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October 24 & 25, 2022

We rented a car in Porto to take a two day drive to Lisbon (only four hours away). We wanted to visit the interior of this small country. Upon arrival at the car rental, we discovered that our car could not hold our luggage, and all that was available that could hold everything was a BMW station wagon-like (not sold in the U.S.) vehicle. We gritted our teeth as we paid the hefty upgrade charge!  Lovely forested areas grace the interior. We headed first to Coimbra, the home of one of the oldest universities in the world and of the library that inspired the writing of the Harry Potter series. We used Waze to navigate and it was excellent. The library was amazing. Holding 60,000 ancient volumes, it is a masterpiece of design.The room was dark with heavy curtains and soft lighting–all for the purpose of protecting the interior and its contents. The interior had three connected rooms–black/forest green and gold on each end and burnt red and gold in the middle. The library stacks were two stories high with a balcony running the entire circumference of the second tier. The balcony was supported with heavily adorned pillars. The walls and ceiling were beautifully painted with scroll work patterns. Very beautiful! 

From Coimbra we drove to Tomar with its wonderful castle built by the Knights Templar in the early middle ages. We were able to drive up the narrow lane that wound up the high hill on which the fortress sat and park in front of the gateway into the castle. It was from this fortress that the Portuguese were able to drive out the Moors from Africa who had invaded seven centuries earlier. Besides the walls and battlements of the castle, there is a beautiful garden and chapel in the interior. We made our way down the steep hill and drove on to Fatima where it was asserted that the Virgin Mary appeared to three shepherd children and gave them three important messages. We were impressed with the immense size of the site. A center plaza was several football fields in expanse, and we saw people shuffling on knees in prayer from the chapel on one end to the shrine church on the other end. Back in the car we headed to Nazaré, an Atlantic coastal city north of Lisbon. It was dark when we arrived at our hotel and we were hungry. Our parking in the underground hotel garage was an adventure. It took all of us and the BMW’s excellent surround cameras to get the parking accomplished. Back and forth in inches Randy moved the car on every extremely narrow curve. It took a long time to make the turn into the parking space, so narrow was the area. Our efforts were rewarded with no scratches on the car! Our meal was at a seaside restaurant specializing in fish, and it was one of the best meals we have eaten on this trip. The servers were exceptional as they elegantly deboned fish and presented our plates. Kathy ate a shell fish meal served in a wooden boat. Cool. It was an amazing day. 

We arose the next morning to visit the beaches of Nararé which are famous in the surfing world since the largest waves on record hit the beaches there. This is because right off the shore the ocean drops 5,000 feet into a canyon that causes the swells in the right winter weather conditions to produce 100+foot waves. Randy walked into the water and found it cold. We drove along the coast and realized that development is coming to that area and probably soon. The sand dunes and ocean with wide expanses of beach are inviting. Our approach to Obidos was jaw-dropping with pure white buildings and homes with terra-cotta roofs and an expansive medieval wall surrounding the city. We were excited to explore. Once again we drove up very narrow roads and parked near the entry of the castle. We walked inside and were impressed with the battlements and towers in multitudes. Families were walking the ramparts high above with no rails! Along the way we saw a large arched gate that we walked through. To our amazement we believed we had walked into a movie set! The white village inside the walls spread out before us and narrow cobblestoned streets with cascading bougainvilleas of red or purple were beautiful. The streets were lined with wonderful small shops and restaurants. Cherry liqueur served with chocolate is a “thing” here and it was good. We so enjoyed our browsing time. After several hours, we drove onward to Lisbon to return our car which was an ordeal in itself as we kept missing the rental car return garage entry and visited the same round about a dozen times. It was all fun!

Historic University of Coimbra built on the grounds of a former palace in central Portugal in 1537 is among the oldest universities in continuous operation in the world, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

St. Michael’s University Chapel of Coimbra built upon an ancient chapel of the 12th century in the Manueline style

Coimbra University Baroque Chapel Organ is decorated with Chinese motifs similar to those in the Baroque Library shelves of the university.

Coimbra University Baroque Library, the Biblioteca Joanina, holds 60,000 books dating from the 16th century that are still consulted today. The portrait of King John V dominates the Noble Floor.

Castle Walls of the Convent of Christ in Tomar, Portugal

Castle of Tomar – The Convent of Christ, originally a 12th century Templar stronghold, now a UNESCO World Heritage site

The Sanctuary of Fatima, a Catholic pilgrimage site in Portugal

Pilgrims proceed on their knees in penitential reverence in the Sanctuary of Fatima.

The sacred Sanctuary of Fatima where the Virgin Mary allegedly appeared in 1917

Randy experiences the waves at Nazare, Portugal, the largest underwater canyon in Europe that allows the formation of giant waves.

Randy and Melisa take a “selfie” at the Castle of Obidos, a well-preserved medieval castle in Portugal.

Castle walls in Obidos

Library in Obidos, Portugal

Chapel in Obidos, Portugal

Obidos is famed for its sour cherry liqueur called Ginjinha d’Obidos often served in a little edible chocolate cup.

One of the many beautiful, romantic street scenes in Obidos, Portugal

1 Comment

  1. Chris Bregenzer says:

    Wonderful, wonderful car trips!! Your rental return reminds me of the time we tried to return a rental in Rome at its main train station while there was major construction on the streets. We drove around the 3-block long station 3 times looking for the rental return office before we finally double-parked to ask a cop where it was. He told us to park the car right up ahead while motioning where to park (in a no-parking zone), then he accompanied me inside the station to find the office. Because of all the construction, all the signs had been removed & they had a temporary office inside…. with no signs to indicate such! Wasted 2 hrs!!

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