McKinney Gypsy Caravan

One part travel blog. One part nerdy history lesson.

Month: March 2019 (page 1 of 2)

Day 10 – Rural Northern Spain

Today was a leisurely day making our way from northern Portugal across the parques and mountains of Northern Spain. Mostly just driving goat path roads over mountains and through tiny towns. I tried to grab some shots that might do the views justice, but they really don’t.

We passed through a tiny village with these flower arches over the narrow little mountain road. No idea what are for… but they made me smile. ha There was a guy here outside smoking his morning cigarette in his pajamas at 11am. That made me giggle, too. I could live here if they had wifi. ha

We stopped along the highway at a “cafestore” which is basically a gas station that has drinks and a food counter… which , let me tell you- most gas stations do not even have water or drinks. That was a weird finding. ha I walked into one and it was just a bare store with some motor oil and a guy reading a paper looking at me like i was a weirdo. i said “agua?” and he smirked. no…. so i said “baño?” and he smirked again and told me where it was. haha Apparently, most everyone else in Spain knows gas stations don’t have anything inside. ha I’m trying to figure out how we didn’t run into this issue on our last trip, but multiples this time had this “issue”. Also- another strange finding… a lot of restrooms will be outside of the main building… and with no paper products. No soap, no toilet paper.. but they have a bidet beside the toilet. So, noted and quickly, I started carrying my own toilet paper. ha I still haven’t quite figured out how the bidet fixes everything. Now, you just have A LOT of water dripping off places that want to be dry. haha…i know-TMI.. but seriously. I wonder how most people utilize these facilities.

So, anyway.. this cafestore.. we ordered ham and camembert sandwiches for lunch. Norah had a hamburger and french fries. surprisingly good for gas station food!

Our trek across Spain led us to the town of Ponferrada to the Templar Castle in town. A king gave these castle grounds to the Templars in the 1100s to help protect the Way of St. James, also known as the Camino de Santiago- a great Christian Pilgrimage. (More about that tomorrow) They built more and more defensive structures as their power and their numbers grew…

It was a cool castle. Lots of remodelling, new parts added, etc… but still nice to tour.

Norah pretended to shoot arrows at invaders through the slit windows.

This other little girl that we kept meeting while walking around gave Norah this rock. So Norah was super excited and called it her “lucky rock”

We did find this creepy tv face pointed up to us narrating in angry Spanish when we went into the basement level of one of the rooms and looked over the edge. ha I think I can gather from the Templar clothes, the sword in the case and the creepy storytelling, they were discussing the mysterious missing sword of Jaques de Molay- the leader of the Templar Knights who was burnt at the stake by the King of France (as discussed a couple days ago). Legend has it that the sword is somewhere near or around this castle since de Molay walked the Camino de Santiago and fought here at the castle.

They had replicas of period outfits which I thought was cool. Check out this guy’s shoes! ha

After the castle, we went out to the countryside to our rural tourism hotel- Hotel Via Avis. It was really cool. a 500 year old renovated house turned into a 6 room hotel. The couple that ran it was so sweet. We really liked it and could not recommend it more.

He recommended we go to dinner at this little family place in town that involved us driving down a gravel road… but we found out later that they closed on Wednesdays. So he recommended a second place… then he called to verify they were open.. nope. ha So..in the end he recommended a place in the “big city” of Astorga 15 minutes away. Serrano’s. We were looking forward to a big plate of Spanish pork and sausages like is customary in the area, but the owner said this place was known for mushrooms and partridge… so it was the best we could do. ha It was wednesday after all. How dare we try to eat out on a wednesday in this area? ha

We were one of 3 tables in the place and the 1st to arrive. The waiter recommended a starter called El Cicero, which was basically Iberian ham with duck liver and olive oil. So good.

There was no kids menu and we hadn’t eaten much all day (keep in mind it’s already 9pm because #spain.) so, Norah ordered the Salmon. She was very excited to order “El Salmón” on her own. ha

I had the patridge because the hotel owner recommended it. It was very good and had a rich mushroom sauce.

Kegan had a deer loin with creamed potatoes.

