I quite often give in to my fondness for chocolate, but usually it involves a 12 minute drive or ride to the chocolate shop at the shopping center at Guia, or even easier stopping there briefly on my way back from Lagos or Portimão.
However on March 12th because of the proximity of my birthday I succumbed to temptation and we rode 332 kilometers to the 'International Chocolate Festival at Óbidos'. We stayed in a very nice hotel called Casa d’Obidos about three kilometers walk to the center of Obidos and walked up to the town the next day.
I visited Obidos about four years ago and thought it probably the most beautiful town that I had visited in Portugal so it was good to be back there again. To read my article on Óbidos click here.
The 'Festival' opened everyday at 3 pm and closed at midnight everyday for 9 days. For me it was an enormous disappointment, I had expected a sophisticated atmosphere but what we found was about as sophisticated as 'Butlins Holiday Camp' in the 1950s. There were long queues to get in, mainly consisting of school parties of children. The chocolate on display was really quite ordinary and considering the amount of children there under about 7 years old I was disappointed to see on one stand a display of chocolate male genitalia exactly at eye level for these young children. We didn’t stay long, but did walk back into the town and bought some chocolate from one of the shops there.
We also visited a shop in the main street selling and making local china all made using clay rolled out into strands so that they had the same appearance as baskets made from willow or cane. The photograph to the right shows Luisa Tavares and a friend making these beautiful 'baskets'.
Whilst the chocolate festival was a big disappointment, it was good to be in Óbidos again and we enjoyed having dinner on the two evenings that we were there in two restaurants about halfway between our hotel and the town.
For our return trip to Olhos de Agua we decided to join the coast road that runs from Peniche to Sintra. After about an hour riding through beautiful undulating country passing both fruit and vegetable farms and wonderful sandy beaches we came in to a small town called Silveira where on the edge of the town we came across a working windmill.
Perhaps to most people this is not very exciting! But for me it was, because almost every high hill in Portugal has the derelict remains of a windmill, they were all built in the early to mid 18th century and I have longed to see one actually working. I have in the past four years found two that we in working condition but on both occasions they were closed that particular day.
This one however was in full sail, and so we pulled over and parked the motorbike and took a photograph of the outside. On closer inspection we found the Miller inside and he kindly allowed me to take some photographs of the machinery, which was actually producing flour as I took the photographs. This is a commercial operation because inside we could see bags of flour stacked up against the wall, each one about half a cwt. Next to the mill is a shop where they sell flour, bread, rolls and various cakes all made from wheat milled at the mill. São asked the Miller if we could buy some flour from him and explained the sort of bread that she wanted to make, he mixed two different flours that he had in wooden containers and then we went to the shop where we paid for it.
I had left the top box on the bike almost empty for this trip with the intention of filling it with selection of chocolate from the festival – apart from a small quantity of rather indifferent chocolate, the top box was still almost empty and so we set off towards home with a bag of flour instead.
We passed Sintra to the east of the town, then joined the wonderful motorway system that goes through Lisbon and over the Tejo on the 25th April Bridge. We turned right on the second turn off the motorway and headed towards Sesimbra and then turned right again for Cabo Espichel. Stopping just after Sesimbra for lunch in a restaurant, we then headed on towards the Cape in order to see the Sanctuary for pilgrims that had been originally built there in the 15th century following the Virgin Mary appearing to an elderly couple there in 1410. The present building which is known as Santuário de Nossa Senhora do Cabo Espichel was built in 1701 and is in baroque style and designed by architect João Antunes. It is beautiful inside, the ceiling was painted in dramatic perspective by Lourenço da Cunha, sadly you are not allowed to take photographs of the inside.
The sanctuary could not be in a more remote location, In addition to the church there are two long rows of accommodation forming an avenue leading up to the church for giving pilgrims somewhere to sleep on their visit. I saw a TV programme about the sanctuary a few years ago and have wanted to go there ever since.
I was not disappointed, sadly as it was now late afternoon and with the sun in the west it was not ideal for taking photographs. I will try to go back there one day early in the morning when the sun will be shining directly at the front of the sanctuary.
With the sun now low in the sky to the west it was time now to ride home before it started to get to cold. The chocolate festival may have been a disaster, but Luisa Tavares' china, the windmill and the sanctuary were excellent and the country that we rode through on our return trip from Óbidos I had not seen before and we really enjoyed it.
It would have been good to have had longer than a day for this return trip, there were many spectacular beaches that we saw every time the road came close to the coast, mostly with very few or no people on them, only one of which we stopped at for some coffee.
Finally, the bread that São made for breakfast the next day was delicious.
Martin Northey - Yachtmaster Examiner/Instructor for Sail and Power
The Iberian Sea School - RYA Sailing, Motor Cruising and Powerboat School
Apartado 1039 - Vilamoura,
8126 - 912 Quarteira,
Tel:00 351 965 800702