28th March 2017. Elvas, Portugal.

We woke this morning to the sound of a large number of sirens going past at intervals, it was accompanied by a sound that was hard to work out at first, it began quietly and gently then gradually started to become louder whilst other slightly different pitched sounds joined in until eventually it reached a pitch that was recognisable to me, it was a pack of dogs howling along with the sirens.  They had howled at the moon last night but it was a different kind of howl this morning, very gentle.

I’m glad we saw the aqueduct clearly last night.  Being nosy I got out of bed to see what was going on but when I opened the blinds all I could see was thick fog blanketing the aqueduct and blocking out the road completely.  I haven’t seen fog that thick in years.  It was so unusual that I woke Darren so he could see it too which is when he pointed out that our neighbours had left.  Apparently he heard them drive off sometime during the night!  How strange.

We didn’t rush out this morning because it seemed pointless.  It was late morning before the fog lifted, we walked up the hill to the walled town.  The wall running along either side of the road was painted a gorgeous rich yellow, from the car park it had looked as though the sun was shining on it constantly.  It slightly lost its magic on closer inspection where the painters had splashed the paint on the stone walls and the beautiful old doors but nevertheless the overall effect was marvellous.  The walls of the town were unbelievably wide, the road we walked in on went through two tunnels, one of which had a bend in it, to get inside and cars were told to hoot their horns before driving through.

We tracked down the Tourist Information Office after a lot of bumbling around various back streets and were given a map which helped considerably.

Our first port of call was the castle, which was surrounded by another thick stone wall, the first thing we spied as we walked through the gate was a little cafe in the courtyard.  That caused a dilemma, do we stop for coffee or walk round the castle first!  A nice man who was standing at the bottom of some steps decided we looked confused (we were) and he told us where the entrance to the castle was (up the steps beside him) however when we got up there we had another conundrum, it was 12.20 p.m  and the castle closed over lunch at 1 p.m.

I decided to go in to find out whether we should come back later.  It turned out there was plenty of time, we enjoyed walking around the castle walls and going into the few rooms that it had.  We saw a little staircase in one room but the door at the top was closed so we assumed we couldn’t go up there!  Never assume anything.

A German couple came in a short while after us, clambered up the tiny staircase, opened the door and squeezed out into the day light!  We were still wandering around the room taking photos when they came back and watched the man gingerly make his way down the uneven, narrow steps.  Darren  asked him whether it was very narrow outside and the man looked at us and said, with a very ‘straight’ face (pointing at me) “Your wife can get through the door but I’m not so sure about you!” there was a pause before he burst out laughing and apologised saying he couldn’t resist  making that joke.  It was very funny, we were very impressed that he’d been confident enough to make a joke in a foreign language.  We had a chat before we went up on to the roof, he and his wife were on a 3 week tour which had started in Malaga and was ending up in the North of Portugal.  We all agreed that what we’d seen of Portugal so far was beautiful.  He was right about it being a narrow doorway in fact the little path around the outside was also very narrow but the views across the countryside were wonderful.

The castle wasn’t huge but it was definitely worth the 2 Euros to visit.  When we’d finished walking around the battlements we went down to the cafe in the courtyard and sat in the sun with a cup of coffee and a piece of cake (I’ve borrowed your catch phrase Jayne Cane).

From the castle we walked down to the Photography Museum which was closed for lunch so we found a little cafe with outdoor seating and had the second part of our lunch.  It’s going to be such a shock to the system when we get home, we had two filled and toasted baguettes, Darren’s baguette was filled to bursting with chunks of pork.  We both had a drink and the total cost was 5.20 Euros, amazing value.

After lunch Part II we wandered back down to see whether the Photography Museum was open.  There had been two opening times and we couldn’t work out which one was for week days so we took the chance that it was the 2 p.m. opening time.  It was and we were given a lovely guided tour around the photography exhibition, the photography museum and the dark room.  It was very interesting, our guide was very knowledgeable, unsurprisingly, he told us the curator was his father who had collected a large number of the cameras himself since he was a young boy and who is now 73 years old, his mother was the receptionist and he had been helping out at the museum since he was 9 years old which helped him learn a few different languages.  He was currently back from University for the holidays and taking tours again.

We mentioned to him about our confusion with the opening times and asked what the sign said.  We all had a good laugh when he told us it said Winter and Summer opening times, d’oh no wonder it didn’t come up on Google translate when we tried to translate ‘weekend’!  I asked him whether Saturday and Sunday were Sabado and Domingo as in Spanish he said they were  but the rest of the names were different . He told us what they were in Portuguese and we told him in English and French then between us we tried to remember the Spanish days of the week.

We also asked him about the word Obrigado/Obrigada.  He told us something different again, he said if you are a man you always say Obrigado and a woman always says Obrigada. Perhaps it’s just as well we’re only in Portugal for one more day, we’ll have to get this sorted before we come back again.  Before we left we had a short chat with his Dad/curator with his son translating for us, he was pleased that we’d enjoyed our visit, I loved seeing the different cameras, my favourites were the teeny one which he assured us worked and the gigantic one on the wooden legs,

Our next stop was the Contemporary art  Museum which was in a very ornate and beautiful building smothered in marble. Our guide told us that it had been a hospital at one point, what a great place it must have been  to recover from an illness. Once again our guide spoke very good English and he told us he’d taught himself.  He took us up to the roof and pointed out the various landmarks including the aqueduct and the monastery which was now just a shell but which he said was due to be renovated and turned into an hotel.

We thoroughly enjoyed exploring Elvas we visited lots of interesting places, saw some beautiful buildings and gorgeous views AND we met some lovely people but it was an extremely hot day, we’d come out wearing autumn clothes because we were lulled into a false sense of security with the morning fog and we needed to get back to the van to chill out.  Which we did.  A lot of the vans had gone when we got back.  We spent the evening watching episodes of Castle with our headphones on to drown out the sound of barking dogs next door.  Thankfully by the time we went to bed they’d  given up for a while.

As we were about to go to sleep we (actually for ‘we’ read ‘I’)  started talking about the German man making us laugh earlier and how he reminded us of the German comedian we’d been to see at home, we were trying to remember the comedian’s name we thought it sounded like Henningsvaer  but we knew that was a place we’d stayed in Norway.  It was quite frustrating not being able to remember his name so we decided we’d Google it in the morning.

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