Fatima, Nazare and Obidos

Our first organized tour in Portugal. Actually, our ONLY organized tour in Portugal. And, the only reason we took this tour was that we could find no other mode of transportation that would take us to these spots inexpensively. So, off we went to meet our small group tour at the corner of the Square by the Hard Rock Cafe. There were eight of us plus our driver/tour guide. We were the only Canadians – the rest were Americans from Colorado, California, Texas and Tennessee. A great group and our guide was funny and informative.

An hour and a half on the road north of Lisbon and we were in Fatima. For those that do not know the story, the simplified version is this: The Virgin Mary appeared to three children on May 13, 1917 and reappeared on the 13th of every month thereafter for six months. Because of this apparition, a shrine and a basilica were built on the site circa 1920. In 1967, 50 years after the first vision, one and a half million people gathered in the square to worship. This is now the fourth biggest Catholic pilgrimage site in the world. A new Basilica was built in 1996 but the original one dominates the square and daily masses still take place there. We were lucky enough to catch part of the mass, listening to the large pipe organ filling up the large sanctuary. Another beautiful work of architecture!

As a side note, we have been in a number of churches in Lisbon and though they are not as flashy or colorful as the churches in Italy, they are magnificent nonetheless. Large with high ceilings, beautiful side chapels and ornate statues, these churches are beautiful in their simplicity.

After lighting a few candles for our friends and families back home, we got back in the van and headed for the 14th century Monastery in Batalha. This monastery is an example of Gothic architecture and took a century to build. In fact, it never was finished. There are still a number of chapels in the back that do not have roofs. For anyone that has read the book, Pillars of The Earth, this is the church that I would imagine Tom Builder was working on. It is absolutely splendid and again, the artisans of that time were hugely talented. You will see the workmanship on the twelve apostles that line the entryway on one or two of the attached pictures.

Still in awe from the size and beauty of this monastery, we headed for the small coastal fishing village of Nazare. Nazare was a fairly obscure vacation resort town for the local Portuguese people until 2011 when a surfer dude from Hawaii set the world record there for surfing the largest waves ever recorded. Since then, surfers and vacationers alike come to Nazare to enjoy the sun, sand and surf.  Although the sun tried to peak out from behind the clouds,  the lack of warmth did not stop us from appreciating the large sandy beaches and the roaring surf below the rocky outcrops.  It is totally understandable how this has become a very popular vacation spot. We had lunch in one of the small restaurants in the village. The proprietor (who lived in Canada for about 20 years – too cold, he said), goes to the seaside every morning to pick out his fish for the day. A couple of the girls in our group tried the red snapper, one had squid, another couple shared some crab, Richard had swordfish and I had….well, steak. Let’s not kid ourselves – I am still not enough of a fish lover to try something that was still alive that morning. Everyone thought their meals were great – all with a little taste of Portugal.  Side note:  Col actually had about a third of the swordfish.  She is just too humble to mention it.

Our last stop of the day was the medieval village of Obidos. This village has been well preserved since its inception and other than the odd car driving down the narrow streets, you feel like you have taken a walk back in time. The entire village is surrounded by a wall and includes small shops and residences along the street, a large square where a medieval festival is held each year, churches and a castle which is now a hotel. Richard and I walked along the top of the wall and unlike other castle walls that we have walked on, this one has absolutely no safety railing. A couple of times I thought that I was suffering from vertigo but chose not to look down. It may not have been that far but I am sure that the ground would have caused some damage if I had succumbed to dizziness and gravity. Anyways, we both made it safe and sound back to the street and celebrated our victory over death with a shot of Ginga and chocolate.

We arrived back in Lisbon about 6:30, walked our 20 minutes home and spent the evening doing laundry and getting ready to leave for Barcelona. Today is our last day in Lisbon and we have enjoyed it immensely. We enjoy staying in one place long enough to experience the culture and hope that we will be able to do more of that as we travel through Europe. Our next post will be from Barcelona, Spain. Until then, Stay warm, my friends.

Fatima.

 

Below is the original chapel.

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There is actually a piece of the Berlin wall at Fatima.  

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The Monastery of Batalha.

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Nazare.

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First time for swordfish.

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Of course no meal in Portugal is complete without a shot of Ginja.

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Last stop of the day.  The village of Obidos.

