Where is Caldas da Rainha?

Where is Caldas da Rainha?
The Heart of the Queen beats today!

More than a location of a small city on the Silver coast of Portugal, Caldas da Rainha is a place living in the hearts of the people.  

We had a detailed list of what type of community, city, country we wanted to live in for retirement.  Once we sorted down to Portugal, the next step was to find the community.  Weather, size, the arts, not too far from a major airport but not in a large city such as Porto or Lisbon, walkability, etc. were all part of that list. Caldas da Rainha seemed to meet all the conditions of satisfaction we were looking for.  The bonus that we couldn’t imagine was that of the people.  The sincere, never ending kindness here comes from a culture of queens who loved their people.  This community also gets an A+ in Festival and fun beyond our wildest expectations.

The city, Caldas hosts events and festivals throughout the year but the month of May seems to have one roll into the next.

The second week-end in May  “Celebrating our Queen” The city puts on a 3 day celebration to honor its orgins.   This, like most, is not a commercial event but rather a celebration of the founder of the city whose spirt still lives on in the hearts of the people. Caldas da Rainha “Bath of the Queen” was established by Queen D. Leonor in 1484.

The queen was on a journey from Obidos castle to Batalha when her court passed a group of people bathing in muddy waters.  Her court explained to her that these bad smelling waters held healing properties so she stopped and experienced the restults with some personal health issues.  These were sulfur springs and acted as an antibiotic.

I have been studying a bit about the monarchs of this country to get a better understanding of what makes Portugal so unique.  The Queens have played a  special and powerful roll in shaping the culture to be one that people come first and Queen D. Leonor was no exception.

After this experience she ordered a hospital be built on the site, being completed in 1488 and was christened Nossa Senhora do Populo, (Our lady of the people) as it had been built to support the people. Part of the hospital is still serving the local community as well as a full new modern medical hospital just up the block.  This is the first documented socialized medicine in Europe. The queen felt that what was good for the people was good for the country, thus putting wellness over profits in the short run.  The spirit of the people in everyday life in Portugal still reflect this view of putting people first.

Queen D. Leonor played a significant role in the development of the city choosing it as her summer residence.  It was the first European town to be designed by a queen.  She invited architects and artists to contribute to the town´s development, resulting in a unique blend of architectural styles.  

Nossa Senhora do Populo church estored and so lovely..

The Church adjacent to the hospital, Church of Nossa Senhora do Populo” was commissioned to be built by the queen and was just renovated these past few years.   When we visited here 2 years ago we watched the clock tower of the church being rebuilt.

The craftsman in the yellow vest seemed concerned about being watched by me.

Caldas da Rainha’s holiday festival included the following:

Concerts: An opening concert and light show on Friday night in the square in front of  the Camera (city hall) that went from 9 to midnight, with symphony and popular portuguse music.  

Classic Entertainment all night!

A concert and lightshow on Saturday rocked the city, ending with fireworks.

Caldas da Rainha Rocks

The quality and size of these productions would have been something we would only find in large cities in the US.  Caldas with 51,000 residents puts on first class events that are free for all who show up.

Food: Food carts and street music through out  the city

Can you find me in the flowers?

Parade: Major streets were closed for a small parade of bands and civic leaders came to honor the statue of the queens round about adjacent to the park.

Festival: A reinactment of the original scene that Queen D. Leonor was part of, including  medieval music  and art was stationed outside the old hospital.  

These musicians were awesome.  They play all over the country and Spain at festivals.  Follow them and hear their music at https://www.facebook.com/alanos.medieval.portugal

https://www.facebook.com/alanos.medieval.portugal
Building Armor

3rd Weekend of May   “Oeste Lusitano”

https://www.facebook.com/oestelusitanoficial

The 10th  Annual horse event “Oeste Lusitano” was hosted on the third weekend in the D. Carlos Park adjacent to the Old hospital.  This park was designated by the queen and later named D. Carlos Park after King Carlos of Portugal. It is a central park in the middle of the city where many events and festivals are held throughout the year.

With its romantic  English gardens and open natural areas, winding pathways, bridges and a lake with black swans, D. Carlos Park is the perfect setting for events year round.  There are also peacocks that wander the park and up into the praça da fruita winding through the coblestone streets in the afternoons.  When you come to Caldas, make sure you look for Carlos.  

Carlos scanning the cobble stone streets...

The horses and horsemanship was unbelievable with this show.   For 3  days the show hosted, musical groups, horse competitions, showmanship, food fun for people of all ages.   A clown on stilts caught up with Miss Grape in one of the food courts to dance.  

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Me dancing with a clown on stilts!!!

Don't miss this show next time.   Check out their facebook page to see more pix and videos.     https://www.facebook.com/oestelusitanoficial

Queen Leonor was also known for her patronage of the arts and culture, supporting education and training of artists, fosternig a vibrant artistic community.  She ordered the construction of pottery work shops in the town which led to the establishment of a thriving ceramics tradition which Caldas is famous for still today.  Caldas da Rainha also hosts a large Art University attracting students from all over the world.

4thweekend in May  “Late night”

At the end of the school year (late May), the city hosts a city wide celebration called Late Night  for 3 days and nights. The streets are bustling everywhere with students and young people.    Many homes and businesses set up special art displays for the 3 days and there are parties, music, food and drink every night.

I still have not adjusted my sleeping schedule to that of Portugal and especially the younger crowd so I missed the parties. One of our girls is here visiting from Japan for 2 ½ months and she connected well at this time.  Ikuko made a lot of friends while visiting.  She is an art illistrator by profession and Caldas da Rainha was a perfect community for her to connect with.  I asked her if she could describe late night and she chuckled and said “Lost and Found! Lost and Found!”.  That is a term I coined since arriving in Portugal.  Transulated it means that as foreigners here we are constantly getting lost and then found again.  Lost in location, translation, orientation, culture, and much more.  Then the Portuguese people around us help us “get found and back on track” so gracefully.  It is a fluid and organic experience when we just let go and let Portuguese happen.  It is a lesson in trusting the adventure and those around you.

She sent me one video from the Praça da Fruta of a massive pillow fight going on.  People of all ages were involved.  She just didn’t get the memo to bring a pillow but was graciously accepted anyway.  Lost and found!   Only in Portugal.  It is the people.

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Since 1484, this swampy sulfer field evolved to village and then into a bustling city.  It has grown over the centuries, becoming a medical, cultural and economic center.

Celebrations go on year round and the people seem never to tire of gathering and enjoying life together.  I am often asked what I love most about living in Portugal.  The list is long but at the top is “The hearts of the people”.  The Queen of Hearts….  D. Leonor.

Please share with me your comments as well as anything more you would love to know about Portugal. Nancie