630-632: Coimbra in 3 days!

 630 – Thursday 16th – Coimbra 1 – Orientation

Coimbra (pronounced Koyimbra) is very special. One of the best places we have seen in Portugal, definitely – well worth a 3 night stay.  2 days of hot sunshine and 1 day of showers and colder – woolly hat weather for that day.  Free parking by the Rio Mondego – lots of vans unsurprisingly – and a short walk to the city centre along the river – free rein for OscarK9…  

Easy orientation walking for day 1 – the Botanical Gardens are a haven of tranquility – and the fountain flowed in the river…a very peaceful evening.  

IMG 7639

The very convenient pedestrian walkway from our parking … a couple of lads were throwing themselves off – they confirmed the water is very cold!  It’s the Pedro and Ines bridge … but I don’t think chilly waters and a very sad love story are connected.

IMG 7642

The Botanical Gardens with the aquaduct. 

IMG 7652

631 – Friday 17th – Coimbra 2 – Town walk

We saw tears and love at the fountains – poor Ines – how can you murder someone twice in the same city?  Monastery Santa Clara, a Lilliputian Garden and an Igreja before the Santa Cruz cafe for wine – and the most beautiful impromptu open air music performance in the square below… 

The old Cathedral and the new – mixtures of Manuellian and Baroque – lots of steep hills and steps – good training for all 3 of us…

IMG 1126

Quinta da Lagrimas Gardens – The Fountain of Tears.  The guide said this is THE spot where Ines was murdered at the behest of her father in law, the King.  The red lichen only turned red after her blood flowed!  I just have to wonder if the mad passion Pedro felt (such as exhumation and making subjects kiss her decaying hand) would have survived a longer and more normal course… I just feel that real love deepens despite learning each other’s flaws and foibles, but is not all consuming.

IMG 7657

But what!?  The Santa Clara-a-Velha Monastery claims that THIS was where poor Ines lost her life.  She was buried here until exhumed.  The Monastery had to evacuated as it kept flooding and was only fully excavated and made watertight in the late 1990’s.

IMG 7658

We decided not to pay the high fee to go into the Portugal dos Pequentos (Portugal for the Little Ones), even though the child sized Portuguese monuments sounded interesting.    It was built only in 1940 under the Estado Novo (Salazar regime).  

If we ever end up towing behind Jez – we want a Booze Wagon!

IMG 7673

Igreja Sao Bartolomeu – the site has been used for liturgical use for over 1000 years.

IMG 7676

Originally part of the Santa Cruz Monastery, it became a famous cafe in the 1920’s … we just had to sample a little white wine … 

IMG 7693

The Interior of the Cafe Santa Cruz … the roof was impressive and the stained glass came later.

IMG 7680

Igreja de Santa Cruz:  Interior of the former Santa Cruz Monastery church … handed to the locals as a church after the Portuguese Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1834 … as they’d all got too powerful!  Either side of the alter are the ornate tombs of the first two Kings – Alfonso Henriques and his son, Sancho I.  Another case of a subsequent heir, feeling the existing tombs did not fully dignify their importance and had them exhumed and interred here.  Apparently the bodies had hardly decomposed … not sure how long after death … but no one had to kiss their hands!!!

IMG 7705

The main reason we chose the Cafe Santa Cruz for a wee glass (or two) … some of the students wearing their traditional year 2 & 3 uniform performing beautiful ballads.  Check out the chap doing map leaps.

IMG 7708

Would that be glass number 2, Mr C? ….

IMG 7709

… While O waits patiently.  A pose he seems to have perfected!

IMG 7715

Is it a castle?  No, the Old cathedral – Se Velha.  We did not go fully in due to the costly EUR2.50 each … built under Alfonso Henriques, the first King.  Too small, so a larger church was used …

IMG 7720

… Interior of the Se Nova C16, but owned by the Jesuits, until they were expelled in C18.  Unattractive exterior, but Baroque madness inside … so many cherubs.


632 – Saturday 18th – Coimbra 3 – The University & Museum

Up and at ‘em at dawn – for us, anyway 0730 hours – dog walk and minibrekkie – Oscarusualbrekkie.  Then, we left him in the van alone at 0900 – sorry Oscar.  We know he has left the WSSU Union and transferred to Younight – not Unysign Union – he was unhappy with his subscription level – 5% of his dogfood – per month!  His secretary is no longer Dai – it’s now Hai (you know what’s coming next, folks) Yundai!  Sorry – it just had to be.  It could have been – Toy Yota – or Ma Asda, even.  But not ‘Hill ManImp’. Enough – back to topic, please.

After the sun – came the rain and colder weather.  0930 hours at the University – timed ticket for the Library – anyone could study in this atmosphere – amazing, again.  The whole area of the Library, Chapel and Palace is unlike anything we’ve seen – the top University in Portugal, it is said.  Some of the structures (replaced under Salazar) are very Mussolini-ish but good lines.

The National Museum is on many floors – starting with the Roman Cryptoporticus – underground – at a junction joining 2 main roads – 2 thousand years ago.  Art, paintings, sculptures… maybe a bit much of the dark religious depictions – a la the Ufizzi Gallery in Florence – but of it’s time.  Small discovery – 15th Century alabaster – much favoured for sculpture – best supply in Europe – England – and specifically – Nottingham! 

