It was hard to leave Spain. Real hard.
But, the lure of beautiful coastline, stunning churches, delicious pastries, Fado and a dash of Mary had us excited. We left Madrid early via the metro. Yes, we managed three suitcases with tons of people and made it to the airport right on time. No, we did not check the important bag this time.
We arrived in Lisbon with barely a hitch and our bags were the first off the belt. There is a God. The rental car line? Not as easy. After waiting for an hour. An. Hour. We finally scored a free upgrade (hey BMW!) and headed north to Fatima. Lunch was from the airport, but amazingly, not bad.
I’d like to tell you the scenery was lovely but I was a teeny bit exhausted from our tapas and beer excursion the night before. We arrived in Fatima early afternoon and parked, literally, right next to the Marian shrine.
Fatima had a few hints of Assisi, Italy, in that the town was small and sorta quaint. But I don’t think I was prepared to see all that concrete at the shrine! With an estimated four million pilgrims a year that travel here, I can understand the need to gate things off and preserve the space so it’s here for generations.
You know how you walk into a place and you’re like, we’re here? That’s a bit how Fatima felt. For my non-Catholic readers, Our Lady of Fatima is one of several Marian apparitions recognized by the Vatican. Some others include: Our Lady of Guadalupe (Mexico), Our Lady of Siluva (Lithuania), Our Lady of Laus (France), Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal (France), Our Lady of Zion (Italy), Our Lady of Salette (France), Our Lady of Lourdes (France), Our Lady of Hope (France), Our Lady of Gietrzwald (Poland), Our Lady of Knock (Ireland), The Virgin with the Golden Heart (Belgium), The Virgin of the Poor (Belgium) and Mother of the Word (Rwanda).
On May 13, 1917, three children (Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta) were praying the rosary and tending sheep in the fields when a woman appeared to them, standing in an oak tree. She appeared several more times to the children, always on the 13th. Her last visit on October 13, 1917 drew an estimated crowd between 30-70,000. Honestly, there’s so much more I could write about it, but I think this is a good place to start to learn more. Her goal and message were simple: pray. She wanted to lead people closer to Christ.
For Scott and I we were just so happy that the crowds on the day we visited were practically non-existent. I’m guessing 300, at the most? We spent time in the church, reading our intentions silently, visiting the graves of the three children, standing near the spring and then finally, praying a rosary together, sitting beneath that beautiful oak tree.
The grounds were immaculate, beautiful and peaceful. The nun in the gift shop spoke the sweetest English and could not have been kinder. I really wish I would’ve asked her name. She glowed! We lit two candles, one for each of our intentions and those trusted to us, and left them in the grotto. Then, we spent some time praying in the outdoor Chapel of Apparitions. That Marian statue crown houses the bullet that pierced St. Pope John Paul II during his assassination attempt.
It was just a quiet, reflective kind of afternoon. No crowds to maneuver, no maps to consult, no noise to tune out. It was just us and God. Now that I’m back to the business of my loud and boisterous life in Texas, I’m reflecting much on that quiet solitude with God. Isn’t it such fun to unpack graces, long after a vacation is over?
We took a brief stop at the other church, on the opposite end of the square, that was built by St. Pope John Paul II. It’s a modern and pretty stark building. It wasn’t my favorite, but it was a gift to see it so empty!
We said our goodbye’s to Fatima and drove south to Santarém, the site of a Eucharistic miracle. The full story is here. We almost missed this place. Do you know how hard it is to navigate a tiny city, with a British GPS navigator and 4 million roundabouts? HA! But, I spotted the teeny, tiny sign directing us to the church and JACKPOT.
The quaintness and history of Europe just never gets old, does it? <–see what I did there?
We dropped off the car back in Lisbon and journeyed to *the* hotel. This was our splurge for the trip. I mean, you only hit 20 years once. For heaven’s sake. It was amazing.
They delivered champagne, fruit and pastries to our room right after we put our bags down. How did they know?? And the elevators were like telepathic. You just put in your card and it summoned the correct elevator, with no buttons to push. Why I’m sharing this I have no idea.
For our evening festivities, we decided to give Fado a try. It’s something of a cultural “must-do” in Lisbon and I would 100% agree. Can’t imagine our trip without experiencing it. For a quick Fado overview, go here. And, if you have four minutes to spare, here’s a phenomenal singer that really reflects the emotion we experienced at dinner.
We started dinner at 9pm and didn’t get back to the hotel until midnight. We would eat a little, then the performance would begin. Eat a little more, another performance. It was so moving and beautiful, sad and emotional. I absolutely loved it and so did Scott. The restaurant was recommended to us by a Portuguese friend and she was spot on. Michelle, you rock! Rita and Paolo our servers were a total hoot and lovers of all things Texan. I love when you can really enjoy a meal by getting to know the people making and serving it. Doesn’t it make it just so much better? Our cab driver almost killed us on the ride home, but other than that terrifying 7-minute cab ride, best day ever.
Portugal, we love you already. Tomorrow, we spy the Eiffel Tower’s cousin, see old and new Lisbon and get lost, in a good way.
Places Visited Today
Eucharistic Miracle in Santarém
Senhor Vino (Fado and dinner)