|Date:||Wednesday, Sep 14, 2016|
|Stop:||Cavaleiros de Cristo, Tomar 👍|
|Dist (Day/Total):||Sick Day|
As planned, I am taking a zero in Tomar. I only have the room at the Thomar Story for one night and, in the morning, I check again on any cancellations. None. And very unlikely. They’re a very small hotel (around a dozen rooms I think) and they just don’t get many cancellations. Besides, there is already one person ahead of me on a waiting list. She calls around and finds a place for me within a few blocks. I eat breakfast, check-out and check-in to the new place. It’s €20 for a private room but no where near as nice as Thomar Story. It is old, dark and dingy. But the front desk person is really nice. She helps me with picking a restaurant for dinner and when I tell her I’ll be leaving really early in the morning, offers to have a box lunch ready to take with me. And when I do at 4:30 am, it is ready for me.
I had contemplated going to the hospital, today. It’s not as long a walk as I had originally thought; only 2 km. Although my cough is still bad, I don’t feel as bad, my nose isn’t as runny and my fever seems to have broken. So, I decide to blow off the hospital and explore the town.
Tomar is a very old and fascinating town. It straddles the Nabao River, with the old town, where I’m staying, on the west side and the newer part on the eastern side. There is evidence that prior to Tomar, there was a Roman village and Tomar was built on top of it. The Knights Templar started a convent/monastery in 1118. They were granted the surrounding land in 1159 and built a convent and castle that served as their headquarters in Portugal. The complex that comprises the Convento de Cristo and Castle are a UNESCO World Heritage site. So, yeah, it’s a big tourist town. A block from my hotel is a long touristy walk street lined with cafes, restaurants, bars, souvenir stores, etc. At the end of this street is a hill and the Convento de Cristo perches on top. It’s a short, steep climb but well worth it. The complex was fascinating and is a great example of the Manueline style of architecture (Portuguese Gothic).
I walk around the old streets, visit the Sao Joao Baptista church and the Synagogue of Tomar, have lunch at a huge cafe and coffee at various coffee shops. The synagogue was interesting. It was hard to find because from the outside it looks like all the other houses on the street. Next door is a museum and it seemed like there was some archaeological excavation going on. As I’m walking back, I come across the Restaurante Alminhas, which was recommend by the very nice front desk person at my second Tomar hotel. It’s on the same street as the synagogue.
I went back to the restaurant at its designated opening time, which I think was 7 pm. It was still closed. I hung around for awhile and just as I was ready to give up and find some other place, somebody opened the front door. He seemed surprised to see me and, of course, I was the only customer in the place. I ordered a steak with some vegetable (don’t recall), a salad and some wine. It was an excellent meal, second only to my tomato sandwich from a couple of days ago and very inexpensive. The service was great also.
Let me break here for a teaching moment. In many restaurants and cafes in Portugal, not all but many, you will automatically get a small plate of appetizers. This usually always includes olives and may also include pieces of bread, cheese, etc. Initially, I thought this just came with the meal, like chips at a Mexican restaurant. THIS IS NOT FREE. If you eat anything, you will be charged. It’s a nominal amount and the first few times I did not even notice it on my bill. The protocol is, or what I used, was if I didn’t want it, I would reject it as soon as the waiter placed it on the table. Although, I did start enjoying having olives before my meal.
When I was chomping on my olives, a group of well dressed women walked into the restaurant. They were very animated and appeared excited. The waiter thought they were coming in for dinner. They weren’t. They were looking for a doorway. They spoke English and evidently there was supposed to be a hidden passageway to the synagogue from the Alminhas. There was some speculation that the restaurant may have been the Rabbi’s house. The women were referencing a book and after checking it several times, settled on where they thought the door to the passageway had been located. They got very excited when they thought they had found it. They took pictures and left. Much to the credit of the restaurant staff, who did not seem to be familiar with any secret passageways, they gave the women free rein of the place to find this door. I tried to look it up online, afterwards, but couldn’t find anything.