Day 37: Santarem to Fatima - Grampies Go Valencia to Paris: Spring 2024 - CycleBlaze

March 14, 2024

Day 37: Santarem to Fatima

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Our hotel in Santarem turned out to be one that caters to workers rather than tourists, and that makes sense given its location nowhere near the historic centre. At breakfast time, all the workers piled into the breakfast room, making it hard to get to things for a while. But unlike the ultra annoying tour groups, the workers went off to work really quickly, leaving the field to us.

A workers' hotel.
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Our route (thankfully) did not take us back up the Santarem hill. Consequently the city looked even drearier to us than we thought it looked up top.

Dodie didn't think the town looked good.
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As usual, it took some kms to get to a point where we could feel happy about the cycling environment. This time that was about 6 kms, not that bad really, compared to some large cities. Our route took us past Ofimoto, the only bike shop we knew of. Just as with TI's, the bike shop was closed. TI's and bike shops are normally closed!

After 9 a.m. but closed.
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Kelly IniguezLittle Rifle, CO now has a bike shop! Hours are three days a week 11:30-5 PM. I think the man must have another job? I haven't been in yet. He seems to stock all E bikes, from looking in the window. He did make it through the winter.
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1 month ago

Things now took a turn very much for the better, as we found ourselves in nice cycling country, and passing through interesting small villages. We were gratified to see that we were on the Caminho de Fatima, since we were indeed going to Fatima and we had chosen to go there because of the Sanctuary of Fatima. Only thing, we were already encountering some tough hills. We were ok with that as we expected it. 

On the Caminho (of Fatima).
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We distrusted and ignored this particular marker. We suspected that it would take us up a goat path.
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Dodie had to push, even in some of the early going.
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It was a foggy day, limiting photography for a number of hours. Here the road has little shoulder, but also little traffic.
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In Santos, Dodie cleverly spotted this opportunity to get a caminho stamp.
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The town generally looked like this.
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The next town along, Casais da Milharicas, had much the same appearance. These towns do not resemble the clean white box/orange roof model of past days.
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These folks are buying fruit from a truck. They look like small village residents of many countries. The lady in the middle gave me a nice smile and a wave.
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Karen PoretAt least the ladies give you a smile, not like the old men..;)
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Going down, through town,
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Some houses really broke the mold, with bright colours and unique designs.
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The next thing really helped to make our day. Dodie spotted another hoopoe, right on a nearby wire!

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Scott AndersonOh my gosh. That’s fantastic. So lucky!
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Steve Miller/GrampiesTo Scott AndersonToo true. The only thing better would have been if its crest was fully erect.
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Look how long that beak is!
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Olives continued to dominate the landscape along this route. Those in this photo look very very old.
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Here we are near Povoa das Mos. The road looks inviting, but it is also climbing!
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We thought we might have to go up here, but the route veered to the right!
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Beautiful flowers among the olives.
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No idea what they are.
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Bill ShaneyfeltProbably some kind of laminaceae (mint family) but there are so many that look so similar!

https://inaturalist.nz/taxa/48623-Lamiaceae/browse_photos?place_id=6774
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1 month ago
Anne MathersLikely it’s Valeriana cornucopia.
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Steve Miller/GrampiesTo Anne MathersJust googled it and it does seem likely. Even the range in Portugal matches up. Thanks Anne.
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This super photo looks like a painting.
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At this stage, it was all about the road and the surrounding land. We hd once again hit cycling nirvana.

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Another painting!
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Roadside poppies!
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The music stopped at Alcanena. This is where the climbs became more extreme, the shoulders narrower, and the traffic heavier.

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Dodie is pushing in parts, and able to ride in others.

