On the move again today, thick fog when we got up but by 10 o’clock it had lifted and sun was peeping about. We took a slow drive up in the general north west direction, avoiding motorways we used the back-roads through the villages. All very scenic and lovely – then we arrived in Abrantes. A bit of a shock to the system, nothing wrong with it but one of the first industrial type towns we have come across in 3 months. The river Tejo cuts the town in half, lots of recreational facilities along the river but the whole built up area didn’t appeal so we moved on and stopped for lunch on the Barragem do Castelo Do Bode. The road crosses over the dam so we had a cheeky lunch stop right on the dam with views down reservoir.
We decided on Tomar as a destination, and rolled up at a very lovely little campsite called Pelinos 77. The couple who run it are….yes Dutch. Its a lovely place, tiered pitches and a flat area at the bottom where we are parked up. The showers are open sided to the elements – luckily for us there isn’t any real wind around so its warm as toast. There is an incredible little bar at the top of the site, must get a photo, quaint as can be and looks like it should be in Holland. On the notice board are lots of great little sayings – and you get to take away “a smile”.
Ok so we arrived and parked up, at which stage I mentioned to Iain we needed bread and supermarket was 5km backthe way we had come! Ooops. So off we went, at which stage it seemed stupid to me not to try and slip in a trip to the Convento De Cristo. We thought being Sunday it would be mad busy but worth a shot if we could find somewhere in the town to park. So we followed signs to the convent and amazingly found ourselves in a car-park at the entrance to the convent – just us and one other British camper-van, maybe all the other tourists thought it would be busy too. The grounds of the castle and convent were free, to go inside the convent was free until 2pm – after which it was €6 each, nope we didn’t understand what that was about but we paid up as too much of an opportunity to miss seeing this.
The original convent was built in the 12th century for the Knights Templar. It is without doubt one of the most stunning and amazing places we have been lucky enough to visit. We expected a fair size convent, nothing prepared us for the huge building we were in. There were 8 different cloisters, all built over 500 years ago. The monks dormitories were on corridors so long we could hardly see one end to the other. Being Portugal (with a wonderful lack of health & safety overload) you were allowed to go pretty much anywhere; up on the roof (oh yes I was on another roof), down crumbly steps into basements and standing in cloisters where it did look that a few tons of gargoyles could come down on your head at any stage. We took a ton of photos, only a few below as its hard to capture the sheer scale and beauty of a building like this on a camera.
We are now sat in the “Dutch bar” making use of the free wifi, drinking coffee and being totally impressed at the idea of having a bar in your garden – it has to be the way ahead.