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Portugal road trip part 4

Part 4 (part 3 is under part 2 replies)
Back in Evora for the afternoon we headed for St. Francisco Church. To my surprise they house a large nativity exhibition; nativities from all over the world and from parts of Portugal. I love nativies (also purchased many odd ones here and in France on this trip). But what most travelers visit St. Francisco church to view is the Chapel of the Bones. This was our first experience in such a Chapel. The windows were open and next door was a playground, so to me it was quite ironic that we were here in the chapel reminding us of death and hearing the young children’s voices and squeals of happiness drifting thru the open windows. The history of such chapels was to remind all that after death we are all the same, both rich and poor.
After all our heavy food of late, we found a wonderful vegetarian restaurant in Evora.
The next day we tagged along on a walking tour of Evora (TI at 10:00). We got an even better idea of the history of this city. Roman baths were found under the city hall, Cathedral with a rare statue of the Virgin Mary as pregnant Mary (this caused some scandal at one point and was hidden for a century or two), and of course, the pastry of the town, Queijada de Evora (1.20 E). And very tasty!
For lunch we had regional sausages at the Café Lusitana (same place for the pastry) right on the town square, before we left for Obidos. The drive was to take us directly pass the Almendres Megalithic Enclosure, so of course we must stop to see 95 rock formation placed over 7000 yrs ago. After a very bumpy 15-20 min drive to the car park and walking around the enclosure, I could only wonder…WHY and WHO put these large stones here?
On to Obidos, a medieval walled city, where our bed awaits in the Castle. We are staying at another Pousada (second of 3 and PM me if you would like my opinions on the 3.) Now to get to this castle we had to enter the walled city. There are a number of ways to drive up to the castle and one (the easiest) was closed for a chocolate festival. The second way as useless at that time of day as all the tourists walk into the city thru that gate, but believe it or not the third way was open. This gate was a narrow one car width that made an immediate 90 degree turn thru another gate. My excellent driver/husband navigated it perfectly in the new Peugeot without a scratch to be found. Then up narrow one lane streets to finally arrive at the top of the hill and to meet a steady stream of tourists on foot walking back to their buses. The Pousada gave hubbie an award for successfully reaching the hotel. Most guests walk up and have a staff member drive their autos up for them.
The castle is very castle like and we were given the option of a dark very small room or a much bigger room with a window and view of Obidos. We took the window room (actually not officially in the castle, but the “castle house”) Breakfast was served high in the castle with a commanding view out over the countryside.
Our stay in Obidos that evening was quiet and peaceful as the multitude of buses had left. As was our next morning (before 9:30) then we were off in search of cathedrals and monasteries.
Our first stop (45 min away) was Batalha and the very impressive Cathedral. Impressive especially from the exterior with details everywhere you looked. We found the Founders Chapel and the magnificent cloisters very interesting. The uniqueness of this Cathedral is the Unfinished Chapel (no roof) and the exquisite Manueline doorway to the chapel. We especially liked Batalha and would have considered it as a base location. We also had extremely good grilled black pork at the restaurant looking toward the Cathedral. Don’t miss trying grilled black pork!
Next on to Alcobaca … in the reply section…

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Part 5
Alcobaca, the home of the Mosteiro d Alcobaca, as well as Obidos, Batalha and up to Coimbra is in the region called Centro. We came to Alcobaca for one reason to visit the monastery and we were happy we did. The city is near Batalha and very close to Nazare. The exterior of the Cathedral is not anywhere near as ornate as Batalha’s, but it is a much longer and higher Cathedral and the ladies at the ticket counter will be happy to inform you of such! The Cathedral houses the remains of Pedro and Ines, two historical figures that we seem to follow everywhere (in Obidos our room was called Pedro and Ines). Don’t miss touring the monastery and especially the kitchen!
From Alcobaca, we felt we didn’t have time to visit Nazare, so we opted to see it from afar and drove to the lookout town of Sitio. This town gives you a spectacular view of Nazare as the cliffs have a height of 110 m. It also has an impressive bull ring and 17C Sanctuary of Nossa Senhora de Nazare. Costs 1 Euro to go near the icon. The fun part of Sitio are the traditionally dressed older women selling snacks. We bought some very good cashews and had pictures taken.
Our next day was to leave Obidos and stop in Tomar and Fatima on our way to Coimbra. Of course it was raining, but Tomar was worth the wet shoes! The Convento de Cristo is HUGE! The main church is not large at all and a bit of a disappointment UNTIL you gaze to the unique and magnificent Altar! The dormitory section of the Convent went on forever! A few of the dormitory rooms have been opened so guests can visit. Tomar is a beautiful city on a river that even in the rain was enchanting. The town is easy to stroll in and this city would have also made a good base.
And how could anyone be so near one of the largest shrines in Portugal without stopping in Fatima. This is where 3 children saw Mary’s apparitions multiple times. Not being Catholic, we observed the pilgrims with amazement. The devotion to walk on your knees the distance from one cathedral to the Basilica and around the Chapel of the Apparitions was curious to us, but we could view the love of these pilgrims. We happened to stop on a Saturday and more buses than I had ever saw in my life were parked, but not a lot of people were milling about, because the pilgrims had completely filled the new modern cathedral (poss. 30,000 people). The square in front of the Basilica has held up to 300,000 when Pope Francis visited.
Next stop Coimbra!
Coimbra is a university city on a hill. We stayed on the other side of the river at a very posh Quinta das Lagrimas. We are getting a bit tired of the car at this point and decided to take some time and not see as much as we may have been able. The Quinta is next to the gardens, where Pedro and Ines fell in love and then Ines met her end. (Can’t get away from these two.) Our time here was to walk around the city, visit the university and the renowned Library and rest. We accomplished this mission plus had some very good cod and a very special “romantic” dinner at the Quinta. We didn’t quite fit the bill of the rest of the guests when we loaded up bags of dirty laundry hauled them thru the lobby to drive to the laundry mat. Just up the hill and looking toward Coimbra university was the cleanest, best Wifi, and best view of any laundry I’ve been to. Chalk one up for googlemaps!
In the evening we had Fado on our list as Coimbra also has their special take on Fado music. We didn’t really like the idea of staying awake until 10 pm to catch a show, so when we found the concert at 6 pm. We jumped at the chance. Very lovely, not too long and very informational as afterward the men performers served port and answered questions. (Casa Fado Ao Centro)
On to the Douro Valley…

