Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Exploring Portugal in December - Tomar, the Knights Templar, a Winery

Before I continue, a bit about the food.  Luscious baked goods, an abundance of fresh fish (you don't have to eat sardines, but they are everywhere,too), their famed "black" pork, and increibly good and inexpensive wines. Vegetables are seldom seen except as a garnish, but we are on vacation, right?

Our Air B&B near Batalha was a sunny hilltop villa perfectly located for our explorations. After a day of exploring, we retreated to the house to play cards, drink wine and wait for the dinner hour, which in Portugal, doesn't begin until at least 8 PM. That took some adjustment...

Tomar, home of the Knights Templar

n 1983, UNESCO awarded the classification of world heritage to the Templar Castle and the Convent of the Knights of Christ in Tomar, a unique monument in the history of the western world. Built on a site that was originally used for Roman worship, this vast monumental complex illustrates seven centuries of Portugal's history and contains several important mementoes of decisive moments in the history of the western world.

The guide at the Tourist Office in Tomar was shocked that we only allotted one afternoon for her amazing city; but alas, life is short... We only wanted to see the famous Knights' Templar complex, which included an ancient castle including ramparts from which to throw stones or boiling oil on invaders, a cathedral, countless courtyards covered in colorful tiles, and a monastery/residence for hundreds of knights and monks in the 11th - 15th centuries.

Walking along the streets in Tomar, we trod on the city's symbols:

We saw these cute door handles throughout the town but never found out their origin:

And visited their historic synagogue, which literature says at one time was as important to the Jewish faith as Mecca is to Islam today:

We stopped at a wine shop for our afternoon libation; it "whet our whistle" to visit a local winery, knowing Portugal is famous for wine.  So we found tour for the next day.

 Quinta do Sanguinhal (Quinta do Sanguinhal - 2544-909, Bombarral, Portugal)

A Cork Tree!

 The centuries' old pressing room, now the Tasting Room.

We liked every one...

Packing up our purchases, which were unbelievably inexpensive, and saying farewell to the winery puppy, Cork:

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Exploring Portugal in December - Nazare, Batalha and Fatima

The Nazare Cathedral at the old town square

Looking for a Christmas Vacation in Europe that would not be too cold or expensive, we hit upon Portugal.  We would have 6 days with 2 of our adult children.  It ended up being the perfect choice!

With such a short time there, we decided to limit our travel to Lisbon and a few sites north and west of the city.  After renting a car, we headed up to the central coast in search of the Big Blue Wave at Nazare.  A beautiful beach town, the lower section has winding streets with bright white buildings, connected to the upper section and cliffs by a funicular railway heading straight up the cliff.

At the top of the railway, we found the Cathedral on the Old Town Square and then the views of the famous waves.

 The Nazare Challenge 

was in progress, with surfers from all over the world plying their skills on the 20-foot waves.

The beach is presided over by this guy who combines a surfer with the local legend about a man following a deer in the fog but being saved from going over a cliff by the Virgin Mary. The legend is told in many tile decorations throughout the town.

We took our traditional afternoon libation at a little cafe in the lower town, greeted by this cute-face dog, women in traditional dress, and Santa, of course.

Tights with knee-high wool socks, clogs, patterned apron, warm knitted poncho and headscarf.  The local ladies traditional dress seen all over Nazare.

More colorful sites:

A fountain decorated with tile scenes of fishermen and washerwomen;

Some of the beautiful cobblestones we encountered everywhere (and therefore my advice to wear shoes with sturdy soles when you are a tourist here!):

On to

Batalha, a UNESCO World Heritage site. 

According to UNESCO's website,
 The Monastery of the Dominicans of Batalha was built to commemorate the victory of the Portuguese over the Castilians at the battle of Aljubarrota in 1385. It was to be the Portuguese monarchy's main building project for the next two centuries. Here a highly original, national Gothic style evolved, profoundly influenced by Manueline art, as demonstrated by its masterpiece, the Royal Cloister.

We had a lovely afternoon exploring this gem of architecture.  Enjoy the photos!

A breathtaking spot - I have never seen anything like this before! - is a "Unfinished Chapel."  It is elaborately decorated but has no rood - just an open air, gorgeous spot.  The setting sun shone through the few stained glass windows; the tracery on the Moorish doorway defies description!

On to Fatima!

In 1917, 3 Portuguese shepherd children were visited by Mary.  Her message was "Pray for Peace!"  Now on the site is a Basilica (A) and massive gathering space.  We visited the churches, prayed at the site of the Visitation (B), lit candles for ourselves and our loved ones (C).



Hail, Mary, pray for us sinners

On the way back to our Air B&B, we experienced this amazing sunset, and paused by the roadside bus shelter/chapel.  

More tomorrow!