Tag Archives: Coimbra

Coimbra to Mealhada

9/17 – back on the road this morning for a 14 mile stretch to Mealhada, known for a local brand of wine, and broiled suckling pig – yes, the whole little piggy, from his little pink head to his little curly tail!

Our walk was mostly flat and went through several small towns. We are getting used to the townsfolk answering our Bom Dia with a Boa Viagem! (Sounds like Bon Voyage, but spelled funny – silent “m”) to which we respond with a thank you. Lots of smiles and encouragement.

My Nice Person of Portugal today is the lady who runs the cafe where we stopped for a mid morning espresso. Whenever we stop for a break, I always use the facilities, as you never know when the next opportunity will be. I didn’t see a WC sign in the cafe, so I asked, thinking maybe it was in the back. In response, the lady motioned me to follow her out the door, and down the street, where she ushered me into her home to use her bathroom! How nice was that?

The town of Mealhada welcomes you with a statue of Baachus, god of wine, and grapevines in the square instead of flowers. By the time we got there, the rain that had been threatening all day, started coming down.image

Our last residencial had very poor wifi – we had to sit on the stairs in the hallway to get any reception – so today Jim suggested we stay at the alburgue. After all, who knows more about the needs of pilgrims? We walked through Mealhada and out the other side, passing pensions and residencials, before finally getting to the alburgue. They were out of private rooms, so we could either stay in the dormitory (16 bunk beds in a row with shared WCs), or walk back through town in the rain. We opted for the bunk beds. Luckily there were only 6 of us, and Jim was the only snorer, so we had a surprisingly restful night.

And no, we did not have suckling pig for supper…

A Day in Coimbra

9/15 – Coimbra is a university town, and the tourist attractions are all on the university grounds, way up at the top of the hill. Students in Coimbra don’t have to worry about the Freshman 15 if they walk up and down these hills every day!
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Our day to see the city happened to be the first day of the fall semester, and the campus teemed with students from the different college majors congregating in the square and trying to outshout and outsing one another. As best we could tell, the poor freshman were being indoctrinated into their respective houses by having to wear bibs or signs around their necks proclaiming their unworthiness, being made to run around the square shouting “I am an Idiot”, and other fun things that will remind you of pledge week at the frat house.image

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The upperclassmen and women all wore long black gowns a la Hogwarts, and we were told that this is the daily dress expectation, not just because it was the first day of class.

We got to peek in the St. Michaels Chapel with its grand pipe organ:image

… and the historic campus library, where there were books over 600 years old. The library is home to a family of bats, who fly around every night and eat the bugs, so that the bugs don’t eat the books. The furniture is covered every evening against the guano, and the place cleaned every morning…image

We also got to peek into the Academic Dungeon, which wasn’t built with tall people in mind. We wondered what crime one had to commit to be remanded there! image

I liked the fancy ceilings:

We ambled around the city, and stopped for lunch at a place that advertised Cheeseburguers. Now that’s something we haven’t had in a while! We ordered two, and should not have been surprised when they were served, no bun, with a slice of ham and a fried egg on top. We asked for ketchup, and were given a tiny packet with not enough ketchup for three French fries. We are citizens of the world and loved these cheeseburgers! Viva Portugal!

Lexi and Emma, here are some pics for you! Love you! image

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Condeixa-a-Nova to Coimbra

9/14 – Happy birthday to Eliese and Tiare and Eva! Hugs and much love to you!

Today we walked 12 miles into our next big city, Coimbra. The morning walk started out on level ground, so we made great time for the first few hours. Here is our 7am sunrise:

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My salute to a Nice Person of Portugal came as we stood at a crossroads with conflicting Caminho arrows; a spray painted one pointing to the left fork, and the more official looking but less reliable municipal sign pointing to the right. A driver pulled up and pointed to the left, assuring us that the hand painted sign was the one to follow. Obrigado to you, sir!

We stopped for an espresso mid-morning, and were delighted and mystified to hear a bagpipe and drums bleating out a lively tune and coming our way. I love a parade! Never did find out what the occasion was, but they stood in front of us and played a merry tune while we clapped encouragement. Then off they went down the street. Do you think all Pilgrims get this reception?

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We passed three churches in three towns on this Sunday morning, none of which were open or holding a service. Don’t know what to think about that…

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The love put into flower gardens spilling out over walls and fences continues to amaze me. Today I saw lots of purple.


…and a waterfall. image

Before we knew it we were looking down the city of Coimbra:
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Here a Roman aqueduct had to be partially destroyed to allow the highway to be built. Thankfully, much of the aqueduct was spared:

At the entrance to the city is the Convento Santa Isabel, erected in honor of the beautiful and kind hearted young queen who gave her riches away to the poor. When her jealous husband tried to catch her in the act, her basket of coins miraculously turned into roses. She is buried here. image

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Then the rain came down and we hoofed it over to our residencial (with a balcony!) where we will rest our weary feet and see what the city has to offer for the next few days.