Monday, October 23, 2017

Other attractions of Obidos, Portugal

 
Our host at Ericeira, Mr. Jose was kind enough to drop us off at Torres Vedres railway station. From there we took the train to Obidos. It took just 50 min.
I had traveled extensively by trains, but this train journey was unique. To start with the train had only two bogies, other than the engine. Never traveled by such a small / short train. Next, it was a very short stop; and the train left the station right away. The station was a quaint little building, not more than two rooms.

 The railway station was closed, with a lock on the door. That meant there was no one to ask the directions. No transport outside the station; nothing. It was totally quiet ....
We were in a dilemma. Where to go, in fact how to go from there to Obidos castle? The network signal was weak, so could not find our bearings either. We picked up our bags and started walking in the only direction the road lead. Came to an intersection and waited for human movement. Every 5 or 10 min, one car would pass by. Jo refused to ask for directions. We could see wall walls which looked like they might belong to the castle. The road bifurcated into two; one seemed to lead towards the castle. Jo elected to walk in the direction of the castle.The issue was that this road was totally uphill. Either made was for automobiles or as a short cut to reach the top, meaning they did not bother if it was steep!! Imagine my mood as I had to lug two bags and climb the hill after a train journey! Not pretty at all. What was strange was that we did not come across any tourists, travelers on this road, as we kept climbing and some more climbing. Finally reached the North gate or Porte da Notre-Dame de Grace. Happy to know that we were on the right track! The railway station is locted on the North western side of Obidos, meaning, behind the castle. No wonder we were totally lost! 
The walled city or the city inside the walls supposedly established around the beginning of the 6th century, has labyrinth of cobble stone paved alleys and paths. the main street has tourist shops and cafes lining it on either side. There is a whole town inside the castle walls; people are living there.
 
The quaint entrance doors, windows, the awnings, brightly painted walls, the flower pots hung from the walls, add to the charm and tranquility to the town of Obidos. It is postcard picturesque.
 
Since the town is perched on top of the hill, the streets are all up and down; make for interesting architecture....
 
Santa Maria church on the square
 
Traditional and medieval buildings with interesting roofs sprinkled all over the town
 
It was season for ripe lemons. All the trees were bursting with hundreds of them.
 
We loved walking around the town, taking in the views, appreciating the architecture.
In the front yard of this house, the tables had old sewing machine stands for legs! Recycle, reuse!
One can easily spend a full day walking around the town or just lazing around in the cafes or taking in the beautiful views of the surrounding country! Best reserved medieval town and well maintained! Jo and I had a wonderful time and at the end of it, we headed to the bus stand to await the bus to Alcobaca.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Argonauta Hostel - Obidos, Portugal

We reached Obidos by train and since we were carrying our luggage with us, we had to find a place to park it before venturing on the discovery of the Obidos castle and its surroundings. As the castle is located on top of the hill, so it was no easy task lugging 2 bags each. We asked a couple of people and they directed us to this Hostel called the Argonauta and we were told Ms. Concha Rozas is a very agreeable lady, who runs the hostel and she might oblige us by taking care of our bags. It was easy enough to find, as the Argonauta Hostel is located close to the main gate to the Obidos Castle.The entrance to the hostel is a quaint doorway and an ethnic curtain covers it.
Inside we found Ms. Concha Rozas, a charming, vivacious lady seated at her desk, welcomed us warmly. She was very gracious and allowed us to park our bags on a table, when we told her of our predicament. 
She has started this hostel some 8 years back, and runs it during the summer months, when there are tourists. Rest of the year, she is off to do her touring or visiting friends and family in Spain or other places. To me, it seemed like the best arrangement. What better way to work and enjoy the world too. It made me think of what all is possible to do...
By the way, Ms. Rozas is an artist, paints, creates ceramic products, and is into photography. You will see her artwork displayed in the hostel. Actually there is an artistic touch to every product and space. 
She uses mostly recycled furniture, about 200 years old. She is proud of the fact that she manages everything herself; without employing help.
The ground floor is for the common areas like entrance foyer, lounge, Kitchen, and service area. First floor is entirely dedicated to beds, and toilets.You have a choice of single, bunk and double beds. It is a dormitory arrangement only. 
The hostel looked clean, well equipped with spacious toilets and an eclectic style.
We got back to the hostel to collect our bags after our tour of the castle and nearby areas.
Though we did not stay at Argonauta Hostel, we found the place very well maintained, easily accessible, and Concha Rozas very helpful. 
If you are visiting Obidos and looking for a good place to stay, you can check out; www.hostelargonauta.com and write to Ms. Concha Rozas at hostel.arcgonauta@gmail.com

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Royal Palace and Monastery - Mafra Palace, Portugal

The palace and the facilities are used only as temporary residence when they came for hunting in the Tapada Hunting grounds nearby.
 
The dining hall is simple and a little austere.
 
The King's chamber situated in the North tower, has a Gondola bed made with Mahogany wood and matching side units are place on a slightly raised wooden platform.The portrait of King Joao VI looks down from the right side of the bed.
 
