This turned out to be our lucky travel day. We got assigned front row seats on the bus – just behind Helder! And this also turned out to be a day of significant travel – which made this seat assignment event more noteworthy. We would be visiting Bussaco, Coimbra and Fatima during the day, and ending up in Tomar for the night. We are generally headed south.
I got to take pictures out of the unobstructed windshield of the bus all day – starting with this picture as we left our hotel for the last time. Goodbye Porto!
Rui occupied the seat next to me, giving us an opportunity to chat with him during our travels that day.
Time for some more background information….
The country of Portugal is divided into regions, sub-regions, and districts within the sub-regions. The population is about 10 million today. The country is about the size of Maine.
Cork is the main crop in Portugal. Rice, wheat, corn, cereals, olives. etc.. are also grown.
Here are some pictures from early in the drive.
We passed areas of forest fires that took place in the past that destroyed wide swathes of eucalyptus trees. Turns out that there was a major event in 2017 that brought Portugal a lot of criticism from the world with regards to its cultivation of eucalyptus trees. This article has a link to more of the details of that event, and another disastrous event in 2020.
We got off the highways in an area near Bussaco. This is the Bairrada region of Portugal. This is an area of vineyards. This is a picture in a roundabout in Mealhada, a town that we were passing through. It is a monument to Baccus (Monumento ao Deus Baco). This is an area known for Espumante, the Portuguese sparkling wine. (I found this article on Wikipedia on Portuguese wine in general.) Mealhada is also known for their Leitão, or suckling pig. (We did not get a chance to taste this!)
Soon we entered the mountain range of Bussaco.The hills did not seem to be very high, but we were told that there was a ski area close by. There is supposed to be a diversity of vegetation in the area, including Mexican Cyprus, Oak, Goan Laurel (I found a reference to Indian Laurel on Wikipedia), Cedar, Ginko, Sequoia, Bunya Pine, Eucalyptus, etc.
The history of the park includes that of the Carmelite Convent. The convent closed down when religious orders were banned in 1834.
We passed through the town of Lazo as we climbed the hillson our way to the Palace of Bussaco. The roads through the woods were all paved with cobblestones.
As we approached our destination, a mention was made of the movie Lines of Wellington, later also a television series, about the Battle of Bussaco. (John Malkovich played The Duke of Wellington in the movie.) The battle took place in this area, and it was a significant event in Portuguese history. British and Portuguese forces fought against the French under Napoleon during this battle and won.
Here are some pictures of what remains of the Carmelite convent, and the Palace of Busssaco and its surroundings. Stone from the abandoned convent was used to build the palace.
The Palace was converted into an exclusive hotel a while back. It seems that they are not too fond of hordes of tourists wandering into their lobby these days.
It was mid-morning by the time we left the palace
to head back to Mealheada, and then get on the main road from Mealheada to Coimbra.
The plan was to do some exploration of Coimbra before lunchtime.