While we explored Portugal Colleen and Carlos were excellent hosts for the Shermanos. We completely invaded their house, spreading into all the nooks and crannies with our electronics and various suitcases, eating their food and disrupting their daily nap schedule. But their cats were the star of the show for Haley and Zoe. Affectionate and playful animals who tolerate being carted around constantly are great for entertaining Zoe, we have learned.
Coasts and Dinosaurs
One sunny day we ventured out to the beach. The beaches in Portugal are beautiful. There is a lot of sand, it’s free of debris and seaweed and the waves are great for surfing and boogie boarding. We went to one beach just to check it out and Dan suggested we walk to the end. That was one thing that was different about these beaches. In Panama the beaches go on forever. It’s like you could walk from Panama City to the tip of the Azuero Coast simply on the beach. But in Portugal the beaches are more hidden in between large cliffs. It’s a beautiful juxtaposition of coast and beach and creates a nice cozy atmosphere on some beaches, almost like a big room just for your beaching pleasure.
So walking along this beach to the end we noticed some stairs going up, along with a sign. Stairs going somewhere up a cliff and a sign just begs to be checked out so up we climbed. We quickly learned that dinosaur footprints are on the sides of the cliff.
Say what now? So you’re telling me that after going to the town in Mexico where the asteroid struck that led to the extinction of the dinosaurs, we are now in Portugal and get to see dinosaur footprints??? Six degrees of Worldschooling, baby! This is just too cool.
It took awhile to figure out what we were seeing but we finally noticed large indentations in the cliff wall, which at some point in the past was flat ground instead of sheer cliff. Zoe was fascinated at how big the footprints were. Relative size is not easy for a 10 year old to comprehend until you’ve put your own foot in a dinosaur footprint. It was awesome. Google helped me figure out a few details: Situated at about 50 meters from the sandy area of the Praia Grande Beach, in Sintra, in the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park area, these dinosaur footprints were discovered in 1981, when a Geology student analysed this almost vertical chalk layer located in the South side of the beach. According to studies, these deep footprints date back from the Early Cretaceous period and are probably 110 to 115 million years old. The footprints were possibly made by two different type of dinosaurs: herbivores and carnivores, with a total of 66 footprints distributed by 11 tracks.
Next on the Coastal Tour Presented By Colleen and Carlos was the western-most point of Continental Europe. This was cool. I like things that are “the-most”. We had recently we been to the southern-most tip of Continental Europe so this was only fitting. It was a lovely natural park with amazing views and the perfect spot for a picnic. Haley has since decided she will research why picnics are always more tasty than restaurants or home cooked meals. It’s a valid research topic but, spoiler alert, I think it has something to do with Colleen’s chicken salad.
On a different day dedicated to exploring we did not have good weather on our side but the show must go on so we headed north to a town called Fátima. If you are Catholic you might know Fátima as a very special spot where 3 children claimed to have seen the Virgin Mary multiple times over a 6-month period in 1917. The entire incident was investigated and declared “Worthy Of Belief” by the Catholic church. That was a gross over-simplification of the experience and if you are Catholic you’re probably aghast at my lack of details right now, but for the sake of brevity that’s what you get. Google can provide our lovely readers with more details if you so desire. What you need to know is that there were a bunch of sightings, followed by some miracles and predictions, followed by an investigation and now it’s a pretty sacred place.
In the 100 years since, a huge Cathedral and a large outdoor area leading up to the Cathedral, has been constructed. I guess the site is especially popular on the anniversary of the miracles and sightings. There is a long path to the sanctuary used for penance for people to atone for their sins and thank God for answered prayers. It’s traditional to crawl or walk on your knees in order to show God your commitment to Him or fulfill a promise made for a prayer answered. The day we were there was very very cold and very rainy so we made it a very quick visit, but we did see two people who were doing some atonement on their knees on the cold, wet tile, crawling their way to the church. Fátima will be the site of a papal visit in May of 2017, which is the 100th anniversary of the miracles. We could not imagine how thousands of people will fit in this small town, but it will be nice to read about it in the news and say we’ve been there.
Our second cold and rainy day thwarted outdoor plans once again so we decided to take the train into Lisbon and explore a bit more. Carlos is fluent in Portuguese (he speaks Portuguese, Spanish, French and English… all extremely fluently… we’re jealous!) so we were glad he could come along. But I am almost fluent in Figuring Stuff Out (FSO) so we decided to just show up at the train station and wing it. Zoe and Haley and I have previous train experience which was helpful as we missed or messed up 4 different trains before getting to our destination. It was no problem, though, and we all felt like it was part of the adventure. Zoe was not fond of adventure as we were all on a train that was about to leave when her ticket was not working and she was the only one who could not get through the gates. We hopped off the train just in time for it to leave without us. Leaving without 5 of us is better than leaving without 1 of us, especially the 10-year old.
But the trip into Lisbon was fast and comfortable and Carlos and Colleen were excited to discover another way to get to the city other than driving. Lisbon is lovely but it’s a lot harder to navigate with a car. So having some options to take the train and now having the experience with FSO, they were happy to have done it.
The girls and I went to the science museum since it’s right up our homeschool alley. Carlos and Colleen explored the mall area and specifically the coffee options, since that’s right up their alley. The science museum was excellent. It was very hands-on, with interactive exhibits, everything with an English translation and staff who were doing experiments that you could participate in. We had a great time for several hours before we caught an easy train back to Sintra to meet up with Dan for dinner. Dan was happy to have had the day home alone to FSO in his work realm. Working is good. Working funds Worldschooling.
There was a lot of things in the Sintra and Lisbon area that we did not see, and a few things that we saw briefly that we desperately want to see again. So we have committed to returning again when we have a little more time and can really enjoy the area, perhaps this summer when we’ll be in Europe again. We’ve told Carlos and Colleen to leave the light on for us! And make sure they have an affectionate, tolerant kitten for Zoe.