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Our tour guide brought us to a place where we sampled homemade Ginja.  Oh, and of course we could purchase some if we wanted to.  Another thing I do not like about organized tours, you always seem to end up at some prearranged place for a free sample of something that you can purchase.  Oh well, we are getting better at it.  We had our two free samples and skedaddled out.

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The Castle, The Monument and the Fantastic Weather!!

Today is our first full touring day in a week. We’ve definitely enjoyed our downtime and binge watched a couple of series on Netflix and did quite a bit of planning for the next phases of our journey.  Oh, we went out for short walks everyday – usually to eat or drink or to pick up something to eat and drink. 😁😁🍷🍷 We thought you guys might like a little break too but, your break is over. Back to the blog reading grind!

Yesterday we walked up a few hills, took in some breathtaking views and spotted a castle not far from our apartment. However, it was a little late in the day to start poking around in old castles so it became our goal for today. I started the day with a haircut and a pedicure and was ready for a day of exploring. We began with the aforementioned Castelo De S. Jorge which consists of the castle, the ruins of the former royal palace and part of the residential neighborhood that was home to the elite. The castle was built by the Moors in the mid 11th century. When Lisbon was conquered by the Portuguese in 1147, the buildings were modified to accommodate the king, his court and the bishop. It continued to play a military role until the early 20th century. The castle is quite impressive and very well preserved. We only spent a couple of hours there as across the bay we had glimpsed the large statue of Jesus, known in Portugal as Cristo Rei (Risen Christ).

Before we got on the ferry that would take us across the bay, we stopped for a couple of  drinks in an outdoor cafe near the waterfront. After all, it was 18 degrees Celsius today – we had to enjoy the sunshine. (sorry to the folks at home that are living with -52 – Yuck!!) The ferries are part of the public transport system so we were able to swipe our cards and hop on the boat for only 1.5 Euros each (about $2.25). What a deal!! On the other side of the bay, in the city of Almada, we walked along the waterfront for about 20 minutes until we reached an elevator that actually took us up the side of a cliff. Though we could see the 103 metre iconic monument, we still had another half hour walk before we actually reached it. This statue of Christ stands high above the southern banks of the Tagus Estuary, and depicts Christ with arms raised, blessing the city. Since its consecration in 1959 Cristo Rei has been an important Portuguese pilgrim destination. The Cristo Rei has many similarities to the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro as the Brazilian statue was the original inspiration for the Portuguese monument.  And it is magnificent!! We took the elevator and a few flights of stairs and we got to the viewing deck at Jesus’s feet. The views of Jesus above are amazing as well as the views in each direction. We could see the Atlantic Ocean to the southwest, Lisbon to the northwest, the suspension bridge Ponte 25 de Abril (a copy of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco) directly west and the massive 17.2 km Ponte Vasco da Gama to the northeast, both bridges spanning the Tagus Estuary and linking north and south Portugal. As I mentioned earlier, it was a blue, cloudless sky and we couldn’t have asked for better weather to stand high above the city.

Instead of walking the 50 plus minutes back to the ferry, we took a bus from the monument to the waterfront.  And because the scanner wasn’t working on the bus, we got a free ride. How cool is that!! Another ferry ride across the channel, a 10 minute walk along the waterfront, up to our apartment and we are in for the night. My husband is slaving over the stove making, what smells like, a delicious pasta sauce while I write about our adventures. We have yet to experience Fado but we have a few more nights left here, so I am sure it will happen. Stay warm everyone. God Bless.

PS. The pasta was fantastic!!

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The New Pad

As Col mentioned in the previous post we have decided to spend an extra eight days in Portugal and today was moving day.  Needless to mention it went off without a hitch as I just followed Col on to the bus and fifteen minutes later we were at our new apartment in the heart of Alfama.

Alfama is one of Lisbon’s most genuine neighborhoods – its architecture presents the unique characteristics of old and colorful buildings that give it a joyful character and tranquility. Strolling through the Alfama district is an invitation to get lost among extremely charming streets and alleys. Easy to get lost in, even easier to find!

Alfama is one of Lisbon’s oldest neighborhoods and was founded by the Arabs who gave it the name “Al-hama” meaning ‘source of hot water, good water’. You haven’t genuinely experienced Lisbon without getting lost among the paths and charms of the neighborhood that is considered the heart of the city. While walking through the disordered and narrow streets of Alfama, you’ll feel like you’re in a small village, witnessing conversations between neighbors, listening to fado echoing through the stairways and being able to see the Tejo River from another perspective.

