A City, A Sailboat, Mountain Tops, and Battlements! Portugal!

Welcome Back!

In Portugal Odyssey Part 1, we experienced the magical tropical island goodness of Madeira. We really hated to get on the plane to Lisbon. We actually hoped gloomy airline mechanic Kenneth Ferguson* would help extend our stay on the island. He did not. I guess Ken only works stateside.

While all good things must come to an end, it's better when more good things immediately follow!

Here, in Portugal Odyssey Part 2, we zig-zag across the country's mainland and take in a city, go sailing on a real sailboat, visit rocky mountaintop villages, and skip along castle battlements!

* If you're not familiar with airline mechanic Ken, see my Iceland post and the first Portugal installment.


Brought to you in comforting picture-n-caption format, come along as we visit the REST of Portugal!

Hop into our rental car, squeeze a can of your favorite beverage in a koosie cup (to maintain its cool refreshment), buckle up ... and hold on tight!

Let's go! Shall we?


No Running on the Battlements!

Any Portuguese town worth its salt has a castle, preferably one with a wall around it and a still-inhabited village inside—like Obidos! The Internet says, "Obidos is just about an hour's drive north of Lisbon." We soon learned that the Internet forgot to add, " ... but only if you don't take a scenic road."

Little did we realize that our car's GPS was set to avoid the toll stations on the Autoestrada and keep to the back roads. Thus, THREE hours later ... we arrived at the Obidos Castle, ready to take in this very cool—first Roman, then Moorish—medieval fortress.

We were immediately attracted to the chance to walk the fortress wall's battlements encircling the village, which we did.

Do you notice anything a bit odd in the photo above?

Well ... The battlements are maybe three feet wide, 20-30 feet above the ground and entirely exposed to unfortunate missteps. This sidewalk in the sky kept us on our toes! This would not be our last encounter with adrenaline-pumping castle walls—Portugal's homegrown version of an amusement park thrill ride!

Travel tip! When walking battlements, it's highly recommended to come to a complete stop before taking photos.

Hey Kids! Go outside and play on the battlements!

You'll Never Guess the Image I Witnessed Burned Into My Toast!

We like traveling with a fairly open itinerary, and this trip was no exception. Imagine our delight when, while at Obidos, we ran into a couple from Chicago who waxed on about how much they enjoyed the city of Fatima. Done deal: Fatima would be the final destination for our first night on the mainland.

The downside of traveling with an open itinerary is that we don't always know what we're getting into. We should have guessed something was up when we checked into our hotel and the concierge mentioned pilgrims and mass times.

Not being Catholic, my knowledge of the religion's pilgrimage sites is, let's say, limited. I've now learned that ...

 "The story of the Our Lady of Fátima miracle begins on May 13, 1917. Three peasant children, Francisco, Jacinta, and Lucia, were tending to their family’s sheep. The children under 10 years old were blessed with the presence of the Virgin Mary, Mother of Jesus. In Portugal, she is also known as Fátima. The children saw this beautiful woman, dressed in white and standing above a bush. The Virgin Mary told the children that world peace would occur if they spread the godly message of prayer."

Hmmm ... I'm not sure the kids were good listeners.

Anyway! It turns out that up to 5 million Catholics visit Fatima annually and mass takes place several times every day ... and 11 times on Sundays! Fun! Plus, if you're looking for a statue of the Virgin Mary as a keepsake, Fatima's your one-stop shop! There's a daunting variety of options available for purchase.

And Into the Fray We Go!

Porto, Portugal's second largest city after Lisbon and located along the country's northern coast, hosts a metro area population of 1.7 million, along with 2.5 billion tourists. It seems we weren't the only ones who had postponed a vacation to Portugal due to the virus that shall not be named! It was a relief to make it to our downtown hotel and park the car in a garage, not to be driven for three days.

Don't Hop On!

Question: What do all of these people have in common?

Answer: They're all tourists who thought the Hop-on Hop-off Blue Bus seemed like a deal! You know, the super-duper easy and fun way to see a city's sites? We thought so too!

If waiting interminably for a bus service that operates on a seemingly unpredictable schedule and then takes you on a bizarre route around the city is your idea of a good time, a splendid Hop-on Hop-off experience awaits you in Porto!


Chillaxing With Our 800 Best Porto Friends

On the other hand, there are spectacularly authentic Porto experiences, like the nightly gathering at Jardim do Morro, where hundreds of people calmly gather to commune and watch the sun set.  

It was so chill ... well, except for the cheers that suddenly broke out when a marriage proposal was made and accepted.

This was my favorite Porto experience.

Porto at Dusk

The view from the Dom Luís Bridge at dusk looking down at the many restaurants along Porto's Ribeira, offering some of the city's best dining experiences. For us, it was a great lunch the following day for about $25 ... with tip.

I'd Like the Fun Sandwich, Please!

