Day one of the pilgrimage is now over and now that I’ve slept, eaten, showered and seen sunlight outside of an airport, I feel better. Plus it helps that this first hotel is pretty dang swanky. For real, I’ll have to show y’all pictures of the bathroom when I’m not already laying in bed.
But for real though, I slept like a rock on that second flight…mostly because the little urchin that wouldn’t stop crying thankfully was not also headed for Lisbon. #DodgedThatBullet I slept so well that my brother woke me up because I was snoring real loud. Good thing though, because I didn’t want to be “that guy.”
Anyway, we got off and out of the airport relatively fine. Mom forgot her phone in the bathroom, so that gave us quite a scare. But thank you St. Anthony for putting in work on your own feast day to make sure we got the phone back…and thank God for honest people. I thought we were never going to see that phone again. 10 points for Portugal. Although speaking of St. Anthony, since it is his feast day, there was this whole display in the airport that I wasn’t sure how to feel about. I get the display and the flowers. I can even be on board with the mascot that looked like St. Anthony. I don’t get the candy cane and the raven/crow looking thing. But whatever. Didn’t really have a whole lot of time to think about it because we were running late thanks to the plane being delayed.
We met our tour guide, Luigi, and the bus driver, Pedro, out in the waiting area, and we followed them to our buses. They seem nice, but no one’s ever gonna hold a candle to Deborah and Sebastiano from last year’s pilgrimage…I miss them.
So we began our drive north along the Rio Tejo (Tagus River) to head to our final destination for the night, Batalha. As we embarked on the journey, the highway was lined with white stucco buildings with terra cotta-colored roofs behind the greenery. The blue of the sky and the river layered behind as a backdrop behind this scene. Not long after, the buildings began to look more industrial before disappearing altogether, giving way to the green hilly countryside.
Although it’s not technically on the Mediterranean, Portugal has a similar climate so many of the crops we saw in Italy also thrive here as well: olives, sunflowers, corn, grapes…and by no means is this an all-inclusive list. Although Luigi mentioned that there’s been a shift from “working with the earth” to working in the cities, so we passed more than a few overgrown olive tree groves and abandoned vineyards.
We wound through the tiny winding roads in hilly villages – which I had forgotten how terrifying it was after last year’s pilgrimage – until we arrived at Batalha. We were originally going to check into the hotel first, but since scheduling was a little tight due to flight delays, Luigi made the executive decision to go ahead and just do the Mass first. We went to Igreja Matriz da Exaltação a Santa Cruz which was being kept open just for our private Mass.
So backstory on Batalha. Apparently this place only exists because of its monastery. After the Portuguese defeated the Castillians in the Battle of Aljubarrota in 1385, it was decided that they would build a monastery on the site of the victory to keep a vow made by King João I to the Virgin Mary prior to the battle. Since the king was dead and heirless, João was the closest thing to a next-of-kin, even though he was the illegitimate brother, so the throne to Portugal was theoretically his. King Juan from Spain didn’t really like this idea and odds were in his favor, so he challenged that idea. King João I prayed for assistance from the Virgin Mary, and when he came out on top, he built the monastery and named it in her honor: Mosteiro de Santa Maria da Vitória. Now the monastery is a UNESCO World Heritage site. In any case, the monastery is this gorgeous Gothic structure visible from miles away. Meanwhile, the Igreja Matriz was built over a century later when Batalha gained the status of Town and needed a parish. Igreja Matriz is a much more modest building, but is stunning in its simplicity. The white stucco walls are lined with yellow, blue, and white patterned ceramic tile. The altar had many more details that didn’t get time to really appreciate. I guess this just means all the more reason to come back!
After Mass, the bus took us back to the hotel where we freshened up a bit before dinner. Dinner was delicious. To be completely honest, I had no idea what to expect with Portuguese food. I figured it’d be something similar to Spanish, but I was kind of going in blind. This hotel already had points in my book though because it was a buffet, and if you know me, I love me a buffet. I mean it was pretty modest, but a buffet is a buffet. The food was good, but the stars of the show were the little creamy fried potato puff things…yes, very technical, I know. And also, surprise, the carbs stole my heart. But for real though, they were these little pillowy puffs of goodness. The best part: Marissa said she’d made something similar in culinary school, which means that I may get to have these more often! Oooh throw in some rosemary, oregano, and Parmesan…[wipes drool off keyboard]
Once we finished up with dinner, we decided to go for a walk. We heard some lively music and yelling a little ways away, so we walked over and found an outdoor Zumba-style class. According to a billboard nearby, it’s every Tuesday and Thursday. We found it amusing but moved on. We walked around an outdoor gym/track type thing and meandered back to the other side of the monastery. I wish I’d brought my camera with me for that trip, but I’m going back out there at sunrise to take some photos. Speaking of, it’s already 0120, and sunrise is at 0600-ish. I need to go to bed.