We took a look at the dessert menu and I got what the waiter recommended-La Leche Frita. It was basically a mushy creme brulee. but it was good.

Kegan got some sort of “queso” dessert… which was like a cheesecake.

The chef came by to see how we liked our meal and gave Norah this pretty flower. The chef spoke great English. the wait staff did not. Where was he the last hour??? ha BUT… that’s OK, anymore in Spanish I feel pretty comfortable when we travel and can usually do just fine conversationally.

The waiter decided to pour us two glasses of what appeared to be port to go with our desserts. In the end I asked him what it was- he said it was a “wine typical of the region” called Limonata. A red wine, with lemon and orange juices and spices mulled together. It was VERY good. I’ll have to try to remember this for another visit to the area.

We drove back to our hotel at 11pm and crashed. 🙂 Last day tomorrow! and some amazing steak.

Day 9 – Guimaraes, Braga, A Guarda

This morning, we left Porto and our comfy hotel to head to the town of Guimaraes, the birthplace of Portugal, as it is known, because Portugal’s first king- Alfonso Henriques was born here and the major decisive battle that gave Portugal it’s true independence was fought here….and it was Alfonso Henriques vs. his own MOTHER, Queen Theresa in 1128. Talk about family problems.

We were here to see the small, but incredible castle in town. I found it interesting because there was literally a 3 story tower castle built in the center and defensive walls and towers surrounding, with space in between and a wooden bridge connecting the two. I dont have great photos because I left my camera’s memory card in my laptop last night. Doh! Seems to happen once every vacation. Today was the day. I tried to retrace our steps and get a few photos with my phone once I realized it.

Inside the tower was pretty cool. They had a historical timeline and a replica of the original treaty that created Portugal.

Alfonso Henriques was actually born in this castle…they had a very life-like cardboard cutout of him inside. Who knows if this is really what he looked like or not since he lived in the 1100s.

They even had a little corner for kids. Norah was obsessed with wearing this helmet and holding the sword even though she was a little too short to get her big head into the helmet. ha

She said “hey mamma. Take my picture with the Kings. It’s like three kings of Portugal and Queen Norah of Portugal.” well, at least she’s grounded. lol She also told our Uber driver the other day that he would see her on TV one day. and then told another waiter she was going to be President one day. The kid’s got goals.

On our way out of town we did a drive by of the Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Consolação e Santos Passos, a beautiful church from the 1300s and manicured garden square

We were now headed to the city of Braga to see the Bom Jesus do Monte church, one of the most famous sites in Portugal.

This church was constructed as a pilgrimage site. People still come to this day and climb all the steps on their knees, praying at each station of the cross on the way up.

However, for those of us that just enjoy the architecture of cathedrals, they have a funicular tram that is completely energy neutral and water powered that has been running since the 1800s that can take you to the top of the hill.

After Bom Jesus, we crossed over to Spain to visit some celtic ruins that had been too far out along the coast on a previous visit to Spain, so we had skipped them previously… but going up the north coast of Portugal made it just an hour or two away… so we visited. The site is in a town area of A Guarda and is called Santa Tegra.

The people indigenous to this area for 2000 years prior to the Romans conquering the area around 19 BC were Celtic. Celt-iberian to be exact… but Celtic. Their local Iberian culture of housing, jewelry, etc was called Castro culture.. and these round hut houses are now called Castros. Supposedly this mountain-side city of possibly up to 3000 of these houses was the last holdout against Roman forces on the peninsula. Classical writers like Pliny the Elder wrote of the Celts at “Mount Medulio” and a heroic last stand here. Medulio meaning Golden… and the largest gold mine in Roman civilization history, Las Medulas is less than 100 miles from here… (we visited it on our last trip to Spain)

It’s easy to see why this high point surrounded by ocean and the mouth of a large river on 3 sides would have been selected for strategy and safety.

They have reconstructed 2 of the castro houses to show what they would have looked like.

