Monday, June 6, 2016

Spending the day with Victor Emmanuel in Portugal

Who you ask is Victor Emmanuel? He was the driver we hired to take us outside of Lisbon and what a great idea it turned out to be. We wanted to go to Fatima, we could have taken a bus tour but we wanted to have some control over the time we would spend at any one location. We checked with the desk staff at the Mundial Hotel and asked about hiring a driver. They have a contract with "The Boss" and knowing we were English speaking he hooked us up with his very charming driver Victor Emmanuel.

Monday morning at 9:30 a.m., he was there with the Mercedes Mini Van to drive the four of us. One thing you will notice is that in Portugal most people use their middle name as well so he isn’t Victor he is Victor Emmanuel. He was a jovial man who speaks multiple languages and has been in the tour and travel industry for 40 years. He knows what he is doing.

He gave us a running commentary all the way out of Lisbon and along the way to Fatima. We learned an amazing amount that I am sure the regular bus trip would not have taught us and unbelievably it was cheaper for the four of us to travel in our private car than it would have been to be packed like a sardine into a tour bus.    

We pulled into Fatima and our first stop unbelievably was not the Shrine, it was the mega souvenir shop. While this is not necessarily a bad thing, it isn’t really a great thing either. This store, however, did have good prices and all of us spent quite a bit here.

The Shrine was wonderful and we had about 45 minutes to tour. We then hit the road again and headed to Batalha. This was an amazing place that we would have never visited on our own and the Cathedral was magnificent. It is where Henry the Navigator is buried along with his mother Philippa of Lancaster. We made a lunch stop here, Victor Emmanuel took care of placing our orders for us,  and making sure our lack of Portuguese skills was never an issue.

We made a stop at a beach town where we could see the bright blue Atlantic Ocean and the natives dressed in their local costumes. Then we were off to Alcobaca which has a lovely church to visit and as luck would have it this is where Al’s grandparents came from. It was a very meaningful visit for us.

Our last stop of the day was in Obidos. This is one of the prettiest tourist traps you can imagine. It is a walled city with a cobbled pedestrian street that you climb to the medieval Moorish fort and the street is lined with stores selling everything Portuguese you would possibly want. It was charming really and again we did buy some pottery and small items. There was an elderly woman sitting right by the gate who was crocheting delicate lace items at an amazingly inexpensive price, she was the buy of the day.

We hopped back into the air-conditioned minivan and headed back to Lisbon on a different road, this one dotted with windmills and I now have more windmill pictures than I will ever need.

Of course, we figured out pretty quickly that obviously some places had a deal with Victor Emmanuel and that is why he took us there. When we got creative and went to other places he wasn't always happy with us but we didn't let that deter us for striking out on our own from time to time.

My personal pictures from this part of our Portugal trip have gone missing so I have used pictures from Wiki Commons. 

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