Life Is A Highway…Portugal Style 🇵🇹

Driving throughout Portugal has been relatively easy. Toll highways are pristine, have little traffic, a speed limit of 120km/hr., (although many exceed this and have a tendency to tailgate), and makes Hwy401 pale in comparison. Fertile farmland with red soil, fields of eucalyptus, olive, and cork trees, depending on the region, not to mention the huge number of vineyards that seemingly covers the whole mid to northern region

The Portuguese are the masters of roundabouts, they are absolutely everywhere! Navigation is tricky at the best of times, especially in smaller villages (more roundabouts!). Bob has definitely met the challenge driving the VERY narrow cobblestone streets of the cities/towns/villages we have visited, nothing to do with the excellent navigator, I might add!!🤣

Heading out of Obidos to Coimbra, we stopped to check out the popular fishing and beach town of Nazaré. The town is split into three main districts – Praia (beach), Pederneira (main lower town), and Sitio (upper town ). Located on a rocky outcropping over 100m above the main part of the town, Sitio provides wonderful views over the bay and beach. Parking down near the beach we took the funicular to Sitio and walked the promenade enjoying the spectacular views below. This area also attracts some of the world’s best and bravest surfers and has recently put itself firmly on the global map with the biggest recorded breaking waves ever being ridden here.

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A quick stop at the huge gothic monastery in Batalha was impressive and provided a great photo op.

We passed several groups of pilgrims walking to Fatima for the 101st anniversary, (October 13, 1917), of the last apparition of Virgin Mary to three local Shepard children. More on Fatima in an upcoming blog.img_02571.jpg

Coimbra, a well-preserved medieval center and the historic University of Coimbra was the next stop for a couple of nights. This is one of the oldest universities in continuous operation in the world, the oldest university of Portugal, and one of the country’s largest higher education and research institutions. Impressive!! The campus is beautiful and the historic centre full of narrow winding streets to get lost in.

This city along with Porto were the inspiration for JK Rowling’s Harry Potter book series. Everywhere you look upper year students are dressed in the same Hogwarts garb-black suits and cape.

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We happened upon the town during Recepção ao Caloiro (The Freshman’s Reception) or what is known as ‘homecoming’ back home. Lots of festivities were happening the weekend we visited with freshmen wearing interesting costumes,  displaying each faculty’s colours. The garb was made up according to the creativity and imagination of their ‘godmothers’ or ‘godfathers’ who are upper class men. img_0338-1

We also witnessed the special parade known as the Latada. After marching through the streets of the city, the new students are baptized in the Mondego River thus entering into the Coimbra academic fraternity. Sounds similar to like the kind of indoctrination at Queens U. but much more traditional.

Aveiro, aka the ‘Venice of Portugal’ was another short stop to see the colourful gondola style boats gliding tourists through the canals that crisscross the city. The boats, (barcos moliceiros), were traditionally used to harvest seaweed in the lagoon that feeds the canal which was then used to fertile the surrounding farm fields.img_0350

On to Porto my friends, AND the 🚗 is still intact (as well as my nerves).

40 Years and Counting 💑

It seemed only fitting to begin our 40th wedding anniversary tour to Portugal in romantic Óbidos, also known as ‘The Wedding Present Town’. This medieval town was a gift from King Dinis in 1282 to Queen Isabel on their wedding day.  Every Portuguese queen after Isabel, up until the 1800s, was given Óbidos as a wedding present.

After landing in Portugal my ‘Polish Prince’, (aka the ‘heart of my life’), and I headed out of the Lisbon airport to the beautiful walled town of Óbidos, just over 1-hour away. We figured we would be a wee bit tired after our overnight flight and decided not to bite off too much on day 1. Good planning plus it gave us the day to explore the town and wander the twisting streets.

Before picking up our rental car we got a SIM card with data plan for my phone, relatively inexpensive compared to those at home and definitely a needed plus…gotta love modern technology not sure how we did it “in the old days”!

Castle of Obidos 
One of the lower points of the wall
Can you see the wall in the distance?
Main walking street

Óbidos radiates Portuguese charm, from the narrow cobbled streets, to wisteria/bougainvillea covered quaint white-washed, red-tiled roofed houses, through to the imposing medieval castle, which once guarded the region. Most houses have the traditional bright yellow and brilliant blue colour accents that are deliberate choices and seen throughout Portugal. Folklore has it that yellow repels evil spirits while blue serves an equally important role by repelling flies and mosquitoes.

Typical home with blue trim
Birdseye view from the wall

The name Óbidos dates back to ancient Roman times and means “walled town.” Perched on a hilltop, the medieval castle walls are 45 feet high. The town is completely contained within the high city walls and it recommended to see the town through a birds-eye view by walking the wall. Initially I was a bit apprehensive as some parts are very narrow, the stones slippery and there are no railing on one side, BUT the amazing views of the town and surrounding countryside made it so worthwhile.

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Traditional entertainment in the square

The main gate into Obidos contains a beautiful tiled chapel that overlooks the main thoroughfare. The blue and white 18th century glazed tiles, seen throughout Portugal, called ‘Azulejo’, depict the passion of Christ while the ceiling represents the crown of thorns.

Obidos is known for ‘Ginja’, a cherry flavoured liqueur. Ginja is a favourite spirit in Portugal and apparently few places make it better than Óbidos (which is why this specific brand can be found throughout the country). Many vendors were selling shots of it on the main street so of course we had to try it served in a chocolate cup which is eaten after. Delicious!!

Our small B&B, Casa Picva, was just outside the wall. It is a 400 year old home full of many wonderful antiques and continues to be in the same family. Our hosts were wonderful and gave us some good travel tips and directions.

We were steps away from a portal entering the town, convenient and picturesque, especially after sunset when the day tourists/buses vacated the town, leaving it almost to ourselves.

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Next up, travelling the coast before a stop Coimbra.