The coolest thing about exploring Alfama is feeling the neighborhood’s true spirit and being surprised by the peculiar characteristics of typical buildings with sloping roofs, clothes drying on clotheslines that reinforce the intensity of local colors and the daily life of the residents with their customs.

Our new apartment.

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One of the things in Lisbon I have been looking forward to is Fado.  Although the origins are difficult to trace, today fado is commonly regarded as simply a form of song which can be about anything, but must follow a certain traditional structure. In popular belief, fado is a form of music characterized by mournful tunes and lyrics, often about the sea or the life of the poor, and infused with a sentiment of resignation, fatefulness and melancholia. This is loosely captured by the Portuguese word saudade, or “longing”, symbolizing a feeling of loss (a permanent, irreparable loss and its consequent lifelong damage). 

Fortunately there is a wide variety of clubs right outside our door or down the street to choose from.

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Lisbon, Portugal

We arrived at our BNB in Lisbon about 8:30 PM after a rather long day of travel. It began at 8:30 AM when we caught the underground Metro for Napoli Centrale Station where we were to catch our train to Rome. At the station, we had  an hour to kill so had a bite to eat and did some people watching. We truly enjoyed Naples. It has a completely different feel than Rome. Though it is considered the poor cousin to Rome, it still has a lot of history and charm. The narrow little streets are lined with cafes, shops, bars and people outside smoking and drinking. It is a large street party every evening!

We caught our express train to Rome at 10:04 and arrived at Roma Termini at 11:10. The monitors told us that our top speed was just under 300 kms/hr. It was a great ride!! Out of the station, we walked around the corner and caught the shuttle bus to the Campiana Airport. This airport is the smaller one in Rome and acommodates budget airlines companies such as Ryanair and Easyjet. We flew Ryanair and we were a little apprehensive as it really does have some terrible reviews. However, everything went smoothly and we arrived in Lisbon a couple of minutes ahead of schedule. Don’t get me wrong – it is definitely a budget airline – no food or drink (not even a glass of water) without paying, seats are very basic and not even a pocket in the seat in front of you to hold the water bottle. But we were aware of this beforehand and prepared accordingly.

In Lisbon, we gathered our bags, took a few minutes to get our bearings and headed back down into the subway. We took two different trains, walked a few minutes and voila – we were at our BNB. We are starting to get pretty comfortable using public transportation and it is a fraction of the cost of taxis. It also gives us a slice of local daily life which is just one of the reasons for this Incredible Journey.

Lisbon is described as Portugal’s hilly, coastal city and though we have yet to see the ocean, we have definitely climbed a few hills. Our BNB is a climb of about 50 steps from the main street below and from it, you can either go further up the street or down the other side. We went to church yesterday and climbed up a hill one way and then back down the other before we reached it.  We should definitely tighten up a few muscles here!!

We have also decided that we are going to spend a few extra days here. The last six weeks have been pretty intense (India, Egypt, Israel, Athens, Rome, Naples and Pompeii – WHEW!!) so we thought we’d take a few days off to enjoy the scenery, the music and the food. We also need a bit of maintenance – haircuts, pedicures and the like, and this seems like a good place to get caught up on these things.

We are thinking of you all at home and though I am not missing the snow or the cold, I am definitely missing all the people that make my life go around. Stay well, stay warm and enjoy every day.  XOXO

Colleen…

Col mentioned that we getting comfortable using public transportation and she is correct.  What she failed to mention is that she is the navigator for all of this and I basically follow along.  She is doing a great job and even though from time to time she tends to wonder where we are going my confidence remains unshaken as we have arrived at our chosen destination each and every time.

Richard

 

Pompeii

The lost city of Pompeii. We’ve all read the history of how the city was enveloped and smothered in ash when Mount Vesuvius blew her top. Some of us have seen a movie or two based on the story. However, it only becomes real when you actually see the city ruins and the bodies that were buried alive. What terror they must have felt!

Pompeii was rebuilding as the result of an earthquake in 62 AD. Though the coast was subject to many smaller quakes, the one of 62 was large enough to do damage to nearly every building in Pompeii. It is believed that though many people stayed to help rebuild, many other citizens relocated further inland or up the coast. Seventeen years after the quake, with still much restoration work remaining, Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD killing an estimated 2000 people in Pompeii alone. There were many other cities that were buried as well but Pompeii is the largest and most well known. Historians now conclude that it was the extreme heat that killed these citizens and not suffocation by ash as was first thought.

