Port tasting, beaches and crowds!

Trip Start May 11, 2005
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Portugal  ,
Thursday, July 27, 2006

Ben here...
So since we are so behind on the travelpod and every day we forget more, this is one way of doing it all in one go. So yes this will be a long entry...(Chelise here. If you don't like reading these at least read the Fatima one. I think it is funny)

Portugal in general is just like the rest of Europe. It is, though, a bit on the boring side: churches, churches, churches and the occasional beach. Actually many beaches that were jammed packed. So I personally think the pictures are boring but I will chalk them up to informational. Oh yeah and even though Portugal is suppose to be cheap it's not.

Porto - This town in the North of Portugal is famous for Port (go figure). So we went on a port tour, and drank alot of Port which was dirt cheap. Port is one of the drinks that you refined drinkers cosume. After drinking a fair bit I still prefer an ice cold beer but I can kinda see what you Port drinkers are on about. Just like the rest of Europe we wandered around town looking at shops. This gets boring very quickly and unless you have alot of money and can hang out in restaurants you got to keep on moving. The waterfront where all the Port winerys were was pretty. (Chelise Interjection) I agree with the above although I found the port stuff pretty fascinating. We looked at the Sandeman facility and found out they were one of the first port brands to start advertising and labelling their stuff with a name. They were leaders in the industry and their advertising is now famous with legendery photographers and artist coming up with pictures for the label. The facility was flooded twice during the big floods in the 30s and both times they tied the barrels up with rope and not a drop was ruined. We saw a video which showed us the 3 areas around the Douro where the grapes are grown and how they differ in taste because of the different climates, soils etc. I also thought Porto was a pretty city. Although old and decaying a bit, the buildings were covered in gorgeous tiles and nice statues. Anyway back to Ben.

Figura de Foz - We went to this beach becasue we heard the beach was awesome and we wanted a little beach time. We stayed in a hostel that was basically Chelise and mine dream. It was owned by an English couple our age and the place was perfect. It was exactly how we would have designed it and I think they are going to make a killing beacuse they know what backpackers really want (just like us - I'm very jealous). Plus the Portugese and the Spanish are very laid back when it comes to working and capitalizing where there is money to be made. When they are your competition you are sure to win. The beach here was so massive it took 10 mins just to get to the ocean from the road. Even though it was massive everbody wanted to lie in the same spot so as you can see from the pics it look really crowded.

Tomar - From here we went to Tomar a little town that is famous for its giant knights templar castle. We were interested in this because we have been learning and seeing all this old historic templar spots along the Camino and this was one of the main castle for the knights. Quick history....The Knights Templar was founded by the French to protect Chritian Pilgrims from the Muslims (Moors) when they wanted to vist the holy land. Spain and Portugal were constantly fighting with the Moors over land and relgion. They took a vow of chasity so these sexually frusted kninghts must have been ready throw down on the Moors. Anyfart...they grew very powerful until one of the kings of France disbanded them for fear of their power. They are a very intersting lot and you probabbly have read about them if you read The Davinci Code (I think they were suppose to have found the holy grail).

Fatima - Basically the Virgin Mary appeared to 3 shepherd children here in 1917. She told them to keep coming every month and she would keep appearing and telling them things. She told them 3 big secrets, 2 of which were released when the children were told.The 3rd thing she said was a secret. Only the popes have been allowed to know this and it is thought that the 3rd secret was about the assassintion attempt on John Paul II. The bullet that he was shot with is welded in the crown of one of the Virgin statues. That's why I took a crappy photo of the statue. Also she predicted that if Russia converted communism would fail and that's why there is a piece of the Berlin wall here - another crappy photo. So every year people make a pilgrmage here to pray on the date that virgin appeared and to be healed. The tradition here is to crawl down this really long marble walkway if you want to be healed.
The catch is the more serious the sickenss the harder you have to crawl. So some people were walking down the strip (they obvsiouly had a cold or a headache) while others were on their hands and knees crawling (maybe they had a tumor) while still others were commando crawling (so they must have had AIDS or ebola). You can also buy candles here to light so that god can hear your prayers better (it is a well known fact that candles speed up God's reaction time to your prayers). Because of this and the huge amounts of people that pray there is a huge furnace that incinerates your candle. I really don't even know why they bother with the wick since the furnace melts the candle in your hand (perhaps they should make the candles out of M&Ms) Oh you relgious folk...you're always good for a laugh

Lisbon - We camped in this massive city along with the rest of the poplulation of Western Europe. August is the time that every European camps and the reception lines are a serious problem because of this. We made friends with a Dutch couple and some Germans and drank wine every night with them at the campsite after sight seeing everyday. They kept us sane. The germans introduced us to the 1 Euro Ikea breakfast. Try it out. It's amazing.
Churches, shopping, cafes, trolly cars and Museums. Nice city though.

Villa Nova Milfontes - This was a beach town that was so packed that the campsite looked like a refugee area. All of Portugal has August off for vaction. This being so everything was crowed, prices were high and lines were out the door. The camp site as you can see from the pictures was insanley packed. The funny thing about camping here is that Portugese don't camp for camping sake, they camp because its cheaper. So they virtually bring their entire house with them. 80% of the tents had TVs in them. I saw fridges - they basically camp in giagantic circus tents. The spreads we saw were nicer than most houses. The flip side of this is that it takes them a day to set up camp. We lay on the beach here but quickly got bored and frusted that money was flying out of our pockets (that and the ocean was like ice water). Say with me again "we hate the Euro!" So we decided to high tail it to Morocco.

Thus ends our Portugal travels, perhaps it would be nicer in a less busy season with a stronger currency. I don't know why the dollar sucks ass so much (because Portugal is poor) but if anyone can tell me about how this works please email me.
Anyway (Chelise here). I would like to mention the differences we found between Portugese and Spainish people: Portugese are never grumpy to us, Portugese speak great English, Portugese are taller and fatter which makes no sense to me if they are poorer and the Portugese sell cheap underpants.
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