After Santa Tegra, we headed towards our hotel. It was out in the mountains..and being honest was pretty terrible. Not bed bugs terrible, but just like someone built this nice fancy modern spa hotel 10 years ago and then hasn’t done a bit of upkeep since. The parking was far away and bags had to be carried up a steep hill and no offer for assistance because the hotel literally had 3 people working the whole place. Carpets all stained up, keypads for the room lights and stuff shorting out. Restaurant offered like 5 dishes and there was literally one guy running the entire thing… no iron in the room, no extra pillows or blanket for the pull out couch for Norah. Like I said, nothing GROSS…. just annoyance after annoyance. Trying to be super fancy… but just not pulling it off. ha BUT- they did have an small indoor pool in the spa area. I normally wouldn’t have let her swim in the spa… but it was empty and their info had kid hours, so I let her. Definitely the highlight of her trip.. except maybe the McDonalds. haha She spent an hour and a half in the pool until the end of the kid hours, then we sat around for an hour and a half waiting on the restaurant to open.

They eat sooooo late here. ha First table we could get was 7:30. and it takes every bit of 2 hours to eat in Spain… so you end up going to sleep with a giant belly of food. Definitely couldn’t do it every day.

They only had a couple starters, so we both got Cream of Asparagus soup with a quail egg.

I had the octopus, of course. ha I’m obsessed.

Kegan had the baked codfish (Bacalhau), which he said had great flavor but was full of bones that he wasn’t thrilled about.

All in all, a good day with lots of sites. Tomorrow’s day…being honest… is mostly just to get us back into the north of Spain where there is a restaurant that is considered by some to have the best steak in the world: El Capricho. I made reservations 3 months ago. haha So…. more about that on Thursday when we eat a late lunch there… Wednesday will be lots of scenery of the northern mountains and forests of Spain and a stay in a tiny rural village in a remodeled 500 year old house.

Day 7 and 8 – Porto, Portugal

Decided to combine both of our days around Porto into one post because Day 7 alone just wasn’t that interesting. I did end up with some wicked hives and this amazing swollen lip in the morning though… ha This has been an ongoing thing for like 6 months… it’s some sort of histamine reaction. Aged cheese, cured meats, wine… you know… basically anything I eat! All cause some sort of histamine reaction… Maybe one day I’ll pinpoint the cause.

We had to drive to Porto from the mountains, and it was rainy and gross outside…. so we swapped our Day 7 and 8 plans..and decided to head to the northern coast of the city of Porto to Matosinhos, which is famous for it’s amazing seafood restaurants where they grill the seafood right outside on the sidewalks and bring it right in to you in the seating area. Plates and plates of amazing seafood went by and i wanted to order everything…

We ordered a starter or roasted grilled peppers, like blistered whole peppers, but a communication problem gave us a “pepper salad” or cold pepper slices in olive oil. They were OK. ha

I ordered the mussels for a starter and the waiter said “no, our clams are much better. I bring you clams.” Ok… clams it is.

I ordered the grilled octopus…because I apparently have an obsession this week. Seriously, I have eaten like 3 whole octopi on my own.. haha

Kegan got a grilled salmon steak and it was to die for. I could eat that every day of my life.

Norah didn’t want any food, but she did want Pingu ice cream.

After lunch, we headed over to the Crown Plaza Porto hotel where we would be staying. Norah got comfy. ha

There was a McDonald’s just down the street, so Kegan walked down and got the kid a Happy Meal. Life was grand.

Portuguese McDonald’s have dessert options for kids… and one of them is a stick of pineapple. I wish this was an option in the US! I’d order it for myself!

We were lazy all evening. This was our day of rest on vacation. We were going to go to the port houses down on the river… we thought about going to dinner…. but then we decided to just watch a movie, grab some bread and gazpacho from the grocery store across the street and eat the leftovers from lunch the day before.

Norah was pretty peeved as us that: 1. We didn’t dress her in green for St Patrick’s Day and 2. We weren’t partying or seeing a parade. So we compromised and said we’d make Saturday when we got home “fake Patrick’s Day” and we’d wear green at home and have fun.

Norah’s oh so lovely Paddy’s day homage.

