Choosing a destination in our own country is not always easy, in part, because all regions always have so much to offer and a cultural charter often linked to their own identity as a region. So, since we had already been through Minho (see Gerês post), we opted this time for a weekend getaway in another region with a strong identity. So we chose one of the regions that has increased the most in Tourism in recent months, Alentejo, and we stayed in the magnificent Hotel Convento do Espinheiro.
This is the first in a series of posts about our little trip to the discovery of the Alentejo. At first it may seem strange to dedicate an entire text to a Hotel, but the Espinheiro convent is not a simple Hotel, but rather the opportunity to have a fantastic accommodation experience as we travel through the history of our country.
We will then learn more about this unique place situated in the Canaviais area, approximately 2 km from the city center of Évora.
Like so many other national monuments, the start of the Espinheiro convent is associated with a legend. It is said that our Lady would have made an appearance to a pastor who was in that place, precisely next to a hawthorn. The same pastor himself built a hermitage in that place, staying there permanently.
The proximity of the city of Évora, frequently frequented by the people of the royal court, made more and more people visit the Hermitage to our Lady of the Thorn. And so, as early as the fifteenth century, St. Jerome’s order acquired the hermitage and built a church on the side.
The Espinheiro convent was always frequented by the Portuguese kings who made their promises and penances there. King D.Afonso V, his son D. João II and even D. Sebastião were connected to this place. Several royal weddings were also held here, such as that of Prince D. Afonso and Princess D. Isabel. It is also said that it was here that King Manuel I received the news that Portugal would have discovered the sea route to India.
One of the historical highlights of this place is the chapel where Garcia de Resende was buried, before being transferred to Lisbon. Garcia de Resende was a famous Portuguese poet and chronicler living in the Portuguese court in the 15th and 16th centuries. He was the author of the famous general songbook in 1516. Today it is possible to visit the chapel where the heraldry of the Resende family remains well preserved.
All this history that remained rich until century XVIII was the reason that allowed in 1910 the hawthorn convent was considered national monument. The period of the twentieth century brought the decadence of the convent, but in 2005 a luxury hotel was created there and the whole building of this monument was recovered, always keeping in mind the great history of this place. It is currently also classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
The combination of a luxury hotel and a historic convent does not seem easy at first sight but here it was done perfectly. The Hotel offers two main types of accommodation, the deluxe rooms, in a more classic style whose aim is to create a more historical and palatial experience and the design rooms, built at 5 years old, offering all the comfort of a modern design.
We stayed in a design room and the view we had to the garden of the Hotel invited us to spend more time on the balcony than in the room itself. At 20:20 we were to observe the magnificent sunset of the Alentejo, among hills, vineyards and the little bit of Évora that we saw from that place.
We pointed out to the outdoor pool, where we spent a good bit as a way to combat the 38ºC that were felt that day, the indoor pool and jacuzzi, where we relaxed early in the evening of a summer day. The entire historic area of the convent is always open to all hotel guests and so, even in the late hours, we were able to visit the convent church, the magnificent cloister and the library.
The breakfast was fantastic and served in a large and historic room of the convent, painted white and filled with well crafted stone archways which made us feel in such a unique and historical place that we even forgot that we are in a hotel. We also advise you to walk through the garden that hides some magnificent corners, especially the old tank area, now filled with fish and aquatic plants and also the old water mill.
In the face of all the luxury offered by Hotel Convento do Espinheiro, this experience usually turns out to be expensive, however, as we get a great price on Booking.com, we believe it’s a matter of staying tuned and take advantage of the frequent promotions that go appearing for this Hotel.
It was a fantastic stay that we would recommend to everyone, especially since it allows to reconcile the visit of a monument with so much history with the accommodation in a Hotel. If you want to explore further without leaving much of the hotel, the entire area around the convent of the hawthorn can be visited, including the vineyards of the convent and fields with cows and horses.