Estremadura Travel Guide

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Estremadura Travel Guide

Estremadura Local History

The name Estremadura translates as "the extremity", but it has radically different connotations from those associated with the harsh landscapes of Estremadura in neighboring Spain. Early in the development of the Portuguese nation, rulers based in the country's north-central region coined the term to refer to the Moorish territories to the south that the Portuguese eyed enviously.

Those territories included Nazaré, Obidos, and Fátima. Estremadura's coastline is flanked by some of the country's richest fishing banks. Estremadura is a land of contrasts with the Atlantic crashing upon the southern coast, but further up, it hardly musters a ripple in the snug cover of São Martinho do Porto. East of the flat seascapes of the west are two mountain ranges.

The presence of the nearby sea is evident throughout Estremadura. Even in the many examples of Manueline architecture, especially at Batalha, the tie with the sea remains unbroken. The nautical designs of ropes, cables, armillary spheres, and seascape effects, reflect Portugal's essential connection to the sea. Estremadura contains lovely towns as old as Portuguese nationhood whose beauty has not been diminished by time.

Despite the name the region is neither extremely harsh nor especially remote. Rather, it is in many ways the spiritual heart of Portugal. Its isolation derives more from the slow, erratic, and sometimes undependable public transportation, which makes the region best suited to a driving tour.

Estremadura Attractions

Top Attractions

Mosteiro de Santa Maria (St. Mary Monastery) - 516 Mosteiro, Alcobaca Tel (26) 258 3909. In the Middle Ages, the Cistercian Mosteiro de Santa Maria (St. Mary Monastery) was one of the richest and most prestigious in Europe. It was founded in 1178 to honor a vow made by Portugal's first king, Afonso Henríques, before he faced the Moors at Santarém. Alcobaca was built to show his spiritual indebtedness to St. Bernard of Clairvaux, who inspired many Crusaders into battle against the infidel.

Today, the monastery, is a monument to simplicity and majesty. The transept shelters the Gothic tombs of two star-crossed lovers, the Romeo and Juliet of Portuguese history. Though damaged, their sarcophagi are the greatest pieces of sculpture (artist unknown) from 14th-century Portugal. The Cloisters of Silence, with their delicate arches, were favored by Dinis, the poet king. Aside from the tombs and cloisters, the kitchen, through which a branch of the Alcoa River was routed, is another interesting feature.

As in most Cistercian monasteries, the flowing brook was instrumental for sanitation purposes. Chroniclers have suggested that the friars fished for their dinner in the brook and later washed their dishes in it. The 18th-century Salon of Kings have niches with sculptures of some Portuguese rulers. Hours Daily April to September 9am to 7pm; October to March 9am to 5pm. Admission 3€.

People Watching in Nazare - Don't expect any spectacular architecture or historic sights. The biggest attractions in Nazare are the people and their fabled boats. The fishing boats, Phoenician in design, slender, elongated are boldly colored. You'll often see crudely shaped eyes painted on the high, knifelike prows of the vessels. These eyes are supposedly imbued with the magical power to search the deep for fish and to avert storms. During the gusty days of winter or at high tide, the boats are hauled into a modern harbor about 10 minutes from the city's center and if you are interested to look at a boat, one of the locals will lead you for a price.

The villagers wear patchwork quilts of sun-faded colors. The rugged men wear rough woolen shirts and trousers, patched in a kaleidoscope of colours resembling tartan. The dangling ends of their long woolen stocking caps are used to keep their prized possessions like a favorite pipe or a crucifix. The women walk around mostly barefoot wearing embroidered, handmade blouses and pleated skirts of patched tartan woolens.

Mosteiro de Santa Maria da Vitória - Praça Moozinho de Obuquerque, Batalha Tel (24) 476 5497. In 1385, João I, vowed on the plains of Aljubarrota that if his underequipped and outnumbered army, defeated the invading Castilians, he would always commemorate his indebtedness to the Virgin Mary. The magnificent Monastery of the Virgin Mary, designed in splendid Gothic and Manueline style, was built as result of this vow. The most catching feature of the monastery is the square chamber whose vaulting is an unparalleled example of the Gothic style. Sentinels and the glow of an eternal flame guard the two tombs of Portugal's Unknown Soldiers from World War I.

