Day 24 – Fátima to Tomar to Braga (Oh, my!)

Day 24 = April 4, 2012

This time, when the alarm went off bright and early, we were ready for it. David got dressed and ran down to Santa Apolónia one last time, to buy bread for sandwiches and to take photos of our neighborhood from the docks.

The station is the blue building at the far left, we are the yellow building at the far right.

I stripped the beds while Quinland cooked up the last of the eggs for breakfast. When David got back, he made all the rest of the meat and cheese into sandwiches while Q and I packed up pajamas (and Speshy and Lanky). Then we began schlepping our million bags down the stairs to the landing.

As Q waited for David to pull up the car, I went back up for a final inspection. We’d put everything back where we found it, written our messages on the blackboard wall, hung the towels we’d washed on the line. It was time to go. Adeus, Lisboa Patria!

Down on the street, I found David – who had gotten an amazing parking space right out front – unsuccessfully trying to jam all the bags into the trunk. It became clear that we were going to have to divest ourselves of the blue backpack sooner rather than later. I unpacked the few things we’d stuck in it, and David carried it down to our little tasca and offered it to the owner. He was very surprised that we did not want it, but took it gladly. Finally, everything fit! I let Q have the front seat so that she could be the DJ/Navigator; I climbed in back with our day packs, coats, and bags of food.

If you Google Map our little Lisbon home on Calçada dos Cesteiros, you will see a woman right out in front of the building grilling meat on a well-used barbecue grill. This would be a very authentic view, as she is out there grilling every day, preparing the meat for the other tasca on our block. (We never ate there, as she rarely had anyone eating there, and the one two doors down was always packed. We figured the locals had voted with their feet.) Why do I mention this now? Well, since it was too early for her to have the grill set up, this was where we had pulled up the car… and it seemed we would never get to leave! The combination of the steep hill and the greasy cobblestones caused our wheels to spin like crazy. Poor David got it under control, and off we went.

See the empty space in front of the yellow building? Little did we know that no one parks here because no one can ever leave…

GPS took us on a scenic route through Lisbon, past mile after mile of towers of flats and walls of graffiti, out past the airport and onto the freeway. This was our first long drive in the Seat Leon, and we were well pleased. David drove, Q ran the music, and I munched on granola from the food bag. Seating me next to the food was apparently a mistake, because I pretty much spilled granola everywhere.

First stop: Fátima . A pilgrimage site since the apparition of the Virgin Mary to three little shepherds back in 1917, Fátima was a pilgrimage site for me as well. When I was a little girl, I picked up a book about Fátima at my Aunt Sally’s house and was mesmerized.

Over 70,000 people gathered here on October 13, 1917… and on October 13th in recent years, nearly one million people have gathered here at once.

This next photo is terribly out of focus, but Mass was in progress so I took it from far away… too far, apparently. The little house under the big roof is the original Chapel built shortly after the apparitions, in the very spot where they took place.

These three shepherd children were little kids – Lúcia was only 10, Francisco was 9 and Jacinta, 7 – yet they never wavered in their description of the apparitions, even when mocked by their families, even when arrested, even when threatened with being boiled in oil.

Franciso and Jacinta both died less than two years later and have been beatified by the church; their grave sites are there at the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fátima.

What thrilled me most, honestly, was finding a copy of the very book that I’d loved as a child, right there in the Fátima bookshop. I started reading it as soon as we got back in the car and was as mesmerized as ever.

I was still reading when we arrived at Tomar, and I chose to stay in the car and keep reading while David and Q went into the Convento do Cristo, a stronghold of the Knights Templar that was built in the 12th century. In my staying-in-the-car defense, it wasn’t just the lure of a good book; I’d done a ton of hiking in Sintra the day before and was pretty burnt out.

The chapel there is massive, because the Knights were said to attend Mass while on horseback.

It had (and I quote) many cloisters and a cool inner courtyard. (“We went on the roof, didn’t we? Remember the stairs and the tiny door?” “Ooh, yeah! The one with the holes? And all the people laying on the edge? That would have freaked Mama out. A lot.”)

As we left Tomar, we were a bit irritated when the GPS woman took us south and west instead of north to Braga, though in hindsight she was trying to get us off the local roads and onto a highway. The rest of our drive to Braga was pretty uneventful, and we pulled up to the Hotel Caranda before we knew it. (Before I knew it, at any rate, since I was still reading.) We unpacked our zillion bags, got a password for the lobby-based internet service, and chilled out for a while.

Of course, since we’d been eating out of a food bag all day, we were soon hungry. One of our guidebooks had directed us to a restaurant called Frigideiras do Cantinho for what they called “quiche and pastry.” What they neglected to say was, “Oh. My. GOSH.” Quinland describes the frigideiras (the house specialty) as “pure awesomeness.” They are basically a flaky pastry with a base of ground meat and your choice of other fillings. Yum, yum, yum.

We were met at the restaurant by Pedro, a BGGer who graciously set up our stay in Braga. He and David went out for a drink and to hunt down one of the Holy Week parades, while tired Q and I walked back to the hotel to sleep.

I’ll leave you with one last Tomar photo, which I love. Is Q meditating or reading something on her iPod?

Experiences: long-distance driving, a visit to Fátima, some history of Knights Templar at Tomar, and fabulous frigideiras in Braga.

Expenditures: highway tolls, a book and ice cream at Fátima, entrance fees at Tomar, hotel in Braga, frigideiras dinner.

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