Coimbra

Trip Start Jun 10, 2007
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Trip End Ongoing


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Flag of Portugal  ,
Monday, October 1, 2007

Coimbra has a very rich and romantic history.  It is the birthplace of
6 Kings, has one of Europe's oldest Universities, and has a healthy
supply of beautiful architecture and wide open green spaces.  It is on
the Mondego River and is extremely hilly giving us quite the workout
just to get around. We were told when booking our accommodations that
it was 150 metres from the train station.  Once we arrived in Coimbra,
we quickly figured out that the information was a little deceiving.  It
was 150 metres from A train station, but not the main one which we
arrived at.  After a 2km hike we finally did reach the hotel and our
room made up for the sneaky marketing.  We were on the top floor in the
heart of the action with a balcony bigger than our more than
substantial room.  In addition, breakfast was once again included
(therefore lunch also as we have made it a habit of making sandwiches
at breaky and sticking them in our pockets for lunch later - oh budget
travel).

After dumping our bags, we headed out to see what this place was all
about.  We headed for the old town which rises above the rest of the
city.  At the centre is the gorgeous University that dates from 1290. 
We did our best to blend in as students as we strolled the campus
enjoying the wonderful views from no shortage of vantage points.  The
students here must be in fabulous shape as the streets are all
cobblestone and incredibly hilly (mostly without any signage of course).

We stopped at what we figured must be the popular cafe and bar area for
a 1 Euro beer and some student watching.  After waiting patiently for
our second wind, we headed out to find the stadium where a traditional
"fado" concert was being put on for the tourists as it was tourist day
in Coimbra.  We are told Fado is an expression of the Portuguese soul. 
The songs usually tell stories of heartache, heartbreak, and a longing
for what once was.  The fadista (singer) is usually accompanied by a
guitar and viola as well.  After a quick bite in a mall (the only food
we could find in the area(, we headed to the venue only to find out
that people were buying tickets (we were told it was free).  So
instead, we headed back for the night after making the decision to seek
out a fado performance elsewhere in Portugal.

The next morning after a fabulous breakfast and packing our lunch, we
headed out to tour some of the gardens of the town.  We visited the
former home to the ill-fated Ines de Castro, mistress of Pedro the
Cruel, who was murdered here on order of Pedro's father King Alfonso
IV.  We are told that the gardens are a favourite pilgrimage spot for
romantics.  The grounds are compact, but beautiful with couples
wandering around between old stone arches, fountains, and bamboo of all
things (see picture).

From there we headed back into the old town once more.  We headed to
the grocery store to pick up a bottle of wine and dinner to enjoy on
our massive balcony and watch the town light up before we packed it in
and headed to Lisbon the next morning.
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