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By this point Dodie had pretty much had it. Even though photos usually do not show hills well, in this one you can see it's steep. I took to going on ahead, parking my bike - but not out of sight - and walking back to  give Dodie a boost. Yet the worst was yet to come. Dodie's bike had also had it, reporting a basically empty battery. So for the last 10 kms at least, Dodie pedaled the heavy bike with no assist. My bike still had a little life in it, but I shut it down as well,  to share the experience. Weight is so critical in cycling. Without assist, I can pedal my bike on the flat at 6 kph only. We can push at about 3 kph.  With these kinds of numbers, the estimate of what time we will arrive at starts to get crazy late. The saving grace is that if there are any downhills, you can still go very fast. Defying physics, Portugal seems to have few downhills and many uphills!

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Unpleasant pushing territory.
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With the help of some flat and some downhill bits, we did make it to Fatima. We were not surprised to find that McDonalds had made it there before us! Their cocky sign says "High point of the day" "There's always a McDonalds"

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Karen PoretNo thanks..And, besides, it’s Pi Day!
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1 month ago

We  were surprised about Fatima town. 10 and 15 kms out, we were in sort of dull suburbs, but even after we crossed the town boundary, there was no indication that we were within a few kms of this amazing tourist and religious draw. The town looked totally plain and ordinary:

Plain
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Ordinary
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The first indication of something different was a roundabout, with a portrayal of the three shepherd children approaching something special.

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The three children.
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Our first move was to find our hotel. As you see in the photo, the hotel area is also nothing special.

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But ok, our place was clearly named for our granddaughter, Amelia!
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From our fifth floor balcony, we see what looks like a farm holdout from selling to the hotel developers.
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We plugged in our power hungry batteries, and walked out to find the Fatima sanctuary.

For those not upon Fatima lore, here is the potted summary: 

On May 13th, 1917 three shepherd children ("pastorinhos" - Lucia aged 10 and her cousins Francisco 9 and Jacinta 7)) suddenly saw a shining woman, holding a white rosary. The woman, Mary, urged the children to pray the rosary more, and said that she would return in a month, and monthly thereafter. The apparitions did continue for six months, with news spreading, until it is written that 70,000 people were there for the sixth (and sort of final) apparition. At that time, they say, the sun did dipsy doodles in the sky, and Mary continued to give religious tips and also commentary on world peace. In particular she seemed down on Russia and Communism, while pushing the praying to her with the rosary. She also foretold the not too distant death of  Francisco and Jacinta and the coming long life of Lucia.

Since then, the thing about the Sun has been certified by the Church. And Lucia did live long, as a nun, seeing Mary again  twice in Spain and again in Portugal.

Side note, the rosary is a string of at least 59 beads that you go through one at a time, as a counter for saying the Hail Mary prayer (53 times) and the Our Father (6 times). Other prayers somehow associated are the Apostles Creed, Glory Be, and Hail, Holy Queen.

With the 53 Hail Marys in there, we see that the Rosary is very Mary-centric, and so, central to the Fatima thing.

By the way, the Hail Mary text expanded over the years, beginning only with Gabriel's annunciation to Mary, with the assurance "Hail Mary Full of Grace, the Lord is with thee" . Several more lines were added over time. 

Our own Fatima experience began with spotting two blue and white nuns, and then passing a museum that seems to house artifacts from the shepherd children. Apparently their houses are still also intact, somewhere nearby.

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We will try to check this museum's hours, but tomorrow we gotta go!
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A closer look at the three kids.
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I had been surprised at the lack of souvenir shops around Fatima. But as we approached the Sanctuary there were a satisfying number. See the bag, I wish we could carry it along:

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Karen PoretIronically as I read this now, I have a small vial of holy water from Fatima right in front of me! This was given to me last month from a friend who knew I was to undergo breast cancer surgery. How much more impressive is this “gift” with photos and your wonderful story to accompany it. Thank you both , Steve and Dodie.
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1 month ago
Steve Miller/GrampiesTo Karen PoretWishing you all the best with your health issues. Consider a part of the candle we lit as dedicated to you.
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Karen PoretTo Steve Miller/GrampiesBless you, and Amen!
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1 month ago
Of course, many Marys.
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And other religious stuff.