3 course lunch across the river – under outdoor cover – heavy rain at times – we were dry, luckily.  We did the menu proud – eh, Katherine? (Yes, I over ate – mine and J’s leftovers!)

Now there’s this bar on the north side of the river – we have some minor difficulty passing it without stopping (our third visit in 3 days!) – no such problem this time!  We met a birthday girl – Hannah and her family – all much taken with our boy, Oscar – who isn’t?

Back to Jez for R&R – a fabulous time in Coimbra.



Porta Ferrea (Iron Gate) – the entrance to the old part of the University.  C17, topped with the female figure of wisdom two kings either side – Dinis and Joao III; the founder and a major investor / developer.


Entrances off the Paco das Escolas to the Library, Chapel and Palace.  Originally the Royal Palace of the first King Alfonso Henriques.  

Screen Shot 2017 02 18 at 18 30 00

No pix allowed in the library, so an internet image.  Joao III was asked for a new room for the expanding library … he liked to large things up (he had Mafra built with its amazing library) so he gave them a whole new building on several floors.  The upper is the show case with every artistic feature from coats of arms to chinoiserie paintings, the middle is plain for more serious study and the basement is the academic prison.  Yep,  Universities administered their own law, but students could only be interred for a week.  I wonder what penalty non submission of homework would warrant?


St Michael’s Chapel C15- the organ (2000 sounds) and the beautiful tiles stand out.  Nice that the chapel is still in use – there’s a service every day at midday.  


Inside what was the Royal Palace – the Sala dos Capelos or Ceremonial Hall.  Originally the Throne Hall, this is where the University holds its official ceremonies, such as awarding Doctorates and opening the academic year.  A bit intimidating for the candidates, but this is where PhD oral examinations (viva voce) are held.


The Private Examination Room with 38 past Chancellors images.


 The Bell Tower 1753 is the highest point in the city.  It is 15 minutes slow and of its three bells one is called the cabra – the goat.  So named as first year students had to prance like goats at the end of the day or have older students pounce on them.  Students have removed it’s clanger to prevent it reminding them to go to bed and arise in time for studies!  This courtyard originally had all the classrooms off, but under the Marquis of Pombal, the number of faculties was increased from Cannons, Law, Letters (grammar and philosophy) and Medicine. 


Salazar had many of the old buildings replaced with these square edifices in the 1940s.


The Museu Nacional de Machado de Castro is housed in what was the Bishop’s Palace.  It sits on top of a Roman cryptoporti – being atop a hill, the Romans needed more level land for a Forum, so they built a two tier archway support, which has been excavated.  The rest of the museum included some of the best stone and wooden sculptures … really well laid out.


Inside the cryptoporti.



Some of the finest Alabaster – all the way from … Nottingham.


Life size terracotta 12 apostles that had been made for the Santa Clara convent.  


View down to the old Cathedral.


Lunch and the grey skies and rain have returned.

628-629: Leiria and Coinimbra

628 – Tuesday 14th February 2017:  Leiria and Lunch

Luxury – showers in the van!  Overnight in a quiet free car park just a few km from town centre along the riverside. Just one noisy event when a passerby thumped the back of Jez – I suppose we were sort of blocking a few metres of a footpath – but plenty of room to pass by.  Peaceful sleep and running in the morning – I did 2k and K and O ran a splendid 4k!  

Lunch at a nice little cafe (EUR 7 each incl wine, dessert and coffee – can tell we’re not in tourist land) – and we ‘castled’ (not just a chess move, you know…).  Beautiful narrow streets and just a nice town…

Oscar (as you can see) was made to ‘walk the plank’ (sort of) – a grillage section of pavement – he looked as if he would grill us after! 


IMG 7591

The riverside walk into town.

IMG 7592

You expect me to cross that?  But it has holes in it!

IMG 7593

I’m only doing it, as you are forcing me!

IMG 7597

The castle, which we made it up to after lunch!

IMG 7601


629 – Wednesday 15th – Coimbra

We decided to bypass Pombal (K read that the museum was all in Portuguese) and navigated to Figuera da Fonz “Happy Days – Henry the Fonz” – who remembers that USA TV show?  It’s actually Figuera da Foz. The Apps showed a large free motorhome parking on the seafront – no chance!  They may have been moved on by the Police – we drove on in the hopes of finding another overnight parking – but our version of ‘Henry the Navigator (Colin CoPilot) dragged us up an uneven mountain road that could have been in our beloved Sicilia – ’NFW” – don’t ask the children to translate that acronym, please….. About turn and Fig da Foz was left to FigFoz itself – our gain, as it happened.  Heading towards Coimbra for a Roman Ruins site – Conimbriga – a small piece of heaven for free overnighting – lovely open car park – some vans for company – and quiet….  The best Roman remains site in the Iberian Peninsula as advertised – we are biased as we saw the creme de la creme in Italia et Sicilia – but it was pleasant for a late afternoon stroll. O stayed in Jez – on the dashboard.  When I was a working person – in later years, displaying ‘essential’ company data had to be on a ‘dashboard’ – all the rage. In my working life, I have seen so many fads coming and going – QA, KPIs, CSRs, NVQs, – ad nauseam….  They sort of meant – just do your job efficiently.  K, as teacher is more familiar – each government, tampering with education, invented more acronyms and targets.  Why not call a spade a spade?  The 2 Ronnies – “4 candles?”  Do I undress – sorry, digress? Yes.