Fine dining? Well maybe not, but this is FUN dining!

Behold! The uniquely Porto sandwich creation: The Francesinha!

This cavalcade of bread, meats, cheese—along with a wickedly good secret sauce, always with fries and sometimes an egg on top!—is now the rival of my other favorite sandwich, the Monte Cristo.

One day there will be the ultimate sandwich contest! 
The TourAlong Super Sandwich Slam Down! 
One will be crowned the winner! ... 
Both will be eaten ...

We sought out the O Afonso restaurant to have our first taste of this savory delight because legendary foodie Anthony Bourdain also lost his Francesinha virginity at O Alonso's, as shown here!

Kilroy ... or Banksy ... Was Here!

Cool things come to big cities, like this exhibit of the well-known (but unknown) underground street artist, Banksy. If you're not familiar with him, see these examples as a primer!

One of his latest capers was when, in 2018, his piece "Girl With Balloon" sold for $1.4 million in auction at Sotheby's and then magically shredded itself while still on the auction room wall. You can watch it happen here.

The irony is that one of his works from 2007 pointedly poked fun at fine art: Entitled "I Can't Believe You Morons Actually Buy This Shit," sold for $10,000 in 2014. The double irony is that today, the mystery man's works regularly sell for more than $1,000,000.

And as for the shredded work? It recently resold for over $25 million.

NEWS FLASH! There's a surplus of morons!

Don't Eat the Yellow Ones!

Nope! Definitely not a Banksy work! But we thought this Porto street art was kind of cool. This guy is clearly reaching for the yellow one. I hope the yellow one cheers him up. He looks like he needs an attitude adjustment, don't you think?

Let's Rock This House!

Nope! Definitely not Porto! Welcome to the mountaintop village of Monsanto! Situated near the Spanish border, Monsanto—"the most Portuguese village of Portugal"—is home to 850 inhabitants who undeniably have rooms with views! They also have homes built in, around, on top of, and underneath the mountain's granite!

Driving into the village was its own adventure—some streets were so narrow that I gauged how well I was doing by how far the side mirrors were from the stone walls. I was relieved when we arrived, so much so that I barely blinked when the owner of the tiny hotel quickly upsold me with a bottle of local wine and a block of cheese! 

Is That an Asteroid on Your Roof?

Do they really build homes in and among the rock?

Take a look at the giant boulder that seems to sit atop a home—located at about 8:00 on this image.

Wonder Woman!

Monsanto has a castle and, of course, you can walk its guardrail-less battlements!

And ... unlike Porto ... Monsanto was pleasantly lacking tourists; we nearly had the castle to ourselves.

Above, Natalie challenges Spain (in the distance) to a duel!

Or a cook-off! Or a knit off! Or a karaoke sing-off!

Knowing they would not fare well, regardless of selection made, Spain did not accept Natalie's challenge.

Take THAT, Spain!

And Then There's This

We relaxed at Monsanto's Traverna Lusitana's bouldertop patio and took in one of the most beautiful sunsets we've ever seen. No kidding ... just the right amount of dust in the air meant we could stare directly at the flaming ball of fire without interruption. It was amazing!

Monsanto is a keeper! (But don't tell anyone!)

There Are Storks EVERYWHERE!

But not just any storks ... the Cegonha Branca are EVERYWHERE! On top of smokestacks, power poles, church steeples, and even two nests on a single construction crane! 

Put a Cork in It!

Cork is a big deal in Portugal. The country produces 50% of the world's supply, and of that, 75% is used as wine bottle stoppers. The remaining wonder bark is applied in a surprisingly wide variety of ways
—like shoes and furniture made from a supple yet durable cork fabric material!

Cork tree management is tightly controlled: Harvest takes place every nine years and at the end of a tree's 270-year life a permit has to be issued before it can be cut down.

Paul Bunyan would be so frustrated!

Let's Go Sailing, Shall We?

Living a lifelong dream, friends Troy and Rika Torres recently moved to Portugal. There's more to the story, but as you can see, a sailboat is involved. Their new home is the marina at Vilamoura—along Portugal's southern Algarve coast. We were honored to be the first guests aboard "Imagine" and spent two nights on her 57 feet of ocean-going goodness, exploring the Algarve.

Thank you, Troy and Rika! What a trip highlight!

During our time on board, Troy had me help with the sailing operations. Soon I was jibbing and tacking, taking the starboard leeward, and I learned that keeping an eye on the telltales was important or we'd reach the vanishing angle and get turtled in the aft! Troy even let me take the helm so I could spin donuts in the deep blue sea! Ahoy! I was pooped!

For more sailing terms to make up your own nonsense sailing paragraph, see 59 Sailing Terms [Basic and Funny Terms].

You're welcome.

Ummm ... Does My Armpit Smell?

The village of Almodôvar inaugurated this monument in honor of its miners in 2018. Located just outside the town in the center of a traffic circle—now named Rotunda do Mineiro—it's an amazing work composed of metal artifacts used in nearby zinc and copper mines.

