Last night we had dinner with Fernando who is a doctor of Rheumatology in Lisbon. He is a friend of my brother-in-law Gary. He took us to a Fado Restaurant, the Adega Machado, just a few streets from our apartment. We were to meet him at 8.45 and the show would start at 9, but he didn’t arrive till closer to 10. He had texted to say he was held up at work. Fernando brought his charming daughters, Carlotta and Mathilde. We were starving and had only had a little bread and an aperitif. It is not uncommon for Portuguese, like the Spanish, to eat late. Before they arrived the show started and the music was entrancing. We couldn’t understand the words but the emotions were plain. They were full of longing and sadness. The guitars, a Portuguese which is shaped a little like a mandolin but not with a round back, a classical guitar and an acoustic, were so lyrical and soulful. The Fado singers move around the different restaurants and bars throughout the evening, so we had a rolling parade of different artists. They were all amazing with magic voices. Fernando and the girls even sang along sometimes. We just hummed!
The restaurant was more upmarket and the service, food and ambience were delightful.￼￼￼ Fado is distinctly Portuguese and originated in the fishing communities and the poor of Lisbon, eventually becoming accepted across all classes. It is not like Flamenco music though equally as passionate but more yearning. The women traditionally wear black. We were glad the restaurant was close by. As we walked home we passed through throngs of young people, men in particular, all in drinking in the street. Music was thumping from small bars. The street outside was littered with discarded plastic cups and a few broken bottles. This explains hearing the garbage trucks early each morning because there is no litter any where later in the day. We stayed up till 1.00 am-very late for us!
We were leaving early next morning for the hire care office. Irene and Bill set their alarm for 6.30am but slept through it. We were well organised though and headed out to get our Uber. The young man had a Mercedes Benz but he took one look at our suitcases and said he didn’t think he could take them. After a little discussion, Bill ,the expert packer from years of camping, helped him get them all in the boot. It didn’t take long and we were soon at Europcar. We ended up with a Kia hatchback into which with great difficulty we managed to squeeze all the bags. Bill the champion packer again solved the problem. The young man who brought out the car pushed one seatback down and slid one case into that area. That wasn’t going to work because Anne and I would be squashed into two seats at the back. All this packing the boot and unpacking had caused a traffic jam of Europcars and so they didn’t set the TomTom and we had to move out quickly. I became chief navigator for Bill with my phone. We did really well and managed to get onto the freeway with only a couple of missed turns. We were heading to Fátima then onwards to Tomar.
I was curious about visiting Fátima because it is the holiest shrine in Portugal and when we arrived it was not at all what I expected. The development around the scene of the miracles rivals St Peter’s square in Rome! At one end of the oval area is the Basilica flanked by elegant collonards, a third of the way across is the original, restored building where the Virgin Mary appeared to the children, and at the opposite end is a massive modern church of the Holy Spirit, under the forecourt of which were numerous chapels and exhibition rooms. Bill came with us and was suitably impressed by the modern architecture. Even the candle lighting was massive- it was like a barbque! With flames curling up around the candles. No puny electric jobs here! Anne and I lit candles for her daughter Sophie who is extremely ill in hospital and my boys. Irene remained in the car thinking it would be some small little church. There were people on their knees moving the whole length of the oval towards the shrine. I thought it was a mat they were crawling along but it was hard marble. I had not expected such modern buildings or such an extensive complex.
It is a huge business as nearly every hotel is called by a Saint’s name or a religious term and there are numerous shops full of icons and rosaries and other religious paraphernalia. It makes Santiago Compostella look small. About 4 million people visit every year.
By now we were starving and retrieved our rolls bought at a servo along the way. This was our first really cheap meal for weeks and they were delicious. I took over the front seat and continued directing Bill to Tomar a medieval city established by the Knights Templar in 1147. We drove through the back roads and little villages to get there which was a nice change. We had a bit of a false entry into town when the GPS directed us to our destination up a side street into the pedestrian mall! We were all horrified , pedestrians and us. Irene got out to go and find where to collect the key to our AirBnB and a kind woman told Bill to drive up to the square about fifty metres away. I then went after Irene to tell her where we were parked. Apparently it is not uncommon for tourists to end up there! We found the apartment but there was no parking so Bill and I went in search of a suitable place which we found by the river. We could park until the next morning for €2.60. Bill and I got to see more of the town in our search and found it quite pleasing. After stocking up with brekky needs we wandered around until we stumbled on a wine bar where we had the most spectacular tapas which consisted of bread, olives, and two wooden boards loaded with meats and cheese. It was divine, filling and cost us €10 a head. It was so filling we didn’t need dinner. Irene didn’t want to leave the left over bread so I was prevailed upon to use the spacious pockets of my travel vest!
We saw our first Camino sign because this place would be on the route to Santiago if we had been walking from Lisbon. We returned home replete, tired and happy.