We retired to – some Moscatel and food – and qietitude, not dietifood.

A brief note from Oscar…  “I’ll fill their dashboard with narcissyisms, if they persist in leaving me with the hysekeeping – posh voice, you see… I can be a posh K9 – K is a bit of toshpotty, sorry, poshtotty. J is – how shall I say it – Irishness, par3sonified…  Now, Shirley and Margaret – did he really talk an 8 on a par 3 on 3rd of January near Lagos? James – hang your putter in shame, you Omadawn…”  Don’t look it up, please…

Now, next toast (this Mushcasstuffee stuff is good), post – will be Coimbra – extra special place…  hold your breath, (readers)..

IMG 7613

We get the squeletons too sometimes!

IMG 7623

A couple of old ruins!

IMG 7634

The best of the mosaics – whilst under a cover, it was covered in dust, so the colours did not fully come out.

IMG 7620


625-627: Of Science and Religion

625 – Saturday 11th February 2017: Fatima and Rugby

Brought up as a staunch Catholic, I still hold lots of beliefs that are not easily explained logically or scientifically – a good friend (sadly deceased) strong Catholic became an agnostic because he (as a scientist) could not reconcile his science to religion.  We had been to Lisieux in France and were disappointed – the place is dirty and unkept – why – the shrine to St Therese?

Fatima is immaculate and huge – the square rivals St Peters in Rome – the white Basilica is sympathetic and dates from 1953.  The new church at the end of a wide colonnade seats 9,000 worshippers and was completed in 2007.  Watching the faithful light candles at the scene of one of the apparitions and the believers making their way on their knees hundreds of metres to the shrine – we couldn’t but be impressed – there are strong beliefs here…  People are obviously taken by the fact that 3 small children were at the heart of all this.  2 died at the ages of 9 and 10 and the third died age 97 in 2005.  Well worth the visit, whatever one’s creed.  

Well, it does me good to say that Ireland woke up at rugby today and scored 9 tries in Rome – I feel sorry for Conor O’Shea and Italy – but he has a longer term plan – oh dear, it had to come out “Rome wasn’t built in a day”…

(By the way, England won, also.)


The Sanctuary with its 65m tower.


And the esplanade twice the size of St Peter’s Square in Rome.  And we saw pictures of it packed, especially on 12 & 13th May and October when pilgrims arrive to commemorate the Shepherd children’s sightings of the Virgin and an angel.  We watched people slowly make their way down the marble path to the right of the pic on their knees.



The windows tell the tale of the sightings.


All three of the Shepherd Children are burried here, the two girls together.


An inferno melting the several tons of candle offerings on the site of one of the sightings.


626 – Sunday 12th February:  Dinosaurs, Knights Templar and a Monastery 

To cut to the chase – we have seen Dinosaur footprints from – yes believe it – 175 million years ago – even before Bruce Forsythe was born!!!  The site proves that America was once joined to Europe.  The staff were amazing (as usual in Portugal) and so informative in perfect English. It rained – but we were prepared for that.  These beasties were up to 30 metres long and weighed in at 70 tonnes – 17 times the weight of Jez – even without our wine!  


Monumental Natural das Pegadas dos Dinossaurios:  The site was a quarry and the excavations were deep … all those layers of subsequent rock.


You can make out some of the tracks here – one was 175m There are several which proves that these sauropod herbivores travelled as a pack.  The enthusiastic attendant spoke really good English and explained that the site had very rare conditions:  it was a lagoon with no tidal water to erase the prints.  The muddy water contained calcium carbonate which created a crust over the prints and protected them.  They helped to prove tectonic plate theory, that Europe was once attached to America.  Interestingly this place gets only a few lines in one of the guide books … the attendant said that people from Fatima do not promote it as it science and contradicts religious belief.  Surely there is room for both.


Up close you could make out the toes.


For scale.

On to Tomar – free parking by the river for overnight, we walked up to the Castle and Convent – Oscar with us – we had left him in the van twice in the last couple of days. We took turns for the visit – huge and hugely impressive convent/monastery – Knights Templar originally – immense structures and the K photos tell a a lot. Back to our Jez and more of Tomar planned for tomorrow …

Oscar’s pre-next diary note: (We were not allowed to read this before publishing.)

“Look here – see – they left me twice in 2 days – now boyos (Welsh, you see) – I cannot admit to them that I’m getting used to it – that would be madness. But, I am developing my routines – I arrange things as I like them – ok pulling their coats off the hooks was a bit of a boo boo – they should buy proper gloo gloo – but it sniffed well – made me feel a high. The hooks can be reused…  I straighten the rugs (my way) and make nice imprints (I think) on the dashboard – art,it is…  When I saw them returning yesterday, I showed my usual extruderance and leaped up at the window (they like to know I missed them).  I saw a switch thing and put my paw on it – and ‘hocus pokeus’, it opened the blinking window!  They praised my K9 endeavours – so next time, I may try the cooker controls – not sure about the spark switch – I haven’t been trained in Fire Extinguisher usage – I suppose you pull the plug and point it somewhere?”