For nearly 1500 years, Pompeii lay forgotten beneath 12 meters of ash and dirt. It was first re-discovered in 1592 while digging a channel to divert water from a nearby river. However, the ancient walls of frescos were considered scandalous and lewd for the time (counter reformation) and were quickly covered up again. The city under ash was ignored for another 200 years until Charles of Bourbon, later King of Spain took great interest in the antiquities as they reinforced the political and cultural power of Naples. Since then, the city has been under excavation. After being buried for almost 2000 years, Pompeii is very well preserved. However, due to weather, animals and increased tourism many of the items are now beginning to deteriorate. We noticed that many of the areas are now closed off to tourists in order to preserve what is left.

So, that’s the history lesson – now our observations. We were amazed at how large the site is. It is actually the entire city and you could walk around for days and probably still not see it all. As mentioned, the buildings are well preserved and it definitely gives you an insight into day to day life during this time. We saw the public baths – and some private ones, two theatres (one large, one small) that were dedicated to plays, music and recitation, the large amphitheatre which entertained the citizens with gladiators and wild beasts, the market and street food area (storefronts with counters that have holes through them to keep food warm), storage granaries, government buildings, the court basilica, temples, the prostitute’s house (yes, they actually had one of these) the gymnasium and many, many private houses. There was also preserved pottery, statues and even a few bodies that were discovered with their hands covering their heads and others curled in the fetal position. That was a little eerie but fascinating just the same. As for the sexual frescoes that had been covered up many years before – these are now on display at the Naples Archaeological Museum but are considered so explicit that minors still need a guardian or written permission in order to view them. We won’t have time to see them for ourselves, so we’ll just have to Google them in our free time.

So, that’s our day in Pompeii – the reason that we came to Naples. Tomorrow, we head back to Rome and catch a flight to Lisbon, Portugal. Sadly, we say Arrivederci Roma but eagerly look forward to the next leg of our journey.  

 A selection of people and one dog in the wrong place at the wrong time.

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A typical street and a typical girl.

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Station 18 in Region VII was the Lupanare which translates into brothel.  Below this picture is one which shows one of the beds inside which does not look very soft.  Hope they had furs on it.  There were quite a few frescos inside, but this is not an X rated blog so they were not included. 

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The big Theater.

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And the small one.

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A house which was owned by a very rich man.  

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The street food vendor.  You can see the holes in the granite countertop which was used to keep the food hot.  There were a few of them along this street.

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The Amphitheater…

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First level concourse.

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Notice below how well the path or road is preserved going into the Amphitheater.

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The old vineyard…

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Some random pictures to finish off.

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In Old Napoli…. That’s Amore..

We left our Airbnb in Rome around 10:30 AM and headed for the train station, jumped on the iron horse that was pointed towards Napoli.  That’s Naples for those of you who are not Italian.  Our Airbnb here is again right in the heart of the old city which means we are walking distance to all the real cool sites, sounds and smells.  After settling in we wandered out for a walk and being that Napoli is the birthplace of Pizza we had planned to stop at Pizza Di Matteo which was recommended by our host.  Of course after supper we stopped at a little side cafe for ice cream and an espresso.  Napoli has a  real good vibe to it.  It is not Rome, but then again Rome is not Napoli.  It has more of a relaxed feel to it and the whole place where we are is like one giant outdoor food court, but of course with an Italian flavour.  Pastry shops, cafes, pizza and whatever else you can think of.  Tomorrow we head to Pompeii to see the sights there.  Ciao….

This is what greeted us as we came out of the subway..

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Our Pizza in the town where it was invented.  It is different from what we have in Canada, but it was very good.  One thing that was different was that it was not cut into pieces when they brought it to us.  We were not sure what to do with it until we saw a couple of guys next to us tearing pieces off with their hands and rolling it up.  It was almost like eating a crepe…..

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Dessert and our wonderful server…

 

I saw this little statue and I wanted to take a picture and post it.  The reason is that as we were walking down the street I noticed a lot of the couples were either kissing or cuddling.  Well, like the song says.   THAT’S AMORE……. 

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Museums, Chapels and Basilicas – Just Another Day At The Vatican!

