Friday, June 08, 2012

Two Nights In Tomar

Driving south from Sabugal on more back roads we soon came to Sortelha. Another hilltop castle awaited us amid a boulder strewn landscape with wind turbines scattered about. The windmills seem to out-number the tourists in much of Portugal.

After scampering around on the rocks here we continued on to Tomar. The narrow winding roads we try to keep to are probably not even considered tertiary roads, but are always in good shape. A bit like a carnival ride in the ups down and twists, but never feeling that risky. The infrequent cars we encounter on the minor roads are rarely wanting to travel much faster than we do. Even in small or even large towns and on highways we don't encounter that much traffic and it is never aggressive. Maybe this comes from the narrow cobbled streets that often leave only inches to spare; you just can't move too fast.

I had the GPS on my phone turned on as it gave me directions. However Linda kept getting into arguments with the woman's voice. The map program kept wanting to direct us to more major routes than we wanted, and we were trusting the excellent highway map we had bought just as much. Linda won the argument (she won't have it any other way) and the map lady eventually saw it our way.

By the time we got to Tomar we had put another 200km on the Peugeot and almost 4 hours driving. We spent another half hour trying to get on the island where our hotel is. It's situated smack dab in the middle of town, and the only business or even building on the island which is a very nice park with lawns and tall hardwoods. We kept driving right past the tiny bridge that accesses the island as we were convinced that it was for pedestrians only. But no, it was also for guests of Santa Iria De Estalaglem.

The hotel has about 15 rooms and a restaurant, but it is only 5 minutes from the main drag of Tomar so there are lots of other eating establishments close by. The setting is idyllic though and very cool and quiet.


Visiting Tomar was not because of the hotel of course. It was for the castle and the Convento de Cristo of the Knights Templar. It was also for the snails and the sardines, with a horde of Catholics thrown in for good measure:

The above pics were from our first afternoon, evening and morning at Tomar. We also saw a huge Catholic ceremony and procession of some sort, but had no idea of the occasion for it. It was held over a huge span of town and included banners, marching bands and a bishop or 2. I think the pizza delivery guy caught behind it was probably going to have to deliver for free he was stuck for so long.

After finding the local market, held every Friday, and picking up cheese, sausage, strawberries and a sit down street stall lunch of barbecued chicken and sangria, we headed out of town with the car to find Fatima. We skirted the edges but never found the old city there though ended up finding another huge castle atop a hill near Ourem on our way back to Tomar.  

Before that castle randomly presented itself in front of us though we visited the Grutas (caves) nearby. The name escapes me right now and I can't be bothered looking it up but it loosely translated to Money Caves if I am not mistaken. We took the 6Euro tour and had some Grutas port at the end of it (included with the tour ticket).

One last detour for the day before another round of grilled sardine sandwiches with snails and beer, was to check out the aqueduct just outside of town. It's huge, measuring almost 6 km in length and very tall in places. Water still sometimes runs through it in the direction of the Convent of Christ which it was built to service.

Tomorrow we go back on the road. We are not sure of the destination or route yet but it will be to the coast or close to it, possibly the fishing town of Peniche. The next 3 nights are still up in the air, but we have the car so have options.

I'll leave you now with a picture of this carving of a representative from The Ministry For Silly Hats:

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