Around the World... One Journey at a Time. Around the World... One Journey at a Time.

Portugal: Day 6

by Kathy 28. March 2011 19:20

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<< Day 5: Magical Castles of Sintra and Óbidos | Day 7: Nazaré and Sítio >>


Dinosaur Tracks to Nazaré

Today we would be driving from the beautiful castle town of Óbidos to the seaside community of Nazaré, about half an hour away. However, we would be adding another hour and a half of driving to make a detour loop that would take us to see some dinosaur tracks. Not just any dinosaur tracks, mind you. These were the longest and oldest set of sauropod footprints in the entire world. We couldn’t pass that up!

Our route took us along two-lane roads that wound in and out of small villages, as well as larger towns:

Many of the older homes, as well as boundary walls, were made of stone:

This wall with massive stones marked the edge of a quarry:

The dinosaur footprints were located in a former limestone quarry, which is now a Natural Monument. The tracks were discovered in 1994. Scientists believe that sauropods created the tracks about 175 million years ago, when this area was a shallow lagoon. Their footprints had been fossilized into the rock. Here is a drawing of the sauropods on the cover of the Natural Monument pamphlet:

A blast of cold wind hit us as we got out of the car. To reach the tracks, we had to walk down into the quarry area—about a mile loop. First, however, Genevieve and Sebastian played on the small climbing structure (in the shape of a dinosaur) near the ticket office.

Genevieve pretended to be a blue T-Rex:

The walk to the tracks seemed a lot longer than it actually was. I think that after all of the hiking, exposure to history, and new experiences over the last few days, Sebastian’s sensory receptors for new information were on overload (Genevieve’s too, perhaps). He also could have used a few more hours of sleep. The bottom line was that he was five years old and a bit on the cranky side today. The chilly air and whipping wind did not help his mood.

Our path led to an overlook on the edge of the quarry. On the viewing platform was a large photograph exhibit with arrows pointing to the seemingly obvious sets of tracks.

We tried to visually match that photograph with the actual view in front of us, . . . but things just didn’t quite line up:

We pointed out what we thought were dinosaur tracks to Genevieve and Sebastian, but it was hard to be convincing when we weren’t sure ourselves. Whatever we were selling, they weren’t buying.

And so we followed the path down into the quarry where the tracks were roped off and more obvious.

Ben and I were very impressed with the sheer number and clarity of the footprints. One set of tracks was about 155 yards long; another, at 160 yards, was the longest in the world.

From the size and shape of the prints, scientists were able to discern how long the legs were, and they also deduced that the creatures who walked here were loners that did not travel in herds.

After more looking, we were ready to leave the quarry area:

The path led us back up to the quarry edge and then down some stairs into a garden area. Near a small pond was a long white exhibit board with information about the evolution of life on Earth throughout different periods.

Ben pointed out some of the sea creatures to Sebastian:

The group of dinosaurs showed a sauropod raising its head high above the others:

The cold wind was taking its toll on Sebastian, and he was walking at a slow speed. Here he is with Ben, coming up the long path from the quarry:

I loved this dinosaur sculpture near the exit:

The town of Fátima was only about six miles away—the perfect stop for lunch. A small rural community, Fátima was transformed into a major pilgrimage site in the 20th century. Three children (Lucia, age 10, and her younger cousins, Francisco and Jacinta) allegedly saw an apparition of the Holy Mother Mary while tending sheep in May 1917. She was purportedly “brighter than the sun,” and she asked the children to return to same spot each month for six months. Despite tremendous public ridicule, as well as harsh interrogations by the government authorities, the children refused to recant their story. Although crowds of people accompanied them during the next five apparitions, only the children were able to see Mary and hear her words. During her last apparition, Mary asked for prayers to end World War I and requested that a church be built in her honor. A small chapel was built, which was visited by thousands and thousands of people over time. After the Vatican authenticated the apparitions in 1930, the great Basilica of Fátima was constructed.

Sebastian, in front of the Basilica of Fátima:

Each year, over two million pilgrims (mostly women) come here to express devotion to Mary as a mother figure that understands and cares deeply for women and children.

The large open area in front of the Basilica is twice the size of St. Peter’s in Rome and can purportedly hold several hundred thousand people. During our visit, some type of religious service was being held on the side:

Some sculpture along the church plaza:

Here are Ben and the kids in downtown Fátima, after lunch:

Another 45 minutes of driving, and we reached the town of Batalha, which has one of the most visually stunning cathedrals in Portugal—the Monastery of Santa Maria of Batalha. I would have liked to stop, but I didn’t have the heart to wake Sebastian:

So I contented myself with snapping photos as we drove by. Coming up on the cathedral:

There it was, right in front of me, but the camera was on the wrong setting:

Watching it disappear in the distance:

We would be staying the next two nights in the seaside town of Nazaré. Here is the view out over the red-tiled roofs from the terrace of our apartment:

There were steep stairs leading down to our apartment:

Outside our apartment entrance, ready for a walk:

We headed straight for the beach, wearing our jackets instead of bathing suits—we seemed to have brought the cold wind with us from the dinosaur tracks.



Genevieve and Sebastian found a grandstand area to play on:

Stretching up the hill were the tracks for the furnicular (or ascensor) that ran between Nazaré and Sítio, the old district above:

Ben gave Genevieve a piggy back ride out of the sand, while Sebastian ran around trying to get warm:

We escaped the wind one block inland, where we wandered through the narrow and charming streets:

Genevieve led the way:

Sebastian got a ride on Ben’s shoulders:

The old doors were so enchanting—look at how skinny these are:

Walking up to a viewpoint, we passed this graffiti art:

At the viewpoint circle:

Overlooking the town of Nazaré:

Today hadn’t exactly gone as I had envisioned when planning this day. In my fantasy world, the children were completely engaged and intrigued by the dinosaur prints, we had plenty of time to see the Basilica at Batalha, and we were all relaxing right now on the warm sunny beach below. Ha! But the bumps in life add texture and richness, and make things . . . .interesting. And that’s what it’s all about (oh, yeah)!

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<< Day 5: Magical Castles of Sintra and Óbidos | Day 7: Nazaré and Sítio >>

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Places We’ve Been, w/Quick Links

   Bumthang Valley
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   Janko Marca
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Costa Rica
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   Elondo Village
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Planning Our Adventures

For us, each journey begins with the initial heart pangs to venture to a certain part of the world. Then the ideas start coming together . . . ahh, the possibilities . . . and the dream evolves gradually into an actual plan. But, oh, the joy of the dream!  Click here to learn more about how we plan and prepare for our journeys.

Where Are We Now?

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Words for the Heart

“. . . and then the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

Anais Nin