Wednesday, August 10, 2011

June 20th - Monday Last day on the road!!

It's a bitter sweet day - We get to go on another adventure but its our last one!  Our goal today is to return the car by early evening and be in our hotel early to prepare for tomorrow's departure.  We'll see what we can find to explore along the way!

Five minutes from our hotel and heading south in our direction was a Miradouro (view point), so we were able to have one more look at the beautiful city of Coimbra and the Mondego River.  We said our Goodbye's, had our picture taken and started heading south towards Lisboa.

Our first stop was the town of Batalha, to see the great Monastery of Santa Maria, considered Portugal's finest architectural achievement and a symbol of its national pride.
We were very happy we stopped here, it was positively an amazing architectural wonder. (We are surprised that we don't tire of seeing  Monasteries, churches, castles etc.)  The exterior was built between 1388 and 1550, with a late Gothic style.

After admiring the Monastery with all its different rooms and chapels we did a little shopping -  right outside there were many little shops selling Touristy Souvenirs.    We bought more Tea Towels, a tablecloth and a deck of cards with pictures from all over Portugal.
Before leaving we decided to eat lunch and found a nice little place close by (but a few blocks away from the touristy area).  We both enjoyed our delicious meal (our last in Portugal), gathered up our energy and headed south again!
From here we headed to Fatima known for the miracle of 1917 when Mary, Mother of Christ appeared in front of 3 Shepherd Children.  In 1930, the Vatican recognized the Virgin of Fatima as legit.  Pilgrims come here in the tens of thousands to rejoice in this modern Miracle.
While trying to find parking we drove around the little, very nice, immaculate town and to no surprise almost every shop sold Catholic, statues of the Virgin with the 3 kids, plates, ceramics etc., unbelievable!  We even saw a hotel called "Catholic Hotel". I wonder if you had to say the rosary every night before going to bed?  Wouldn't doubt it, this country is 94% Catholic.
We were overwhelmed by the modern, huge complex that was here.  Two big churches, the Basilica built between 1928-1953 and the Church of the Holy Trinity 2005-2007.  The 2nd church was begun by Pope John Paul II with a stone from St. Peter's actual tomb in the Vatican.  Each church was at the opposite end of the huge Esplanade.  We visited both churches, wandered around the Esplanade and gardens, saw the Oak Tree where she appeared (the tree is very well protected by a fence) and took many pictures.

After grabbing a quick bite we were on our way again!  Next stop was the town of Alcobaca, famous for its church.  On the way we took a little detour, following signs to a Castle - Howard wanted to see just one more.  We drove through the beautiful countryside, narrow curvy roads but no sign of the Castle.  Finally after driving for about 10 minutes, turning a curve we saw it, way, way far away on a hill!  Since we were going in the opposite direction of where we need to drive we decided to turn around and head back towards Alcobaca.

We arrived in Alcobaca and could see the huge church from afar.  Unfortunately the parking was non-existent, one way streets, very confusing so we found ourselves driving away from the church.  As we were circling back to try again we found a Grocery store and decided to stop.  We bought wine and cheese and crackers for our dinner tonight in the hotel.  While shopping we both agreed that we could skip the Church, it was getting late in the afternoon and we still had to reach Lisboa, find the airport, return the car and get to our hotel.

Arrived in Lisboa and luckily the airport was easy to find.  Returned the car hopped in a taxi and soon we were relaxing in our hotel.  We had purposely chosen one close to the airport, no running around tonight!  We spent the evening repacking our things along with the souvenirs that we had picked up and enjoyed our wine/cheese/cracker dinner and made it an early night!

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