There are castles everywhere in Portugal

Two days after Christmas we flew to Lisbon. Not that we particularly needed a break or anything, having spent the previous weekend in Connemara, and the one before that in Brussels, it’s just that Tina and I talked ourselves into it one evening watching TV, neither of us dared back down, and next thing I knew she’d booked flights. And now here we are.

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Ericeira

We’ve just spent the last three days working our way north, via Sintra, just west of the capital, and Mafra, where we stayed with a couchsurfing friend, to today’s starting point, Tomar, headquarters of the Knights Templar. It seems that every town we pass through has a castle, even if some of them come more from the imagination of a nineteenth-century aristocrat, than the pages of medieval history.

As I write, we’re in the stylish Hotel Don Carlos, which is over the Spanish border in a city called Cáceres. After three days in Portugal, we’re spending these next four days over New Year’s in Spain before heading west once again for Portugal for our three last days.

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In the tourist heart of Sintra

As we might have expected, the weather hasn’t always been great – that’s what you get with late December breaks – but we missed a Storm called Frank at home, and hasn’t been bad enough to stop us doing anything. The seaside town of Ericeira was all the more atmospheric for the squally welcome we got.

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The mind-blowing chapel at Convento de Cristo

And this time of the year means that you get the place to yourself in some cases, like today’s early morning tour of the Convento de Cristo, the fortress built for the Templars which was started eight hundred and fifty years ago, incredibly. Which meant that Eoin and Al ran around it like it was their own private Lego or Minecraft castle.