We slept well and had our breakfast at the hotel and grabbed the world’s fastest Uber from the hotel. (he literally had to be sitting outside. he showed up in under 30 seconds) and I had him strategically drop us at the top of the hill of old town Porto at the Ingreja do Carmo. A lot of the churches are closed on Mondays, so we could only see the outside…which was fine, I just wanted to see the stone work and the blue tiles.

We walked across the street to the Clerigos church and Tower- a symbol of Porto since the 1760s.

The inside style was very Baroque.

We didn’t walk all the way up to the top of the tower. I wasn’t that interested in the panoramic view for the stairs involved…and I was afraid Norah wouldn’t be able to make it up such big stone steps to the top without us carrying her… an even worse proposal than just walking it alone! ha So we exited on back out to the street.

Porto has streetcars like Lisbon, too… although it didn’t seem like as many and they weren’t very full.

Next, we were supposed to visit the Livraria Lello – an amazingly ornate bookstore that is said to have inspired JK Rowling to write Harry Potter. But if you look… that is the LINE. To go into a bookstore. To take a photo of its interior. I thought about it… but I just cant ‘tourist’ that much.

Here, you can see the inside from the internet, too like us! ha

Related image

With 2 extra hours in our day now, we headed to the Praça da Liberdade- one the city’s main squares. Here we found an ATM we needed.. and the world’s fanciest McDonalds.

Norah had an 11am Happy meal. again. and the day was made.

There was a guy hanging around the square with a falcon. Turns out he runs an Animal Exhibit out of town..so he comes here to advertise.. and he said the falcon keeps the pigeons out of the square. hmm.

We walked on to the Ingreja Paroquial de Santo Ildefonso, another Baroque church with azulejo tiles that was closed on Mondays. It’s fairly unremarkable except that it was heavily damaged in the Siege of Porto in 1833. Remember the child Queen Maria II and her father Pedro IV that came from Brazil back to Portugal when King Miguel stole her throne? Yep… when Pedro came back- that was the Siege of Porto…and we now know how that ended…with his daughter back on the throne.

We made our way towards Cafe Santiago… where I had read was the best place to try a Francesinha sandwich- an icon of the city.

This sandwich is delish. Bread, various meats such as steak, sausage, bacon, etc… covered in a layer of melted cheese, with a fried egg, drowned in a special secret sauce that varies from restaurant to restaurant. We opted for the classic and split it since we figured we’d be having port wine pairings in the afternoon.

Our next destination was Sao Bento train station. What a beautiful building! Such old charm. It seemed like it needed to be in a movie. Very clean, bright, beautiful tile murals on the walls…I really enjoyed it.

This one is of Prince Henry the Navigator representing his victory in the Battle of Cuenta (in Morrocco- I mentioned this in the last post randomly!) One of the first battles that would lead to expansion and exploration for the Portuguese in the early 1400s.

Another showed King Joao I riding through Portugal after the victory over the Castilians that cemented the Kingdom of Portugal. (also mentioned in my Batalha Monastery post)

We were headed down towards the waterfront and saw the Porto Cathedral. The views from the back were fantastic. Norah really loved the street musician playing back there and wanted to give him money. Kegan dug around for some small coins and Norah thought he needed a 2 euro coin, too… haha So he got 3-4 euro from us today. ha

We walked across the Dom Luis bridge to cross into Vila Nova de Gaia, the city across the river from Porto.

There was a guy selling drawings and I really liked one, so for $10- I decided to bring it home with me.

They have a telefundo (cable car) that runs from the top at the bridge down to the waterfront where the port houses are… so we took it.

There was waterfront playground so Norah played. Obviously made many friends. Within 10 seconds, she’s holding hands with a little girl who doesn’t speak English and they are frollicking into the playground. ha

We later found this Pringles vending machine. Which, I admit, was a funny sight. This kid loves her Pringles. ha

We stumbled on this art installation called Half Rabbit that I had seen pictures of online, but had no idea where it was. So that was neat!

Our first port house was Quinta dos Corvos. A random selection.. just one I hadn’t heard of. We didn’t want to try ports we could easily buy in the US like Sandeman’s or Taylor’s or Graham’s. This one was a great find though, because they had a 20 year aged white port wine, that I had never heard of… but we’re carting 2 bottles home because it was SO darn good. Buttery, caramelly… great.