It's Gone to the Birds! 

Something fun about taking photos are the surprises that come along after the fact. In this case, I didn't know about the presence of a bird perched on the rock in the miner's hand until I cropped the image at home weeks later!

A Rainbow of Light

And on to Evora!

Evora (pop. 57,000) has a very old church ... the Church of St. Francis! ... and inside it, when the sun's aligned just right, colored light filters through its stain-glass windows onto this altar!

The Leg Bone's Connected to the Head Bone

On the other hand, the church also has a Chapel of Bones! See anyone you know? Such fun!

Strutting His Stuff!

Evora also has PEACOCKS! This guy was on a ledge proudly on display for the four gals in a tree ... all vying for his companionship. We didn't stick around to see who he picked. We didn't want to be voyeurs. 

Big Rigs Need Not Apply

It's always remarkable that big rigs, so ubiquitous in the States, are largely absent in Europe, and yet everything a modern society needs seems to get done. It's also remarkable that big rigs simply couldn't get around in many villages. Here, in the amazing mountaintop town of Marvão, a road circles just inside the ancient walls. Technically, this is a two-lane road, though wisely, the idea of painting a line in the middle was dropped!

Battlements With Attitude ... and Altitude!

The battlements of Marvão keep the Portuguese tradition of "don't blame us if you fall off" alive! Above, Natalie negotiates a steep portion of the wall encircling the village and castle during an evening stroll ... one of the wider sections on the wall ... Yee Haw!!!


When night falls and Marvão's few restaurants close, it gets quiet.

Foggy Top!

It's morning, foggy, and time to leave our mountaintop paradise hotel, Dom Dinis! Our room was just above the front door.

Another Mountaintop Fairy Tale Castle!??

Indeed, the El Palacio Nacional da Pena—or the National Palace of Feathers—is, at first glance, a fairy tale castle! Designed by King Ferdinand and built in Sintra in 1840, the palace rivals Bavaria's Neuschwanstein Castle. We were excited to get to this "must see" Portuguese icon.

After negotiating narrow roads, parking, and then buying bus tickets, we were soon packed with the other sardines on Bus #434. That it was a Monday morning didn't matter; we arrived just in time to join the enlarging throng of other palace goers.

Here's how it worked ... for us:

  • Tickets are sold for specific palace entry times and warnings are made that times are strictly enforced.
  • We arrived on time and eagerly awaited admission into the palace.
  • While waiting, I noticed a snail passing by.
  • 1.5 hours later, we entered the palace only to realize that going slower than a snail's pace would persist throughout the palace tour.
  • After 30 minutes of shuffling along with our tourist brethren, we decided that dying of old age in this palace wasn't for us and we turned around.

Who's Having Fun Here!??

I'm pretty sure it's the guy who has mentally checked out of the palace and doesn't care that he's feverishly playing a game on his phone. It's not exactly all smiles for everyone else either!

Insta Rocks! Oh SNAP!

Instagram has spawned a new subspecies of human: The Insta Poser! Just Google "Posing for Instagram" and many links are offered with advice about how to dress and position yourself in snapshots for the optimum number of likes on the social media photo platform.

In the scene above—and from left to right—the young woman in the blue dress is the poser, the woman in the white dress is her photographer who, in turn, is encouraging the group of Sintra tourists to pass by them so they can resume the iPhone photo session.

I hope they got the image they were hoping for because soon after the wind increased even more and the mountain fog (a.k.a., a cloud) rolled in. That blue dress may look good through an Instagram filter, but I sense it wasn't designed for warmth! 

Instagram! The OTHER time-suck!
Brought to you by your friends at Facebook!

On the Other Hand

The silver lining from the palace visit was the Castelo dos Mouros (Moorish Castle) just a short walk away. Dating from the 9th century and today composed of the castle wall and five turrets, this nearby attraction had far fewer visitors and was actually authentic!

Oddly enough, there WERE railings and other protections in place to cut down on the number of people falling off. I guess the Castelo dos Mouros people didn't get the memo about the Portuguese Tourism Authority's ad campaign "Portugal 2022Keeping Battlements Real!"

And That's a Wrap!

25 days away was just right for this trip, but there is so much more to explore and see on Madeira and in Portugal.

Where to next? The discussion is underway ... and there's already a short list!

The TourAlong Continues! ...


Wait! What about photos?

Yes, there are! ... and they're coming soon!

Stay tuned!

Until then ... Ciao!


Clouds at Sintra at Sunset

Like the TourAlongWithTodd blog and want to keep up to date? Email me at todd@toddchavez.com and I’ll add you to the list!



  1. okay...that peacock picture...we need to talk about getting it on canvas. I LOVE it.
    I'm glad you all had a great time in the sun.

    1. I'd love to, but you have to tell me who you are!