Monday, May 21, 2018
Day 3 - Fátima, Batalha Monastery, Nazaré, and Óbidos
the sun is out, the sky is blue
there's not a cloud to spoil the view
Raining in My Heart - Buddy Holly
Day 3 was spent taking a day tour to Fátima and some other places. The guide asked me why Fátima and I said I was curious. Really, when I booked the tour, I didn't care much for all the other places. I was the first to be picked up and I was expecting the group to be bigger than the trip to Sintra, but it was much smaller. When I found out, I wasn't excited, but the day turned out to be okay. The other people in the group is an older couple from Louisiana. I sat with the lady, Kathy, and his husband, Bubba sat at the front. Maybe it's totally fine for Americans, but I felt weird having to address an older man with Bubba because the sound of that name doesn't sound very mature for me. Anyways, I pretty much talked to Kathy throughout the trip. She was quite chatty :) Upon finding out they're from Louisiana, I told her how I love Duck Dynasty :D She and I are quite in sync on a number of things except for Trump, more on that later.
So Fátima as the guide explained to us, is named after the daughter of Prophet Muhammad. Side note: I just wanted to go to Seville when I planned this trip. To make things easier, I could just have explored Spain thoroughly rather than go to Portugal. However somehow I wasn't that interested to go to Madrid and then Catalunya is having its own identity issue that though I love Barcelona, I thought I should perhaps go somewhere else altogether. Hence I chose Portugal. Without knowing much history, there is a theme in this trip, that is of Moorish influence
in this area, an influence that is felt and quite visible in Portugal and the Andalusia territory of Spain. Many of the churches used to be mosques. As the guide said, put a cross and the Virgin Mary, and there you go, you convert a mosque to a church. Kinda the opposite of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul when a church became a mosque. Unfortunately though, I don't think I have learned much Moorish history from this trip. What I know about Fátima is that somehow I know it's quite an important pilgrimage place for Catholics. From the guide, I learned that long time ago 3 children had an apparition of the Virgin Mary here and hence the place became quite famous. One of the thing that me and Kathy agreed on is that our guide was quite all over the place with his explanation. I felt sometime the guide didn't finish his explanation from beginning to end. I Wikipedia-d this place to get more informed. Do the same if you want to learn more.
Arriving at the place, it was not like what I expected. The compound is big, huge. There were many Catholics of course. Saw some people crawling on their knees. I thought they're praying for something, but the guide told me it's for penance. During the time when the kids saw the Virgin Mary, I imagined this place to be more like a field, but now it's just an open place with 2 churches, Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fátima and Basilica of the Holy Trinity. Then there's also another structure that encloses the small chapel that was built to mark the apparition. I know all these were built to accommodate the many pilgrims, but I don't know. Maybe because I'm not a Catholic, I felt nothing. It could also be because I'm such a sinner, on my way down to hell, that I felt nothing :D Sorry God, I don't know, I really felt nothing. I felt a bit of curiosity at the people who were on their knees and crawling, but overall if you ask me if I felt an overwhelming presence, I felt nothing.
We're given time to explore on our own and I started with the modern church, Basilica of the Holy Trinity, which is the building on the left in the picture below. There was a mass going on and I watched a bit from the door. I did feel rather disrespectful for not giving more respect to this place.
After that I went to Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fátima which is located at the other end of the modern church. Both pictures of the 2 churches were taken when I was at one of them looking at the other. Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fátima was older and our guide told us the tombs of the kids are there (2 of them died a very young age, still as kids), but I didn't see it. I don't know if it could be visited when I was there. I tried, but couldn't find the direction. There was a beautiful kids choir when I was there and maybe they closed some parts because of it. Kathy said they couldn't go in as well.
Then this is the structure that encloses the small chapel that you can see behind the priest. There was a mass when I took this picture. Many of the Catholics seemed to be focused on this area.
Near this chapel, there's a place where people can light their candles, but it's such an open fire that it reminded me of the open fire in Chinese temple where people burn their offering papers. Kathy was amazed at the very long candles some of the pilgrim brought. They were like 1-metre long. The guide told us because of the many pilgrims and candles, it became open fire. I didn't go nearer to see if people still tried to light their candles or just throw their candles into the open fire. Honestly I didn't really see a place where they can put their lighted candles. So anyway, I'm kinda underwhelmed with Fátima and I do feel like asking God's forgiveness for feeling that way.