After we purchased the wine there, he said “would you like to try a very rare 40 year old white port??” uh… yes. of course. lol

So, he literally left the tasting room, walked us down the street and around the corner to another place called Augusto’s to try to the 40 year old port. We liked it… but not as well as the 20 yr. So we made a good buy 🙂

Our next tasting was at another small producer: Vasques De Carvalho where we had a Dry white young port, a 20 year white port (still not as good as the first… so still a great purchase! ) a Ruby port and a 20 year Tawny port. The tawny was very good, but not outstanding enough to bring home…and that much port REALLY needed some sort of food accompaniment!

Our final tasting was at Offley. I saw online they had a cheese and chocolate pairing with the ports… and we really needed something to go with this much fortified wine! (I am very surprised the smaller places didn’t have tasting plates or anything to purchase with the wines… seems like a major missed opportunity. The larger places all had tapas plates and paired foods…so there must be a reason. Licensing, purity of Port wine tradition.. who knows. but I’m a lightweight and I needed bread with my port! ha)

The cheese plate came with a fig jam that we both agreed was excellent. We’ll have to look for something like that to buy. It complemented both the fresh cheese and the spicy port. it was a perfect combo. We got crackers, too- but Norah basically ate all of those. She had to smell all of our ports before we drank them. That’s how to kept herself involved. ha

The rest of our evening was uneventful again. An Uber back to our hotel. A stop at the grocery story and more meat and cheese and gazpacho in our hotel room. I opted for sushi from the grocery deli instead of cured meats tonight to hopefully get rid of these hives I’ve now had for 3 days. We watched Die Hard on TV with Portuguese subtitles until 11:15pm when I had a business call with a potential new client. Tomorrow we leave Porto and visit Guimaraes, Braga, Ponte de Lima and end at a spa hotel with a restaurant. Just 3 more full days before we head back home.

Day 6-Serra da Estrela Park

Today was a pretty slow paced day compared to most of the vacations I plan. 🙂 I wanted to drive up to the highest point of Portugal in the Parque Serra da Estrela. The entire drive there for 2 hours or so had amazing views.

We stopped at this little store at the top of the park where the family made their own meats and cheeses. They asked if we wanted to taste everything… and really all I wanted was a bathroom! haha but the cured meats were delicious and the soft young cheese was stellar… so lunch was served! They were no newbies to tourists though, they even sold knives for the cheese and meat for 3.50. ha

we got to over 3000 ft… and there was snow all around. This is the area of the one ski resort in Portugal. We saw some people attempting to sled on what was left… but it was sort of a sad affair to watch. haha

The drive to our hotel ended up taking quite a bit longer than I expected. The interstate was an automated toll only… not tollbooths, so we had to take the highway around which added 1.5 hours to our trip. In the end, we just jumped on the tollway anyway hoping we could pay online otherwise we might have still been driving 35 mph through every village in Portugal. Turns out the fine for tolls without a pass is 10x the toll… so we expect that was a pricey drive.. somewhere in the $150-200 range. ouch. I did buy a pass online and tied it to our license plate, but I never received the text I was supposed to get to activate it, so I’m going to attempt to call them and play the dumb tourist in the morning and see if I can avoid those toll penalties!

When we finally arrived at our hotel, it was sooo nice. It was called Montverde, a wine experience hotel. It was set at a vineyard and they make 23 different bottles of wine. Mostly fresh clean whites from the area. They poured us a glass of sparkling wine as a welcome refreshment and showed us around.

They had a spa and restaurant on site with this really cool art installation in the center.

Each of the leaves had a face if you look closely.

The view of the vineyard from the back of the main building.

They showed us our room and Norah got to ride the golf cart with the guy which was a highlight for her. ha There was a complimentary bottle of sparkling wine on ice in our room as well..and we were invited to a wine tasting in the main restaurant at 6:30pm and we made dinner reservations for 7:30, which is actually the earliest you can usually eat anywhere for dinner in Spain or Portugal. I don’t know how people eat dinner at 10pm and go right to bed every day… but obviously it works for them.

