Saturday, March 14, 2015

10 things to do in Alentejo, host of the ICC conference in May (SIGN UP BY MARCH 21 and SAVE)

Elvas: a walled town, home to an extraordinary Roman-Arabic castle and the Amoreiras Aqueduct (XV-XVII Century).

Estremoz: town crowned by a castle (which can be seen from the IAC Campus) from the XII Century with a citadel (presently an inn) and Saint Isabel’s Chapel (XVII Century). Town closest to the IAC Campus. Read about the kind Elizabeth of Aragon (Aragonesa) and the purported miracle (or was it a psi phenomenon?) that led to her canonization by the Catholic Church.

Évora: One of the most ancient towns in Europe, it was known as Ebora to the Celts and it was later conquered by the Romans - their Temple of Diana and majestic aqueduct still stands. Its historic downtown, considered as World Heritage by UNESCO, also features a remarkable cathedral and the outstanding Museum of Sacral Art (Gothic-Roman). The University (founded in 1559), the old Jewish quarter and Evora’s Museum are also well known. It has the sad distinction of being the first seat of the Portuguese Inquisition, which caused a massive expulsion of Jews and Muslims and claimed at least 40,000 victims in Portugal and abroad in places like Portuguese India (Goa) and Brazil. Last year, the Portuguese parliament changed nationality law in order to grant it to descendants of Sephardic Jews expelled from Portugal. 

Evoramonte: Stands out because of its castle built at an elevated point of the Ossa mountain range, viewable from the IAC Campus. This is where the peace treaty between the liberals and the 'miguelistas' was signed on May 26, 1834.

Mérida: Capital of the “Lusitania” in the Roman era, founded in 25 BC. Many of the Roman ruins are in good condition, including a theatre, one of the largest Roman circuses (“coliseum”) outside of Rome, and Roman temples. A museum crowns the experience, preserving many large and small pieces from the Roman period.

Monsaraz: is a beautiful medieval villa, with a castle, and fort like walls. In the nearby town of Reguengos you can find megalithic remains with close to one hundred dolmens and cromlechs.

Vila Viçosa: its Ducal Palace, which belonged to the House of Braganza, the last Portuguese dynasty, is an impressive building with a renaissance façade and a library-museum.

Sines: This Medieval town thought to be founded by Visigoths was later occupied by the Moors and eventually became the birthplace of Vasco da Gama, who discovered the sea route to India, completing the journey in 1498. The journey inspired Luis de Camões to write Os Lusiadas, Portugal’s most famous epic poem, considered one of the greatest works of the last millenium.  You can visit his birthplace in the otherwise missable industrial town, home of Portugal's largest artificial port, where the Casa de Vasco da Gama in Sines’ castle records the life of the courageous but also, sadly, ruthless pioneer.

Alqueva: this region is the first site in the world to receive the “Starlight Tourism Destination” certification. This certification, awarded by the Starlight Foundation is supported by UNESCO and UNWTO. Starlight destinations are visitable places characterized by excellent quality for the contemplation of starry skies, and the practice of tourist activities based on this resource. The region features a beautiful lake region and a large dam.

You may have heard that the ICC will feature not only one of the fathers of the Information Age, microprocessor pioneer Dr. Federico Faggin, but also a NASA consultant, physicist and "My Big T.o.E." author Thomas Campbell.  However, NASA is already in Alentejo, because it has reason to believe life on Earth could have first landed from outer space in this area.  


While at the Campus, you can also contemplate the Cosmos through the IAC Campus laboratories like the cosmoconscientiarium or the projectarium - reserve your sessions today and sign up for the ICC by March 21 to save 30 euros.

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