Europe 2005-2006 travel blog

The Mosteiro Santa Maria de Alcobaca

The tomb of King Pedro I in the church - from 12th...

The Monks' Hall in the monastery

Saturday morning market in Alcobaca

The Wine Festival - in its entirety!

Doces e Licores Festival - an exhibit from one of the monasteries

YUM! One of the displays at the festival. These cones are being...


We have been in Alcobaça for two weeks - the longest we have stayed anywhere since we started traveling May 18 (which makes it 6 months this weekend!). Alcobaça's claim to fame is the Mosteiro Santa Maria de Alcobaça, a stunning 11th century abbey that is the largest in Portugal. It is fairly ornate on the outside but very austere inside with long, narrow naves and Gothic arches. Inside are the beautifully carved tombs of King Pedro I and his mistress, Ines de Castro - a very sad but romantic story. The town has obviously had a lot of EU money pour in as it is has been modernized more than most Portuguese towns we have visited - it has a theatre (where we experienced an evening of Fado, traditional Portuguese music), has hosted a wine festival (which turned out to be two men and a donkey pulling a cart, offering samples of local wine out of a stainless steel urn and roasted chestnuts. Given the number of posters and brochures around town, it was a bit of a letdown after the wine festival in the Mosel region!) and the Doces e Licores Conventuais (cake festival). That was a bit more of an event with a huge tent located right in front of the church with about 75 exhibitors from all over Portugal, Spain and France - most of them monasteries offering samples of their "secret recipes".

One of the reasons we have here for so long is that we limped into town with our brakes howling (driving with "metal on metal" does that) so despite being told in Spain that our temporary fix should last us for 5,000 Km, we knew we could not drive any further without doing serious damage. After visiting every mechanic in town trying to get our problem across (using charades more than anything), we found a Citroen mechanic who said "No problem" , jumped into his car and drove to the campsite to check out the brakes, took the parts away, rebuilt them and arrived back to install them! Now we can finally relax (we hope) and carry on with our travels without this hanging over our heads.

Though we read all the books about preparing to bring a Canadian vehicle to Europe, none of them got across the message that you have to be very handy, resourceful and tenacious, and very, very patient should anything go wrong.



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