We headed back up through the vineyard to the restaurant and attended the wine tasting, where I actually had the first rosé wine I’ve ever liked. It was good.

We sat outside on the patio for a while until reservation time. We got a chestnut soup compliments of the chef.

Kegan and I shared a seared Tuna starter

and a stuffed portabello mushroom with creamed asparagus.

My main for “crispy octopus” which ended up tasting like high end fish sticks. haha

Kegan had the lamb shank which he said was very good.

We shared a little passionfruit ice cream and caramel cake dessert. Just a couple bites a piece, but was perfect.

Norah wanted to order off the adult menu because she saw they had something called a Romeo and Juliet… and she saw a kid version of that play at school… so for some reason she was very excited about it.

Turns out, she didn’t even like it. haha She thought the inside would be ice cream and it was just a warm cheese. haha poor thing. We tried it, we didn’t love it either.

We went back to our room for the night, headed to the city of Porto in the morning for the next two days.

Day 5 -Batalha Monastery, Cuevas da Gruta and Tomar

We had a little continental style breakfast at our little hotel and hit the road towards Batalha Monastery. I debated whether or not it was worth the trek north to visit… but it totally was. This church was built by King João I as a way to commemorate a great victory for Portugal in 1385. One of the greatest battles Portugal won in history was the Battle of Aljubarrota where a smaller army of soldiers on foot, led by a man named Nuno Álvares Perez, defeated a larger Castilian calvary army. It was an unprecedented victory in its time and this victory cemented Portugal’s independence and made João I the king. It was his lineage of royalty that would be responsible for Portugal’s age of discovery and European economic domination.

Two hundred years was spent constructing various parts of this monastery and chapel. The entrance doorway to the chapel is out of this world. Seriously. There is so much detail you can’t possibly take it all in. There are carvings of all 12 apostles but then various other figures all over the archway.

The main chapel was a little bare on the inside, but that made the stained glass reflect wonderfully on the stone.

Adjacent to the church was the Capela do Fundador where the bodies of King João I, his wife Queen Phillipa of Lancaster and their children and heirs, including Prince Henry the Navigator..who can be credited with actually beginning to explore and conquer land for Portugal. In the early 1420s he convinced his King father to conquer Cuenca across the strait of Gibraltar in Morocco to drive out Barbary pirates that used to raid Portugal’s coast… he drove the design of a lighter, faster ship to outrun pirate and Moorish ships and these ships could sail “into the wind”…making them independent of the wind direction. All of his maritime advances paved the way for the explorers that would follow after him to lead Portugal.

They had the actual original sword from the 1300s of João I….I thought that was REALLY cool. Not a reproduction….the actual sword carried by a King. Total nerdy history moment.

The coolest feature of this place though was the “Imperfect Chapels”… an area that was added in the late 1400s and has no roof! but the intricate stonework on all of the little coves was unbelievable.

Back to the car, we drove to the Cuevas da Gruta – a local underground limestone cave that gave tours. We arrived 2 minutes after another group started so they took us on in to meet up with that tour just starting. She was giving the tour in Portuguese, but she spoke perfect English, so she started to give us an explanation of what caves are made of… and not to be a jerk, but more to save her time, I said “yeah, he’s a geologist.” the WHOLE group busted out laughing. hahaha apparently “geologist” is pretty close in Portuguese too. haha The tour guide said “well, i am NOT… I am only trained in tourism, so if I misspeak, you correct me.” hahaha (which is a good time to mention that apparently in Portugal they go to university and study tourism…they have to take tests on Spanish and English and get scored. Our waiter tonight told us, “oh, well lucky for you- I am 20/20 on English” and gave me a fist bump. haha

Kegan was quite impressed by how many formations could be found in just this one tiny cave. I’ll spare you ALL the details I was subjected to… but here are a few highlights:

“Bacon formations” sheets of thin calcite flowstone that looks like curtains or strips of bacon.
Dried water pool where crystals formed inside
Micritic Limestone- limestone that sheers and breaks like glass with conchoidal fracturing

Overall it was a very cool cave and i’m glad we went! They even had cool rock samples in the ticket center… including this dinosaur egg…or muffin as Norah called it.

