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






Portugal: Day 9

by Kathy 7. April 2011 18:42

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<< Day 8: Miniatures and Majesty of Coimbra | Day 10: Roman Ruins and Bones in Évora >>

 

Marvão, the Eagle’s Nest

We would have loved to have spent another day wandering the twisted streets of Coimbra, but today we were heading to another beautiful place—a tiny castle-town that was almost on the Spanish border.

Before departing, we enjoyed a relaxing breakfast at the hotel:

Sebastian was eager to get the day started!

Away from the hilly historic district, the more modern part of Coimbra had a wide main boulevard that carried us out of the city:

Our drive took us south-east through many small communities:

The twin towers from a coal-fired power plant rose above the trees near the town of Pego:

Although we prefer 2-lane back roads, we didn’t want a long drive today, so we zipped across the central portion of Portugal on the modern toll-road:

Another hill-top wind turbine:

Stopping for gas at one of the clean and efficient petrol stations along the highway:


We soon left the highway behind and continued on 2-lane roads up into the eastern hills. Entering the town of Alpalhão:

(From the look of the smeared blotches on our windscreen, central Portugal had some big flying bugs. Sorry!)

Many of the buildings had white-washed faces with painted trim along the ground and corners:

The road between towns was usually lined with trees and small boundary walls:

We rounded one corner and spotted a castle, with a town spread out around it like a skirt.


The town was Castelo de Vide. We hadn’t planned to stop here, but it just looked too inviting. We headed for the main plaza to see what we could find for lunch.

Ben and Genevieve in Dom Pedro V Square, with the church of São João Baptista:

There was a modern “mother and child” sculpture in front of the church:

We walked a big loop through the side streets, looking at all the architectural details on the buildings.

Then we returned to the plaza area for a relaxing lunch upstairs at Doces & Companhia. Here is Genevieve with her ice cream from the downstairs gelataria:

Another view of the plaza area with the castle up above:

Near the plaza was a large playground. Here are Sebastian and Genevieve at the entrance, next to a bench of local men with their caps and canes:

Our kids joined the handful of local children climbing and playing:


Back on the road, we only had a 15-minute drive to our resting spot for tonight—Marvão. The trees that lined our way had white paint around their lower trunks:

In addition to protecting the trees from bugs, the white paint is easy to see at night and helps drivers identify the edges of the road.

The protective bricks around this stark tree indicated that the tree perhaps may hold some historical or artistic significance, but we have been unable to discover any information about it.

The road signs were easy to follow—we were almost there!

Marvão is an enclosed castle-town that is often referred to as the “Eagle’s Nest.” The town walls rise up from the top of a long craggy mountain, forming extensions of the sheer cliffs underneath.

We could see the mountain in front of us, with the castle towers poking up on the left side, and bits of white-washed town buildings visible on the right:

A closer look at the castle side, where one of the towers was covered in scaffolding:

But for the presence of cars, we could have been entering a town that had been frozen in the medieval ages:



Our hotel was the Pousada de Santa Maria de Marvão, which was spread out in two renovated medieval homes:


Genevieve and Sebastian liked the chess and checkers sets in the lobby:

After we had settled into our room, we took a walk through the cobblestone streets:

Our path led to the castle at the other end of the village:

Despite his serious expression, Sebastian was eager to explore the castle:

While this area has been occupied by many groups of people, including the Romans and the Moors, most of the existing castle had been built under the direction of King Dinis in the 13th century.

The builders had integrated the existing rocky terrain into the castle design. To Sebastian, rocks exist for climbing purposes—so climb he did!

Near the castle entrance, the word “castelo” was spelled out in green plants:

One portion of the castle wall had a round hole, perhaps intended for a protruding canon, and a small watchtower:

Sebastian, in the watchtower:

Genevieve:

From here, we had an extensive view out over the surrounding countryside:

The village stretched back along the mountain top:

Marvão currently has a population of about 150 people and derives much of its income through tourism. The old Santa Maria church, standing near the castle in the above photo, now houses a tourism office and a small museum.

The castle had little nooks and crannies that Genevieve and Sebastian loved to investigate. Here, Genevieve was thrilled to discover what looked like the castle toilet:

Ben led us down the narrow steps into the cisterna, a large storage area that held the castle’s water supply:




I have to admit that going into the cisterna area felt very freaky, as if I were going to suffocate. I even had trouble getting close enough to look at the dark pool of water—very similar to what I feel when looking down over the edge of a high, steep cliff. (Oh, the things we learn about ourselves while traveling!)

Another fun part of the castle was traversing the old walls. We were “experts” after walking along the walls at Óbidos--the kids knew to stay away from the inside edge, I no longer felt compelled to call out “Stay close to the wall!” every 15 seconds, and Ben stuck like glue to Sebastian so that Sebastian’s little “happy feet” wouldn’t dance right off the side.

Thankfully, many of the upper walkways had a short “lip” on the interior edge.

Genevieve:

Ben and Sebastian:

Some walkways, however, offered a straight drop-off and required extra care:



We covered every inch of the walls, seeking out all of the tiny watchtowers:


Some of the towers were not reachable, but we still enjoyed their beauty:

Genevieve, on the wall:

A closer view of the red-tile rooftops of Marvão:

Sebastian, descending the wall:

Near the very back of the castle was a small open area with several old cannons:


Down below, we noticed all the walls that divided the land into oddly shaped parcels.

From here, we also got a closer look at the scaffolding that covered one tower:

Sebastian and Genevieve, with another small cannon:

Ben, Sebastian and Genevieve, going through a castle doorway:

More rocks to climb inside the castle walls:

Ben and Sebastian, leaving the castle:

Genevieve and I stopped by the municipal museum inside the Santa Maria church, which had archeological artifacts and other items related to the history of Marvão.

Nearby was a beautiful blue cart:

I loved the detail found in some of the old buildings:


Sebastian and Genevieve were thrilled to find a small playground, which looked fairly new:

Sebastian, the pirate:

Ben took Sebastian on a fast and furious airplane ride (note, the photo was taken seconds before the “crash landing”—ouch!):

Genevieve met a Spanish girl on vacation with her parents, and she was excited about being able to communicate basic Spanish sentences—“My name is . . . “, “I am 8 years old,” “I’m from the United States,” and more.


Genevieve took this photo as evidence that the kids weren’t the only ones having fun:

Next to the playground was a round stone house with a sod roof:

Nearby was a small, lovely church with a bell tower and wooden doors:

We had a quiet dinner at the pousada restaurant. While waiting for the food to arrive, Genevieve wrote about today’s activities in her travel journal:

We had really enjoyed the “fairy tale” aspect of Marvão, with its beautiful castle and white-washed buildings. Once again, Portugal had served us a small slice of heaven. Surely, it wouldn’t get any better than this. But, amazingly enough, it would . . . .

Back to Portugal Index Page

<< Day 8: Miniatures and Majesty of Coimbra | Day 10: Roman Ruins and Bones in Évora >>

Comments (2) -

5/9/2011 8:10:26 AM #

Veronica

We too just got home from Portugal.... and visited Marvao as well as plenty of other areas of the country.  Must look at your other posts....
I arrived at your site trying to find info on why the tree trunks were painted white on the road to the area.... I am guessing for safety too....
looks like you and the kids were having a great time...what an education for them....

Veronica Canada | Reply

5/9/2011 11:05:13 PM #

Kathy

Veronica, it is so interesting that those white-painted tree trunks intrigued you too! Portugal was such a fascinating country--we all loved it. Thank you for your comments! Kathy

Kathy United States | Reply

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