Sep 20, 2010
|Renee had a rough night. No sleep. At 3am, she was standing over the bed, asking how to find the car??? She had been wandering the halls trying to get to garagem at 3am. Couldn't find the freakin' car (as I'd parked it w/o her). I got up and got water from car. Also had issues with the power for the room (you may have seen system where room key needs to be inserted into a card reader to allow the room to have electricity for lights, a/c, etc? - well, ours was a little twitchy). I went down to the desk and the receptionist showed us how to reset the circuit breakers...Bom noit.
I was up early to update our trip journal. We had breakfast, checked out and went to Porto Harley Davidson store (had to have a shirt from Portugal!) Parking was a little iffy, so double-parked - created mucho stress for Renee. Got a few shirts and then on our way down the coast with directions from the Harley guys.
First stop was in Aveiro-the "Venice of Portugal"...really? I think they oversold that a wee bit...puffery. They do have a few canals and some powered "gondolas"...but Venice it ain't. The town did have a little more charm as things opened up.
We worked further south to Luso, Bucaco Forest and Palacio de Bucaco. This forest is a national monument and a getaway spot for hiking. We entered the park and made our way to the center of forest to the Palacia de Bucaco, which is now a luxury hotel. We could walk around but can't go in, and wow-quite a structure. It adjoins an old Carmelite convent. We've been learning all about a type of architecture known as Manueline (which to Renee means ornate like an over-decorated cake). But really impressive, see some of the pics of the columns and gargoyles - kewl. We hiked a bit and then moved on down the road...
Coimbra is on the Rio Mondega and home to a university. We arrived about 3pm at Quintas das Lagrimes...which is a storied old palace that is now a 4-star hotel/golf course/spa...very unusual design and art gallery. Also has a library completely devoted to Portugal's most famous star-crossed lovers, Pedro and Ines. Pedro was heir to the throne of Portugal and Ines was a girl living in the neigboring convent. She was from a good family, but dad didn't approved and had her 'whacked' by a few of his knights. Go figure, but this led to some bad blood betwixt the prince and the king. Many books, movies, art and poetry have been created that recount the story...and many are on display in the hotel.
Hotel room is a "garden room" and full of small ants. Renee named them all Pedro and Ines. She tried to be Muslim about it and not kill them, but on the beds, our clothes, the bathroom counter - ick. Looks like another upcoming night of sound sleep!
We walked the footbridge across the river and had a fun (and bread-filled) lunch, some vinho tinto. We then walked along waterfront, and up into Coimbra (winding streets and stairways, university is at top of steep slope - which for some reason, the innkeeper recommended we take a cab to - but the walk was no sweat). For centuries, this was the only university in Portugal, and it attracted men from elite families. There are many more universities throughout the country now, but this one still has that prestigious appeal.
Today was the first day for the incoming classes and many were walking the town. In fact, when we left Porto this morning, saw groups of young adults making their way through the city, all in black suits, white shirts and ties (both women and men). Everyone was happy, though, so it apparently wasn't a funeral thing and we didn't get understand. When we got to our hotel in Coimbra, we were told that this was the freshmens' first day at universidade, and it's exciting to see. By the time we walked up into the city by the university, we saw dozens of students in black suits, white shirts and ties, walking about, gathering at the cafes - the freshmen!
We had a drink in a placa and heard lots of university students singing through the streets (like school songs or something like that). They were quite exuberant. Renee also started the dinner research and navigated the mighty Crackberry to find any cool restaurants in Coimbra and located two with high ratings, one vegetarian (maybe only serves lamb?) and one known as the restaurant of the bones (Ossos). The bones place had a review that said it has only 7 tables in super small place, get there right when they open at 7:30p or you will be waiting in the alley/street and lots of people just leave after lengthy waits. All kinds of meat on bones, supposed to be incredible. And Mario is the best server.
Well-we've come this far on our journey of meat - you can find veg in other cities, but the Ossos place? Gotta have it (Hillshire Farms - Go Meat!). We get there at 7:50, get one of the last two tables, and the line begins to form. Mario is the owner, server, etc. He has a bone man and a prep man, that's it. Hole in wall, no sign, incredible experience. Great food, great vinho dela casa, interesting locals and a unique experience! Try it the next time you're in town!
Headed back to the hotel to gear up for tomorrow - will be a long day with 5 stops and lotsa drivin'...