For the remaining days before we start our kayak trip in Porto, we are exploring the countryside between Lisbon and Porto by car. Bill did a lot of research to put our itinerary together, and it’s pretty packed! Today, we picked up the car, thankfully at a place that allowed us to easily navigate out of the city. I had to refresh my muscle memory on driving a standard. Things like gear down to 1st when stopped, and don’t try to go into reverse without depressing the clutch. I’m good now. Bill is a great navigator, so I can focus on driving. Thankfully the roads were not very busy and we easily got to where we wanted to.
First stop was the town of Óbidos. This medieval town, high on a hill, dates to pre-Roman times, but started to really prosper in the 13th century when King Dinis offered the town to his wife Queen Isabel. This town and castle is really well preserved, with some reconstruction, I’m sure, complete with walls that surround the town. More importantly, you can walk on the walls all around the town. Of course Bill provided the historical context and fortification analysis. We loved walking the walls, trodding where people did hundreds of years ago, seeing the town from above, looking out at the surrounding countryside, and trying to imagine what life was like back then. And of course, there were some great “Kodak moments” It was a relaxing walk with some ups and downs and so worth it.
On our way to Nazarré, we stopped at yes, another monastery, in Alcobaça, yet another Unesco site. But this one was different. The facade was very Baroque and fancy; the rest of the interior was quite sparse gothic. The church in particular, was very sparse with no fancy carvings, paintings or other doodads. We were surprised by a wedding taking place, and saw the bride come in! We got to walk through the monastery, and the most fascinating place was the kitchen. Never seen anything like it. It had an enormous chimney, set on 8 metal cast iron columns, as well as a huge marble table for preparation. At it’s height, the monastery supported 999 monks, so I can imagine the amount of food that was prepared each day.
We arrived late in the afternoon at our new home for 3 days, with gorgeous views of the beach, 200 m below us, as well as sweeping views of the Atlantic. This town used to be a fishing town, only recently becoming a mecca for tourists and surfers after the Hawaiian surfer Garrett McNamara rode the biggest beach-breaking wave in the world, about 30 metres high, setting a Guinness world record, in 2011. Apparently there are some fishermen left, and many of the women still wear the traditional seven skirts. I think I saw a couple today. We have a few more days to see some more.