Heading up the CRIL again to Obidos, there were only a few boy racers on the road into Lisbon but once we left them behind we had the road to ourselves.
The countryside going there is interesting with the undulating hills and vineyards. It takes about an hour and a half and is easy driving. Winding our way up to Obidos we parked just outside the city walls and wandered off to explore the interior.
It is a very quaint little place with narrow cobbled streets and houses crammed in together. The Main Street has many shops selling trinkets, knights in armour, bells, tea towels and a host of other Portuguese artifacts. Because there were only a few tourists we were able to explore at our leisure.
At the top of the town stands the castle in its walled grounds. It is an impressive site and in busier times would have a variety of amusements and activities going on. I think folk would be dressed in costume selling their wares from decorated huts. There is a theatre area where jousting and medieval scenes would normally be enacted, but sadly none of this was happening. It is possible to walk high up on the walls, but be warned there is no safety rail and it really is a sheer drop in places.
The rest of the town is lovely and so compact that you can walk in a circular path in under an hour. Be warned, it is steep in places and shoes with a good grip are needed! There are several bars selling Obidos Ginja and some good restaurants, such as the History Man. We had lunch there sitting under a walnut tree. The food was delicious and the interior of the place is original; they use old printer’s blocks under glass for the tables and the walls are lined with books, but the food is modern and very good. I think it really is worth a visit as Obidos is unique and it’s easy to explore in a day.
The following day we drove the short distance to Peniche where we enjoyed the coast road out to the amazing sandy beaches and wild dunes. It is a surfer’s paradise and they were out in force. You can take a boat trip out to the islands or explore by walking along the coastal path.
Further up the coast is Praia D’el Rey. This is where you will find a large beach which is extremely quiet and a great place to walk for miles without meeting too many people. It is about 7km off the main road and there you will find a large hotel, a golf course and a large amount of housing but strangely no shops or restaurants other than the hotel which is expensive, but it is worth a stop to appreciate the view and the beach. The hotel has fantastic views and whilst expensive by Portuguese standards does on occasions offer good deals. It is a perfect ‘get away from it all location’ .The wind here can be chiller than that of Cascais but it is great on a hot day!
In this part of the country, you can include a visit to Buddha Eden (which deserves a special report in itself!), the Monastery in Batalha- a lovely town with great gift shops. 30 mins drive can take you to the small town of Alcobaca. There you will find another interesting Monastery and opposite there is a fabulous coffee shop selling great cakes and chocolates- now that is worth the trip! This is a great time to travel as the roads are quiet, the hotels are quiet, the restaurants are quiet, the Monasteries are quiet, and the Portuguese people are so happy to see us!
Quinta do Sanguinhal by Barb Schafer
Quinta do Sanguinhal is a lovely old winery in Bombarral near Obidos about 90 minutes’ drive north of Lisbon. Here’s a link: https://www.vinhos-sanguinhal.pt/index.php/en
We knew that “quinta” means “large farm” in Portuguese. We learned that the term comes from the time of the monarchy in Portugal, which started in 1139 and ended in 1910. During the monarchy, a king could grant land to a man (never a woman) who was in turn required to pay one fifth (uma quinta) of his harvest to the king. Quintas were handed down to heirs in succession and the more successful farmers could buy up their neighbour’s land to combine farms into large estates. All over the countryside you can still see the old quinta walls, most of which are now crumbling.
The Pereira da Fonseca family was able to buy two other quintas after the revolution of 1910, due to the business acumen of the patriarch, who was a highly successful producer, distributor and seller of regional wines.
The tour started in the cellar where brandy is stored in huge oak casks. We then visited the distillery where they keep a Bugatti which belongs to the family; when they host weddings the bride and groom are allowed to drive into the estate to start the festivities.
We walked through the gardens to the edge of one of the vineyards, the vines were heavy with ripening chardonnay grapes hanging in clusters. Fortunately, they do not have to irrigate the vineyards in this region as the microclimate of the area allows for natural cultivation.
When we came back from the field we went into a huge room where, in the old days, grapes were stomped by barefoot workers. The huge vats held the grapes and as they were crushed the juice ran down under the floor into storage tanks. Gravity carried the juice through underground pipes to the next part of the process where wine was left to mature in oak casks until it was ready to bottle. The brandy or port wine was left much longer.
We then had our wine tasting experience. The great granddaughter of the first winemaker explained the process and which grapes were used in each wine we tasted. There were two white wines, two red and the brandy accompanied with local Portuguese cheeses.
The whole experience gave us an insight into wine making through the years and the heritage of these hiddens gems, I would highly recommend it!
QUINTA DAS CEREJEIRAS, BOMBARRAL TEL: 262 609 199 1 914 493 231 1 913 116 600 MAIL: [email protected] WEB: www.sanguinhal.pt GPS: Cerejeiras – 39 0 16′ 72″N 19D 9’13.84″W;