Monday, September 22, 2008

Here's More Details

I apologize for the rather short earlier email today, but it was on my Blackberry, and my thumb finally gave out. As you can guess, we are having a wonderful time doing all sorts of stuff. We enjoyed the beach this morning, then spent some time this afternoon walking around the outside walls of Óbidos. It's probably a couple of kilometers, and a lot of up and down hill walking.

We left Lisbon on Saturday, rented our car, and headed out of town to Sintra, which was the summer residence of the Portuguese royal family. Sintra has a huge National Palace, all sorts of other rather fanciful architecture, and a Moorish fortress looming over the skyline of the village. It really is quite a breathtaking place. It also has a rainforest microclimate, so all sorts of interesting flora are about. We walked through one of the parks to get to the Moorish castle, and it's a very verdant area, particularly on the lower parts of the mountain.

The Moorish castle dates from the 800s or so. It's built around the crown of a group of hills overlooking Sintra. The castle and town were where the Moorish governor lived. When the Moors were driven out in the 1200s, the King of Portugal took over the Moorish palace as his own royal residence, and it remained such until the 1910 revolution. We toured the palace and the castle, and although it is full of nice furnishing and the like, I think I'd still prefer 2101 Bucknell Ter.

After leaving Sintra, we took lots of back roads (we're talking Idaho, here) to Torres Verdes, and finally got on the freeway headed toward Óbidos, although it was touch and go there for a while. Let's just say that all the maps and signs are in Portuguese.... We got totally lost in Torres Verdes, and stopped at a gas station. I spoke to the guy in halting Portuguese, and he responded in voluble Portuguese, but it was all right, because I really did understand him! He drew us a map, and got us on our way. The Portuguese have been very friendly to us, and they really do appreciate you trying to engage them in their language.

We spent all of Sunday walking around Óbidos. It's a beautiful walled town that's been around since the 800s. (Romans, Visigoths, Moors, and Christians - quite a kaleidoscope.) The town is whitewashed with lots of the traditional Portuguese blue tiles. They are very beautiful, and are still made (for the Portuguese, and for the tourists). As I mentioned in my earlier letter, Óbidos is a tourist trap, but a very friendly one, and we enjoyed going into the different shops. Later in the day, we had a nice dinner inside the village. We have eaten well ever since we arrived. The wines are fantastic, and yesterday Grace discovered a cherry-chocolate liqueur that is made locally, and can be drunk (happily) locally, too.

Today we had the adventure at the beach. Grace is bringing home some genuine Portuguese Rocks. They may actually end up in your Christmas stockings. We enjoyed the company of the two German hitchhikers. One of the them said that they had waited for the bus for 30 minutes, before we picked them up. I was so grateful that the bus didn't come! We had a snack in the town we took them to (Baleal), then headed back here so that we could circumlocute the city wall here.

And that's about it for today.

Earlier that day...

We're still in Portugal. We've been in Obidos for a couple of nights. The Internet access here isn't, so I'm sending this from my Blackberry.

Obidos is a picture-perfect turistico trap, and we have truly been enjoying that. It is a very pretty town, complete with wall and castle. We're staying in a very nice hotel with an appropriate soupcon of quaintness.

Today we went to the beach at Peniche, and checked out a couple of other tiny beach towns. We also picked up a couple of German hitchhikers and took them to the village in which they were staying. Very nice guys on holiday.

Hope you are all well. I'll write more soon. Lyn, I hope your 40th was really grand, and I really appreciate that you let me steal your Mom. I guess I owe you big time.

Love, Grace and JB