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Trip Report Trip report part 5: Laura and Steve go rogue in Tomar and Obidos

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We left Porto in the pouring rain - as soon as we cleared the Porto environs the highways once again opened up and were a pleasure to drive. Tomar had been high on my list of places I wanted to see so we headed there, found it no problem (roads were very well marked and for the last bit it almost seemed as though we were the only car on that highway). Tomar did not disappoint.

Although clearly aware of the tourist value of it's Templar past, it retains its charm, flowers everywhere. We found parking easily and then headed to a small Italian restaurant for an excellent lunch. One of the reasons I wanted to go to Tomar was that it has the oldest surviving synagogue in Portugal - we found it, a little one room place off an alley. A lovely older woman dressed in black with a star of David around her neck explained to us that there are only two surviving Jewish families in Tomar and they take turns volunteering to keep the synagogue museum open so that people can learn about that part of Portugal's past. (the last time the synagogue was in use was in `1497 before the Jews were expelled from Portugal). the docent spoke no English but we chattered away in broken Portugese and Hebrew.

Then we spent a few minutes enjoying Tomar's lovely park with an alledged Roman water wheel. We decided to drive to the castle (Convento de Christo) which was wise as it is quite a climb. This also did not disappoint, though a bit overrun by tourists. It was just such a kick being in a place built by Templars and looking out over the walls.

Time was ticking though so we drove onwards to our next nights abode - the Hotel Real d'Obidos. Found it easily and contrary to guide book warnings had no problem parking. I'm going to give the hotel a mixed review. The room is good sized and comfortable and charming, as is the bathroom, and the common rooms are lovely and the staff is very helpful (and I'm really developing an addiction to swimming pools with views of castle walls). The only problem is there is an undercurrent smell of sewage - I don't know if it is always there due to the very old nature of the place, or if it is a new problem they are working on - but it does take away a bit from the ambience (maybe makes it more realistically medieval (; ).

Had a very nice dinner the first night at the Alcaide (thanks for the recommendation everyone) and a superb dinner the second night at Casa Do Rainha with equally superb service. Also worth noting was a wonderful lunch fleeing the rain in the cafe pretenscio.

but I digress - the next morning after the usual excellent Portuguese breakfast - we took stock of how we were feeling and decided not to go to the most popular tourist sights in the area (Batalha and Alcobaca) figuring we had already seen a number of gorgeous churches and convents and instead followed our historical bliss and sought out Torres Vedras. It is a small city, more ordinary working people rather than tourist attraction, but we managed to find the little municipal museum which was free and largely unguarded. We have a restaurant at home that serves Irish food, sushi and mexican food and this museum was a bit like that - art from the middle ages, a display on the Lines of Torres Vedras from the Napoleonic wars (our reason for being there) and a surprise exhibit of huge dinosaur bones that had been found in the area. All housed in an old monestary around a cloister. As soon as we got there the heavens opened up so we stayed and wandered, largely by ourselves until it cleared a bit - met the nice young man who runs the museum who was very delighted to explain everything. We then found a cafe for coffee and pastries before heading back to Obidos for the aforementioned lunch. Things then cleared up enough so we could go and spend too much money in the cute shops of Obidos (including some lovely hand embroidered linens). Steve then climbed the town walls which he loved while I returned to the hotel for a swim.

Today was our favorite day of all and we went totally rogue - driving to Foz do Aralha where there is a lagoon and beach - finally we got to see the Atlantic. the sands were clear and empty - we had coffee, walked along the nature preserve pathway, and gazed at the ocean. ate in a lovely little seaside cafe and then drove up the Atlantic coast to Nazarre before heading back to Obidos in time to get caught in the rain again. I cannot emphasize too much how incredibly beautiful the coast was. It was just what our souls needed.

Tomorrow is our last day - the plan is to head to Sintra before checking into our airport hotel for an early flight the next day - so I imagine the final segment of this will be typed from New Mexico. Tchau

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