“I wasn’t going to mention but – K arose from her slumbers – at 10:00 am this morning – standards Katherine, you know…. slippage may not be toiletrated!”


The Knight’s Templar on the pavements.


No idea of the size of the complex from this angle. The C12 castle contains the Convento de Cristo – the headquarters of the Knights Templar.  The Knights were founded in 1119 to protect pilgrims visit ing the Holy Land.  They became a strictly organised and semi religious gang.  Members took a vow of poverty, but that did not stop them accepting land and riches in return for military victories.  In Portugal they played a key part in expelling the Moors.  By the C14 they had become so strong that the French and Portuguese Kings disbanded the order.  However, the Portuguese King reinstated them under a different name and his control.  They pretty much funded the Age of Discoveries started under Henry the Navigator.





An exhibition about medicine and its development within monasteries.


Sorry about the number of pix … I have got keen on the Manueline architecture … last years it was the Scilian Baroque!


Just love all those curves.




One of the main sights is the C12 Charola: based on the Rotonda of Jerusalem’s Holy Sepulchre, with a central octagon of alters.  It is said that the circular design enabled the Knights to attend mass on horseback.



The longest dormitary, I’ve ever seen.  Doors off on either side for Friars’ cells.


The Manueline window.


From the roof of one of the cloisters … think I counted 5 cloisters.

627 – Monday 13th February:  Tomar-2-Not-2-Be and Batalha 

Hard and noisy rain overnight – not conducive to continuous sleeping… However, out to run early-ish. K and O ran 4km (and got wet) and I – a lot less (in the dry) – but, we are getting back into it. We had intended seeing more of Tomar, but a security guard at our (market) parking advised us that we needed to leave in a couple of hours – so up “we rose and twitched our mantle blew – to fresh pastures new” – Lycidas by John Milton – abridged. 

Batalha the destination – another monastery to view.  Sadly, we left our alarmed dog – Oscar. As we exited the van, we heard him mutter “What’s with these people and blankety monasteries, anyway? They’re all the same – towers, pinnacles, colonnades, promenades, rosy posy windows and gargoyles!  The face of a monkey spouting out rainy water over your head – exciting or what? I can spout water on them from my drinking bowl, if that’s what turns them on…”

It was very different, Oscar.  Manuelian, Gothic, unfinished chapel, tomb of the unknown soldiers and just hugely impressive.

In the afternoon, we rested and did some admin – and K planning for the next adventures – and no rain – sunshine, we hope!

IMG 7564

Mosteiro de Santa Maria de Vitoria, built to commemorate the 1385 battle Aljubarrota when 6,500 Portuguese defied the odds and repelled the 30,000 strong Spanish army.  Thus securing the Portuguese throne for the House of Avis, through Dom Joao, the illegitimate son of Fernando I.  It has an instant wow factor with its flying buttresses, pinnacles and ornate windows and doorways.  On the left is the Capelas Imperfeitas, the unfinished chapel, commissioned in 1437 – huge columns head skyward.  It was abandoned in favour of Jeronimos monastery in Belem.  Joao I and his wife Philippa of Lancaster are buried here, as are their 4 sons, including Henry the Navigator.

IMG 7567

The Unfinished Chapel – more Manueline Architecture.

IMG 7572

IMG 7574

IMG 7570

IMG 7577

Much of the stained glass inside the Church was replaced after the 1755 earthquake, but the sun came out … finally.

IMG 7587

This glass is original and was developmental from mid C14.

IMG 7589The Royal Cloisters have the most amazing Gothic arches embellished with …. Manueline tracery.  

IMG 7586In the Chapter House lies the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers form the First World War.

IMG 1121

Limited off lead walking for O, but we did find the Ponte da Boutaca 1862 with its 4 empty towers.

622-624: Prisoners and Murdered Lovers

 622 – Wednesday 8th February 2017:  Penitents of Peniche

AM and K leaped into action – running shoes and kit on and Oscar at the ready – off they went for a 4km run – the furthest she has run for weeks/months?  I (excuse coming up, James?) rested my brawn, brain and back!  As the parking area was free – quite a few vans – we decided to stay 2 nights and enjoy the area.  We walked into town after breakfast – coffee and custard cake…  I had slept badly so I retired to have a sleep catch up – K and O has a marathon walk – about 11km in all.  Afternoon – I had revived myself and we perambulated to Dictator Salazar’s notorious prison for his political prisoners……  Oscar’s thoughts ringing in our ears “They’ve blankety blank left me again in the van – I’m no political poisoner – I vote Plaid Crumbly in Wales and the Deservative Party in England”!  We can see an Omail going to the Union, again…

A truly grim reminder of what happened only about 40-50 years ago – and not just in Portugal…

The town Lace Museum was a gem – including a very informative film with English sub titles.

Supper was sardines, we think, bought from the fisherman who knocked at the door last night.  He tried to sell us a massive bag for EUR10, but what would we do with that much fish?

IMG 7407

Peniche women supplemented the household income with bobbin lace making.
IMG 7411

The rocky cost had massive waves breaking with a periodic ‘boom’ as they hit the rock.