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On entering the Sanctuary grounds we found a very large - huge- paved forecourt, with the Sanctuary Basilica at one end. To the side, a smallish covered but open area contained a small congregation and a priest conducting a service. Not having studied in advance, and also forgetting to apply our experience at Lourdes, we rather discounted the service and headed on in to the basilica.

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The basilica
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The large paved area, with the little covered pavilion
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The priest. Note the kind of pillar behind him, obviously ignored by the guy taking the shot. We'll get to that!
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Mary, on the basilica facade. Note the sacred heart theme, which plays a role in the Fatima mythos, plus the fact that she carries a rosary, as noted by the shepherds.
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Looking from the basilica steps towards the paved area and that little pavilion.
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Inside the basilica
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The painting above the altar shows Mary and the children Also appearing are the Angel of Portugal, the Bishop of the Diocese, and Pope Pius XII. Pius XII is highly controversial for his role with the Nazis and the holocaust.
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The graves of the two girls.
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and the grave of Francisco
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There were not too many devotees when we were there, but some caught my attention. 

Veils and flowers.
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The rosary
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The general decoration in the basilica was muted. Unlike gaudy Lourdes, the basilica of the Holy Blood in Brugge, etc.
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Now we went back out, and to that little pavilion with the service ongoing. They also had a singing nun (like at Santiago), or at least a lady singer, but we rather missed her as we were searching for candles and the Fatima stamp.

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Many people light candles here.
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They are amazingly cheap.
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If you don't have coins, as we didn't, you can pay online. I used my French euro card, which worked well.
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We saw something like this at Lourdes as well. There you could buy your candle on their web site and they would light it for you. Here, to beat the crowd, you put your candle in the bin and they will set it up later.
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This candle lighter had been around. Ken and Judy - for you.
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This candle lighter has many to think of at this time.
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We also got a Caminho stamp:

The stamp shows the three shepherd children, plus the Santiago shell.
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On leaving, we found ourselves asking "but where did these apparitions actually appear?". I spotted a long set of stairs, and thought maybe there is a monument somewhere at the top of them.  So up I scampered, only to find the parking lot!

Looking for an apparition.
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The mystery was only solved as we read a pamphlet we got along with the stamp. Ahh, that little pavilion housed the original shrine at the site of the apparitions. The pillar behind the priest was the spot. The big basilica thing was only constructed as a sort of afterthought. (Well, it's said that Mary requested it).  This, plus the service ongoing there, is exactly analogous to Lourdes, where they have the big basilica but the important services are held at the grotto where the Lourdes apparitions occurred. 

Walking back to the hotel, now in the rain, I had a chance to go in to a couple of the shops. I came away with a keychain showing Pope Francis on one side and the basilica on the other. Francis has been here twice, the last time being in 2023, with 200,000 people.

Fancy rosaries.
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Another typical shop.
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Dodie had cleverly booked a table for us at the hotel restaurant. The booking was mostly a question of having them cook the stuff for us, since we were mostly the only ones there. The vegetable soup, big salad, fries, rice, and nicely done veal sort of schnitzel really help restore our strength. We had climbed almost 900 meters on the day, something that proved about 1/3 more than our bikes would like to do, and about the same for us. Dodie did it also with a sharp pain in her little toe, that had developed sort of a blister within her shoe. She had seriously considered cutting the shoe open to relive the pressure. But some pain killer and some different socks seems to have controlled the problem for now. 

From the hoopoe to the winding roads, flowers, and trees, to the tough push, and the Fatima basilica - it has been quite a day!

Today's ride: 60 km (37 miles)
Total: 1,779 km (1,105 miles)

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Scott AndersonTough day! Good thing you found pavement the whole way at least.
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1 month ago
Steve Miller/GrampiesTo Scott AndersonWe specifically requested a paved only route from cycle.travel, and thank goodness for that. Gravel or mud on top of extreme hills would have made the day really awful.
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1 month ago