Tag Archives: Evora

PORTUGAL: Cartuxa seven steps to heaven

Anna van Densky from CARTUXA For a traveller who wishes to come in touch with the stardom of the universe of  Portuguese wines, Cartuxa is a must – a well-established name in Europe and abroad, it produces the most exquisite brands in white and red, however it is the red of Cartuxa, which is listed globally among the best 50 wines, and among most expensive in Portugal. The recent average price for Cartuxa Pera Manca Tinto hits €300, and in spite of being a luxury item, it is sought after. Some wine ‘pilgrims‘ come from the other continents to the winery to acquire a bottle.

Enchantment of  Cartuxa starts with its legend in the visitor centre is in the old refectory of the former retreat of the Jesuit Brothers who taught at Evora University in the XVI-XVII centuries. During the dramatic moment of the Jesuits eviction in 1759 by order of Prime Minister Pombal, the property was taken over by the State, and already by 1776  it was recorded as operating a significant wine-press, taking grapes from across the region. Adega Cartuxa was purchased by the Eugenio de Almeida family in the XIX century, living through evolution over the years, and  preserving its outstanding architectural and historic integrity.


Cartuxa is generously sharing with the visitors the savoir-faire of art of wine production, presenting the entire cycle from grapes collection to solid cellars, and tasting. Image: February 2018, Alentejo, Portugal

Pêra-Manca is the label reserved for Eugénio de Almeida Foundation’s most exceptional wines.
The whites are a blend of Antão Vaz and Arinto grape varieties producing wines with a vivid citrus colour and a fruity, persistent, delicate and complex aroma. On the palate they are soft, dry, complex and balanced.


Cartuxa, Pêra-Manca is the label reserved for Eugénio de Almeida Foundation’s most exceptional wines. Image: February 2018, Alentejo, Portugal

The charms of contemporary wine production is deeply rooted in  Cartuxa Monastery built for the Carthusian Order in XVI century by Archbishop Teotonio. The monument is close to Évora, where the sound of Monastery bell is heard, especially when it tolls at midnight, contributing to  the World Heritage museum-city ensemble. Today, the  Cartuxa de Santa Maria Scala Coeli is appreciated as part of a larger Evora’s artistic and spiritual treasures concert. But the contemporary perfection of the convent’s edifice was not always the case…

It was only in the mid-XX century the heir of the property, Vasco Maria, Earl of Vil’alva decided to restore the monastery and return it to the Order of Saint Bruno. In 1960 the Carthusian Monks entered the monastery at the invitation of the Foundation, whose initiator completely rebuilt and restored the convent. Nowadays the Convento de Santa Maria Scala Coeli or Cartuxa de Évora, property of the da Eugénio de Almeida Foundation, is a place of prayer of contemplation, the only presence of Carthusian Monks in Portugal.

From 1960 the Carthusian life was reborn and revived at Santa Maria Scala Coeli, open to all who wished to escape urban noise, and share monastic lifestyle.


Cartuxa Winery is neighbouring Monastery, sharing a bucolic atmosphere inviting to serenity of ‘in vino veritas’. Image: February 2018 Alentejo, Portugal

Cartuxa winery is generously sharing with the visitors the savoir-faire of art of wine production, presenting the entire cycle from grapes collection to solid cellars with barrels, and, of course, the tasting. The explanations of the skilled guides along the tour contribute to understanding of wine sensations, however it is the tasting that is crowning the experience. The Foundation’s wines and olive oils, are abundant there to purchase in a cellar shop, with the exemption of the star of the show Cartuxa Pera Manca Tinto (€200 at spot) which can be acquired as one (!) bottle per group to enjoy during tasting.


Cartuxa: explanations of wine production by skilled guides contribute to understanding of wine sensations, however it is the tasing that is crowning the experience. Image: February 2018, Alentejo, Portugal.

Scala Coeli, which means in Latin “stairway to Heaven”, takes its name from the Santa Maria Scala Coeli Monastery, more usually known as Cartuxa Monastery, a site where Carthusian monks live in silence and prayer.  Produced from the best blends of each year grape varieties, it was issued for the first time in 2008 as Vinho regional Alentejano, Alvarinho grape.  Traditionally, underlining the connection to Monastery, from which the name originates, the label depicts the steps  to Heaven (see below).


Scala Coeli (Latin “stairway to Heaven”), originates from the Santa Maria Scala Coeli Monastery, more usually known as Cartuxa Monastery,

Adega Cartuxa – the old cellars at Quinta de Valbom are nowadays used to age the wines produced by the  Eugénio de Almeida Foundation. The success of its winemaking venture enables the Foundation to fund its charitable activities in the region.


Cartuxa Scala Coeli produced from the best blends of each year of international grape varieties, it was issued for the first time in 2008. Vinho regional Alentejano, Alvarinho grape, Portugal, February 2018

The Eugénio de Almeida Foundation is a privately-owned charity, based in the city of Évora. Its statutory aims are cultural, educational, social and spiritual, focussed on enhancing human achievement and overall development of the region of Évora. Bequeathed by Vasco Maria Eugénio de Almeida, its statutes date 12 August, 1963.

