I had the pleasure of spending Easter in Portugal this year, hosted by my Portugese friend Claudia and her family in the Catholic pilgrimage town of Fátima, about an hour north of Lisbon. We spent Easter Sunday at her Grandparent’s, a modest farmhouse in the tiny village of Cercal.
Whilst the family prepared a feast for lunch with fresh produce from the garden, I spent the morning exploring with my Canon AE-1 and some rolls of Agfa Vista 400 in the spring sunshine, playing with lambs and chickens, exploring the old farm buildings and corn storage, and picking the sweetest oranges I’ve ever tasted from the bountiful trees.
After lunch, the deck of cards came out and I learned to play the family favorite, which is fairly tricky when the suits and values are in Portugese and you’re not sure what everyone is yelling about. Later, her cousins and I drove around the neighbourhood looking for Claudia’s dog Putchie who had run away to his girlfriend’s house, took a walk down to her grandparent’s pine forest to check out the natural spring and well, and visited Castelo de Ourém high up in the hills overlooking the countryside.
After three days in rural Portugal I headed south to Lisbon for a solo city break. Staying in a hostel in central Baixa, I was perfectly positioned to explore the city on foot, making my way up and around Alfama to the Castelo de Sao Jorge and all the viewpoints by day, and wandering through Barrio Alto by night, getting hooked on traditional Fado music and dining in back alley restaurants.
Other highlights were trips to Sintra and the Palácio da Pena, a tram ride to historic Belém to taste the original pastéis de nata, and picking up a good amount of Portugese and confidently speaking to locals. I’d love to go back and visit Porto next!