As we entered the weekend it was time to turn our tour south towards Lisboa (Lisbon). While the trip from Porto to Lisbon is only 3 hours, we would be taking the whole day and be making a few tourist stops along the way.
The first was at the Batalha Monastery where we visited a monestary that started construction in 1386 and was completed in 1517. It took the reign of seven kings and fifteen architects to complete the job (over 100 years) and really it was never truly finished.
Our next stop was for lunch, just outside the Catholic church at Fatima. This is a very active church that still sees regular pilgrimages. It is famous for a couple of visits from Mother Mary back in the 1920’s, which has now been recognized as official miracles by the church and is visited by the Pope on his stops to Portugal.
The one things about this place was the shear size of the area. The courtyard was huge and made you feel very small, the inside of the church was excusite and, while modern, was filled with all the splendar of cathedrals of the past.
As the day wore on the heat continued to build pushing into the high 30’s and low 40’s by mid-afternoon. So while the first few days were a perfect temperature, we started to see much warmer weather today which is expected through tomorrow as well. The benefit to the warmer weather?… ice cream stops are far more frequent and today would be no exception!
Above is a castle on our tour that we ended up skipping to ensure we made the final castle of the day, looked very interesting and we ended up passing closer than we were expecting. Instead we continued our trek into history…
… and the footprints that were left behind! This prehistoric path was discovered in 1994 by John Carvalho (STEA) and shows some of the oldest and longest sauropod tracks anyways (longest being 147 meters). Originally made in carboneted mud which later transformed into limestone which was quarried at this site until recently.
In fact, for the casual observer, the pathways are actually quite difficult to see. They have a walking path that leads around the main footprint set across the limestone. The entire time we could not see what they were describing, even after we viewed an overlay on the site infront of us we could not really make out the paths. However, once you got down on the limestone you could clearly see the define pattern of the footprints, though still not quite what our imaginations had conjured. The footprints were smaller and not quite as deep, though, as you can see, compared with Owen and Joe they are still rather large. What an experience, and now we also have a few dozen rocks (err, fossils) coming back for further examination unless customs (mom and dad) get to them.
The last stop of the day before preceeding onto Lisboa was Castle Almouro. Completed in 1209 (1171 A.D.), this was a military outpost along the river. Accessible only by boat today, we caught a ride from Captain Joe there and from Captain Owen on the way back – and while difficult to top the dinosaurs I think this did in the short term. Then again, who doesn’t like driving a motor boat! The castle was very raw, as you would expect from a military post but the boys managed climbing the steep ladders to the top which offered a great view of the area.
Later that evening after my grilled octupus (yum), tuna salad, and some great fish the kids went to bed and Luis, Patricia, and myself went out in search of Fado. Fado is a traditional Portuguese musical style and something Lisboa is famous for (see wikipedia). So, nestled in a side ally (a cultural experience in an of itself) was a small bar/cafe, and as we entered the sorrowful sounds could be heard in the dim-light. The lady on stage was a master and dragged you into the emotion of the song even though you could no understand the lyrics (well, I couldn’t). It was apparent there was an intimacy between the artist and the crowd, and after a second song she had completed her set and the lights came up. The bar was small and full, the singer had taken a seat at one of the tables and we ordered some wine, sitting back to discuss the control she had of her voice and the traditional Portuguese guitar used in Fado music. Then, from the seat beside us arose the next singer who introduced some pieces he wrote played next to standardized music. It became clear that this was more like Karaoke, with individuals who want to present their work have a couple guitar players at their disposal. It was one of the most interesting cultural experiences I have had, and it gave us all an appriciation of the music that could not be obtained in any other way.