IMG 7422

Oscar and I had the odd shower from the spray.

IMG 7417

I was so close to the Lighthouse, I kept going …. it looked closer than it was and then there was the rest of the peninsula to walk … fine on a non-back-to-running-day.

IMG 7426

From the light house viewing platform, I could see the nature reserve islands of Berlenga.

IMG 7452

The approach to the Fortress – this was the sight Salazar’s political prisoners would have first seen of their new ‘home’’.  Originally a C16 castle, it has also seen service as a refuge for soldiers from the Boer War, a temporary home in 1970’s for refugees from newly independent African Portuguese colonies and now the town museum.  The council seized a vacant moment in the 1980’s to locate the town museum here.

IMG 7453

Visitors were ‘received’ by the prisoners here.

IMG 7468

Some of the prison cells overlooking the exercise yard.

IMG 7477

IMG 7479

A number of inmates effected an escape in 1960, but we could find out very little as most of the info was only in Portuguese, except that Alvaro Cunhal went to Russia and was the Head of the Portuguese Communist Party.  He later served in the government.

IMG 7482

Drying fish in town.

IMG 7484

At the Lace museum there were some superb examples.  To keep the skills being handed down, there is a Lace Making School with classes for all ages.  I watched an older lady deftly spin and twist the bobbins.  Not for me … too complicated – I’m still regularly unpicking my jumper

623 – Thursday 9th February:  Touristy Obidos

Question for our reader(s?) – how many of you have stripped stark naked and showered in a supermarket car park?  That many?  Well, we did it (showered, that is!) in the Intermarche car park – do we need to say it was in the van?  Otherwise, we might have seen the inside of the Penichenciary…  K arranged more philaundering as we bathed….

All motorhome services at Intermarche as well – fully serviced and cleaned – we set the compass for Obidos.  Our overnight parking App showed a nice small aire with services right beside the town – and a ‘trace’ of UK vans – well, if 2 is a brace – why not 3 for a ‘trace’.  One motorhomer chap turned out to be a Chicago Cubs fellow-fan.

Oscar accompanied us to the town – simple and lovely (yes, Oscar – you are lovely) – lived in and lively. Lots of Ginga sellers but nowhere to sit outside for a nip. Nice walking around the perimetre and at last we saw some tables outside for a glass of vinho – just as we finished, the rains came down – hotfoot back to Jez.  It rained cats and dogs (where does that come from, Oscar?) during the night – prompted by my cooking? Maybe not. I produced (eventually) a Risotto for 2 very small people (Lilyputian portions) – not my finest culinary hours!  It will get better, James…

Sleep – and rain…

IMG 7486

Porta da Vila with C18 tiles and the initial evidence of ‘touristy’.

IMG 7487

All along the street the sour cherry liqueur Ginja was being sold.  There are 3 main producers locally, but none were offering tours – I had emailed two!

IMG 7489

Walking the walls was an option, but not one that J agreed to take!  Something to do with heights and lack of barrier.

IMG 7499

The Pousada occupied the castle at one end of the town … liked the look of the dining room window, but that was as close as we got, given a main dish was around EUR31!

IMG 7501

Is that my boy coming in for a cuddle?

IMG 7503

A number of book shops in the town; this one inside a church.

IMG 7506

The Pillory is docrorated with a fishing net, the emblem of Dona Leonor (wife of Joao II) to commemorate the fishermen who tried to save her drowning son.  The Santa Maria church is where the future Alfonso V was married to his cousin, Isabel in 1441.  Not remarkable in that, except that he was 10 and she only 8!

IMG 7509

Inside more beautiful blue tiles and the wooden celling was painted by Josefa de Obidos in 1661, unusually a female painter when the only ‘careers’ for women were wife, mother or nun!

 624 – Friday 10th February:   Alcobaca and Porto de Mos

Alcobaca has the largest church in Portugal – the nave is 60 metres long and 23 metres wide – really simple design – very effective.  The Cistercian monks developed into a more corpulent community a special door led to the refectory – if you didn’t fit through – you fasted!  K could fit – our slimmer of the year, Katherine.  The sheer scale is immense – royal lovers buried side by side – murder, intrigue, heart eating, decomposed hand kissing – just like the Conservative Party Annual Conference in Somethingbourne…

IMG 7512

Another impressive exterior.  Building started in 1178 and the monks were given a lot of land to farm.  40 years later the monastery estate had become one of the richest and most powerful.  At one point there were 999 monks, not sure of the significance of the 999, and a whole new cloister wing was built for novices.

IMG 7513

IMG 7516

The church interior is refreshingly simple.

IMG 7524

Tomb of Dona Ines.  There is a matching one for Dom Pedro – a true Romeo and Juliet story.  Pedro fell in love with one of his wife’s ladies in waiting, but even after he was widowed, his father Dom Alfonso IV forbade the marriage, as Ines had Spanish connections. The King ordered her murder unaware that the two lovers had already secretly married.  Two years later when Pedro succeeded to the tHorne, he exacted his gruesome revenge … he ripped out the hearts of the murderers and …. ate them!  He exhumed Ines and crowned her body and then …. made the court pay homage to her by kissing her decomposing hand!

IMG 7527

Liking the Manueline style.

