Chapter 3 The Drive to the Lagoa

We’re driving up the A-8 highway north of Lisbon toward my dad’s place on the Obidos lagoon. Yesterday was awesome in Rossio now I have these glasses I want to test more thoroughly.

Dad drones on[1], “Look at the green countryside see the orchards of pears, apples, oranges, lemons, melons, and grapes for wine and eating. Compared to here, the Algarve is brown and arid with stunted trees. The tourist office calls this stretch of Portugal the Silver Coast. There are nice beaches with white sand and big waves. We’re going to the largest lagoon in Portugal.”

I hold back saying, “I’ve heard this before.”

He goes on, “Do you remember the first time you came to Portugal with your brother and Vicky? We fell in love with Portugal. You called it, Peterville, because of the small cars and trucks and the little towns with narrow streets.”

“Dad is that Obidos castle on the left? You described it when we were Skyping.”

Obidos Castle
Obidos castle is active year round.

“Yes, we will go there near the end of your vacation. They have a Medieval fair the last week of July and the first week of August.”

I’m thrilled! It’s June and I’ll be here for the next three months. This is a change from living in Canada with my mom. At the end of summer I’ll be going into grade 7, Intermediate School. There are guys with hair on their face in grade 7. Yikes!

Dad asks, “So do you know why this land is such a bountiful agricultural region?”

“It has good soil and lots of rain.”

“Yes, that is true. But in 1148, the first king of Portugal, Afonso Henriques, founded a monastery near here to commemorate a battle he won against the Moors in 1147. He made a promise to his uncle the famous preacher monk Bernard de Clairveaux, and to God, that if he won the battle at Santarem against the Moors he would build a monastery.  The Templar Knights helped win the battle by using ladders to scale the walls of the Santarem castle.”

Thank god, he inhaled.

“The monastery was built for the Cistercian monks from Afonso’s dad’s homeland of Burgundy in what is now part of France. A thousand monks lived in the monastery and they planted many fruit trees and a variety of vegetables. They also taught the local people how to cultivate the land; hence an abundance of produce here. Wait until you see the farmers market near us in Caldas da Rainha.”

“Your dad loves his history,” says Ana. Ana is my dad’s wife; she picked us up in Lisbon.
She takes the turnoff to Caldas da Rainha leading to Foz do Arelho and Nadadouro, the two towns on the north side of the lagoon.

“Pete, the monastery is called Alcobaça, and it’s a short drive from our house. It has the largest church in Portugal with interesting architecture and is the burial site for famous kings and queens from the thirteenth century. Do you want to go there tomorrow?” my dad.

“Oh maybe,” my interest picks up as I touch the glasses.


[1] To talk for a long time in a boring way

Read Chapter 4 The Test

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