On the road. We were tempted to take a detour to Constancia. How often do you find a town that shares your name? Going on our list for another time… But on to the cities we did visit.
For a country that is approximately the same size as the state of Indiana we are constantly amazed at the the diversity Portugal offers. By the time our latest adventure is concluded we will have driven the entire length of the country (it takes about 5 hours if you do it in one continuous trip) and even jumped off to a couple of islands. We are finding some wonderful cities to explore and have taken great road trips. FYI: When exploring we routinely get off the main roads, which are primarily toll ways, and opt for the more scenic byways. Overall we have found that the milage (kilometerage?) of one route versus another is pretty equivalent. The big difference is time – and that we have lots of.
Since gas prices are currently a hot topic I am happy to report that our first rental, a Toyota Corolla hybrid, got 42 mpg and our current car, a Toyota C-HR hybrid, is getting 51 mpg. Some of you may be wondering, “Why two cars?” Our insurance coverage using our travel card is only good for 30 days, so a 60 day trip = two 30 day contracts. A minor inconvenience to make the switch but well worth it. And heck, with the size of Portugal it’s not far back to the Lisbon airport!
Aveiro: known in country as the Venice of Portugal
This absolutely charming city does have some Venice-like qualities. The canals are navigated by colorful boats that were traditionally used to harvest seaweed.
The pedestrian bridges over the canals are beautifully and colorfully decorated with ribbons.
There are various pieces of artwork adorning the balconies. This school of fish tickled me as it seems that the fish are leaping into the window.
Murals on the seawall depict things Aveiro is known for. In this case it’s fish and signature egg-based edibles. (More about that coming …)
On this bright sunny day we took advantage of the many outdoor dining options. The restaurant we chose for late lunch had a menu of “only things from the pig” as our waitress informed us. The meat was cooked on a rotisserie and the portion we received was chopped into wedges and presented in a basket. It came with fried potatoes, an exception to all pig, but the potatoes were fried in lard so I guess that counts. After lunch, on our way back to the car, we were taken with this pink vignette which compelled us to stop for some coffee and a bite of dessert. (Lots of things compel us to do that.) Just because some eagle-eyed reader is likely going to ask: the bust is Gustavo Ferreira Pinto Basto, a general and 2-time mayor of Aveiro, and the tent to his left is a covid testing station.
Now for the signature edibles. These are Ovos Moles, a traditional sweet with a filling made from egg yolk, sugar, and water. Traditionally, the filling is not stirred in a circular motion but mixed by moving a paddle back and forth or side to side.
The filling is put into moulds that are lined with rice paper, similar to a communion wafer. The mould shapes have a nautical theme.
Bob enjoyed his with a glass of red wine. Douro winery of course.
Coimbra: a former capital of Portugal and its 4th largest city
Just two blocks from our flat, at the top is these stairs is the University of Coimbra. Established in Lisbon in 1290, it went through a number of relocations until moving permanently to Coimbra in 1537. This institution is among the oldest universities in continuous operation in the world and the oldest in Portugal.
The university is in the midst of the city high atop a hill.
The views from the top level of the campus are stunning.
We visited The Square, which is currently undergoing a lot of construction. The building at the right sports a construction cover with an image of how the finished work will look.
The administrative building has carvings across the front that represent the eight faculties. This is Education, chosen for personal reasons. (A bravo shout out to my teacher friends.)
Within the campus grounds is a very uniquely designed botanical garden with three tiered levels. On the top/entrance level are green houses.
The next level down has sculpture gardens and water features.
At the bottom level includes walkways and a fountain.
Heading back up to where I started.
Along the way I came across one of my favorites: a Plane Tree. (This one is for you Patty Bartscher.)
All-in-all a lovely day of discoveries. Though the weather was a bit chilly and the wind was blowing so hard it actually snatched the sunglasses off my face, it was definitely worth the climb. That said, it was also nice to have a short walk home.
