Iberian trip IV: Central Portugal
Let’s continue with the chronicle of our Spain & Portugal trip last October! This will be the last entry about the trip and you can check the previous posts here: Madrid, Toledo and the first part of central Portugal.
In the second part of the Portuguese leg of our trip we visited the towns of Alcobaça, São Martinho do Porto, Óbidos and Santarém. Alcobaça is famous for its medieval monastery which is listed as a UNESCO heritage site.
As you can see in the picture, the place is quite big. The entrance ticket allows you to visit the church and the monastery. Inside the church there are the exquisitely carved tombs of King Pedro and his lover Ines de Castro, the protagonists of Portugal’s most famous tragic love story. Pedro’s father, and the whole court, did not approve of their relationship (which, to be fair, started as an adulterous relationship as he was married) and had Ines murdered. Pedro never forgave his father and when he died and Pedro became king, he sentenced the murderers to death and ripped their hearts out. Then he arranged Ines’ tomb and his own to be in Alcobaça monastery so they could rest together forever. This is the true part of the story; there is also a legend saying that when Pedro became king, he had the body of Ines exhumed and dressed as a queen and had people kiss her hand and swear loyalty to her. Inside the monastery you can also see a hall with statues of almost all the Portuguese kings, several cloisters, lots of Portuguese tiles and several rooms used by the monks, like a kitchen with a huge oven.
In the square in front of and to the side of the monastery there are several cafes and we had a mid morning snack and tried some pastries. Portuguese sweets are quite good! There were also shops selling ceramics and purses made of cork and my guests bought several things. According to the seller, cork purses are waterproof and very durable. At least they’re a good alternative to plastic and leather purses!
After Alcobaça we drove to São Martinho do Porto, a seaside town, so the Chinese guests could see the Atlantic ocean. It seems this place is very popular with holidaymakers in the summer, but when we went it was quite chilly, with fog and cold winds, so there was no quick dip in the sea. We tried a typical dish called cataplana (which is the name of the pot in which is cooked). You can choose between several kinds of fish and seafood and C. and I had the salmon one.
Then we headed to the next stop, a quaint village perched on the side of a hill and by the name of Óbidos. I did not know this, but it’s an extremely well-known place. It is indeed very pretty, but… it’s not what you would call off the beaten track. It was not high season, but there were quite a lot of people, many more than in the other towns we had visited. It reminded me of the popular water towns around Suzhou, with the exception that in Óbidos you don’t need to buy an entry ticket! It’s a small place, with white houses and cobbled streets, and if you diverge from the main street (full of restaurants and shops) you can find a bit of peace in the small alleys.
On the last day of our road trip we had to drive 400 km to get back to my hometown, so we left Óbidos in the morning and stopped at Santarém to see the city a bit and have an early lunch. Santarém had its moments of glory in the past but now it’s another small and sleepy Portuguese town. We had a walk around the centre, visited a wet market, and saw the views of the Tagus river.
And this was the end of our October holidays! I’m now looking forward to our next trip in Chinese New Year!