Driving into Elvas a UNESCO World Heritage site our next and much anticipated destination, you just can’t help but see and be impressed by the fabulous Aqueduct which looms ahead standing 40m high with multiple arches and stretching for over 6km. It is definitely the jewel in a very glittering Elvas crown, started in the 15th century and finished in the 16th it is an impressive feat of civil engineering especially considering when it was built.
Which brings me to one of the great things about stopping there. You can park your motorhome behind the aqueduct and have it for your view. Obviously we took advantage of this parking Buzz in a nice spot towards the back of the area along with a handful of other motorhomes. We had arrived too late to explore the town so saved it for the morning, which after a quick breakfast we did. Walking out alongside the aqueduct we went up the hill and onto the outer curtain wall just above. From here you can see Fort Graca on the opposite hill as well as the views towards Spain. The walls are also very impressive having been built and extended in various styles over a couple of hundred years as well as having withstood a number of sieges.
We entered the main fortress near the castle walking from there along the small crowded streets towards the Praca da Republica with its large church, a handful of cafes and the tourist information office, all nicely painted in white and yellow. Gathering what information we could before sitting at a little café with a coffee to study the information gleaned. Within the walled town are several museums, the biggest being a military museum in the last of the old barracks to be used up until 2006 after which the units were moved. The Museum is extensive but it should be noted that Elvas is really one big military museum. More so than any of the other fortress towns in the region, having held a sizeable military garrison since the 17th century.
Outside of the military influence the old Jewish quarter is a nice stroll as is the rest of the town around the walls where you can take in the views at regular intervals. Outside the walls there are 2 further forts, one to the south and the other the north of Elvas – Forte da Graca and Fort de Santa Luzia both perched high up overlooking Elvas and the surrounding countryside and both worth looking at. However we had one more thing to do before then, our own version of the All the Aires Spain and Portugal cover photo with Buzz. You can compare our efforts ours of Buzz is above the Aires version in the gallery below.
We drove Buzz up the steep road to Forte de Graca parking him in the car park near the top, luckily it was quiet otherwise we may not have got in. Parked up we wandered up the hill to the fort, not intending to go in we walked off to the side and up onto the wall to walk that instead. We wandered around enjoying the view, taking pictures and looking in towards the fort itself when we suddenly noticed a slightly overweight security guard puffing his way along the wall at a slow trot waving and gesturing. So we waited for him to arrive where he then informed us we had to pay even if we didn’t go in the fort itself, and as a result we made our way back had a brew.
Then after a long days exploring we headed off to our next stop Vila Vicosa a small town sat squarely in marble country surrounded by marble quarries. Arriving just before sunset we parked Buzz on a large open car park a little way in front of a 5 star hotel, which suited him well.
Vila Vicosa’s main claim to fame apart from the marble, which is used extensively throughout the town is the large impressive Paco Ducal (the Dukes Palace). Having been used by the Dukes Braganca, who ruled Portugal from 1640 until the country became a republic. With many famous people born here including and particularly appropriately for us Catarina de Braganca who as wife of Charles II was queen consort of England, Scotland and Ireland. The palace can be visited but is a bit of a fuss to do so as you can only do a guided tour at set times in Portuguese where you are apparently rushed around the palace and back out again. Suffice to say we didn’t take the tour. However the town is pretty with a nice castle where you can climb the walls for views over the town.
We didn’t realise that after Italy Portugal is the second largest producer of marble and Alentejo is largely where it is quarried, Vila Vicosa being right in the heart of it have used much of the pink hued marble in the town including the curbs, benches, many statues and lots buildings clad in it. The front façade of Paco Ducal is clad in both pink and blue marble. There are also local opportunities to visit a marble quarry but having been to the Carrara mountains in Italy, we chose to sit in the lovely town square with a coffee and bun. Not just any bun but a local speciality called Tiborna created in a convent. I can only be described as a cold sweet pumpkin dumpling with pumpkin and egg white strands. Ours came with sweet red wine reduction and pumpkin jam. Did we enjoy it? Is the Pope a Catholic? Of course and yes we did. Vila Vicosa is a really nice little town but it is really just a half day visit, so we left after a late lunch heading for Monsaraz a place we had had recommended.