With time to spare and the winter sunshine on our faces, we headed out of the campsite to first explore Nazaré and then onto Batalha. Nazaré enjoys a truly breath-taking sweeping bay that seems to be endless at first glance...It still retains some of it's old fishing village atmosphere with the folk of the village mending nets on the side of the beach but each steep cliff is lined with gleaming new villas that must have 'views to die for'! The name Nazaré apparently bears links to Nazareth (very apt as we write this in the lead up to Christmas!) as a monk hauled a statue of the Virgin Mary to these very shores in the 4th century... But is perhaps best known now for it's truly extraordinary waves.. with surfers being pulled out by jet ski... it reminded us of the San Sebastian surfers from earlier in our adventure
In fact this whole region has a similar feel to 'Ile de Re' on the western coast of France... maybe it's the crashing waves, the authentic seaside life that still seems to exist or maybe it was just those endless beaches.... so spare some time if you do visit.. there's not just the North Beach of Nazaré! In fact there's 65km of some of the best coastline/beaches you could imagine... running north from Nazare... these include Paredes de Vitoria – São Pedro de Moel – Samouco – Vieira – Pedrogão – Ervideira Lake and Osso da Baleia...
Heading North East, we enjoyed the drive to Batalha which also enjoys a well located aire but as the drive from Nazaré is less than an hour away... we'd opt again to stay in Nazaré at the ValeParaiso... the kids just love it when we can park up.. even if it's for a short time, it just seems to keep everything on an even keel!
The UNESCO site is something to behold though... full of Gothic architecture to rival anything we've seen in places like Chartres yet it is also famous for its Manueline elements (much like the ones we'd seen in Tomar) It's walls take many shades of colour from pale limestone to golden sandstone.. yet its master builder (Alfonso Domingues) certainly built something to last! Started in 1386 it took over 200 years to complete and perhaps you could still say it lies unfinished in the year 2016 due to it's famous 'Unfinished Chapels'... when funding was cut to finish Belem's Jerónimos monastery
We wandered across the peaceful building in almost utter silence, such is its sense of purpose and ambience... the Founders Chapel hold the tombs of João 1 and his English wife Philippa of Lancaster.. whilst Henry the Explorer also lies here (their son).. and someone we had first encountered when we visited his fort in Sagres. The sheer size of the cathedral shows just how important it must have been to the people of Portugal... and the Royal Cloister and Chapterhouse only impressed us further
Gothic Arches with Manueline Architecture line the courtyard allowing for some stunning views of the cathedral towers but also provide opportunities to see the various audio visual presentations (in small ante rooms).. perhaps the best was the exhibition on Space & Time which both girls particularly loved... yet the best part of the day was the chance to see the changing of the guards who watch over the tombs of the two unknown soldiers from Flanders... this historic monument to the sacrifices of the Portuguese people in both wars (but particularly WW1) took us back to time spent earlier this year at the Somme, Flanders Field and Juno Beach Centre... It was certainly a poignant and fitting end to the visit before we headed back to try and catch the sunset overlooking Nazaré
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