IMG 7542

Whilst the monks ate they were read biblical scripts from this pulpit.

IMG 7543

J won’t you come closer to the edge, dear?  No, don’t … you’re not insured!

IMG 7545

Squeeze in!  If the monks didn’t fit through the doorway, then were put on a starvation diet.  Having said that William Beckford (British artist and bon viveur, who owned Monsarrate in Sintra, which we visited) was shocked at the ‘perpetual gormandising … the fat wadling monks and sleek friars with wanton eyes …’.

IMG 7550

The massive kitchen chimney … Beckford wrote ‘the most distinguished temple of gluttony in all Europe”.  Under scaffolding there was a pool diverted from the Rio Alcoa, which provided not only water for cooking and washing, but fresh fish.

IMG 7551

The Cloister of Silence.  The lower part from 1300’s and the upper Manueline from 1500’s.

IMG 7559

Nightly bivouac in a free parking (alone) outside the Porto de Mos Bombeiros – fire service – will they test the sirens during the night?  K walked to the Castle while I cleaned a bit and deleted some photos – and guitar practice – fingers are getting the hard skin that I need – to play at the Old Oprey – not!

IMG 3455

The C13 castle – much restored so that it has a Disney-esque look.  The green roof tiles are echoed in houses’ doors and shutters.

IMG 3451

I followed the signs to the castle spring … sadly neglected and abused.

IMG 3459

Sao Antonio chapel – shut, but I peered through to glimpse the C17 tiles.

621: Buddha Eden and One Man’s Vision

621 – Buddha Eden 

Farewell to Santa Susana – northward bound… We had met an American lady (living in Portugal) at Bacalhoa near Setubal who told us about Buddha Eden – wow factor again!  Thousands of hectares devoted to Buddhism, peace and tranquility – perhaps Mr Trump should visit?  

Dogs (of peace not war) were allowed in the gardens – Oscar is eminently qualified…  K question – why is Buddha always male?  Someone out there will know.  Our K is always peaceful and tranquil – eh, Oscar?.  Even when you, Oscar snaffled the bag of treats in the van when K’s back was turned. Less rations in your dinner then, O.

Once again, no apologies for letting the photos do the talking…  I know we’re old fashioned – but when did we stop calling our pictures “holiday snaps”?

On to Peniche – home of Dictator Salazar’s prison and ‘interrogation’ chambers, fort, old town and harbour.

“Knock, knock” – “Who’s there” – a local fishermen selling fresh fish – £0.85 for a meal!  We are in Portugal…  K here:  think it may be sardines, but they all need gutting whatever they are!

Sorry, Oscar wants his say – again…..


Oscar’s Diary

Hi there – me again – just a quick catch up – I need to be on my paws in case her nibs leaves the bag of treats unattended – again!  Why should I get blamed if K is a bit remiss?  OK – 7 may have been a bit much to grab in one go – but… no, James – it was definitely not 17!!!

I can’t remember if I mentioned how nice it was when Alison stayed with us for a week?  Maybe I’m repeating myself – but – she’s nice – called me ‘darling’ a lot.  Made the hairs inside my ears stand horizontal. I know with humans it’s ‘hairs on their necks standing up’ – but, we’re well, different.  Nice warm feeling – pity she had to go back to a very cold place called Bath?  Imagine cold Bath(s) in January… 

K and J are still OK (I’ve stopped calling them my owners – they know their place, I think…)  They are really kind people per se (I learned some Latin too) – philantropical or philandering, maybe – philaundering?  Fil-Something – filofoxily – wily old birds…

James has this geetar instrument that K kindly gave him for Christmas – let’s say, he practices most days. Now, I’m no great musician, me – but I do have an ear (or two) – and I say quietly, he needs to expand his repeatery, sorry repertoire…  He doesn’t censor my diary, I hope.  Sometimes, he quotes Shakespeare/Marlowe (don’t get him started on that subject!) – like when I knocked over something trivial – his wine!  “Get thee to a K9ery” he said!  I don’t want to be a nun, or a monk, either…

Gotta go – I heard my doggie bowl being lifted out of the saucepan cupboard… They have given me new dog food – reduced rations – 160 g down to 125g (!) – K has rebuked me for taking her fresh nail varnish of with my teeth when she offered me a measly (one) treat!  What lady applies nail varnish before K9care?  I’m hungry, a growing dog, after all…


Bye for now…



Notes on Buddha Eden

35 hectares of Peace Garden created by the wealthy Portuguese Berardo (made his money in Africa, collects art and owns various galleries as well as wineries … don’t know what else) in response to the “cultural barbarity that forever erased masterpieces of the late Gandhara period from the C6th AD.  In 2007 around 6000 ons of marble and granite statues were commissioned in China to create this monumental homage to peace.”  What an amazing vision and generosity to share so much art with people and sponsor so many artists.

IMG 7331

The Palm Lake.

IMG 7343

The African Sculpture Garden dedicated to the Shona people of Zimbabwe, who have been hand sculpting stone for a thousand years.  They believe that every stone contains an ancient life spirit which influences what the stone will be carved as.

IMG 7345IMG 7350

A right royal King.

IMG 7352

IMG 7355

We saw some of the blue terracotta army at the Moscatel winery near Setubal.

