From Portugal to Spain
26.06.2007 23 °C
June 26, 2007
With two days left on our tour we depart Lisbon and head to Fatima to visit the holy shrine of Mary.
It is another beautiful day with bright sunshine and temperatures in the low 70’s. Our bus drive takes us through Lisbon along the Tagus and into the country where at 9:30 we arrive at Fatima.
I really did not know what to expect. We entered the town of Fatima which has grown up around the field where in 1917 from May to October three young children saw the Virgin Mary in a grotto. What was once a field to feed goats and sheep is now a paved plain large enough to hold several hundred thousand of the faithful. The 13th of each month from May through October the crowds are huge but today being the 26th it is relatively empty.
We enter into a park like setting where at each end a huge church is dedicated to the Virgin. Between the churches and set off to the side is a small glass and marble building which covers a small grotto. It is here on this spot the children saw the Virgin. Today the spot is covered and a mass was going on when we arrived.
The grotto shows a statue of the Virgin with a gold crown. Contained within the crown is the actual bullet that was fired into Pope John Paul II. He dedicated his life to the Virgin for saving him from the assignation attempt so he gave her the bullet as a sign of his faith.
Also in the grotto was a large piece of the Berlin Wall. It was part of the Virgin’s prophesy that communism must fall and the word must be dedicated to the Sacred Heart before there can be peace in the world. Although communism did fall there are still parts of the world yet to be dedicated to the Sacred Heart so our world remains in turmoil.
After our visit to the grotto we proceeded along to the main church where another mass was just ending. In this church is the final resting place of the three children the last of which just died in 2002. All three were beatified by Pope John Paul II. The church is modern and very beautiful with a large portrait of the visitation over the main alter.
We left the sacred area and did some shopping for religious articles and of course some coffee and pastry. All in all it was a most pleasant stop. Now we are back on the bus as we drive north to Salamanca.
On our way we stopped at a road side stop for our lunch. We enjoyed home made soup, salad, ham sandwich and goat cheese.
We crossed the border from Portugal and now we are back into Spain. Once you enter the EU you do not have to show passports as you cross between borders. This is very helpful as it make travel much easier.
Salamanca is about 1.5 hours into Spain and we pass through mountains and fields. Once again we see the fighting bulls in the fields. These are magnificent animals much larger then the dairy bulls we see at home. Unlike popular belief the fighting bulls are not always black. Many we see are Roan (red) or White but there are some black. We see them by the hundred all destined to someday meet their matador.
We arrive Salamanca and it is a wondrous site. This is an ancient city with a modern flair. Salamanca is home to many churches both old and new as well as a University. The University was begun by donation of a Palace by a Spanish King. The Palace is still in use today for classrooms but the center of the city is surrounded by academia.
Where there is a college there are college students. The streets and cafes are filled with the sounds of young people laughing, discussing and in some cases studying. This area is steeped in tradition as well.
One tradition involves a frog. It seems that there was a belief that if a student could find the hidden frog in a certain wall behind the statue of a monk, that student was destined to pass their exams. Well tradition aside it is better to find a book then to rely on a frog. To keep the tradition alive, every shop sells all forms of frog. From stone to ceramic to stuffed to plastic they are all there for the student or more likely the tourist to carry on the tradition. To help the local economy Cathy bought a frog.
In addition to University there is shopping galore. From high end Jewelry to the lowest form of tourist junk it is all there for the asking. Chris also helped the economy by buying some tee shirts and a soccer shirt.
One amazing site in Salamanca is the central square. It is modeled after the famous St Mark’s Square in Venice. It is a little smaller and is in red stone rather then white marble, but it is essentially a large square with shops and the ubiquitous café and geleteria. It is filled with students, locals and tourists and is a wonder of sites and sounds.
We walk out the square into the side streets on our free time. We head toward several churches. One was the ancient cathedral now replaced by a newer one. The old Cathedral is now St. Mark’s church and is beautiful in it’s architecture. The new Cathedral, it is still several hundred years old, is down the street and is magnificent outside and in.
After our visit to the church we continue to shop and decide it is time for a slight food break. So we spy a nice pastry shop and buy a large sharable pastry which is a light flake cake with chocolate and vanilla icing…marvelous. All the food, the drink, the pastry and the wines have been like nothing we have had before. It must be a combination of the location and the fine work of the chef. Every bite is a memory as we will carry the weight of each bite for at least a month after we get home.
Our Hotel is a little outside of town this evening and we have just arrived at 7:00 pm. I am writing this in the middle of the hotel lobby as they have FREE internet access and I must take advantage. Dinner tonight is to be a simple affair in our hotel. We dine fashionable at 8:00 and expect to be done in time for a long nap. Tomorrow we rise a 7:00 for an 8:00 am departure for Madrid and our final stop on this tour. But not the final stop for the Farinas. More on this later.