Thursday, December 22, 2016

Lydia Murders the Rental Car in Rural Spain

Lydia wrote this post and my hilarious yet informative quips will appear in [brackets].

We left Lisbon this morning and drove to Evora, Portugal. On our way out of town we drove over the 25 de Abril suspension bridge which looks quite similar to San Francisco’s Golden Gate bridge.

An hour or so later we landed at the Cartuxa winery in Evora. Unfortunately, they were only offering tours in Portuguese, so we didn’t stay long. The views of the vines were pretty.

We parked the car outside the city walls and wandered inside. Evora is a medieval city and, like most cities in Portugal, it changed hands between the Romans and the Moors many times throughout its history. And, like many places we’ve visited the last few days, elements of Manueline architecture can be found on many buildings. According to Wikipedia, “The Manueline, or Portuguese late Gothic, is the sumptuous, composite Portuguese style of architectural ornamentation of the first decades of the 16th century, incorporating maritime elements and representations of the discoveries brought from the voyages of Vasco da Gama and Pedro Álvares Cabral.”

The first important building we passed was the Cathedral of Evora. It was pretty impressive.

[Often towns had these cool aqueducts going on.]

[Some of the people who live on these crazy narrow streets got so tired of people scraping their houses that they put little barricades on the edges.]

Farther along we ran into the Roman Temple of Evora. It’s believed to have been built in the first century AD, but nobody is certain who the temple is dedicated to. I think the most interesting part of its history is that it was used as a butcher shop from the 14th century until 1836. In fact, this is why it’s so well preserved.

We also found the ruins of a Roman Bath inside the town hall. The Romans were so fancy they had an indoor and outdoor pool!

Outside there was a fun display of Christmas trees made from recycled goods.

Our last stop in Evora was lunch at Botequim da Mouraria. Definitely my favorite meal we’ve had so far. There are no tables, only 9 bar stools gathered around a counter, so the chef is able to give every customer personalized service. We started with a ham and melon plate followed by shrimp cooked in olive oil. Best shrimp I’ve ever had.  For dessert, thanks to John’s curiosity, we tried quince for the first time. Related to apples and pears, quince is a sweet yellow fruit. Oh my was it good! We also had some sort of coconut cake/tort. The chef must’ve really liked us because before we left, he took a picture of us to display in the restaurant.

[The ham is called jamón and the little rack they put it on for slicing is called a jamonera.]

[This fruit was sort of like if a pear had a beautiful edible baby with a peach.]

[The menu.]

[After that excellent lunch we headed to the countryside to check out the Great Dolmen of Zambujeiro which is a megalithic burial structure from the Neolithic Period. "Megalith" seems to just be a fancy word that means it's made out of large stones and doesn't use cement or anything to hold them together.]

[The cows out here were friendly.]

[The view on the short hike to the site was great. The land was dotted with seemingly random-placed  cork trees.]

[Some had recently been harvested of the sweet sweet cork.]

After our bellies were full, we headed back towards Spain. A few hours into the drive we stopped for snacks at a grocery store. John really wants to buy a ham leg, but so far I’ve been able to stop him.

[Ham hater gonna ham hate.]

It wasn’t until we left the grocery store that the real adventure started. John had been driving for several hours and decided to pass the reins to me. Of course as soon I started driving, the check engine light flashed on followed by two others. Lovely. Soon afterwards I noticed that the car couldn’t speed up very quickly. It felt like it was stuck in too high of a gear. And then every once in awhile it would start bouncing up and down like cars do when someone’s first learning to drive a stick.

[I subscribe to a "whoever smelt it dealt it" philosophy concerning who's responsible for the murder of this poor European automobile.]

We pulled over at a gas station and called Europcar’s emergency helpline. Well you know how it’s hard to explain car problems to a mechanic when you both speak English? Well it’s really hard to explain car problems to a hotline worker whose first language is Spanish. For example, one of the lights that came on was the car with the squiggly lines that lights up when you’re driving in slippery conditions. I don’t know the official name for it, but you know what I mean right? Well that guy on the phone didn’t. We eventually convinced him to send help.

[The first thing I did was put on the emergency vest found in the glove box so that I could fully address this emergency.]

Next problem, the gas station we stopped at didn’t have an address! We had to have the gas station attendant, who spoke zero English, give the man on the phone directions. Once that was settled, we hung out in the gas station sipping beer and watching Spanish soap operas. [I'm pretty sure that the station attendant just confirmed that the place didn't have a street address. It was simply the so-and-so gas station of Azuaga.]


[The attendant also had a beer hidden under his desk.]

About forty-five minutes later the mechanic arrived. He was dressed like a detective with a little hat and a leather jacket. Our next task was to convince him that the car was really broken. He drove it around the parking lot a few times, and of course he wasn’t going very fast or very far, so the lights didn’t come on. He tried to tell us, in Spanish of course, that if the lights that came on weren’t red, the car was okay. Luckily, we were able to convince him to drive the car out on the road, and he soon realized we weren’t lying.

He had us follow him back to his mechanic shop. Along the way, the car got worse and worse. John got honked at a time or two.

[It looked like maybe they made license plates on-site.]

[Even Spaniard car mechanic guys think we're swell.]

[It may just be the hat but I think our mechanic was a dead ringer for Inspector Clouseau from Pink Panther.]

We had to wait at his shop for a while, and then a cab driver picked us and drove us the remaining hour and a half to Córdoba. I felt bad for our Airbnb people who had been waiting for us for several hours. They were really nice despite our tardiness and even walked us to Kebab place for dinner.

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