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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!