Vem Comigo Day 1: FRA > LIS & Batalha

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.”

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This airport experience has left me with more questions than usual

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.

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The Portuguese countryside. A little blurry, I know, but this was on my phone on a moving bus. Sue me.

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.

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The interior of the Ingreja Matriz

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.

 

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Vem comigo Day 0: IAH > FRA

My body has no idea what to think right now. My concept of time is already screwy enough as it is with the midshifts, so throw in the international flight and I don’t know what day it is anymore.

To backtrack a bit, I’m going on the Marian pilgrimage with my parents’ church in Houston. We’re hitting up Fatima for it’s 100th anniversary, Santiago de Compostela, Lourdes, Paris, and a bunch of places in between. I’m particularly excited about seeing Loyola in Spain because my Confirmation saint is St. Ignatius. I got to see his tomb, the first Jesuit church, and the apartment he lived in at the end of his life. Now I get to see the beginning.

But before we get there, we have to fly out. We got to IAH three hours early, and there were still group members that beat us to the airport. Anyway, nothing eventful. Just your basic airport stuff. Check in, TSA, you know. But while we were waiting to board, some Hispanic lady sat next to my dad and started talking in Spanish. My dad just played along to see if she’d notice that he had no clue what she was saying. We told her she was surrounded by Filipinos that didn’t really speak Spanish. She didn’t seem to care. One of the Mexican men that are in the group with us chatted with her and gave her a heads up. She seemed to have a grand old time with it. You do you, Abuelita, you do you.

The flight was fine except for the fact that I was trapped in a steel tube hurtling through the air for 9 hours with a crying urchin and a mother making no effort to soothe her child. For my friends with kids, please do us all a favor and if you do decide to bring your child on a flight before they can handle discomfort without crying, do SOMETHING. I don’t care what. I don’t care if it works…well actually I do, but I just want to see some effort to show that you’re not an asshole. And for airlines, just putting this out there…I would pay extra money for a childless flight, especially international.

Then we landed at Frankfurt Airport, and police lady checking my passport asked me about the matching shirts. I told her we were on a pilgrimage and they wanted us to match. She asked how long we were going to be doing it. I said two weeks. She gave me this look and asked if we were wearing the same shirt the whole time. I gave a resounding hell no. She seemed amused.

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Does it count as a carry on? Was he wearing anything underneath? Am I going to be in the background of a video on some German Youtube channel? I have so many questions.

Then we got to the gate, and this mofo was the first thing I saw. Not sure what was going on. My first thought was thank God I checked in ahead of time and made sure I was sitting with my family. Because being anywhere near chicken suit on a plane would be miserable. I had so many questions, but unfortunately, I never got answers because I had to go to the bathroom and by the time I came back, he was gone. I’d like to think that he’s very Flula Borg-y.

Well, I have two hours left of this layover before we move on to Lisbon and start our pilgrimage, and I still have a shit ton of Duolingo to do on both Portuguese and French. Oh well. Boa sorte to me, I guess.