Be Positive During Quarantine

Places I don’t mind to be at during this lock down: the first one on the list is Obidos, Portugal

Since we are staying at home in this special time, I’ve found myself have more time praying and reading. I have also more day dreaming, looking through travel photos to remember the places where I don’t mind to be isolated for a while. The first one comes to mind is Obidos, Portugal.

A small town an hour north of Lisbon, Obidos is a jewel sitting on atop a hill, enclosed by 45-ft tall walls which were constructed in 14th century. The terracotta roofing and yellow and blue accented white-paint houses are the signature charm of the town. It was a wedding gift from King Dinis to his bride Isabel in 1282. What a gift! He scored high on the romantic side!

Obidos is pretty yet very touristy, ideally to visit in the morning or evening to avoid crowds. We did in the morning with the town almost all to ourselves.

It is impossible to get lost in Obidos, from the city gate to the castle (Pousada), the main road is pretty straightforward, lots of shops and restaurants along the way. The churches of St. Mary (left) and St. Peter (right) are right in the middle of the attraction.

We saw stairs access to the walls at the beginning of main road near the city gate as well as at the end of the road by the castle. The walls and the views were also the main attractions of the town in my opinion. Lots of photo opportunities if you like taking pictures, both looking inside and outside, along the walls. Since I am afraid of height, it took me a while to walk up to and around the 45-ft tall walls, but the views were totally worth the scare.

It was orange season in the middle of February. There were different kinds of citrus all over the town, we saw trees of lemon, orange and mandarin. When gentle breeze mixed citrus scent filled the air, we felt like carrying a bouquet walking in citrus forest. This sensation reminded me a similar experience in another European city, Seville in southern Spain. We were there in the early spring, in March 2013, another orange season. Seville is also famed for orange trees and fruits, and everything else orange, such as orange marmalade and orange perfume. Lucky for me, I LOVE oranges!!

If you like shopping, there are shops and stores dotted along the street, happy to assist tourists. We took home three unique gifts of Portugal: cork tray, blue tiles and cans of cod fish (Bacalhau). We got the cork tray from Lisbon, the blue tiles from Coimbra. One of the well-known can fish company is Comur Conserveira de Portugal.

We decided to pick a different route back to the gate from the castle. A smaller path away from the main street, closer to the walls. It turned out to be an even better choice. It was quieter, with lesser crowd. Each corner we turned , we were welcomed with tranquility and beauty.

I hope you agree with me that Obidos is a better choice for lock down. At least you don’t mind to be alone here for a few hours.

The Alhambra of Granada, the Last Moorish Stronghold in Spain

Granada is one of the best places to explore Moorish civilization in Spain. Above all attractions–the flamenco shows, tapas, fresh market, old town walking tour–the highlight of the city is the Alhambra, one of the finest Moorish palaces in Europe, the last stronghold of Moorish kingdom in Spain. Granada could be done in one day with an intense schedule, but why? We were there for two days, it was nice to slow down, smell the roses.

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The Alhambra consists of the Palacio Nazaries (The Nazarid Palace), Generalife Gardens and Alcazaba fort. The Nazarids were ethnic groups of Spanish Muslims who ruled the last Moorish kingdom till 1492. The palace is the absolute highlight, a beacon of light in the Dark Ages of Europe. Be aware that the admission ticket is often sold out because of the restriction of the number of visitors per day. So purchase your ticket online EARLY and your allotted time shown on the admission ticket. Don’t be the sad left-out tourists who miss the main sight!

The most striking element of the palace was water, the purest symbol for life.  Ceaseless cascading flow, elegant dancing fountains, quiet mirror-like reflections, water was the main theme.  This mere necessity of the modern life was true luxury in the dessert climate then.

Another obvious, different from other palaces we visited in Europe, was there was NO personal portraits or deity paintings anywhere in this palace.  Moorish people forbid idol worship, instead the palace was decorated with intricate patterns and elaborate geometric shapes and wonders, which covered EVERY square inches of the marble walls, tile floors and wood ceilings.

Generalife was the area outside of palace, including the manicured Gardens. At the end of the garden was a small summer palace.

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The Alcazaba fort was quite empty, but from the top we could overlook the city of Granada.

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At the night fell, the palace became a mysterious place.

 

The best sunset view of the Alhambra was from the San Nicholas Viewpoint on the hill across from the palace. Go early to find a nice spot. Be patient, the reward would be a view you wouldn’t easily forget!  With the palace glistening in the golden light, strong and dignified, I understood why the Christian Charles V (the Holy Roman Emperor who ruled as Charles I over Spain), the king who conquered Granada, chose to siege the palace to force Moorish into surrender. This was his way to show his respect to this splendid palace and preserve its glory.

Two more minor points:

Granada was very walkable. But taxi was very cheap if you were tired of walking.  The local people here didn’t speak much English, similar in other southern parts of the Spain we visited, definitely less than the people in Barcelona. So be sure to download a English-Spanish dictionary on your phone, it proved to be very useful for us.

We did this trip, just the two of us, because our children had gone there with their Spanish classes the year before. We started out from Madrid and surrounding cities, such as Avila, Segovia and Toledo, then took a train to Seville, continued to Granada, and flew out from there to Barcelona afterward. The airport at Granada was not very big, only a dozen flights a day. A train to Barcelona would be a much preferred transportation in the hind sight, however our schedule didn’t allow us to do that.

This trip gave us a chance to try a selfie stick for the first time.  You could tell we had a ball, haha.