We were directly across the street from Praça da República (Republic Square). Our building is the pinkish one with a green door, pretty much in the center of the block. The University is behind the trees on the right. The first floor of our building houses a bar and restaurant; actually mostly a bar, as we found out on our second night in town when the students were celebrating Carnaval until almost 4am. (Lots of party music sounds the same when you don’t know the words.) The street going up hill (left side of photo) leads to a roundabout and the 16th C. aqueduct.
The one kilometer long aqueduct has 21 arches and is lit beautifully at night. In the center is a statue of Pope John Paul II.
At one end of Praça da República is a very large and lush park. The sidewalks around the square and leading up to the park are filled with restaurants; everything from kebobs to sushi; burgers to pizza.
One of the restaurants we chose NOT to eat at.
One of the restaurants we loved for “take away”. Their numbered menu offers 100 hundred different sandwiches, most priced at €1 with none going over €3. Admittedly, the sandwiches were made on a not-so big 4-inch bun and we didn’t know exactly what were were ordering some of the time (at one point we just ordered favorite numbers) they were all delicious and some quite unusual. Great way to sample.
Our favorite restaurant, right by the aqueduct. We went here early in the week and were wowed by the food and the wine list. It was so good that we decided to make this the place for our last-evening-in-the-city meal. We walked in and got seated and a waiter came over to us and said, “You’re back!” Sort of a Norm being greeted at Cheers moment.
Looking into Papa’s as we walk home after dinner.
And now for some random moments…
Shoe tossing; yes, even here.
While we do eat at a fair number of restaurants we almost always have breakfast in our rental spaces. That means we do a good amount of shopping for breakfast items. Since these chips are prosciutto and egg flavored I figured they might count as first meal of the day fare, so they went into our cart. They were amazingly addicting and were also eaten for meals other than breakfast, while they lasted.
Better sense prevailed and I passed on this nougat-filled chocolate cereal. I couldn’t get past the picture on the box. Évora: a must-see walled city
This map gives a good overview of the city. The center ringed area is the main shopping, though there are small restaurants and shops scattered throughout the entire town. The University of Evora is in the upper right quardrant, adjacent the wall at about 2 o’clock. Our flat is located under the bright green X, convenient to a city gate and free parking. (No cars are allowed in the city unless you have a resident pass.) The proximity was particularly appreciated when we were jostling our roller bags over cobblestone streets.
All of the city streets are one-way and gates are one directional as well – entrance or exit. This is “our” gate, an exit only, and our rental was less than 3 blocks from this corner.
This photo was taken right outside our front door, looking down the street in the direction we walked to get to the gate and our car. Note the power cable that runs outside the buildings. This is common throughout the city. Getting electricity to these old structures is a challenge.
Off on a city jaunt. As we turn a corner to go into the center of town we spy this old church. I was taken with the uneven patio stones that show wear and the passing of time in juxtaposition to the power cord draping across the exterior wall.
In Centro we come to Praça do Giraldo, named in honor of Giraldo the Brave, who led the fight to oust the Moors. (He won, BTW.) Bob takes a break from walking to ponder a broken torso sculpture installation.
I headed down to check out what I thought was an unusual tree. Turns out it was cleverly made of scrap metal.
It’s always a treat to hear some good jazz. Doubly good because it doesn’t need to be translated from Portuguese into English.
Atop one of the cathedrals we spot a stork on its nest. We have been seeing both storks and nesting spots since leaving Coimbra. They are actually quite common in Portugal, especially in the Algarve, where we are headed to next.
This iron gate in front of a tiled wall made for an eye-catching pattern on pattern composition.
One of our best adventures was an outing to Almendres Cromlech, a megalithic complex which dates back to the 6th millennium BC. – older than Stonehenge.
Formed in a circular pattern, the site is made up of 95 granite menhir, or standing stones, deposited in small groups.
Due to age and environmental erosion it is difficult to see the carved drawings on the stones. To aid recognition they are highlighted using a UV sensitive liquid.
It felt good to hang out with some hard rock types that were even older than me.
Almendras Cromlech is surrounded by an old cork forest. The trees were incredible. I am sort of embarrassed by how many photos of them I took. Then again, maybe not.
Tomorrow we are off for the Algarve. I will keep you posted.
Adeus from Portugal, where even the bridge support columns are beautiful.