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Visit Portugal – The Perfect Day Trip
I looked at the giant bug and the two children playing beneath its feet. Or was it an armadillo? Hmmm... Whatever it was, this large piece of modern art would have been more at home in an alien B-movie rather than a children’s park. But, so far, the day was turning out to be a success. We wanted to do something adventurous in Portugal; a day trip to beat all other day trips. We decided to go somewhere kid-orientated and picked two locations near each other: The Almoural Contemporary Sculpture Park and The Almoural Castle further up the road.
The sculpture park in Vila Nova da Barquinha is pure magic for adults and kids alike. It’s a large recreational area, seven hectares long, located along the Tejo River and has a view of Almoural castle. On the grounds you will find 11 pieces of modern art and various other play activities to keep the kids happy. Some of the art is a bit ugly and pretentious but most of the others are rather beautiful. You could literally spend the whole day there. There are BBQ facilities, great cycling paths, water features, shaded areas, interactive modern art pieces and the usual playground equipment. Here is an idea of what you can do there:
- The irrigation swing – Swings attached to an irrigation unit including wheels. You plop a child on a swing and push the centre pivot along the track. It’s quite entertaining. The grass in that area is electric green and beckons you to lie down and nuzzle it. I did this and was delighted to find the area of grass wasn’t grass at all, it was mint! Nice touch.
- Musical instruments – In the centre there are two musical instruments. One has five keys set into the ground made from marble and you use a stick to bang them (someone stole the stick, so we had to look for one ourselves). The sound is beautiful, calming and a little Asian sounding, and it doesn’t matter how crap you are at music. The other instrument is a series of stainless steel pipes which you drag your stick against to hear the octaves.
- The castle made from plastic containers – This is a nice idea to recycle plastic containers. It looks a bit tacky from the outside, but the building is quite durable and strong and has many entrances and tiers inside. It’s probably four metres in height so you get a nice view of the park and the river.
- Plastic Ribbon Magic – This one really got my imagination going. There are two structures with hundreds of coloured and white plastic ribbons attached that reach the ground. The centre has a clear space free of ribbons. So you can run in and chase people through the ribbons. This one was so much fun!
Almoural Castle and TancosClick thumbnail to view full-size
We continued on towards Almoural Castle. This huge medieval castle is located in the middle of a cluster of rocks in the Tejo river, so you have to take a short boat ride in the winter. It would make a wonderful location to survive a zombie attack, but respite from the flesh eaters could only be seasonal, as it’s possible to cross by foot in the spring and summer. Those pesky zombies!
We put the children on our backs, crossed by foot and climbed up the large steps. The castle was used by the Knights Templar back in the 12th century as they were driving the Moors out of Portugal. They believe the site was originally a Roman fortress and it is now owned by the Portuguese army. You have to walk up several flights of stairs to reach the top. The views from the castle are simply magnificent. Just have a look at the photos, they speak for themselves.
After descending, we walked around the back of the castle and hopped on the small cheerful boat to get back to the mainland. Like I said, the trip is extremely short, but it was nice to vary our crossing to add to the sense of adventure. The boat cost us €2 per adult and there was no charge to get into the castle.
Why Visit Portugal?
- The younger generation all speak very good English.
- It is cheap, shockingly so, if you’re prepared to avoid the touristy areas or touristy bars and restaurants.
- The big burning ball in the sky is always lurking around burning things.
- They are a very friendly bunch of people and they LOVE children. It’s very refreshing to see how willing they are to engage with your brats.
- They love food. If you are a fan of six hour lunches, then bring some loose pants and feed your mouth.
At that stage the day was still young and no one wanted to go home, so we backtracked a little to a tiny village called Tancos in between Vila Nova de Barquinhas and Almoural Castle. There’s something about the place that makes you just want to sell your home and relocate there. I don’t know what it is, but there is a fairytale feel to this little village. Maybe it’s all the flowers the villagers have taken care to plant, or the cosy little cottages they live in, or the higgledy-piggledy streets, or the majestic view of the castle and its surroundings; I can’t put my finger on it, but this village is brimming with character.
We lazed around on our chairs drinking a cold beer along the river front trying not to think about the inevitable journey home and work in the morning. I would definitely recommend The Sculpture Park in Barquinhas and Almoural Castle as the perfect day trip in Portugal.
© 2013 Muttface