Saturday, December 23, 2017

Alcobaca - A quaint town in Portugal

 Obidos, Alcobaca, Beltalha, and Leiria  are all close to each other. So, we decided to find a central location to stay and visit these places. As per the location and budget, we booked inot Hostel of Alcobaca. It was for 3 nights. During those three days, we went in and out of Alcobaca a few times. The area near the Monastery is the old town and the rest away from it is relatively newer.
There is a huge square in front of the monastery, lined by bakeries, resaurants, banks and other tourist attractions. Jo is peeping from behind the sculpture here.
 River Alcobaca passes through the town. Quaint bridges over it to go across.
It is a quiet town, at least the old part of the town, which suited us best. Few cars or vehicles were plying on these roads. The curving roads paved with cobble stones, and two or three storied buildings lining them is a treat to watch.
One can see that some of the buildings are vacant and are in need of urgent repairs. They are very well proportioned with beautiful windows and doorways.
Some buildings are well maintained as well. There is contrasting architectural styles of the old and new structures. They stand side by side and somehow there is a harmony in spite of the difference in styles and periods they were built in.Close to the bus stand and in the centre of the town square is a huge park where there are benches, lawns and exercise equipment id installed. The town people can get their daily exercise on the way to or from work, if they so desire. I found it totally motivating!
The bus stand is centrally located and we could walk to the hostel with our luggage quite easily. We noticed that there is good bus connectivity to other towns from Alcobaca. There are parks, squares, educational buildings, and commercial complexes in Alcobaca. This place is ideal for those who want peace and be away from the hustle and bustle of a big city. We loved it for the same reasons.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

The Literary Man Obidos Hotel Or Book lovers' paradise

Walking down the Rua de Dom Joao de Ornelas, we found a Unique name plate, 'The Literary Man Obidos Hotel'. Jo, my husband was intrigued by the name. He said that he wanted to check it out on our back. So we did. We were in for a surprise, as it turned out to be one of the pleasantest experiences of our trip to Obidos. we fell in love with it instantly.

In 'The Literary Man', as you can see the letter M is tilted at an angle; could it mean that the a person with a literary bent of mind is slightly different? Whether right or not, I liked it... 
It is a book store and it is a hotel. It was a convent during 18th and 19th centuries, according to the hotel staff, a courteous, helpful and pretty young lady, who was doing the registrations, managing billings, holding the reception, serving tea, and taking care of guests. I am impressed with her! A couple of years ago, it was converted into a hotel. The building is a solid stone construction with timber roofs. 
There were books everywhere, in the lobby, the Lounge cum Dining area, the Gin bar, the guest rooms, in the kitchen, and the our door seating area too.You can buy them or read them there. It is truly book lovers' paradise! 
Wait until you go to the night club or Bar. It is covered with books from floor to ceiling, two floors high. Imagine getting drunk on words, said Jo.

There is a separate entrance to the night club / bar on the left of the main entrance.
Wooden crates converted to outdoor furniture, lining the street outside the Hotel. The building sits on a sloping site. Anywhere you sit, you get a wonderful vista. One can read the books here too, and when you leave, leave them behind on the tales.
The lobby with the books lined up on the walls. The book shelves is a new addition as part of the renovation
The Lounge area near the fireplace
The dining area looking towards the lobby
The dining room cum Lounge with the new ceiling
Books were being donated by different countries we were told. They are in several languages too. Surrounded by subtle music and browsing through our favourite books, sipping our coffees and teas, to us it was soul soothing experience. If you love books, and in Obidos, don't miss this wonderful opportunity of visiting The Literary man Obidos  Hotel. Better if you can stay a night in the hotel.

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; and write to Ms. Concha Rozas at

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.  

Salvadordo Mundo Church - Goa

  It was Easter and we have a ritual of going to a natural spring before sunrise and drinking the holy water from it. Since both Jo and ...