Our next town was Tomar. The home of the Knights Templar for over 700 years. The Knights Templar helped conquer Portugal for the Christians in the 1100s from the Arabs and set up a castle in Tomar as their base .They would become a very powerful and rich group for about 200 years…that is until the 1300s… You see, there was this French King, Philip the IV…or Philip the Fair… he liked messing with England and other places that didn’t belong to him… and he needed money to do it. The Knights were known for making loans and handling banking around this time. The French king found himself quite in debt to the Knights. So… naturally… now was a good time to decide that the Knights were heretics… and he convinced the Pope at the time that they needed to be disbanded. His reasoning was basically to point out to the pope that the Knights weren’t answering to the Catholic church anymore… and they weren’t answering to any one King anymore… they were basically operating their own country…. and we know that historically, the Catholic church and Kings could never tolerate anything more powerful than themselves… so it was decided that the Order of the Knights Templar would be dissolved and all their lands and moneys absorbed by the Catholic church. How convenient!

The only exception was in Portugal… King Dinis, at the time, knew it was BS… so secretly, he formed a new order- the Order of Christ and funded and sent the Knights Templar, err… Order of the Christ Knights… to fight more Muslims elsewhere for a time. He also relocated them away from Tomar… to another town to conceal what he was doing. Meanwhile, all of the leaders of the Knights were burned at the stake back in France. There is a theory that the grand leader of the Knights cursed the king and pope as he died… and within a year both King Philip IV and the Pope were dead as well.

It was actually Prince Henry the Navigator that I talked about above that brought the Order of Christ Knights back to Tomar 100 years after the dissolution of the Knights Templar. He even created living quarters for himself and his wife here…I mean, I’d trust an order of knights to protect me more than most….

I was very surprised at the detail and number of paintings inside the main cathedral here.

After walking the grounds at the castle of Tomar, we were headed out of town and saw a sign for an aqueduct. Glad we did a little detour. It was amazing!

We next drove an hour or two up to the Roman ruins of Conimbriga.

Ever wonder how they made round brick columns? I always wondered that until today….

The used triangular bricks! duh…. think outside the box, Erin. ha

I bought the missing fish. It looks just like the green one in the middle.

Our last stop for the day before we headed to Agueda for our hotel was the famous windmills.. or Moinhos.

This is how Portuguese people would have traditionally ground their corn and flour…unless they lived along a river, then maybe water powered mills…but in most places, a good breeze could be counted on. These particular windmills appear to be in the process of being converted to hotel rooms…it looks like they got about 50% through the project and ran out of money. No one was up there at all…. it was a great vantage point over the area.

We drove on to Agueda and parked. Asked the hotel clerk what her favorite restaurant in town was and she said O Tipico.. which coincidentally is the same one I had marked on our plans….so it was decided.

We were first brought bread with fresh cheese and sheep’s cheese.

Tonight, after having octopus envy of Kegan’s meal… I decided to get the grilled octopus.

Kegan has a rule that if the restaurant offers rabbit, he orders it… so that’s what he had.

When we were done, the waiter took Norah to the back to pick out her own ice cream dessert. It made her night.

We weren’t really hungry or going to order dessert, but the waiter told us that the lady owner who was running around hand makes the desserts for hours every day….so really we couldn’t turn it down. We let him make the recommendation to us. We ended up a “sky cream” as he called it. Sky=heaven I believe… and it was heaven. light cream with some ground up graham cracker powder (best i can explain) with a sweet egg yolk sauce.

Kegan got the condensed milk pudding….which is basically Portugues firm flan… and it was stellar, too. So we did not leave disappointed.

Our hotel’s wifi was broken (my biggest pet peeve), hence the delay in posting Day 4… and this Day 5 🙂

Tomorrow is just a day of meandering through the national park to the highest point in Portugal and ending at a winery. I hope to have some exciting photos but likely just a lot of landscapes 🙂

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