IMG 7362

IMG 7364

IMG 7369

Amazingly, people had scratched their names into the gold paint … Grrr!

IMG 7371

21m high and overlooking the whole park.

IMG 7378

IMG 7389

Tile map of the wine regions.

IMG 7390

Both parts of the sculpture moved with the wind at different speeds.

IMG 7394



619-620: Mafra

619 – Sunday 5th February 2017:  Silly Sunday in Sintra

K here: Guilted by the local runners and the perfect path along the coast, I dusted off my running shoes for the first time in about 3 weeks, followed by Pilates.  I wanted to see inside the Palace de Pena, which J and Alison had done, whilst I walked Oscar.  I’d done my homework and identified parkings, but after a near miss with another car and finding our preferred parking was hosting a car show – we offered Jez as an exhibit, but no room.  Of course, it’s Sunday and guess where everyone’s come!?  We cut our slightly frazzled losses and headed up towards Mafra.  

Our overnight stop was an aire in Santa Susana.  J rested and I took O down to the river.  Just as well I’d put walking boots on as as it was slightly muddy, steep downhill and back up … and at times like an assault course, but I saw a kingfisher and many other birds.

Lovely peaceful overnight with just 2 other vans (1 UK) for company. Free aire – with services – can’t beat it…

IMG 1090

IMG 1091

The path was a little overgrown in place … I reversed low with my waterproof hood up through the brambles.

IMG 1092

The path was on the left bank …

IMG 1093

… phew made if across without getting wet feet, but I did have a muddy bum!

620 – Monday 6th February 2017:  Mafra

J takes over.  K ran with Oscar in the am – and I rested my back – probably run tomorrow? Brekkied and van all serviced up (although we may stay here again tonight), we sailed towards Mafra – a hilltop town with a huge Palace/Basilica/barracks. Quite a few sharp bends along the way – but nothing Jez has not successfully navigated. Nice wide streets and lots of parking – including our choice – free right beside the Palace. Oscar drew the short straw – and was left guarding the van – a sort of ‘alarming’ dog….


Perfect Parking.

The Palace is immense – built in 1717 – the 300-year anniversary is this year with lots of events planned later in the Annus Mafravelous…..  Unfortunately, all the original furniture was taken to Brazil with the Royal Family and not returned. What we saw presumably was largely sparse reproduction. Rooms and ceilings wonderfully decorated – lots of hunting scenes – the Royals who stayed here had to be heavily into hunting.  We couldn’t get into the Basilica but saw it from an upper floor.  The un-wow factor was a huge room devoted to hunting – more stags and boars heads than we have ever seen in one place – tables and chairs made from antlers and skins – no prize for guessing why this stuff didn’t make it to Brazil – or maybe the Brazilians returned it!  

The absolute mega wow-factor is the Library – the photos show the scale – with 36,000 books – a lot with covers in gold leaf – breathtaking – worth the visit for this gem alone. But otherwise, we were left a tad disappointed – maybe after Sintra and the surrounding Palces, this was slightly out of palace?


The Royal family’s hunting Lodge:  Begun in 1717 in a mammoth spree of wild spending.  The Palace has over 1,200 rooms, over 4,700 doorways, 2,500 windows … At one point there were over 45,000 artisans working on the Palace with 7,000 soldiers keeping them in order.  The world’s largest collection of bells are in the twin towers – 92 of them.  The story goes that the Flemish bell founders queried the extravagant bell order.  On on being asked, King Dom Joao said, “ So cheap?  Double the order!”  Apparently the cost and the use of such a large workforce nearly destroyed the economy, despite the gold that kept coming from Brazil.  All this expense, but it felt soul-less.



The King’s bed.  The Queen had a smaller one in the opposite tower.  Both had their own kitchen etc.


The long corridors with doorway stretched on and on…


The Queen’s bathroom … one of the more appealing rooms.


One of the salons, but it would not look amiss in an English south coast hotel!


A treasure – an C18th pinball machine.


Not a treasure – some of the animal furniture … spot the baby boar’s head on the sofa!

IMG 1114

The top treasure, which made the visit absolutely worthwhile – The Library at 83.6m, built on a church’s cross with books dating from C15-C18.  Many were bound by the monks living there.  It is so precious that the Pope issued a ‘bull’ (law) that no one could remove books without the permission of the King.

Oscar (released from bondage) – once he had stopped pawing Katherine, accompanied us for a very good helping of local ice cream. We would have visited the Tapada – hunting grounds with plantings, but wild boar are not dog friendly!  Enough of Mafra, we took a small division to Sobreiro, where Jose Franco built a miniature village with ‘kooky’ houses that you can walk into – great fun for children. 


The miniature village was complete with bandstand, waterwheel, primary school and castle.


Honestly J, you don’t need to do the washing by hand, we’ve a twin tub! 

Back towards Santa Susana with our 2 redoubtable SillySatNavs – Madge and Colin – we ended up in a very narrow street – with parked cars, sharp turns and an overhanging roof!!!   Luckily, the local neighbours turned out to advise and guide us – the clearance between our roof and the overhang was millimetres – K piloted us to safety and a better road back to our bivouac. Peace reigns and blogging (a short J guitar practice) – and Knitting…….  Now, K nitting – not Knitpicking – is not an exact science – it’s sometimes “Knit 120 – undo 120” – nothing to do with wine Consumption, either! Possibly, unKnitpicking….