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Part 6 and the last..
We are now driving thru a different topography. Gone are the rolling landscape of the Alentejo’s, now we find ourselves in mountainous areas topped by wind turbines. Not much planted here, but a good place for the grazing of animals. As we make our way closer to the Douro River and Valley we see more cultivating of these steep valley walls to the grape. Aside: if you wish to see lush grape vines do not choose to visit before June. The grape vines here are seriously pruned back to just a 1-2 ft. stalk which will grow lush leaves and fruit another 2-3 feet tall.
We stopped for lunch in the sleepy town of Peso da Regua. Here we try one of RS advised restaurants and meet owner Paula, who immediately spied our RS book and asked to read what was written about her as she had never read it before. After a very lovely lunch, we visited the Douro Museum. Very worth whiled and informational on the history of the valley and it’s child… Port Wine! I loved the exhibit of guessing the various scents!
On ward to our home for two more nights, a location I hope would be half as good as it looked on the internet. No disappointments! Casa do Visconde de Chanceleiros was wonderful! Beautiful property, quiet and offered spectacular views and had the house kitchen that was warm and lovely! They offered dinner, which we took advantage for both evenings with home cooked recipes and abundance of good wine! We also met several other travelers and ended up chatting over local Port until late each night in the house’s smartly decorated living room.
We spent a leisurely day in Pinhao and took a cruise up the river that ended in of course, a glass of Port. We stumbled upon a local smoked meat store and tagged on to the lesson and tasting another couple was receiving. After a purchase we drove the small road back up to our casa and settled on a chair by the pool to take in a finally sunny day.
Leaving the Douro Valley by our despised but mostly accurate navigational system, we headed over more mountains with even more narrow sharp twisting roads on our way to our last stop in Portugal, but not our last on this 4 week road trip, Guimaraes, the birthplace of Portugal.
Here we also booked a Pousada, the Mosteiro de Guimaraes. A more conservative Mosteiro with many rooms and restaurant, which appears to be in the old dining room of the monastery. The monastery is not in town, but a good down hill walk, which we elected to find a taxi for the return. Guimaraes is a lovely town and our visit coincided with a national holiday so most things were closed. We wandered the town had a very nice lunch at Café Oriental (c. 1925) and was basically lazy the rest of the day. Our excitement was hunting down a very popular burger restaurant and people watching as we waited 45 min for a table. Yes, the burger was good, but you can’t beat our American beef.
Well, that ends Portugal. We drive to Santiago de Compostela for the second leg of our road trip and across the northern coast of Spain.

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1041 posts

Thank you for your detailed and informative trip report. It brings back memories of my short trip around Portugal after a mission trip last summer. It’s obvious that you did a great deal of preparation and equally obvious that your planning paid off in some memorable experiences.

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7992 posts

You basically had a similar itinerary to ours and stayed in several of the same hotels. It is a joy to read! Thanks so much.

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2544 posts

Thanks for the wonderful, detailed report. We just booked our Lisbon/Fatima trip for 8 days next February. Your report will help me plan our trip.

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3467 posts

Enjoyed every detail of your trip report! Very similar to our tour 2 years ago. Sounds like you experienced the best of Portugal. Obrigada.

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681 posts

Loved your detail report. Can't wait to hear all the rest. Portugal has been on my list...now it is going near the top. Thanks!