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A TOWN WITHIN CASTLE WALLS : OBIDOS, PORTUGAL

It’s really hard not to get enchanted by the charm and charisma of small European villages and the medieval fortified town of Óbidos in Portugal is no exception. It is known as the ” Town of Queens” because kings would offer it to their wives as a marriage gift. Smooth move if you ask me – no lady’s gonna turn down winding cobblestone alleys , whitewashed houses bordered in yellow and blue, and a cute motherf*cking windmill.

Located an hour North of Lisbon, this picturesque town is filled with over 900 years of history. From its initial capture from the Moors by the first king of Portugal to its 16th century renovation, there’s a lot to absorb. My natural gravitation towards danger sent me ascending up non-OSHA regulated stairs towards the surrounding wall. There were multiple entries to the wall but I chose the one you first encounter upon entering the main gate of town. The view from the top was spectacular and provided a panorama of weathered terra cotta roofs and the well preserved castle in the distance. You can walk the entire perimeter but there are no safety railings so do so at your own risk – a risk I was not willing to take without a carabiner, rope, and a few adult diapers.

I made my way to the main street most of which is quite commercialized. A pity I initially thought, then again a town in a country of this size  doesn’t stay secret for too long. My dad, a native of Portugal and our unofficial tour guide, told me that Óbidos is known to locals and tourists alike for ginjinha – a traditional portuguese liqueur made by infusing alcohol , sour cherries, and sugar together with other ingredients. The signs for it were everywhere and I was itching to try some. The family and I made our way to an old pub and got ourselves a few shots. Ginjinha isn’t for everyone; its smooth and very sweet but can be perceived as medicinal by some. Nevertheless its a must-try and I helped myself to multiple shots.

I continued exploring eventually finding a pathway through the castle wall and into a grassy overlook with an expansive vista of greenery. A dirt path continues along the castle wall. I’m not sure where it leads as I didn’t have the time to venture down but perhaps to the field below. With only an hour remaining I hurried back to get a view of the castle. It’s quintessential medieval architecture has a way of transporting you to a simpler time long ago. Every stone from turret to stairway seems deliberate; perhaps a testament of how well it’s withstood the test of time.  I didn’t know at the time but the castle is a now a breathtaking Pousada with 14 double rooms and 3 suites. I would have jumped at the opportunity if I wasn’t broke or crunched for time.

Meandering back through town, the distraction of souvenir shops was unavoidable. I picked up 2 nip bottles of ginja and continued on until the scent of lemon and chocolate stopped me in my tracks. A few steps away, a quaint house with a large basket of lemons on an open breezy window sill caught my eye. Investigating further, I saw that the house was actually a small functioning bakery with a single mid-aged woman at the helm of a large clay oven. As I walked in, she pulled out a tray from the oven and placed several golden pillowy pastries onto a table. Salivating uncontrollably, I quickly purchased five ( don’t worry I shared with the fam…reluctantly.)

Personally, I could have spend days investigating every crevice of town; it’s multiple churches, the castle interior, and obviously more pastries and liquor. But with a few hours to spare , Óbidos is a distraction from a world busy trying to modernize itself.

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