Day 118 – 14.09.2016
Lourdes (France) to San Sebastian & Burgos (Spain)

After breakfast in the nearby restaurant, we left Lourdes (France) for San Sebastian, a beautiful coastal city located in Spain, which lies on the coast of the Bay of Biscay, 20 km (12 miles) from the French border. We had about 200 kms drive from Lourdes.

We reached San Sebastian around 1.00 pm and started looking for parking space. It took about half an hour to find parking. With the help of some local students, we managed to take the parking ticket for two and half hours and then with the help of directions from passers-by walked towards the most picturesque shoreline.

San Sebastián’s seaside environment is enhanced by hilly surroundings – Urgull (at the heart of the city by the seashore), romantic Mount Ulia extending east to Pasaia, Mount Adarra rising proud far on the south and Igeldo, overlooking the bay from the west.

The city sits at the mouth of the River Urumea, Donostia.

María Cristina Bridge opened in 1905, over the Urumea river passing through San Sebastián, with the four 18 metres high monumental obelisks, located at its ends, copies of the Alexander III bridge in Paris. It was built on reinforced concrete, which was a novelty for that time, with three arches of 24 metres long, 20 metres wide.

The Cathedral of the Good Shepherd San Sebastián Cathedral is the seat of the suffragan Diocese of San Sebastián and subordinated to the Archdiocese of Pamplona Tudela. The most remarkable religious building of San Sebastián, is endowed with a strong verticality and is the largest in Gipuzkoa. Its construction took place in the last years of the 19th century in a Historicist Neo-Gothic style.

The City council is the institution that governs the city of San Sebastián (Spain). Its premises are located in the former casino of the city next to the Bay of La Concha. The building was built up in 1887 at the Gardens of Alderdi-Eder of San Sebastián, next to the Nautical Royal Club, to house the main casino. The opening ceremony was attended by the Queen Maria Christina of Austria. However, it closed as a casino after the ban on gambling in 1924.

Zurriolo Bridge on the river Urumea, closest to the mouth of the Urumea River. It was built in 1921, it has fantastic lamp posts designed by Víctor Arana in Art Deco style.

Basilica of Saint Mary of Coro is a baroque Roman Catholic parish church and minor basilica completed in 1774, located in the “Parte Vieja” (Old Town) of the city of San Sebastian. The main entrance is located between the two towers and looks as an altarpiece with its tortured figure of Saint Sebastian and the papal symbols that prove the status of minor basilica. The shield of the city crowns the building.

We realised that we had taken the parking ticket for two and half hours and were almost nearing the finish time, besides we had to drive down to Burgos, so after having a quick bite, left for Burgos.

Burgos

Burgos a city in northern Spain and the historic capital of Castile is situated on the confluence of the Arlanzón river tributaries, at the edge of the Iberian central plateau. It has about 180,000 inhabitants in the actual city and another 20,000 in the metropolitan area.

We reached Burgos around 5.00 pm and were trying to find the hotel. The GPS was guiding us to some location and we could not find a way to to the hotel. We then met a couple living in the same lane as the hotel and they turned out to be a saviour or else it would have been absolutely difficult for us to find a way to the hotel. We went round that area atleast three times and some small kids playing around even noticed us going round in circles. We had to drive through a walking street and through a no entry lane to reach to the parking of this hotel – Palacio de los Blasones Suites. Finally with a lot of efforts, we managed to park the car and rushed to see some of the many historic landmarks.

Just a few metres away from the hotel was the Palace, where a fashion exhibition was on. We then walked to the Cathedral of Burgos, a World Heritage Site. We could see a lot of peoplearound so we entered the Church and found that a special Mass was in progress. We waited for the Mass, received communion and blessings and then left the Church, which was so very beautiful.

We then walked through Arco de Santa María, the medieval gate built in the 14th century. There were a few restaurants around this place.

It was getting dark, so we decided to head to a restaurant, have dinner and return back to the hotel.

Day 119 – 15.09.2016
Fatima – Portugal

We arrived at around 4.00 pm in Fatima. We checked into the hotel and headed straight to the Sanctuary. An English mass had just begun in the Rosary Chapel, so we attended the Mass, after which we went around the Sanctuary. Visited the Church and all the places around the Sanctuary.

The Sanctuary of Fátima is the Basilica of Our Lady of Fátima consisting of group of Roman Catholic buildings and structures in the parish of Fátima, in Ourém, Portugal.

In addition to the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary it comprises the Chapel of the Lausperenea great oak tree (on which the Marian Apparitions occurred), a monument to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Chapel of the Apparitions, where three children Lucia Santos and her cousins, Jacinta and Francisco Marto, were first visited by Mary.

Across from the main sanctuary is the much larger Basilica of the Santissima Trinidade constructed after 1953, owing to the limited scale of the Sanctuary for large-scale pilgrimages and religious services. The plan of the building is marked by a gentle slope, permitting a good visibility of the altar from every angle. The interior is divided into two sectors, accomplished by a 2 metres (6.6 ft) partition: the first section has seating for 3175 people (in addition to 58 spaces for handicapped); the second has 5458 spaces (with 18 for handicapped). Meanwhile, the presbytery has a capacity for 100 celebrants.

The basilica consists of a tall centralized bell-tower and nave, approximately 65 metres (213 ft) in height, and decorated by a crown of bronze of 7,000 kilograms, surmounted by an illuminated cross.

The carillon consists of 62 bells, The statue of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, in the niche of the spire, is 4.73 metres (15.5 ft) tall and weighs 14 tons.

