It was nice to have a bit of a home base for 2 weeks in Porto. That was the longest we had stayed in any one place during our 7 months of travel. We enjoyed getting back into a bit of a routine of doing homeschooling, cooking at home, and even getting in some exercise. But alas, it was time to move on.
We moved into the interior of Portugal for the next 2 weeks, splitting our time between 2 rural villages. The interior was beautiful with rolling hills and valleys, dotted with olive orchards, vineyards, and eucalyptus trees. Unfortunately, much of this area was devastated from a forest fire last summer and the effects are still very obvious. Our first week was spent in the small village of Furadouro, close to the city of Viseu. When I say small, I mean small! It has a permanent population of only 8 people! We stayed at the most amazing Airbnb home (Casa do Calhau), one that is sure to stay at the top of our list. The house was a restored stone farmhouse and had so much character. There was a lot of love and pride put into making this home an oasis. From the well stocked kitchen, to the amazing pool perched atop a hill with views of the valley, to the sitting area outside with a grape vine canopy, to the patio from the master bedroom... the house was perfect. But more impressive was the hospitality and kindness of our hosts, Belchior and Alcina, and their daughter Ana. We were spoiled with delicious food, wine, and treats throughout our stay. Not only that, but Belhior and Ana spent an afternoon and built a raft out of wood and water jugs for the boys to float on in the river! Thank you for all the wonderful memories!
Reluctantly we left this wonderful place and moved south to another small village near Tomar called Poço Redondo. While still very nice, it was hard to compete with where we had just come from. During the first few days of our stay here, all of Europe experienced a huge heat wave, with hot winds blowing up from the Sahara. It broke all kinds of records and our village was only 20km away from the hottest spot in Europe! Temperatures were in the mid 40s, and at one point our car thermometer registered 49 degrees!! It was so hot that one afternoon we even took refuge in a McDonalds and at the mall in the next big city just to stay cool. Our house did not have a pool or AC so needless to say it was a rather hot few days. Thankfully, there were many river beaches in the area in which to cool off. The water in these rivers was so cold and perfect for a hot day. These river beaches are abundant through the interior of Portugal and I think it's one of their best national treasures. They vary from very natural swimming holes and rivers, to more built up places with pools and some amenities with snack bars and washrooms. Some of them even had lifeguards. And best of all, these facilities were all free and well maintained. As quickly as the stifling heat came, it also abated, and life was good again with a beautiful breeze and more tolerable temperatures.
Tomar was great little city with some very impressive sites within a short drive. We visited some intact aqueducts just outside of town that were built in the 17th century. It was used to supple water to the Convent of Christ and ran 6km long with 180 arches. We were even able to walk along the top of the structure... well some of us did anyway. This convent, built in the 12th century was the head quarters of the Templar knights. Sitting on the hill overlooking the town, it was grand and imposing. Another equally impressive building we visited was the Batalha monastery which was so elaborate and on par with the cathedral in Seville, Spain.
We were also lucky to have visitors during this time. Our friends Erika and Frank and their 2 boys, Nik and Kevin, from Germany took their summer holidays in Portugal and we were able to hook up a few times. Somehow, in spite of the distance, we have been able to manage meeting up every 2-3 years. Thanks guys for the great times and hope to see you again soon!