(There is only one entrance… and this is not it)
This is my third time in Tomar. The first time was with the Camino walking women. We stayed in a hostel and went on a tour of the Convento de Cristo. The second time was last year with Denis and we did a quick tour of the castle/convent that overlooks the town but didn’t stay overnight. Now this year we stayed in the motorhome park and I went off to visit the Convento on my own.
(View over of Tomar and the Convento de Cristo in the background)
The motorhome park used to be the municipal campsite but it was closed down several years ago, no idea why but when it opened up it was free. Yes free! It’s a paradise of wild grasses and trees with birds play fighting amongst the tall weeds. They really look like they’re playing. Dive bombing to hide in the dense greenery or landing on one of the tall stalks of wild oats that bend down to the ground with their weight. I actually think I can hear them giggle as they hop off and the stalk springs back upright. For us there are super clean toilets and cold showers and a place to dump and collect water. Perfect.
(My new favourite imaginary place to go when I want to be still… and it’s real)
Yesterday morning started off cloudy. I waited for the sun to shine but it didn’t so I went off to the convent/castle anyway. As I had been here before I decided to mix it up a bit and go in the way I had exited the previous time. I thought it might be interesting to begin at the end and just see the bits I remembered liking. So I went to the back entrance. Except it wasn’t. An entrance, I mean. It was only an exit. There was a woman there and a cash register but there was no way she would allow me to come in the exit. As soon as I exited she closed the door, firmly.
(Cute toilets at Convento de Cristo. Do not be put off by the worn door. In real-life real-old gets a bit battered looking. They have everything you need – real-old door, real-old tiles (floor and wall) paper, soap and hand dryer. Thank you Tomar!)
So I set off for the real entrance. I still wanted a different tour so it seemed like a good idea to notice things I had missed on the previous visits. I walked slowly through the big gate and had a look at the tile covered benches and beyond them into the orange grove (convent/castles don’t have one or two orange trees, they have groves – full of orange trees.) Then as I got closer to the ticket booth I spotted a sign for the toilets. I had not seen the toilets on previous trips and you do know how much I love the Portuguese toilets at their castles. This one did not disappoint.
(The courtyard of the Convento de Cristo)
I thought I’d seen everything I’d previously missed so I went off to the ticket booth. On my way I spotted something very exciting. A man taking my picture. Ok, that’s not the exciting bit. The exciting bit is he was taking my picture from a position up on the walls of the castle/convent! I had definitely never noticed the (safe, securely railed) walkway around the walls before. Seems like this is the year of the walls. (Yes I know yesterday I said this was the year of flexibility, it can be both.) Also, it was in the courtyard, so I didn’t even need to go to the ticket booth… the walls at the Convento de Cristo are completely free. Thanks to the woman who would not let me enter through the exit I had found them.
(Look at that great railing!)
The walkway snaked slowly around the site and took me about 30 minutes to complete because I was talking pictures at every turn. It was really great up there and I was completely alone. The man who had taken my picture was long gone and no one else seemed to notice this gem, not exactly hidden but maybe camouflaged by the other treasures around it. On the castle/convent side of the walkway I could see the orange grove and there were other walled gardens. On the outer side there was a forest of trees edging on to the town.
(Tomar from the castle/convent walls)
At the very end of the walkway was a stone staircase leading to the courtyard. There was something magical about the space so I sat down on the last step and closed my eyes. I could imagine brave knights and gentle nuns and honourable monks who passed this way. I sat listening to the birds completely hidden from people walking unawares to the ticket booth. Have you ever been at a workshop or done a guided meditation where the facilitator says, close your eyes and imagine you are in a beautiful safe place? I usually go to the walled garden in Powerscourt but from now on I will be going to those stone steps that lead from the walkway around the walls of the Convento de Cristo in Tomar.
Although you can’t enter at the exit it is possible to exit at the entrance, so I did. Mairead.