At the entrance to the basilica, over the main portico, is a mosaic representing the Holy Trinity crowning Mary. A large statue of Our Lady of Fatima, which stands in a niche above the main entrance of the basilica, was sculpted by American priest Thomas McGlynn. Father McGlynn spent considerable time with Sister Lúcia as she described to him in detail how Mary looked during her appearances to the children. The statue is not what Father McGlynn had in mind when he approached Sister Lúcia, but is more accurately described as a collaboration between visionary and sculptor, producing perhaps the most accurate representation of Our Lady of Fátima: the statue was presented as a gift from the Catholic people of the United States to the Sanctuary of Fátima in 1958.

Many of the events of the Marian apparitions at Fátima are depicted in the stained glass windows in the basilica, while fifteen altars within the church are dedicated to the fifteen mysteries of the Rosary. At the four corners of the basilica are statues of the four great apostles of the Rosary and to their devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary: Saint Anthony Mary Claret, Saint Dominic, Saint John Eudes and Saint Stephen, King of Hungary.

Most textual sources describing the Fatima events mention only the Marian apparitions that occurred in 1917. However, the girl Lucia Santos, the primary recipient of the apparitions, revealed some years later that three other apparitions in 1916, of a male figure, in fact preceded the Marian apparitions of 1917. The story begins early in 1916 when the nine-year old Lucia was sent by her parents to tend the family’s sheep in the hills near the village of Fatima. She was accompanied by her cousins Francisco Marto, aged eight, and his six-year old sister, Jacinta. The children were on a hillside when they saw a vision of human figure. Writing many years later of the event, Lucia tells, “It was a figure like a statue..a young man, about fourteen or fifteen, whiter than snow”. The figure spoke to the children, directing them to pray three times with him, “My God, I believe, I adore.”

After spending a good amount of time in the Sanctuary, we went back to the Hotel, had dinner and after a small walk went to the room. Tomorrow we leave for Sintra, the last destination in Portugal.

Day 120 – 16.09.2016
Sintra – Portugal

Sintra was a picturesque Portuguese town that is set amidst the pine covered hills of the Serra de Sintra. The slightly cooler climate probably enticed the nobility and elite of Portugal, who constructed exquisite palaces, extravagant residences and decorative gardens. The variety of fascinating historic buildings and beautiful scenery has established Sintra as a top rate tourist destination and the most popular day trip from Lisbon.

Sintra known for its many 19th-century Romantic architectural monuments, has resulted in its classification as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Our hosts Filipe & Vira at whose lovely house we stayed gave us details of must do things in Sintra. So we set up after lunch at a local restaurant to take the bus no. 434 which we were told would take us on a round trip at the cost of €5 per person. We got into the bus and the bus started climbing the steep slopes of the hill where the Pena Palace & the Murous Castle were. The road was so winding and narrow, only an expert driver could drive the long bus so well. We reached safely at the top and we got off the bus and walked to the ticket counter. The entrance ticket cost €14 per person with an additional €3 for the bus which otherwise we had to climb a few steps to the Palace.

We entered the colourful Pena Palace which is the standout monument of Sintra. It has been vividly painted and it stands at one of the highest points of Sintra is surrounded by the pine forests of the region. The interior of the palace has been retained to how it appeared in 1910, when the Portuguese nobility fled Portugal due to the revolution.

The Pena Palace is a Romanticist castle in São Pedro de Penaferrim, in Sintra, Portugal. The castle stands on the top of a hill in the Sintra Mountains above the town of Sintra, and on a clear day it can be easily seen from Lisbon and much of its metropolitan area. It is a national monument and constitutes one of the major expressions of 19th-century Romanticism in the world. The palace is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal. It is also used for state occasions by the President of the Portuguese Republic and other government officials.

The Chapel in the Palace – Original 16th century monastery church used by King Ferdinand II as his palatine Chapel.

We then walked towards the Pena Park, a vast forested area completely surrounding the Pena Palace, spreading for over 200 hectares of uneven terrain. The park was created at the same time as the palace by King Ferdinand II. The exotic taste of the Romanticism was applied to the park as it was to the palace. The king ordered trees from diverse, distant lands to be planted there. Those included North American Sequoia, Lawson’s Cypress, Magnolia and Western Redcedar, Chinese Ginkgo, Japanese Cryptomeria, and a wide variety of ferns and tree ferns from Australia and New Zealand, concentrated in the Queen’s Fern Garden (Feteira da Rainha). The park has a labyrinthic system of paths and narrow roads, connecting the palace to the many points of interest throughout the park, as well as to its two gated exits.

Our host recommended us to go to the high cross. It’s a special spot in the park you shouldn’t miss he said so we walked towards it. The road was uphill and we were breathless, but still we walked towards it about 700 mtrs. It was a very good advice as we would not have been able to see the cross.

A short walk uphill to get the best view of the castle and its surroundings from up was definitely worth. We didn’t want to leave this spot because we couldn’t get enough if it. We could see the Cross only once you get up there else it gets covered with the many trees surrounding it.

We then walked down the slope to the Castelo dos Mouros (Castle of the Moors) which is also perched high above Sintra and is an ancient ruined castle that dates from the Moorish era (8-12th century). The castle was constructed during the period of Muslim Iberia, as the central place in a territory that was primarily agricultural, and which was necessary to protect its population. The castle was partially restored in the 19th century to become the centre piece for the grounds of the Pena Palace. From the castle walls we could take amazing panoramic views over Sintra and the surrounding region.

We then took the same bus 434 and returned back to the city centre. At the city centre was located the Palace of Sintra also called Town Palace and is part of the cultural landscape of Sintra, a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. After buying tickets for €10 per person, we entered the Palace.

We had dinner at a nice small restaurant suggested by Filipe after which we walked to our terrace apartment.

In the morning, Filipe & Vira were supposed to arrange breakfast for us. It was a beautiful city and we did not have sufficient time to explore the whole of it. May be we will visit it again sometime in the near future.