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Food and travel captivate Janet Podolak, who chronicles both for The News-Herald. Get the back story of her three decades of stories here. Guest bloggers and fellow News-Herald staffers also periodically share details of their trips.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Portugal adventure includes Chapel of Bones, Night Sky stargazing spot

The Chapel of Bones in tucked away inside an ancient church in Evora.

Portugal is one of the least visited of European countries, but its attractions are simply amazing. Some of them are chronicled in the Feb. 8 Travel section, including the
Chapel of Bones in Evora. Click on the contrasting print to read the whole story.

The Chapel of Bones was built in the 1500s by Franciscan  monks  who disinterred the remains from a dozen cemeteries around Evora. The town, begun centuries before that by the Romans, needed to expand.

That small city, capital of the inland Alentejo region, an area of vast plains about a 90-minute drive from Lisbon, was one of the treasures uncovered for me during my November motorcoach tour with Insight Vacations. Our spacious Mercedes Benz coach  had been reconfigured to seat just 40 travelers, all with extra legroom. There were just 29 of us on my trip so we all were able to spread out.

Excellent guides joined us at every stop, giving us a bit of history and a walking tour to help us become oriented for forays on our own.

In exploring the coastal towns around Lisbon we made a stop en route to Estoril where we got off the coach to stroll near to the Atlantic, which whipped its spray into a frenzy that drove several of us back into the bus. In the distance we could see Cabo de Roca, the westernmost point of continental Europe. It was easy to imagine that Vasco de Gama and other early explorers believed  sea  monsters lived beyond the horizon.
Poseidon astride a sea monster is depicted in marble near the monument to the explorers. 

Some of those monsters are depicted on a giant marble map carrying Posiedon. It which lies in front of the seaside Padrao  dos Descobrimentos, a huge stone monument dedicated to the many explorers who departed on their voyages of discovery from Lisbon.

 I  especially want to return to Lake Aqueva, a 97-square mile artificial lake created in 2010 by the damming of a river. It spans Portugal's border with Spain and has become a major destination for dark sky tourism, so called because of the area's record number of clear days and lack of light pollution. Telescopes are available at several guest houses in the region and astronomy experts are on hand to show amateur stargazers the celestial sites.

I hope you enjoy this latest story from my Iberian adventure with Insight. Learn more about the company's upcoming adventures at 800-582-8380;

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