Dornes: a Magical Place

The year is 1997, the place is Portugal and the subject is… me. I was returning from a school trip to Vila Nova de Foz Côa, where we had been to see the rock engravings. We were a total of 30, maybe 40 high school kids who had spent a night or two away from their parents. Looking back, we behaved pretty well and didn’t do anything stupid. Thumbs up!
We were somewhere near Tomar (in Central Portugal), when the Latin teacher, a tall man with a head full of gray hair, said we would be making a pit stop to visit a friend of his who lived in Dornes. Nobody knew where that was.

He added that his friend was not home, but he had the keys to the house anyway. Suspicious? Adult me would probably think the whole story was a bit sketchy and would discreetly check the pockets for pepper spray. Not 16 year old me, though.

We finally reached Dornes and as we were leaving the bus the Latin teacher told us to line up with our hands on the shoulders of the person in front of us… and close our eyes! As he guided the first in line to a room just outside the house the boy in front of me went “It smells like wine!”.

We were in a cellar and the teacher disclosed what should have been obvious to us from the start: the house was his! We could stretch our legs a bit and wander around the house but we could.not.touch.anything!
I remember being outside and going to a small shop nearby with a friend. There was a river and the water was amazingly close to the door of the shop. There was also a willow tree with leaves almost touching the water and the late afternoon light made the whole thing look epic. The lady in the shop asked if we were sisters. Nope. “Ah”, she said “you must be Luzinda’s nieces!”. Also nope. 

Eventually we got on the bus for the final bit back to Lisbon. I was feeling both amazed at the beauty of Dornes and disappointed with my dad: How come we had never been to that place? My dad was the usual planner of our family vacations and I had already been to pretty much all of Portugal and seen beautiful places… so why not that one, too?

A few days later I asked the Latin teacher why he chose Dornes to build his weekend/vacation home. He gave a little smile and said “Well, Dornes is a magical place!”. Teenage me was too shy and scared of old teachers to say anything but, in my mind, I rolled my eyes – a lot. Magical, riiight!

Eventually, years later, I did get to visit Dornes on the way to somewhere else. It was then that I remembered what the Latin teacher had said about Dornes being a magical place – and that’s when I decided to do some research.

Stay tuned for the second part of this post!


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