Óbidos is the first stop on the tour and is a picture-postcard town with flower-covered balconies, whitewashed houses, roofs of orange tiles and narrow cobblestone streets all surrounded by Moorish walls and dominated by an old castle. This tiny walled city has hardly changed at all since the middle ages. Once a strategic seaport but now left high and dry (6 miles) inland by the silting of its harbor, Óbidos is surrounded by fertile farmland. Cottages and cultivated fields abut the town walls where fishing boats and trading vessels once docked. As you approach Óbidos from the distance, you can see the bastions and crenellated walls standing as a hilltop sentinel guarding the now peaceful valley of the Ria Arnoia. Enter the town through the massive, arched gates, and it may seem that you've been transported into medieval Portugal. The narrow Rua Direita, lined with boutiques and flower-bedecked white houses, runs the length of the town from the main gates to the foot of the castle. The rest of the town is crisscrossed by a labyrinth of stone footpaths, tiny squares, and decaying stairways. The castle was extensively restored after suffering severe damage in the 1755 earthquake, the mutitowered complex-one of the finest medieval castles in Portugal- displays both Arabic and Manueline elements. Parts of the castle have been a pousada since 1952. Óbidos has a long association with women prominent in Portuguese's history. So enchanted was the young Queen Isabel with Óbidos-which she visited with her husband, Dom Dinis, shortly after their marriage in 1282-that the king gave it to her as a gift along with Abrantes and Porto de Moso; the town remained the property of the queens of Portugal until 1834. In the 14th century Ines de Castro sought refuge in this castle, and another queen associated with Óbidos was Leonor (the wife of Joao II), who came here in the 15th century to recuperate after the death of her young son; the town pillory bears Leonor's coat of arms. The 17th century artist Josefa de Óbidos came to Óbidos as a small child and lived here until her death in 1684. Some of her work may be seen in the azulejos -lined St. Mary's Church, which dates back to the 8th century.
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