Sunday, June 16, 2013

15 Jun 13 – Day 9 (Fatima)

Today we left Lisbon to go to Fatima to visit the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fatima. Read about it before the trip and was kind of looking forward to the visit. Before we actually went to the Shrine, we made a stop at the main souvenir center where one can get things like magnets, small bottles of holy water, rosaries, and figurines of Virgin Mary and so on. We were each given a slip of paper when we alighted from the coach. Turned out that it entitled us to a free mini figurine of the Virgin Mary each. 

Left the center and got to the Shrine. There were a lot of people when we got there. Nancee told us that we should try to go and see The Chapel of Apparitions because that is the place where Virgin Mary was said to appear before the three children, the Blessed Francisco Marto, Blessed Jacinta Marto and Sister Lúcia. The exact location of the apparitions is marked by a marble pillar which holds a statue of the Virgin Mary. Tried to get a photo of that but I couldn't get near enough. Walked towards the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary and took photos along the way. Kim and I went into the Basilica but subsequently we walked separate ways because I took a long time to admire the surroundings and followed the queue to see main altar and the tombs of the three children.

We then went to look for the section of the Berlin wall which Nancee was telling us about. Finally found it, took a picture of it and walked on to the Church of the Santíssima Trindade also known as the Church of the Most Holy Trinity in English. Outside of the church was a tall cross by Robert Schad of Germany, Statue of Pope John Paul II by Czesław Dźwigaj of Poland and few other artworks. Didn't go into the church to see and just walked around to snap photos of the exterior of the Basilica and the surroundings while Kim walked her way. Saw some pilgrims approaching the shrine along the designated path on their knees and one of them was carrying a baby in her arms.

Then it was time to gather so I hurried to the meeting point, worrying that I was late. Fortunately, I was not the last one to arrive. The restaurant for our lunch was just behind the Church of the Most Holy Trinity. While walking there, I saw many other structures and monuments. We were told lunch was Bacalhau, salted codfish, a Portuguese specialty. I had that while I was in Macau a few years ago and I remembered that it was really salty that KC, SWT and I left that dish untouched after tasting it. So I thought this time round it was going to be that one whole salted fish again.

We were served soup first which was tasty. Then came the main course, to my surprise, the way they prepared it was to cook the shredded bacalhau with mashed potato. This greatly reduced the saltiness of the bacalhau and hence I actually asked for second helping of it. We ended the lunch with a piece of cake each before continuing our journey back into Spain, Salamanca to be specific. During one of the rest stop, Nancee bought a big box of cherries which was in season to share with the members. I took a few while Kim turned down the offer politely because she only eats strawberries. 

Got into Salamanca and we headed for our Chinese dinner. Compared to the last two rounds of Chinese dinner, this had got to be the best. At the end of the dinner, we had cherries again and since most at the table were not into cherries. Nancee suggested that I packed them back to eat in my room. Great idea! Finally we reached our hotel. Nancee told us that there was a Carrefour nearby and so went over to get water as well as some Spanish chocolate as souvenirs. Returned to the hotel to settle for the night and after my shower, I sat down to relax and eat my cherries.

Thoughts: Finally got to visit the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fatima, which so many people told me about. A pity I didn't get to explore the place thoroughly due to time constrain again. Will I go back again? I hope to if it is along the way if I do go back to visit parts of Spain and/or Portugal. I am not a Catholic, I am a free thinker. But I studied in a catholic school before and so I like singing hymns but not attending mass. 

I like the way the bacalhau was prepared but too bad I can’t find bacalhau in Singapore, otherwise, I would probably try to re-create the dish on my own.

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