Having visitors is great, it means that you play tourist in your own back garden and actually go out and see things that previously you've passed by giving the excuse a) too expensive, b) we'll come back another time, c) lets just have some lunch first then we'll think about going.
But, when you have a visitor you've got no excuse. It's all based on trying to show off really, showing people the best bits of your adopted country and trying to make them a) realise why you left the UK, b) a bit jealous and c) that life here in Pera is 'peradise'.
We managed to exhaust ourselves and most probably our visitor by travelling about 1000 kms over 5 days....Porto (done), Aveiro (done), Figueira da Foz (done), Tomar (done), Lousã (done). And during our tour of Central Portugal we did a few things we've never done before. A boat trip around Aveiro (not a lot to see, but welcome cooling breeze a bonus), and we finally went back to Tomar where we went to the Convento da Ordem de Cristo Built by the Knights Templar in 1160.
It's a great place to visit, and a snip at just 6 Euors (thank you Pat) or free on Sunday morning I'm told. It expands out across a network of rooms and weaves around numerous courtyards. It's a 'fantastic space' as Kirsty and Phil would say.
Now, I have some experience in this world of heritage and tourism you know and I was surprised that the interpretation (the signs the organisers put up to help you navigate and find out about the site) was limited to the architecture of the site. You know, 'This ante chamber was first constructed in the manueline style'.
I don't know about you, but I relate to people...who would have lived here, stayed here, what was the head honcho like? While a stunning place, I found out nothing about the Knights Templar, the type of crazy religious boys that stayed there....maybe I just didn't by the guide book (nod to Anna Heritage (not her real name) here as the woman at the front desk didn't even ask if I wanted one!!! ). For me, I could see the beauty, get a sense of the religious mania which helped to build this castle, fortress and church, but it didn't 'bring history to life' (hhmmmm catch phrase in there me think). And boy did they miss a trick by not having some Living History dudes in monks habits and Templar crosses walking around chanting! Who'd have thought I'd have said that!
Although I did get attacked by a House Martin in the last courtyard, not sure he was in costume either!!!
If you want to find out a bit more, take a look at:
But it was here I started to take photos of the Azulejos tiles.....it continued all the way to Aveiro where I announced grandly I would 'start a study' of the Azulejos tile. I've looked online and some really clever people (and talented people) have already done this. Shame eh but no idea is ever truely original! For example http://www.newmediarepublic.com/azulejos/ so I've decided to hold the formal 'study' and just enjoy them and read what other people have to say! Seriously much less bother!
For those that don't know, the Azueljo is tile used on many Portuguese houses.
Arabic word zellij زليج is a form of Portuguese or Spanish painted, tin-glazed, ceramic tilework. They have become a typical aspect of Portuguese culture, having been produced without interruption for five centuries. There is also a tradition of their production in former Portuguese and Spanish colonies in Latin America. In Portugal, azulejos are found on the interior and exterior of churches, palaces, ordinary houses and even train stations or subway stations. They constitute a major aspect of Portuguese architecture as they are applied on walls, floors and even ceilings. They were not only used as an ornamental art form, but also had a specific functional capacity like temperature control at homes. Many azulejos chronicle major historical and cultural aspects of Portuguese history. That is all stolen from Wikipedia, to read more go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Azulejo
For me, it is about the patterns they make, the beauty it brings to the houses and how fantastically foreign it feels.