One can a series of doors in alignment through the front part of the palace
 
The Music room or the Yellow room as it is called because of the Yellow curtains,  upholstered chairs and seating in this room. A grand Piano sits grandly in the centre of this room, surrounded by several seating arrangements. Several painting and lithographs adorn the walls. You cannot help but love this room. It is pleasant, light and airy. Can imagine those attending piano recitals sitting around must have enjoyed the whole experience!
 
A group of tiny tots were taken on a school field trip round the Palace. Well guarded and shepherded by teachers, the kids seemed to have a wonderful time. A couple of Palace staff dressed in the costume of the King and Queen play acted their roles for the benefit of the kids, made me wish I was a kid! What a great way of teaching the children the history! 
This set of table and chairs looks unusual at first glace, but still a table and chairs. On closer inspection, you will notice that the legs of the chairs and the table are made of huge antlers! Rest of the furniture in this hall, called the Antler Hunting Trophy room, are made of the antlers. Antlers everywhere, hanging from the ceiling as chandeliers, hung on the walls and displayed in the frames. Must appreciate the ingenuity of the craftsmen and artisans in fashioning the sturdy, stable and functional furniture. I was impressed!
 
The main attraction in Palacio Nacional da Mafra is this huge library. House to a treasure of around 40,000 books, from the world over, the library can boast of several first editions and translations. In the plan of a cross, the longest side measures 88m. and 9.5m in width. The bookshelves are made in Rococo style, are arranged in two levels, the books on the upper level can be accessed from a gallery. Visitors are not allowed to touch the books. 
 
The Copper pots and pans used during the time the palace was in active use, are still displayed in the kitchen. The kitchen is big and covered in ceramic tiles. Even those days, they used the tiles for easy cleaning and maintaining hygiene.For the first time in Europe, water was pumped to the kitchen; the pumping arrangement being located in the garden next to the palace.
  
Herringbone pattern of brick flooring, polished to a shine. I just loved it.
 
The refectory is a long hall, simple, austere and befitting the character of the place.
The infirmary is a big rectangular hall where cubicles are made and heavy curtains for privacy are hung on the front. Each cubicle has a wooden bed, a small chest. On the wall above the headboard, picture of Christ in tiles is hung. Whether they are monks or soldiers, the sick and injured are treated here in this infirmary. There are rooms to store medicines in various bottles and containers. One end of the infirmary has a chapel. Those who are too ill to go to the Basilica, can do their prayers here itself.
The queens chambers are equally impressive with its furniture and paintings.  
Out of the 1200 rooms, only a few are open to public, rest occupied by the Military since 1849 till date.  

Basilica - Mafra Palace, Portugal

It is the first time I had seen marble stone of different colours being used in such luxury and intricate design for flooring, walls, and ceilings. Starting in the Vestibule (Galilee Porch)/ entrance verandah where statues of St. Sebastiao and others were commissioned from various Italian masters. 
Though started construction 1717, to this day the Church is maintained very well. It is a pleasure to visit it. I felt a sense of calm and peace inside the church. If you happen to visit, please do spend some time in silence. Some places are for fun and enjoyment, and some are for pure experience and soak up the ambience. This is one such place. 
The Church measures 63m. in length, 16.5m wide and 21m. high in the nave.
Semi columns of fluted Corinthian style support the Barrel vaulted roof
 
King D.Joao VI commissioned 6 Organs for the Basilica

Palacio Nacional da Mafra (National Palace of Mafra), Portugal

Jo and I made a day trip to Mafra from Ericiera, where we were based. We took a bus. The distance was around 10 km. 
The Palacio Nacional da Mafra dominates the town and from anywhere you will see the towers, the dome, or the front facade. The town grew around it. There is a huge square in the front of the palace, giving it the distance and space to appreciate the size, grandeur, and magnificence of the palace. I was awestruck!
The monument comprises of the Royal Palace, the Basilica, and the Convent / Monastery. it is 3 in 1. I have too many photographs to fit into one post, so this post gives details of the outside and some info. The next post shows the interiors.
  • The construction began in 1717 and completed in 1750
  • The architect was Mr. Johann Friedrich Ludwig, a German master goldsmith, who trained as architect in Italy
  • Built with local marble of different shades
  • In the style of Baroque and Italianised neo classical architecture
  • The palace complex occupies a vast area of 37,790 sq.m.  
  • comprising of 12000 rooms
  • The library consists of 40000 rare books
  • It was a modest project to begin with. As the gold started pouring in from Brazil, the complex enlarged to a magnificent edifice
  • Mafra palace was residence to the kings while hunting in the game preserve of Tapada Nacional de Mafra
  • The length of front facade is 220m.
  •  The facade is built with limestone and the Basilica in white marble
  • Monastery part of the complex is used by the military
 

Other attractions of Obidos, Portugal

  Our host at Ericeira, Mr. Jose was kind enough to drop us off at Torres Vedres railway station. From there we took the train to Obid...