Hard to believe this trip is nearing to an end. On Saturday the 5th following the 9:30 Mass I walked around the newest part of the city. The city has developed surrounding the grounds and buildings of the Sanctuary and is modern having been mainly built in the last 20 years. The religious shops have some of the most beautiful items I have seen, and Cathy would have enjoyed them so much. The main season here is 13 May to 13 October, but crowds do arrive for a weekend vacation retreat, and it was nice to see so many here.
Following lunch most of us hopped on a small bus (with windows intact) for an optional tour Corinne arranged to Batalha, Alcobaca, and Nazare (a seaside resort town). It was nice to get out into the countryside. The Monastery of Batalha was begun two years after the Battle of Aljubarrota on 14 August 1385. The victor of the battle, who was to become King Dom John I, vowed to the Virgin Mary that he would build a monastery in her honor should he win the war. Back on the bus for a short ride to the Monastery Church of Alcobaca with origins
to 1151. This monastery too has its origins to a vow made to the Virgin Mary by the first King of Portugal during his conquest of Santarem from the Moors. He also hoped to gain Papal recognition to aid the consolidation and independence of Portugal
At one time 900 monks lived and worked here. The church itself is open to the public, but I also paid to tour the inner cloisters, dormitory, various rooms and the “great” kitchen. A massive chimney supported by early cast iron pillars dominated the center of the kitchen, and along one wall were massive sinks fed by a stream for food preparation. Looking up the chimney was spectacular, so much that I forgot to take photos, but the images are impressed in my mind. . From what I quickly saw of the town it is worthy of a future visit.
We then headed over to the seaside resort town of Nazare. We first went to the old town, Sitio, which is more than 300 feet above sea level looking down to the town and Atlantic Ocean. A popular legend has a knight, Dom Faus Roupinho, in 1182 chasing a deer on horseback to the edge of the cliff. The deer fell to its death, but knowing that a sacred stature of Mary was in a small cave nearby he invoked Our Lady’s protection and was saved. A chapel was built over the cave, and in 1377 the king ordered a church to be built. I visited the cliffs, and the little chapel and the church. In the church I bought a wonderful hand painted folk art plaque for 5 Euros of the chapel which will fit in nicely with a religious grouping I have on a wall on my porch at home. The sun was starting to set, and we got back on the bus (still with all its windows) and headed down to seaside for shopping. As you know, nothing is sadder than an empty resort (well maybe a religious shrine without throngs of pilgrims). I went out on the empty beach to follow the sun setting over the Atlantic Ocean, and when I head back I notice a funicular railway going from the town up to the Sitio. I had to walk over to see the station which had been modernized with a new car, but there was not enough time for me to traverse up and back. I continued walking the small quiet streets past empty or closed restaurants. A shop with sports car caps (remember I bought one in England a year ago, and in Ireland in May) was on the corner, I went in and explored the styles and purchased a great cap with ear flaps that come down (my first of this type) to wear in colder weather in “Black Beauty.” A new collection? I now have three such caps.
Sunday was a slower paced day with Mass, breakfast, and then I walked around and purchased a nice book on Fatima and the locales we visited on Saturday. At lunch Corinne told me she talked with a fellow in town about a car rental for me, and also about renting a van for 8 to tour us to some local caves and then to the medieval village of Obidos. I went to discuss more with him after lunch, the price went up again, and he said to check back later. I browsed around town and visited the interesting Museu de Arte Sacra E. Ethnologia with fascinating religious artifacts. My next stop was back to the fellow trying to arrange the van, and the price had gone up again. I said to email me once he figured things out. Most of us then went to the Vespers service in the Basilica, and on the way back to the Casa I told Corinne that the price was creeping up. We agreed to forget the idea, and the fellow really was trying to be accommodating, but was out of his league. But then she remembered in past years getting a van through the Casa. A phone call made, and the price for 8 is now 130 Euros instead of the 240 Euros and climbing rate. We booked the van and driver. So hopefully the van will arrive, and on my last full day eight of us will have an interesting tour that I can report to you on my “final full day, and trip home” which may get posted when I get home (or maybe from the Azores). Have to wait because remember the adventure David and family and I had getting home from Italy? So, bye for now, as always, RAY