It took about two hours to purchase the train tickets from Lisbon to Tomar (well that’s what it seemed like) and then another two hours to travel the hundred miles or so north.
Kim finds it difficult to stay awake on trains (or on airplanes or boats or in the car) and slept for most of the journey and left alone I charted our progress through the window. Out of Lisbon the railway tracks followed the course of the River Tagus, the fifth longest river in Western Europe and the longest in Iberia and down here near Lisbon rather wide I thought, almost like a lake.
As the train clattered on we passed through salt flats then surprisingly lush green fields and fertile farmland, browning vineyards, straining olive groves, tired terracotta houses, wide dusty fields long since harvested for this year and every now and again the train punctuated our journey with a series of regular stops along the way at towns and villages whose names I didn’t record and don’t now remember.
Eventually we arrived in Tomar and I immediately worried about the decision to stop over here. It was quiet, the streets were empty, it seemed almost abandoned. The contrast with Lisbon hit me like a punch from a heavyweight boxer, it was like driving a car and going from sixth gear to first missing our five, four, three and two on the way. I grew concerned about what we would do here for three days.
It didn’t take long to walk to our accommodation just a few hundred yards away from the station. This was the Conde de Ferreira Palace which turned out to be an old farmhouse in the process of being converted into a guest house. An intriguing sort of place, part hotel, part family house and the owner gave us a history lesson and a tour of the property before showing us to our room on the second floor. Wonky floors and yard sale furniture but we loved it immediately, probably one of the crankiest places that we have stayed in and after we had settled in we took to the streets and looked for somewhere for lunch. My doubts and worries were beginning to ebb away as though King Canute had ordered the tide to retreat.
I generally leave restaurant/bistro selection to Kim because she is so much better at it than me and I have made previous mistakes so on the basis that if I might unfortunately choose somewhere that disappoints then there is no comeback on me. I find that tis arrangement generally works well.
Kim spotted a likely looking place with pavement tables and rustic green check tablecloths and trusting her instinct selected a spot in the shade and requested menus. The lunch time food was excellent and on the basis that once we have found a place that we like then we will return there again and again (what is the point of taking risks we tell ourselves) we agreed there and then that this would be the place for us for evening meal later.
Fearful of doing everything there is to do in Tomar in one day we did nothing in the afternoon, just dawdled about the streets and down by the river, stopped for a drink in the main square and made our plans for the next two days. By late afternoon we had begun to adjust to the pace of Tomar and were beginning to put the frenzy of Lisbon behind us. As I have said before it is important not to be too hasty when making early judgements.
Later we returned to the back-street restaurant for evening meal and it was excellent.