July 11, 2015
Ruth: Not all kilometres are equal
Two days riding with completely different effort spent.
Day 2 Vila Franca de Xira to Santarem 61km
This was an easy ride along pretty farmer’s lanes following the yellow arrows the whole way with only one climb up to Santarem at the end.
Day 3 Santarem to Alcobaça 59km
We are taking a slight detour off the Camino to visit the Monasteries of Alcobaça , Batalha and the Pilgrimage shrine at Fatima.
We decided to go against our host’s advice and take a more direct route across a national park. The ride started out beautifully, winding along through olive groves and little villages. When we left our quiet road, to do a section of the national highway it also was lovely with hardly any traffic. It seduced us into choosing it over our pre planned pocket maps route and would cut off 5kms. The pocket maps route has an option to filter out big hills on their cycling routes. Oh no what did we do!!! The national highway climbed and climbed up over the highest ridge in the region. I am so tired this one finger typing is almost too much.
Gordon: We have come to Alcobaça to visit the monastery in town, which has Unesco world heritage status. It was constructed in fulfilment of a promise by the King of Portugal if he was successful in pushing the Moors out of Santarém in 1147. The monastery was built as a large complex by the Cistercians; in its day it reputedly had 999 monks saying mass continuously in shifts.
The austere but beautiful church prominently displays the tombs of Pedro, a king, and his lover / possible wife Inês de Castro. For political reasons, Pedro’s father did not approve of Inês. When Pedro’s first wife died, and he refused to remarry anyone but Inês, Pedro’s father ordered her assassination. No doubt Christmases in the royal castle were a little awkward thereafter. Pedro later hunted down a couple of the assassins and had their hearts ripped out because of the damage they had done to his. When he ascended to the throne he allegedly had the body of Inês exhumed and ordered his courtiers to kiss her decayed hand. After his death, the tombs were arranged symmetrically in either transept of the church, so that Inês would be the first person that Pedro would see on Judgement Day. All in all, a story worthy of a Greek tragedy.