. We were given a bitter espresso, a sweetened juice, and toast with butter on it. The toast was really sweet and airy, we both felt hungrier after eating than we had before! Not exactly what we were going for! But oh well.I made friends with a sweet local dog so it was a nice morning! The dogs in Portugal, and actually Europe in general, are a lot more independent than Aussie dogs! They have collars on and look well cared for, but they roam the streets like pro’s, foraging for left overs and begging for scraps.
After our very light breakfast, we jumped in the car and made our way to Lisbon!!
Toledo and Evora are both great little towns, where you can imagine what life was like hundreds of years ago. I really enjoyed both stopovers.