Overdose on Obidos

If you have been following along on my Portugal tour, you may have started to transcribe in the Portuguese pronunciation. If so, you now know that Obidos is pronounced….”ObidoSH.” What you may not know is that it also transcribes to “day trip.” Hardly anyone overnights in Obidos. It’s the kind of town that has a large parking lot just outside the walls of the old city big enough to accommodate a couple of rows of long, 40 passenger tour buses.

On approach to the old walled city of Obidos. The walls originate from the Moors era (8-11th century) but had to be restored after the 1755 earthquake.

While the day-trippers rarely leave the main street, there is a labyrinth of streets to be explored.

The main street in town goes from the Porta da Vila, or main gate up to the castle.

This town has the largest bougainvilleas I have ever seen, a testament to Portugal’s mild climate.

This bouganvilla has grown into a large tree, taller than the rooftops!

The vast majority of tourists visit Obidos on one of these tour buses, emptying out right at the main gate to the walled city. They shuffle up the main cobblestone street, stopping for a few photos in the town square, visiting the many shops that line the central artery through the city, stopping for a Ginjinha d’Obidos, a sweet alcoholic liqueur served in a chocolate cup. They reach the 12th century castle, possibly even climbing the narrow rail-less steps to the ramparts for a selfie or two, then turn around and head back to the tour bus, never having veered off this main path. Tourism statistics report the average amount of time spent in Obidos is two to three hours.

Ginja, produced by infusing Morello cherries in Aguardiente, served with a cherry in the glass. Or a chocolate cup!

Capinha d’Óbidos, serving Portuguese pastries to humans and bees alike!

Lots of little sidewalk cafes tucked away in the alleyways.

Bar Ibn Errik Rex, good place to have traditional ginja in Obidos.

Another traditional, yet unconventional meal at Bar Ibn Errik Rex, Chouriço assado, cured sausage flame-grilled right in front of you!

Knowing Obidos is a day trip destination is what convinced me to stay overnight.  The din of these troupes of tourists spilling out from the tour buses, marching up and down the main street, their footsteps clattering and echoing off the opposing walls of the narrow streets, the cacophony of laughter and chatter reverberating in the stone echo chamber was something that could be avoided only by waiting them out.  I wanted to experience the old walled town, complete with walking the ramparts of the 13th century Castelo de Óbidos after the tour bus exodus, when quiet falls on the old stone city.

Without a doubt, the castle, or Castelo de Óbidos is the “centerpiece” of Obidos, occupying the top of this hill since the Moors era (8-11th century.)

was significantly expanded after the Moors were driven out by King Afonso Henriques in 1147.

It’s possible to climb up on top of the walls to walk the ramparts in some sections.

The walls are pretty narrow, and no guardrails. Wouldn’t want to do this on a rainy day!

Given that Obidos is such a day trip destination, there aren’t a lot of accommodations from which to choose. The type of places I’ve been patronizing, guesthouses with shared bath, seem to be in short supply in such a small town, particularly within the walled city. Through booking.com, I find a €46 rate, (about $50USD equivalent) at the Hotel Rainha Santa Isabel. While over my usual budget and the most I have paid thus far in Portugal, the location and old world ambiance are worth it. The 20 room property is located in an authentic Portuguese house within the old city walls, just beyond the main gate. It has a period-feel to it, with wooden beamed ceilings, leather chairs in the lobby, and old wooden furnishings.

As with all of Portugal, there are many churches to visit. Igreja de Santa Maria, located in the main square is notable because it was the location of the royal wedding of King Afonso V to his cousin Isabel in 1444. The bride was only eight while the groom was ten.

This 14th century Gothic chapel, Capela de São Martinho, is the oldest church in Obidos, (Why does someone always have to park right in front of the “feature?”)

Inside the 14th century Capela de São Martinho, oldest in Obidos.

Trying to sneak a photo of the nun going in for effect.

And still, I have not had my fill of blue tiled churches!

Up until this time while traveling through Portugual, I have spent significantly more time OUT of my room than IN, leaving at breakfast time and not returning until late after a full day of touring. However, I now have a queen size bed with starched-white sheets, ample pillows, and my own private bathroom, with a large window opening adjacent to Rua Direita, the main pedestrian avenue. It’s tough to tear myself away. It doesn’t exactly feel like a case of “traveler burnout” — more like a case of lethargy brought on by luxury.

This church has been converted into a retail book store.

First bookstore I have ever shopped in with a holy water font!

Prison’s Arch House. Former Town Hall from 14th-15th centuries that housed town prisoners, later became residence of a local painter.

Sixteenth Century aqueduct.

My intention was to stay in Obidos for only one night as a stopover between buses on my way north. However, as soon as I arrived, I went downstairs and added another night.

By the second day, the rains came, interrupting a long stretch of beautiful blue-sky days. It was a welcome relief, however, as summer was coming on fast, and temperatures were beginning to escalate. Not only did distant rolling thunder followed by a slow drizzle do wonders to bring down the temperature, it also worked miracles at tamping down the din of tourists outside my window. The louder the raindrops, the fewer voices from the street below as tourists scattered, jockeying for a place to get out of the rain. Lying propped up on my big fat fluffy pillows, the cool breeze billowing through the white sheer curtains, I found delight in knowing the crowds were emptying out, I would not have to wait in line for dinner, and my tour bus was not idling in the parking lot. The soothing 4pm ebb of footsteps retreating out of the main gates had me down at the front desk paying for Night Number Three.

Here is my modern bathroom. The floor to ceiling “busy” tiles in here might keep some from lingering too long. 😉

I did venture outside the walls of the city a couple of times. The area was filled with abundant apple, apricot, peach and nectarine orchards.

Located outside city walls Santuario do Senhor Jesus da Pedra, with its hexagonal floor built of stone is one of Portugal’s most unique baroque structures.

I enjoyed a dinner of Pork and Prawn Kabob just outside the walled city near the hexagonal church. Cheaper than inside the walled city.

It’s easy to see why Obidos is a day trip destination for so many tour operators. There’s just not that much to see there, once you have wandered the streets a bit and toured the castle. However, those day trippers are missing the best part of Obidos.  Gone by 4:00pm, yet there’s still plenty of daylight left to explore in peace.  It reminds me of the old Mastercard commercial:  Being able to walk the castle ramparts and experience the old world charm without being elbowed in the ribs, body slammed by a backpack, or have your eye poked out by an umbrella?  Priceless!

8 thoughts on “Overdose on Obidos

  1. See! theres plenty to eat in Portugal without eating at McDonalds! Weenies on fire look delicious and those pork and prawn kebobs!!! This has to be the most intriguing city you’ve visited and the idea of being there with the DTs gone and all those alleys to wander through with a drizzle putting a sheen on the cobble stone how could you stay only two days? I have to know, what was through the low arch in the blue tile wall and up those wonderful stairs? Such a wonderful post!

  2. Wowwwwww…what a total delight for my eyes and taste buds! You’ve shown the walled Obidos to be a beautiful little village filled with glorious pleasures! That luscious bougainvillea, those hot fired thick wienies, deliciously yummy Portuguese pastries, beautiful architecture, bright colorful tiles, lovely tiny paved side paths for exploring, big fat fluffy pillows and white sheer curtains blowing in the breeze…and, yes, please!…Morello cherries in Aguardiente, served in a chocolate cup! What a sense of joy and comfort those couple of days must have brought you. You are a true traveler in every sense of the word, Suzanne. Thank you for sharing that fact with us. Absolutely and amen!

    “If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” ~ JRR Tolkien

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