One of the larger reasons Thom and I enjoy traveling in the summer is to escape the heat of our desert home in Southern California. We call ourselves “weather chasers” because we tend to prefer sunny, but temperate, climates. This summer was no exception and we’ve been very fortunate during our travels. Unfortunately, after leaving the Sintra near the coast of Portugal we headed inland to Tomar. And yes it got hot! Not as hot as back home, but hot enough to make us adjust our plans accordingly. Of course, one thing that is an essential item to take along when taking any adventure is flexibility along the remembrance that we are fortunate to be able to travel in the first place. So yes, we’ve still enjoyed our time in spite of soaring temperatures across Europe this July.
Back when we were planning our trip we decided to visit a town in the central part of the country to get a sense of the countryside of Portugal. One small city named Tomar stood out. It is a couple of hours east of the coast, on a beautiful river, and home to a castle built by the Knights Templar which includes a huge monastery called The Convent of Christ. Inside the monastery is a round chapel, called a rotunda, originally built by the Temple Knights in the 12th Century. To manage the heat we got up early one morning and as soon as it was open we explored the property–and had the place nearly to ourselves.
Another great thing about Tomar is that one of the trails for the Portuguese Camino (similar to the more famous Camino in Northern Spain) went right by the front of our vacation rental. The trail followed the river and was a wonderful morning and evening walk. And now we can say we’ve walked part of the Camino! Plus, our cottage had a swimming pool that we enjoyed on more than one hot afternoon. In addition, the city was holding a Festa Templaria (something like a Renaissance Festival in the U.S.) on the weekend we were there. It was perfect for going into town for dinner and walking through the park where the festival was held.
Plus, before we left California, a friend of ours (Janis from Retirementally Challenged) put us in contact with friends of her and her husband’s who had moved to Portugal a year earlier. We met Elaine and Duncan halfway between our place in Tomar and their home in Caldas da Rainha at an amazing cave structure called “Grutas de Mira de Aire.” Not only was the cave spectacular and one of the best we’ve ever toured, we hit it off with Elaine and Duncan and spent the afternoon talking. Oh, and the temps in the cave were perfect.
After spending nearly a week in Tomar we headed to Douro Valley. For over a year any time we mentioned that we were going to Portugal, people would say, “You HAVE to go to the Douro Valley!” So yes it was on our itinerary–but unfortunately it was hot! In spite of that the valley is truly beautiful with the River Douro running through it and the surrounding hills covered with grape vines. Hundreds of wineries dot the hillside and in spite of the heat everything is green. On one day we hired a driver to give us a tour or the central valley and go to a couple of wine tastings. And on the second day we did a two-hour river cruise on the river. And yes, our B & B had a swimming pool.
We did have a wonderful time in both Tomar and the Douro Valley in spite of the heat and smoky skies from nearby fires. And what I am vividly reminded of is how fortunate we are to even be able to travel in these times and adjust our schedules as necessary to accommodate things like hot days. We know not everyone can do that. It is also a GREAT reminder that it is so very necessary for the world and all of the individual countries to do what they can to reduce the effects of climate change for the world as soon as possible. If the children of today are going to have the opportunity to do what we are privileged to be doing, we really have no time to waste.
Onward! Our final couple of weeks take us back to the coast and hopefully milder temperatures!