A spot of religious education 18/12

Having jumped through a 100+ miles of Portugal to find the LPG adapter we missed the Douro river and some of the beautiful coastal villages, but we have decided that instead of heading back to cover the ground this time, we will come back when the weather is a little warmer and we can visit some of the national parks in the mountains as well…. Portugal seems to have lots to offer!

So, from Coimbra we headed to the coast again stopping in Figuera do Foz which, like many coastal towns, had lots of sea front, but not much in the actual town. The walk along the front from one end to the other was about 7kms and despite being a Saturday afternoon it was actually fairly quiet.

After taking advantage of the long promenade for a morning run (although, massaging the aching calf muscles afterwards due to the uneven cobbled surface I am not sure I took any advantage at all), we enjoyed a local version of our cooked breakfast using the last can of heinz baked beans (we did bring quite a few with us), morcilla (rice based black pudding with spices), chorizo, eggs and homemade bread – more of a brunch than breakfast, but all the same, delicious.

Needing a bit of a walk to let the food go down we headed out along the seafront again before moving all of 14km down the coast to a village called Costa de Lavos where we parked in an Aire pretty much on the beach where we could watch the waves roll in.

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Not needing lunch, but still a bit peckish come mid-afternoon, we set off to look for a café/patisserie. The village was too small and despite finding a couple of Cafes, the quality of the cakes was well below par. There was however a little old lady with a stall on the street corner selling some fruit and veg, nuts and what looked like biscuits and rock cakes. We bought a rock cake and a biscuit to share, both were delicious – I think the rock cake even had carrot in it, however nearing the end of it I was lucky enough to find a bit of ‘extra’ flavour … she had left a large chunk of walnut shell 😦 Thankfully no damage caused – I am sure it is a bit like cooking meat on the bones and added to the taste!

We had seen a pear like fruit/vegetable growing on trees whilst walking a few days ago and not knowing what it was looked for one at the market. We think it was a ‘Xuxo’ (Chayoti), which looks like a Pear with slightly more wrinkled skin. When we asked the lady in the market what we should do with it she (well, more her husband, although I am sure that he had never cooked one in his life) said ‘sopa’ … so we took the plunge and thought we would add it to the pasta and vegetables we were cooking in the evening. It was ok and bulked out the vegetables, but despite its ‘qualities’ it won’t be forming part of our 5 a day – unfortunately it has absolutely no flavour. Apparently you cook it in soup or similar to soak up the flavours of the other vegetables…. next time maybe.

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Leaving the sea behind us we headed in land for a bit of a detour to visit a couple of places that had been recommended to us. We stopped at Pombal for a night to see the Castle, do some laundry and as a bi-product got to do a bit of train spotting as the Aire was so close to the main line train track, if the trains were going slower you would have been able to count the people on board. Thankfully the trains stopped overnight and the tracks were obviously better than the ones up north as the motorhome only rocked gently as they went passed rather than shaking vigorously 🙂

Leaving the trains behind us we drove on to Fatima.  Not wanting to offend anyone, the easiest way of describing Fatima is to liken it to Wembley Stadium (with better parking) with a very large church at each end and several chapels around the outsides. It is a sacred place due to apparitions – the most recent of which occurred in 1917 when 70,000 people witnessed an apparition of ‘the miracle of the sun’. There must be thousands of people who visit each year on Pilgrimage as the place is huge and the surrounding town is hotel after hotel after souvenir shop. Not being religious, both Keith and I found it a little odd, but impressive at the same time.

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Sticking to the religious theme we moved on to Batalha which is the home of the Monastery of Santa Maria da Vitoria,  constructed to celebrate Portuguese independence following the Battle of Aljubarrota in 1385.

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It is an impressive building and the town is a bit more normal than Fatima hosting a good Aire, an excellent patisserie and surprisingly a ‘Adega’ which is the Portuguese equivalent of a ‘Bodega’ ….. local wine 🙂

Obviously, we like to support the local economy wherever we go and tried the patisserie, bought some of the local plonk, and spent the day today exploring the pine and eucalyptus forests on a lovely 23km walk …. It was supposed to be 19km but the signage was a bit poor and we got lost a couple of times …..very nice and tranquil though..

A quick update on distances to date …. 2013 km Walking / Cycling 4500m Driving

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