Saturday, April 7, 2012

Tomar , Fatima and Porto

Get on the road by 9AM and first stop is for some breakfast that we had picked up as we walked to our car this morning. We stopped beside the biggest dam in Portugal, you could not see the end of the lake that was created. A pretty setting, we have not seen much water besides the ocean on our travels. We started the day taking back roads, and went through some very pretty scenery. Saw some vineyards, sheep and cattle farms, lots of cork trees. As well we moved from the flat lands more into the mountains. Not too many people out on the roads, so it is a good travel morning, easy driving. Haven't mentioned this but in Portugal it is illegal to drive with your dog loose in the car, and typical Europe nearly everyone seems to own a dog. So, you see about every second car has a gated back section in their car where to dog can go. Really funny to see, and a great idea we think.

First stop is in a town called Tomar where they have a convent that is now a world heritage site. The there was a detour in the town but we didn't understand the signs, so just parked the car and walked up to the convent. This was quite an uphill hike, I am definitely going to feel this tomorrow! This is an amazing spot, so big and mostly still in great shape. The castle was built in the 1100's, and the Church between the 1300-1500's was added on. The Order of the Knights Templer, which is the forerunner of the Order of Christ were here. This was the first time we have been able to see so many rooms still left in tact, from the kitchen, to the rooms where they slept (over 90 different bedrooms), to many chapels, gardens, and a beautiful domed circular church that was modeled after the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. We spent 2 hours walking around here and exploring. There were quite a few kids here today, lots of Easter vacationers I guess and they were having a great time. Spiral staircases to run up and down, about 60 different halls and cloisters, lots of fun for kids to explore and hide on their parents!

Walked back down the hill, which was much easier then the way up, and had a quick visit in the town square before getting back on the road.

Leaving Evora

Lunch Break

Convent Garden

Walk up to Convent of Christ

Dormitory Hall

Dining Room

Kitchen - I think the Springs was a little better equiped to handle the crowds!

Town square in Tomar

Next stop should have been a quick drive, buy the GPS decided to take us on a little adventure again so we were much later arriving at Fatima than we had expected. There had been day trips here from Albufeira from the tour company Andre used but he never did make it, so it was a good place for us to stop. This is a town where in the early 1900's three children were tending their parents sheep and they saw the Virgin Mary in a tree, and they were told to come back everyday and in 6 months she would tell them what she wanted. This has turned into a cult with thousands of pilgrims coming here every month on the 13th to visit the shrine. There is a beautiful basilica and a square out front that can hold up to a million people, there have been at least 4 pope visits that we saw pictures of, very impressive to see the square, I can imagine with more people it would have been quite the site. There is a spot where you could buy candles to burn, some were leaving them in the spot where they had set up to light them, but many were leaving with them. Oh one of the girls names was Jacinta, is Jacinthe a saint???

Procession in Fatima

Square around Basicila - Can hold 1 million pilgrims

View that Pope/Priest/Bishop would have

It is now 4PM, and we had hoped to be in Porto at 5, but still have a 2.5 hour drive in front of us. Quick email to the guy we are renting from and we are on the road again. This time we take the freeway, an easy drive, that you still get passed mostly driving 130.
Make it to Porto no problem, but mess up the GPS a little but do make our way and find the apartment. What a place, we have upped our budget and are paying 60 Euro a night, we are directly in the middle of the oldest part of town, one block up from the water, and directly look onto a square.
Got some directions to go pick up some groceries, and set out for our first walk. Wow, we thought we'd walk some hills before, nothing like this!! It is pretty much straight up hill to everything since we are pretty much at sea level here. We stopped at a tourist place and booked a tour for Monday, we will be taking a river boat along the Douro river for the day, then coming back by train, really looking forward to this. Never did find the grocery store we were looking for, but did find a small place to pick up some things for breakfast and lunch tomorrow. Dropped off the groceries at the apartment. We were going to just make something at the apartment for supper if we could find the Masters coverage, but no only could find World Curling, I think even our curling friends would have preferred the Masters!
Went and found somewhere to eat for supper, but this time it is 9:30 PM and we are very hungry. Over one hour for us to be served, not a good night for this, but it was good, even though she messed up my fish order and brought me lasagna, good thing I love lasagna. 

Traditional boat in Porto

Going to be hard to pick the magnet
Train Station

Off to bed after 11, my legs hurt from all the hills and walking today, I can't even imagine what tomorrow will be like after spending the day here exploring!! Good thing we are doing a river cruise on Tuesday

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