The Foundation meets the aims of its Statutes by creating its own initiatives, exclusively or in partnership, while also supporting projects from other private or public organisations whose intentions meet the charity’s criteria.

In order to carry out its Mission, the Foundation works closely with both Portuguese and international partners.  The increasing involvement of the Foundation within the community has resulted in a plethora of projects noted for their excellence, innovation and quality. Continuing the Alentejo age-old connection with wine, the Foundation has a longstanding history of winegrowing.

However, those who have no opportunity to visit the Winery, and follow the guided tours, can grasp a chance to enjoy Cartuxa finest wines in Restaurante Cartuxa Wine & Flavours located in the historic centre of Évora, in the Eugénio de Almeida Forum, next to the city’s iconic Roman Temple and close by the Cathedral, Museum and Palace of the Dukes of Cadaval.  The restaurant menu is inspired by Mediterranean cuisine where flavours of the Alentejo. Under the direction of chef Bouazza, old family recipes are recreated from seasonal, regionally sourced produce, taking great care to preserve traditional flavours. The restaurant wine list suggests some of the best ALentejo Wines to accompany the meal.

Cartuxa Wine Tourism centre is based at Quinta de Valbom,  just a couple of kilometers from the centre of the World Heritage city of Evora, next to the Cartuxa Monastery from which its name originates.







PORTUGAL: Cromlech Almendres charade

Anna van Densky. ALENTEJO The elegant space for breakfast at Vitoria Stone Hotel strikes with its contemporary stylish design,  but paradoxically it is the reference starting point for a journey to the most ancient and mysterious monument of Alentejo region, and entire Iberian Peninsula.


Hotel Vitoria Stone, Feb 2018

While enjoying coffee and the view on Evora city from the top floor a guest contemplates on the touch of soft shades of grey on all elements of design, created by the internationally renowned artist Nini Andrade Silva, who made the stone present in the entire hotel as a “tribute to important places in this unique region” of Alentejo.

Hotel Vitoria Stone, Evora, Portugal

Hotel Vitoria Stone top floor, Evora, Portugal

Inspired by the beauty of the stone, and mesmerised by Almendres Cromlech, the artist chooses the megaliths for the theme of a fantasy, carving furniture in a shape of rocks, and pebbles. But what about the real megaliths? Who and how carved them from a rock?..

Vitoria Stone Hotel, Evora, Portugal

Nini Andrade Silva interior design of Vitoria Stone Hotel, Évora, Portugal 16 February 2018


The megaliths in the vicinity of Evora city – the famous Cromlech of Almendres continue to startle, inspire and puzzle. The messages from the past, they belong to history mysteries challenging our perception of civilisation and ourselves: who, how, why? Who and how carved these huge rocks into the shape of the sea pebbles? Who brought them there and why?.. How come that those, who created it, and supposedly lived in the caves, hunting with arrows and wearing skins, how come they had such an excellence in construction skills?..

Cromlech Almendres, Alentejo, Portugal, 2018

Cromlech Almendres, Alentejo, Portugal: mysterious megaliths 16 February 2018

Placed in two lines, stones organise an oval shape, supposedly created for observation of stars. The archeologist presume the structure dates back to the 6th millennium BC, but were rediscovered ‘recently’, in 1966, by Henrique Leonor Pina, who carried out the field archeological work. Since then, the megaliths strike imagination, attracting flows of pilgrims, fascinated by the secrets rocks keep. Are they elements of ancient astronomical observatories? Where from the ‘Stone Age people’ got their knowledge of stars? Challenging us, and nourishing hypothesis about extraterrestrials, the Celtic druids worshiping their gods, and the secret knowledge of the prehistoric tribes of Lusitanians living there long before Roman conquest, the megaliths are also giant magnets, attracting curious minds.

Megalith, Cromlech Almendres, Portugal

Sunset among megaliths of Cromlech Almendres, Alentejo, Portugal, 16 February 2018

The “megalithic universe of Évora” is genuinely tourist friendly – it is still non-commercialised as many other sites, surrounded by walls, fences, and watched by guardians, no CCTV cameras either:) There are no tickets and ropes, protecting stones from people – thus the experience stays direct and undisturbed.

Cromlech Almendres, Portugal

A visitor among megaliths, Cromlech Almendres, Alentejo, Portugal, 16 February 2018

Partially covered by long shadows of the cork oak, some of the megaliths startle with their unique surface design created by nature. Spattered with the blue moss, they look like artefacts,  inserted into modern landscape installation.

Cromlech Almendres, Portugal

Megalith, Cromlech Almendres, Alentejo, Portugal, 16 February 2018

However a few rings on the stones are considered to be part of the original design, left by the mysterious carvers, serving as their encrypted message. Some come from faraway to get a thrill of touching mystery…

Almendres Cromlech

Image: Werenr Gladines – best travel blogger of Belgium of 2018 (Cromlech Almendres, 16 February 2018)









Evora’s mysterious beauty

The ruins of the Roman temple are the most emblematic place to begin the stroll along the ancient streets of Evora – a camertone to give the right modality to a traveller to prepare his heart to meet the mysterious beauty of the ancient city. However apart of the Roman ruins there is nothing pompous in kissed by sun place, startling in a variety of styles, mixture of epoques,  and an incredible lightness of atmosphere.