We got an early start today and were out of the apartment by 7:30. The temp was a crispy 3 degrees Celsius but the walk was invigorating. We’re arrived at St. Peter’s Square about 8:45 and with just a quick gawk, headed around the backside of the complex to the Vatican Museums. My wonderful husband had again thought ahead and with online tickets in hand we jumped the queue and were at the starting gate by 9AM. After a couple of missteps with our audio guides we finally got on the right track and were able to follow the Tour Musei map. It’s really hard to know what to write. We spent about six hours there and by the end, the art, statues, relics and overwhelming information was all blending together in a hodge podge of images and facts. The museum was divided into sections so I will do the sane and try to keep each description as concise as possible.

2. (Apparently there was no 1 which is where we got messed up at the start). Muse Egizio or Egypt museum. We zipped through this one pretty quick as most was a repeat of what we had already seen in Egypt. My one comment here is that our Egyptian tour guide had told us that many of their best pieces had been liberated by other countries and their museums. Seeing this display today I would say that the Vatican got a fair number of them.

3 and 4 were both closed.

5. Cortile della Pigna – this is a large outdoor courtyard with a few statues but known for the very large bronze pine cone at the head of the yard. I believe that this was a gift from one of the emperors but don’t quote me on that.

6. Muse Pio Clementine – this is rooms and rooms of statues. Roman and Greek. Animals. Men. Women. It is mind boggling!

24. No, these don’t really go in order. Muse Etrusco – this is a large section dedicated to the Etruscans. They were a race of people that were the forerunners to the Romans. In this display, we saw artwork, pottery, early chariots and all the other everyday things that make people’s lives go around.

55. Galleria de Candelabri – This was originally an open air loggia but was covered  during the 18th century in order to protect the statues and artwork located here. It is so named because a pair of candelabra frame each archway.

7. Galleria degli Arazzi – this is a long passageway in which the walls are covered in tapestries.  They were so very beautiful and each one is a piece of art.

9. Galleria delle Carte Geografiche – or more simply, The Map Room. The walls are covered in large maps, some very ancient and then some that are well, almost as ancient. I am sure that some are also from when everyone thought that the world was flat.

10. Galleria Pio V – This was the apartment of Pope Pius V and contains a number of paintings, ceramics and tapestries from his private collection.

14. Stanza di Raffaello – This section was a series of rooms that were covered in murals painted by Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino during the Renaissance. These murals all tell a story, in brilliant colors, most relating to the history of Christianity. Absolutely beautiful!!

18 and 20. Appartmento Borgia and Collezione Arte Reliogosa Contemporanea   – These were the apartments of Pope Borgia and they now contain a collection of modern, Christian art.

21. The Sistine Chapel – well, what can you say about this? Actually, it was much smaller than I anticipated but Michelangelo’s frescoes are spectacular. They tell the story of creation and then the downfall of the human race. Pretty fantastic!!

22. Vatican Library – Although there were many items on display throughout these hallways, there were no actual books in sight. They were all locked away in locker type cupboards as only the learned folks within the Vatican are allowed to use these books.

23. Pinacoteca –  This building was created by Pius IX in 1931 expressly to house  a collection of paintings belonging to various popes starting as early as 1775. Quite eclectic.

8. Museo Gregoriano Profano – This contains Greek original works, Roman copies and sculptures dating from the 1st to the 3rd c. A.D. Impressive.

EXIT!! I won’t lie – we were ready for the Exit. I believe that you could visit this museum on many occasions and still not see everything. As I mentioned at the beginning, there is so much to see that it is really hard to absorb it all.

From the museum, we headed back to St. Peter’s Square and of course the Basilica. After standing in line for a few minutes (no special tickets to this one) and going through security, we were entering the most renowned work of Renaissance architecture and the largest church in the world. During our travels, we have seen so many churches and always think that we will never see anything more beautiful than the last. But, we were wrong again. St. Peter’s Basilica is spectacular!! We walked around the church for about an hour and still are not sure that we took it all in.

We left the Vatican, satisfied that we had had a full day, and walked slowly back to our apartment. Our feet are sore and we are tired but we are content and so very blessed.

The Vatican Museum….  I apologize for so many pictures, but I have grouped a lot of them together.

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St. Peters..

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The Burial Place of St. John Paul II

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I had mentioned in an earlier blog post that I had never seen a Christmas manger scene like the one I had then, but this one raised the bar again.

A 360 of St. Peter’s Square.

 

My Absolute Favourite Moment of the day was when I was able to the see the Pieta in St. Peter’s Basilica.  For me, the greatest carving ever done.

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