Every morning King D. João V looked in the mirror and told his reflection: you’re magnificent! There was only one cloud in his life: he did not have an heir to the throne. So, he promised that, if Queen D. Maria Ana got pregnant, he would build a magnificent monastery. That is, according to legend, how the Mafra Palace came to be built.
Financed with gold from Brazil, it features sumptuous accommodations for the king and queen, a magnificent Basilica with six pipe organs, and an enormous library. This library has been preserved by a colony of bats that prey on the insects that would otherwise devour the book pages. It is well worth it to visit this 18th century palace built by a vain Portuguese king for an austere Austrian queen, guarded by Franciscan monks and their learned bats.
Cistercians monks started producing wine in the Bombarral region in 1153. The Bombarral wine fair, which takes place in early August, celebrates this ancient wine-making tradition.
You’ll find few tourists there. It is an event designed for the locals, which makes it a lot more fun. You can buy a glass for a nominal amount (about 3 Euros) and use it to try the wines of many producers, including one of our favorites, Quinta do Sanguinhal.
You can meet the famous D. Amélia, maker of an incredible pear cake and many other delicacies. And eat outdoors underneath the foliage of ancient oak trees at the Zélia restaurant stand. They serve an astonishing grilled rabbit and a lot of other great fare. Mark your calendars!
Imagine that the year is 1282 and that you are king D. Dinis. What wedding present would you choose to impress your bride, Isabel of Aragon?
1) a passionate “cantiga de amor” (a medieval love poem);
2) a state-of-the art ship that can crest ocean waves without capsizing;
3) silk and jewels;
4) a medieval town.
If you guessed 4), you are correct. King Dinis offered Queen Isabel the town of Óbidos. And, while the gift might seem extravagant, Queen Isabel repaid it many times over by helping the poor and maintaining peace in the realm.
Óbidos’ beauty is unique. Inside the castle walls it is easy to imagine we are in the Middle Ages and that we might bump into the “Lidador,” the knight who helped conquer the town in 1148.
If you cannot afford giving your loved one a medieval town, you can settle for the next best thing: a visit to Óbidos.
If you’re in Portugal in July, you might want to visit the Óbidos medieval fair. It features jugglers, jesters, and jousting tournaments, all in the shadow of the majestic Óbidos castle. You can also taste the delicious pork roasted on a spit, a delicacy that, in the Middle Ages, only kings could afford.