Why go from Spain to Morocco to France then back to Portugal? Well, we were going to skip Portugal, but then decided last minute that we should check it out. We managed to get some cheap flights on Ryan Air and Easy Jet, so we decided to go for it. We flew from Marseille, France to Porto, Portugal. Rented a car, and drove south to the Algarve, stopping on our way to a few different historic sites; more Roman ruins, a few castles, the Convento de Cristo in Tomar (see photo to left) which is the home to the Knights Templar. The architecture is incredible; part of the Manueline times, I think around the 1500’s when Portugal was a strong and growing nation.
We stopped in Fatima, where the Virgin Mary appeared to three young shepard children in 1917, and in 5 different apparitions reveled 3 secrets which foretold the future. Modern day Fatima is now a thriving holy destination for pilgrims. During the holiest of times, the faithful will walk hundreds of miles to visit the site, some of them will even come walking on their knees . Mass is said 2 or 3 times a day and in the evenings there is a candlelight vigil. Arriving late to the vigil, we were surprised to see a thousand or so worshippers. Although there is a basilica, the service is said outdoors in an open square.
After hearing so much about the Algarve, we had to visit and see for ourselves. So after a few days in Lisbon, we headed down to the Algarve. Since we were running out of time, we ended spending one day in Lagos, a nice beach town where the water is crystal blue.
It was worth the trip to see Portugal, but it’s quite clear that by comparison Portugal has not had the same economic growth as its neighboring countries in the EU. There isn’t nearly as much money coming in from tourism, and the towns appear a little more run down.
As for the food, I read that it was homestyle, and that the cuisine lacks formality even when dining out. Presentation is clearly not a selling point. I don’t know the Portuguese name of this dish, but it translates to “seafood on bread”. Turns out it’s bread mashed up with seafood and mustard was added, tableside.
This soup is called alentejana, which our waiter said he grew up eating this since his family was so poor. The ingredients are water, salt, garlic, olive oil, parsley and sliced bread. Turns out with this dish both presentation and flavor was lacking with this dish.
I don’t know how it happened, but somehow we went to Portugal and never had time to try the port.