Évora, Alentejo, Portugal, 16 February 2018

Évora streets, Alentejo, Portugal, 16 February 2018

While strolling from the Roman temple to the central square along the tiny streets one can discover the exposition of the variety of objects made of… cork! A cork to wear, a cork to carry around: bags, shoes, aprons, – all  are made of wooden bark, changing our perception of what can be done from a tree. At heart of the Alentejo region – the world producer of cork for wine bottles – Evorians surprise with their fantasy in exploring the potential of a plant. The stylish design for those who wish to stand out in a crowd – a soft and eco friendly material, cork definitely wins the sympathies of those who have an ambition to be nature and animal friendly according to the contemporary ideals.

Évora, Alentejo, Portugal, 16 February 2018

Cork oak accessories. Évora, Alentejo, Portugal, 16 February 2018

The stroll along the charming streets with toursitic shops trading cork leads to the major city temple, located of the highest hill and crowing the old town of Evora.

Évora, Alentejo, Portugal, 16 February 2018

Cathedral of Évora, Alentejo, Portugal, 16 February 2018

The splendor of the Cathedral Sé de Évora is breathtaking.  Declared a UNESCO World Heritage, it attracts as magnet the flows of pilgrims – the lovers spiritual art and architecture. The gilded interiors strike with their majestic appearances, making one daydream, watching the long beams of sun coming from above. The opulent decorations  like an orchestra symphony are celebrating the glory of world’s famous explorer Vasco da Gama, who is believed to get the blessing for the flags for his fleet in the Cathedral.

Cathedral, Évora, Alentejo, Portugal, 16 February 2018

Cathedral, Évora, Alentejo, Portugal, 16 February 2018

While leaving the Cathedral, and stepping into Evora’s sunshine, one can notice a stream of young people: the true and devoted pilgrimage to one of the city major attractions – Capela dos Ossos – the mysterious Chapel of Bones.

Cathedral, Évora, Alentejo, Portugal, 16 February 2018

A view from threshold of Cathedral, Évora, Alentejo, Portugal, 16 February 2018

At most popular among young audience Capela dos Ossos does not make a heavy impression on a visitor thanks to the sunshine from the windows, and quite a dense crowd armed with smartphones and cameras, leaving hardly any space for contemplation on ‘sic transit gloria mundi’ – the creators of the chapel had in mind. The multitudes of bones, covering the walls and pillars, and even two mummies exposed in the space are reminiscent of the decoration of a theatre play, a historic drama, or even a Hollywood move setting. Reportedly many fans of thrillers have the Chapel in mind as an ideal location to celebrate Halloween – a theatrical way of relating to dead with a good dose of humor.

Chapel of Bones, Évora, Alentejo, Portugal, 16 February 2018

Chapel of Bones, Évora, Alentejo, Portugal, 16 February 2018

Next to the Chapel’s extravagant decorum the expression of faces of the visitors is not to be missed. Is the message of the Franciscan monks well delivered four centuries after? If judging by the numbers of photographs taken, one can be definite about the success of the project, triumphant in its longevity and capacity to strike imagination. Today with the significant students population of the reputable University of Evora, the Chapel is never to be short of visitors.

Chapel of Bones, Alentejo, Portugal, 16 February 2018

Chapel of Bones, Évora, Alentejo, Portugal, 16 February 2018

“Memento mori” images are swiftly disappearing in day light next to the marble fountain at Giraldo Square, where inevitably the traveller finds himself, perambulating in the vicinity of the old town. A special place for the inhabitants of Evora honoring Fearless Geraldo Geraldes (or Giraldo Sem Pavor), the hero-liberator of the city from the of Moorish rule in 1167.  The monumental fountain is a centre of the square and even more so of  folk tales, narrating that the King Philip III of Spain thought that it was worthy of being coronated for its outstanding beauty. But it is not only old art, that inspires – next to the glorious fountain there is a modern sculpture to admire, a piece of pink marble tailored in a rough way following the aesthetics concepts of today, and contrasting with the ancient way of working with the stone polishing its surface.

Giraldo Square, Évora, Alentejo, Portugal

Giraldo Square, Évora, Alentejo, Portugal, 16 February 2018

After the tour in the most glorious part of Evora one can not compromise a lunch in a mediocre place – Dom Joaquim restaurant offers an experience in style beyond  delicious food. Some of the dishes on the menu are as much historical as Evora’s ancient walls and temples: the spicy shark soup traces its history in tales of the city, when clever vendors of the fish preferred it to avoid the strict test on freshness by Evora’s housewives, inspecting the gills color. Since those days, the shark remains a star of Evorian cuisine, served with spicy soup and crunchy bread, it pleases both the taste and curiosity of traveller, making the discovery of Evora special in all senses.