I was feeling nostalgic and reading my posts from my last trip and realized it’s all backwards, so here:
I was feeling nostalgic and reading my posts from my last trip and realized it’s all backwards, so here:
As we were about to leave Fatima this morning, another Trafalgar bus pulled up behind us and who should be in the front seat, but the tour guide Mom and I had on our last Trafalgar trip through Portugal – and not ten minutes later, the one we had in Spain appeared. What was fantastic is that they both remembered us and hugged us. I was really pleased and mom was just over the moon. Such nice people.
Our first stop is probably one of my most favourite places now: Batalha.
There was a battle regarding the succession to the throne when one of Portugal’s kings died without a male heir. The monastery was built to thank the Virgin Mary for the Portuguese victory over the Castilians in the battle of Aljubarrota in 1385, fulfilling a promise of King John I of Portugal – who from the history books seemed to be the bastard son of a previous king, one Pedro I. Regardless of it’s purpose, the place is both unfinished, and astonishing. Subsequent generations of the royal family added to, re-purposed and generally messed around with it’s floor plan until we have this intricate and beautiful building. (I had a really hard time paring down my photos for this entry.) When John and his wife Phillipa died they were depicted on their sarcophagus holding hands – they actually liked each other which is a peculiarity among alliance marriages. Among their children was Henry the Navigator who is also buried here.
After our visit to Batalha, we went on to Nazaré.
Nazaré is also on my list of favourite places.
It’s a fishing turned surfing town, so usually busy only in season, but so pretty and a destination I would have been sure to frequent had I been a Portuguese teenager. Mom and I had a pizza with a couple from Toronto, did a little souvenir shopping and then trekked down the sand to stick our feet in the surf.
Next stop on this beautiful day is Óbidos.
Óbidos is a medieval town – and by that I mean that the old town is still pretty much as it was back in medieval times. I do believe they have Ren fairs and such there – there are enough shops selling medieval and renaissance garb to make this true. Pedro had another little hidden treat for us here, which was a taste of the local liqueur: Ginjinha It’s served in little chocolate cups which you are obligated to eat afterwards. (oh, darn.) SO GOOD.
Óbidos was one of the few cities that belonged to what was called the Queen’s House, and therefore they paid their taxes to the Queen, rather than to the King – ostensibly to give the queen some spending money, but it seems like she spent it, and then some, on improving the cities themselves. Pedro told us where we could purchase a replica Queen’s happiness ring which sent a number of our ladies hurrying off to the little silver smith, but mom and I went exploring.
On our way from Óbidos to Lisbon, Pedro recapped our trip for us, which I thought was really nice. He handed out little gifts and there was much applause and praise and a little bit of singing, even though we hadn’t had as much wine as we had had at Casa Insua.
The evening marked our last with the group and our farewell dinner was at Flo, in Lisbon, which is where we went last time as well, There is a very artistic rendition of the zodiac on one wall inside is how I remember. We are handed champagne as we file inside and we are all a little bit sad that our tour is over. The food is fabulous and we exchange contact info and memories as we eat.
Thank you, Trafalgar for another fabulous tour.
We began our day with a tour led by a local guide: a lovely and funny woman by the name of Fatima. Porto is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and as such is slated for restoration. Like Lisbon, there was a rental freeze so that many places still have ridiculously low rents – but of course that meant that landlords did not have the funds to repair or maintain the buildings, which meant that many of them look sad and dilapidated. Fatima said that the restoration was estimated to take 40 years and than in 40 years she would be our guide again and that would be her first miracle.
On our way to the City centre, she pointed out the school where JK Rowling taught and pointed out that she had married, and then divorced a very stupid Portuguese man. She then went on to say that that was why they exported them.
Our first stop was the Commerce centre. I had forgotten how amazing the inside was, and kind of forgot to take many pictures because there was so much to look at – and even when I did I really messed up the light. There was even an odd collection of mythological creatures being constructed in the centre room for some kind of exhibit.
The Arabic room was the most astonishing, even after the room that was made entirely of inlaid wood of varying kinds. There was no blank spaces which Fatima said pointed to the Baroque fear of emptiness.
