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!

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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.

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The Unfinished Chapel – more Manueline Architecture.

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

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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.

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

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.  

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The dune board walk.

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You can just spot the vans on the coast.

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

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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!

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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!