Beyond the crypt are the remains of the old wine cellars. You can visit the crypts daily from 9am to 5pm. Stunning filigree designs ornament the coral-stone entrance to the seven unfinished chapels. The capelas, under a "sky ceiling," are part of one of the finest examples of the Manueline style, a true stone extravaganza. Construction was abandoned so workers for Manuel I could help build his monastery at Belém. Outside, in the forecourt, stands a heroic statue to Nuno Alvares, who fought with João I on the plains of Aljubarrota.

Molhe Leste Molhe Leste Beach - Peniche Excellent to Surf or just enjoy the beach!
submitted by Sofia, 03/11/08

Xakra Beach Bar Peniche - Molhe Leste Winter - Open at the weekends; Summer - From 10am to 4am every days.
submitted by Sofia, 03/11/08

Baleal Maybe I should not give this information. Peniche is just too different and beautiful to let everyone know about, I just think that it is about time Peniche and its beaches be known. Who wants to go to concrete ( Algarve..another Miami )when you can feast your eyes on the beauty of nature. A rocky coastline( rugged rock formation with the sea slapshing up high ) with two big ( easy 5 k long )golden sand beaches. ... Just visit Peniche and "Marvel " at its beauty..
submitted by J.C., 15/05/06

Estelas in Peniche Super restaurant in Peniche... near the city market... also near the ToTa Bank branch
submitted by J. C., 15/05/06

O Jardim Another hidden treasure in Peniche Portugal. This Restaurant serves the best "Massada de Peixe " by Miguel. He is the owner. It is in front of the High School as you enter Peniche de cima.
submitted by J.C., 15/05/06

Estremadura Shopping

In Alcobaca you'll find a dozen or so handcraft and ceramics shops lining the square in front of the monastery. One of the best outlets is Casa Artisate Egarafeira (tel (26) 259 0120), which sells antiques, ceramics, and regional wine, among other offerings.

Nazaré consists of two sections, the fishing quarter and the Sítio, the almost exclusively residential upper town. Near the beach you'll find handcraft shops, markets, restaurants, hotels, and boardinghouses.

The main square opens directly onto the sea, and narrow streets lead to the smaller squares, evoking a medina in a Moorish village. At the farthest point from the cliff and square are the vegetable and fish markets, where auctions are held.

Estremadura Beaches

The beach at the fishing village of Nazaré is popular with foreign tourists. The long pulled sandy beach and its village maintained its peculiarities despite tourist hustle and bustle.

Estremadura Restaurants and Bars

Estremadura Restaurants

Trindade - Praça do Dom Afonso Henríques 22, Alcobaca Tel (26) 258 2397. This, the most popular restaurant in Alcobabca opens onto a side of the monastery fronting a tree-shaded square. Trindade has both full restaurant service and a snack bar. Your tasty meal is likely to include shellfish soup, roast rabbit, or the fresh fish of the day. Tender roast chicken is also available. The food is hearty and full of flavor, but bne warned the place is often filled religious pilgrims and is a popular hangout for locals. Hours daily 9.30am to 11pm. Main courses 7€ - 11€.

Mar Bravo - Praça Sousa Oliveira 71, Nazare Tel (26) 256 9160. This is one of the busiest of the dozens of restaurants in this bustling village of Nazare. It is situated on the corner of a square overlooking the ocean. A complete and pleasing meal usually consists of soup followed by a fish or meat dish and bread. The English-language menu lists a la carte specialties such as classic bass caprice, fish stew Nazaréna, lobster stew, and grilled pork. A delicious dessert of a soufflé, fruit salad, or pudding will top off a perfect meal. There is a second dining room upstairs with an ocean view. Hours daily noon to 10pm. Regular main courses 7€ -18€ ; seafood main courses 15€ - 45€.

Estremadura Bars & Clubs

Sunset - Tel (26) 259 7017. The town's only dance club, dominates the center of Fervença, about 1.5km (1 mile) west of Alcobaça. This is where just about everyone ends up late at night before staggering off to bed. From the center of town, follow the signs to Nazaré. It's open Friday through Saturday from 11pm until at least 6am; it's open daily in August.

Many bars and bodegas line the main boulevards of Nazaré. You'll find dozens of establishments along such main arteries as Avenida da República and Avenida Marginale. Bar-hop as energetically as you please, but do stop at our favorite, Bar Gaibota, Avenida Marginal (tel. 26/256-22-85). The owners speak English, and no one will wince if you order a martini, though most patrons drink Portuguese wines.

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