617-618: Cascais and Rugby

617 – Friday 3rd February 2017:  Cascais

We left Campismo Lisboa – clean. 


The route along the coast is ‘littered’ with forts …this one out in the misty sea.


And a little closer on shore.  I was confused as to whom would attack from the Atlantic, other than Sir Francis Drake who inflicted much damage on the Med coast, so I googled, that a lot of the forts were trading posts.  As Portugal and Spain recognised each other’s territories (mostly), there was little threat from the Atlantic, until the English, French and Dutch showed up. 

Through Estoril (mainly resort town with high rises) – and quickly to Caiscais (pronounced ‘Kashkish’, we think).  Nicey (pricey) parking at the Marina with really helpful dog friendly attendant  – and off to walk – beautiful green park with chickens wandering around – we were gently reminded by a park attendant that humans need to be on leads – controlled by a (our) dog!   As if he’d chase anything?!?   He controls us!  I wandered back to Jez while K and O walked on – to discover an O’Neills Irish Bar – which will show the opening day of the 6 Nations Rugby tomorrow!  Ireland v Scotland and England v France!  A date booked. 

A truly beautiful overnight parking with about 8 other vans – facing the Atlantic Ocean – strong winds blowing – but not much van movement – and not a spot of mud for K’inometres!  K and O walked to the nearby beaches and wowed about their dogambulations.  We can hear the waves crashing on the rocks – no 2:00 am relocation, tonight, eh…… 


Outside the bankrupt Irish villa …   Once the royal family started spending summer’s here, the riff raff started building their villas nearby … an Irishman built Condes Castro Guimaraes (now a museum) including Shamrock emblems, but he went bankrupt and had to sell.


The Citadela is the former Royal Palace, now a Pousada (posh atmospheric state run hotel chain that my Aged’s like to frequent … on occasion), shops and restaurants.


Dom Carlos… from the dates he was only 47 when assassinated.  Along the front are some stunning villas.

K here   I also booked a hair cut at 1.00 tomorrow before the big games … my annual chop!  4” to come off I reckon.  We drove along the coast looking for an overnight spot, mindful of the terrain and not being overly wind buffeted.  We spied a parking with about 6 other ‘vans  … but that’ll do nicely, thank you.  Hardstanding, great views and not too windy.  J rested and I took O to investigate the area.  On the other side of the road was a massive sand dune area … the wind blows the sand from here – Praia do Guincho and Praia da Crismina inland and according to the info boards to another beach a little further south.  Can’t work out the geography myself, but it was an impressive boardwalk through a dune eco system with plants and birds.  They do get around, the Brits … a family at the info centre … drinking beer … booze is such a less obvious preoccupation here to the locals, at least.  After the boardwalk I headed onto the beach … the Atlantic rollers really are something.  I used to be a reasonably strong swimmer, but no way would I have ventured out in these.  Oscar attempted to eat a salt foam ball and then eschewed chasing any sticks or flotsam.  

IMG 1077

The dune board walk.

IMG 1079

You can just spot the vans on the coast.

IMG 1082

Shame it was so misty, as there was another fort and a rocky cost.

IMG 1085

I’ve not see foam like this since we had a holiday home in Norfolk and the beach in Eccles used to turn white.

618 – Saturday 4th February:  A Resounding English Result 

Leisurely start as our first appointment for my hair was not until 1.00.  Just as well we had time, as I bagged up 5 portions of broad bean soup … the flavour is relevant!  As one of the bags had a hole and it looked as if a giant sneeze had coated, surfaces, sinks, walls and the interior walls of the fridge.  Oscar tried to help clear up with his tongue and was also snotted.  Ho hum … we had flying soup about a year ago in Italy.

We left Jez at the free parking by the Boca do Inferno – the sea crashes into a cleft in the rock sending up a lot of spray and, on occasions a loud booming noise.


Boco do Inferno.


Onto my hair cut – much needed… about 10 cm off.  The half S.A. and half Portuguese lady hairdresser told me that Cascais, whilst still being touristy, has retained its Portuguese identity, unlike the Algarve.  I really liked the feel of the town … so far this is my ‘could live here’ Portugal destination.


Before … Maddy told me it was my witchypoo look last weekend.P1130175

After 🙂

I met J and O at the O’Neill’s Irish bar and were told we were welcome to take O inside.  Just as well, as the outside TV failed to work.  I don’t think we’ve sat on one firm chair so long since our work days!  Ireland lost to Scotland’s amazing defence in a brilliant to watch game.  J’s daughter Sinead was at Murrayfield but obviously did not bring them enough luck!  However, the main event – France and ENGLAND, was a perfect score!  The pub did not provide food, but brought in piazza from another restaurant …. as it took soooo long to arrive, and was pretty cold when it did, we even had a complimentary round of drinks … another good result!

P1130173  1

O’Neill’s and you may just spot a Lepracorn in a green fleece with an Irish rugby cap!


We stayed over at our previous night’s parking … 


Our neighbour for both nights.  I don’t know why the young man had it in for dolls, but they or their body parts were everywhere!