After our tour here, we were taken across the river (the Douro again) to visit the cellars of the Sandeman Port Winery. There were marks on the outside of the doorway that marked the level of past floods.
We got to tour the cellars and watched little video of how Port is made and where and then we got to sample two kinds: Ruby and White Port. Pedro, bless his little heart, had bought chocolates for us all to have with our samples.
Our guide was dressed in the iconic cloak and hat that’s on the company’s branding and spoke as though she were rehearsing lines, but she answered all our questions with excellent knowledge. Mom and I have a special connection to the Port trade, as her granddad imported Port for a company (across the river, incidentally) called Dow’s.
I bought a little sampler set for myself and a bottle of the White Port. I wanted to buy more, but my suitcase is to small. I should have shipped some home, but we did not have much time before João came to take us to the old quarter for our free time.
We were instructed to meet our driver at 4 outside of the Imperial MacDonalds – which is complete with Imperial double eagles and art deco stained glass and chandeliers inside. Lat time we went to the Lello Bookstore where I got a book about the insides – so beautiful – but this time we wanted to explore some of the areas we did not see last time.
We wandered up and down the high street and bought a couple of baubles – and then had coffee at the Majestic Cafe. If you’re a Rowling fan, you’ll know about this place.
In the evening, we went on a cruise on the Douro, complete with another sample of Port and a beautiful sunset, and then we had dinner in a restaurant on the edge of the river that is famous for it’s rabbit stew. It’s called Chez Lapin – and has a little hutch outside where the proprietor’s favourite pet spends the day. I had the pork. As good as it smells, I can’t bring myself to eat rabbit.
Today we left Viseu and drove up and up and then down again from lovely blobby granite hillsides into the amazing green of the Douro Valley.The Douro river meanders all the way from Spain and then carves itself a niche through this cradle of green which is perfect for growing grapes of all varieties. It seems that there are the perfect conditions for creating the micro-climates necessary for growing the grapes they use in making port wine.It was in the 17th C that it was established that the valley was the only place that was allowed to produce wine for port – and any vineyards outside the granite markers that were set up to mark the designated areas were not included, which really annoyed quite a few people. I think Pedro called it the Revolution of the Drunken Man.
It was an amazing drive. We stopped at a lock and watched the river for a while, a brilliant photo op. Pedro had some port for the region, which he poured a little taste of for all of us. We even had the fortune to watch a cruise ship go through the lock.
And I caught a lucky picture of one of the little trucks filled with grapes!
Our next stop was Mateus. Mateus was the spot where Mateus wine was originally produced, which really blew the mind of one of our our members. He had fond memories of it’s distinctive round bottle.
The last time we were here, it was spring, so it had been filled with lupins and other spring flowers. Now, the roses were just finishing and everything was sill in full green. The big reflecting pond was full of frogs and frogs who still had their tails.
Our next stop was Guimarães which has an old quarter filled with beautiful tiled houses. The centre square was full of flowers. Mom didn’t want a lunch so we compromised (again) with ice cream and wandered around looking at all the pretty buildings, the old squares and the monuments to the stations of the cross that were embedded in walls and buildings throughout the city. I’m kicking myself or not taking proper pictures of them while they were open. I really like this city. We bought chocolates in a little shop that Pedro recommended to us. I hope J likes them.
Then we drove the last little way to Porto, which I think is one of my more favourite spots. We only had a short time between the drop off at the hotel and the pick up time for our included dinner on the Atlantic side of Porto because there was a game in the stadium next to our hotel that night.
This same game made it an adventure for our driver, João to get us back that evening. People had parked EVERYWHERE; on sidewalks, double parked, under stop signs, you name it, so that he had to loop through some interesting back roads to get us home because the space on the street was so shockingly constricted. He got some applause after that!
Our dinner was several courses, as usual, with two wines and an odd lemony dessert. Our view was of the sun setting over the ocean and mom and I went to put our feet in the Atlantic, as is tradition, before our trek home.
all that is glorious about Portugal
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