Next stop was Batalha Monastery which I thought was more interesting and I wanted so badly to explore more. However we spent little time here :( First of all, the exterior of the monastery is so interesting with its gargoyles, spires, and just all around interesting-ness. Really if only I had more time just to absorb.
Then the monastery apparently housed several important tombs. There's the tomb of Philippa of Lancaster and her husband who was a Portugal King and they're the parents of Henry the Navigator whose tombs is also in the same chamber as theirs. The chamber has a very nice ceiling and when we were there, the sun beautifully lit it and with the coloured windows, the way the colours fell on the chamber was just so beautiful.
The day I was there was 25th April which is a public holiday in Portugal. An important date, hence there's a bridge named after this. The guide told us that it marked the end of dictatorship in 1974, which means it's only been 44 years, quite young. Anyway because of the public holiday a Portugal tourists told us all the places were free to visit, but when the guide tried to bring us to another section, we couldn't enter. I'm not sure if it's free only for Portuguese. So anyway, I heard the cloister is quite nice too, but we didn't go in. Aaahh, really if only we could spend more time here :(
We had lunch nearby. All of us ate together. The couple then asked me about healthcare in Singapore :D They're annoyed with Obamacare. Them being from the red state Louisiana, I know they're likely to be Trump supporters. I did wonder if I'd get to meet a Trump supporter on this trip, what would they be like. This couple I met are very nice, but our views of Trumps are so different. I had (and still do) so much to ask, but I chickened out and I didn't. Talks about politics could turn bad and we're on vacations. It would be disastrous if we blew up. I think they chose Trump for economic reasons and they felt that the media is unfair to him. I must have made a face on that remark because Kathy said, you're so not on Trump. We laughed at that. I can't comment on their reasoning for voting Trump for economic reason because I'm not an American who live in America, so I just accepted that as their concerns. However, what about the other reasons that Trump is so awful. If there's one question I wanted to ask is that, okay forget what the media portray him to be, forget about what he did in the past with the likes of Stormy Daniels because that is years ago, Russia investigation hasn't brought definitive damaging proof, but how about what he actually says and tweets. Surely it's not right, surely that is not what you can be proud of having your president do all that. Another question would be, what are your thoughts that the rest of us in this world don't think very highly of him. All that I didn't ask. For me it's precious that God gave me the chance to meet and spend time with them. Sometime we can be so in our group that we think the other side is so different, so so different. However me and Kathy and I guess by extension her husband have things in common. We could talk about pig liver and shared the same thought of not loving the tipping culture in America and grown kids living with their parents. They are nice and friendly and they made the day interesting for me :)
After lunch we went to Nazaré. There's an interesting story
regarding Nazaré, involving a cliff and the statue of the Virgin Mary breastfeeding baby Jesus. We went to the cliff and saw the beach below.
Then went to the small chapel nearby where the statue was found. The chapel is super small. The statue is not there anymore, but we could see the small tunnel hole where the statue was found. The chapel is not very interesting at all. It has this blue tiling on the ceiling.
Then the guide took us to the nearby Sanctuary of Our Lady of Nazaré church where the statue is now located. The statue is of a black virgin Mary and apparently it's from Nazareth hence the name of the place if I'm not mistaken. For pictures from this part of the trip, please go here
Last stop of the day was Óbidos. Seriously I was only focused on visiting Fátima that I didn't care much about the other places, but Batalha Monastery and Óbidos are like the nicest parts of the day. Óbidos is like this very cute village. Very touristy though, there were many tourists. There were also many shops selling souvenirs and stuff. The houses are painted white and some has interesting flowers on them. Óbidos is quite photogenic.
I didn't feel like going into the shops, so I just walked up the main street looking at alleys and such, taking pictures. Following the main street, I ended up in this castle with walls. I didn't go further than this.
Before we left, our guide treated us to shots of Ginja. It's a cherry liqueur and ours were served in chocolate cups. I chose white chocolate. Kathy and I had the same thought; our first impression of it was cough syrup :D For pictures from Óbidos, please go here
. Got back in Lisbon later than expected. I wasn't that hungry so I went to the patisserie nearby my hotel that I spotted days before. Got 2 cakes and was surprised that they were cheap. Each was like 1 euro something. Had one of the cake for dinner and it was really good. I regretted not visiting this patisserie more. It was my last day in Portugal and I felt sad about leaving. Portugal exceeded my expectation and I have such fond memories of it :)
:) eKa @ 10:27:00 PM •