Around a monastery
Alcobaca Travel Blog› entry 3 of 29 › view all entries
Alcobaca is a beautiful small town in the centre of Portugal, well located to quick access to most of Portuguese beauties.
Baça river draining in Alcoa river gave name to Alcobaça. The merging point of both rivers was for long time abandoned and neglected. A few years ago workings were started to recover and embellish it. Things are much better, but still too much to be done.
In Alcobaca you must see the imposing monastery, a world masterpiece of the early Gothic (I will make a review to it). Don't miss the cloisters, the dining room, and the kitchen. Of course, you can't miss in the main corps, the tombs of Pedro and Ines, a real Portuguese history of Romeo and Juliet. Facing the tombs, ask a nearby Portuguese his opinion about Napoleon and his soldiers?
The surroundings of the monastery mix well antiquity and modernity, and, being so small, the town is excellent to wander a while.
Nothing very special in the local museum, but if you go 2kms north towards Leiria, stop at the interesting "Museu do Vinho" (wine museum).
No, its not Disneyland. It's City Hall, in a fabulous photo of Graca Vargas, with some other angles in my own photos.
The palace has been built in 1890 by a local that made fortune in Brazil, and started being used as City Hall in the middle of last century.
The style reflects Brazilian architecture. Around it, there's a garden, with tennis lawns, and, at both ends, the camping ground and the Palace of Justice.
There is, really, nothing to see there.
I know that there are some beautiful houses in the way, but you need not to go up to the top to see them.
Once a gardened square, full of life (and cars), the square facing the monastery was transformed in a desert, with the intention to enhance the monastery. Locals complaint, commerce fades and discussion grows.
Even the regular events in the square are different, more professional and less participated (and... funny: frequently with a big tent hiding the monastery...).
Fortunately, the image and proportions of the buildings in the square were preserved.
After decades of indifference, the recent works to evidence the monastery created the opportunity to a different use of its facing square and facade.
Several events, from spring to autumn, animate the interior and surroundings of the monastery.
A discrete nightlife is growing in some of the adjacent bars. City Hall's homepage has a good agenda, unfortunately only in Portuguese.
It's not an old tradition, but the Carnival parade by the Monastery got its tradition, until becoming too much commercial and fading.
And now they changed - Carnival is in a tent or out of Alcobaça, mainly in Nazaré or... Turquel (guess why!), but the monastery is still there (maybe hidden by a tent...).
The wild coast of Alcobaça is beautiful, but hiding some risks: in a recent sunday, we witnessed a tragedy under the bright sun and in the calm waters - a distraction, and a boat was turned by a wave, killing one of the fishermen and injuring the other.
Looking at the sea, we couldn't imagine such drama.
In several places around Alcobaça you may see signs announcing Parreitas. It's a place where a friend of mine, about 40 years ago, discovered some roman ruins. I didn't visit the place with him, when excavations began, nor later. But a couple of years ago I decided to go and have a look.
In the way between Alcobaça and Nazaré there's a sign, pointing to the direction where I knew the ruins are. I decided to follow the signs and... found nothing.
Last month, travelling in the area with Fernanda and a couple of local friends, I discovered that no one of them ever saw Parreitas, and once again, I followed the signs to find... nothing.
Searching in Google Earth I discovered that the ruins are some kilometers far from the expected place, without any indication after the one in the road to Nazaré.
So, if you decide to go there you better forget the signs and try to find the way by yourself, but for what I have seen there's not much to see there. The only erected columns are in a roundabout at Alcobaça's entrance, without any clear indication of its origin.
Around Alcobaça there are interesting visits, all of them minutes away, allowing to stay for a week without boring. I will post a few reviews with sugggestions in alla directions.