There was something quite exciting about aiming the lustrous prow of a magnificent Bentley Brooklands LPT towards one of the finest tourist destinations in the Lisbon region. The example I was driving is finished in mouth-watering Wildberry (metallic) with beautiful Sandstone (cream) hide, piped Wildberry. The top-roll is also finished in Wildberry with the interior completed with matching Wildberry lambswool over rugs.
The Brooklands model was introduced back in 1992 as a revised version of Bentley's Mulsanne S and Eight models. Crewe intended the Brooklands to be a less expensive alternative to the magnificent Turbo-R without being in any way less opulent. The Brooklands featured much the same styling as the Turbo-R but initially came minus a turbo. However, in 1996, a low-pressure turbo (LPT) was bolted on to the venerable V8.
Weaving through Lisbon's narrower streets in such a leviathan seemed like a daunting prospect but the sharp handling characteristics of the Brooklands soon puts any driver at ease. With the outside temperature gauge nudging 37C, the Bentley's dual-level climate control was easily up to the job of cooling things down. Rolls-Royce/Bentley air-con trumps all others because the ventilation system can effortlessly deliver copious volumes of ice-cold air into the cabin. Optimum temperature is swiftly achieved and thereafter silently maintained regardless of what's going on outside. The four trademark 'bull's eye' air vents with 'organ-stop' airflow regulators make light work of distributing those cooling wafts. Despite the extreme heat outside, we were comfortably able to wear long-sleeved shirts without getting in any way hot and bothered inside the sumptuous cabin.
Rather than simply taking the motorway from Lisbon, we headed towards Mafra and Ericeira in order to enjoy a little sightseeing along the way. The fabulous 6.75-litre low-pressure turbo V8 made for brisk progress. The slightest dab of throttle, and the turbo kicked in without even a hint of lag, propelling the mighty thoroughbred purposefully forward. No fuss, no drama, just honest-to-goodness grunt. It wasn't all that long before I peeled off the dual carriageway and headed down into historic Mafra and our first coffee stop.
I don't know about you but I've often been caught out by those tiny medieval streets which, as you'll know, aren't uncommon in either Spain or Portugal. Navigation systems occasionally think that a three-foot wide pathway actually qualifies as a road! Then (annoyingly) the sat-nav is proved right because somehow, in a manner that defies all the natural laws of physics, there are actual cars parked off these impossible alleys. How!?
The point is. I'm clearly nowhere near as skilled nor as determined as those Portuguese drivers. I'm happy to declare that there's no way on God's green earth that I could even take a Tonka toy down such narrow alleyways let alone a hoofing-great Bentley. The moral of the story is: If you're likely to be driving anything wider than a horse, don't believe everything your Sat-Nav tells you when you're in an 'old town'. Luckily, I'm now sensible enough to live by this self-imposed ruling because I've often ended up nearly getting small hire cars jammed up such narrow streets. I'd feel like a right ninny if I managed to get a massive Bentley wedged!
Luckily parking spaces were both plentiful and spacious in both Mafra and Ericeira. From Ericeira, the silver coast route towards Peniche was truly awesome and suited the Brooklands perfectly. Effortless power made driving this route a fabulous experience. The car happily pottered at low speeds yet when the immense power reserve is called upon, it's there in an instant. It's mind-blowingly abundant and never feels remotely insufficient. Peniche, Foz do Arelho, Lagoa de Óbidos all provided magnificent ports of call before we finally arrived in Óbidos itself.
Once upon a time, Óbidos was owned by the Queen of Portugal. It was gifted to Queen Isabel on her wedding day. Today, Óbidos is probably the most attractive town in central Portugal with its traditional homes, picturesque cobbled streets, and, of course, the charming medieval castle. Óbidos' ancient town walls (Muralhas da cidade) surround the historic center. Whilst not for the fainthearted, the walls can actually be walked and provide some breathtaking panoramic views of both the town and the surrounding countryside.
The Wildberry Bentley Brooklands wasn't the only juicy berry in town. Absolutely not! Ginjinha d’Obidos is a deliciously sweet beverage made by steeping luscious dark red morello cherries in alcohol and then serving it in quirky chocolate cups. It's a little taste of heaven, I promise you. You can have your ginjinha with or without a whole cherry, but do be careful because the pit will be part of an all-inclusive deal! You'll get plenty of opportunities to sample this yummy local treat whilst wandering the ancient streets of Óbidos, amidst scenes that have barely altered since medieval times. You've got to love Óbidos!
The cobbled main street leads up to the castle and is lined with baroque-style churches, tiny cafes, rustic restaurants and quirky shops such as the one selling some uniquely expensive canned fish (mainly sardines). The carefully stacked cans look like gold bullions and some are nearly as valuable! They refer to this as a 'sardine library' and it really does have that feel about it.
I highly recommend visiting Óbidos if you're visiting this corner of Portugal. Whilst not as full-on as some other local destinations such as Cascais, Setubal, Sintra or Evora; Óbidos' appeal is its unique charm.
With the big Bentley safely moored up in a large car park near the aqueduct (Aqueduto de Óbidos) which towers above the town's outskirts, it was time to enjoy the ambience of this fabulous place. Óbidos makes for a great destination if you're ever looking for a more authentic taste of Portugal. Naturally, Óbidos is far removed from Algarvian beach resorts, especially when visiting during off-peak times. The town offers convivial evenings spent in family-run restaurants which serve traditional home-cooked fayre. A limited number of hotels means that local accommodation tends to be in high demand. So, booking ahead is essential to avoid disappointment.
After a couple of chilled days in Óbidos - the open road beckoned. Next stop, São Martinho do Porto.
Douglas Hughes is a UK-based writer producing general interest articles ranging from travel pieces to classic motoring.
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