Friday, January 11, 2013

Coimbra Travelogue

From the Douro, we contined on to Coimbra. We were attracted by descriptions of steep hills, amazing university buildings, and students walking around town wearing capes. I booked at an adorable B&B that was recommended by every source ever and in an awesome location.  D and I liked it very much (except the showers...they seem to always be a gamble in Europe) but his parents unfortunately did not.  Just another example of the very different traveling styles people can have!  Some prefer more charm, some prefer more space. In the room there was free water and port and our room had a wonderful view over the whole city. 

We headed out for dinner at a restaurant recommended by our hostess.  It was located in another Pension at the bottom of the giant hill that we were staying on.  I seemed to get lucky in that my food - a shrimp and scallop dish - was amazing, but the restaurant was another massive and obvious disappointment for my in-laws.  (Note this was also my birthday so maybe luck was just on my side! Then again, maybe not...before dinner my brand new coat got pooped on by one of Coimbra's many, many pigeons!)  I have to admit that during the trip, their disappointment in things I enjoyed often left me feeling like a dumb young poor person who is too easily impressed.  I suppose on the opposite side they may have felt old and boring when D & I wanted to run around more than they did, even though we never thought of them that way.  I think we managed to strike a good balance of their stuff and our stuff throughout the trip, though.  Even when traveling with others causes frustration for one of the parties, it's worth the new insights you get on the different ways travel can be enjoyed!

End of digression!

We spent one full day in Coimbra, first visiting the old buildings on the university campus.  Most notably these include a library, Biblioteca Joanina, which is inhabited by bats which eat any insects that could damage the old books within!  We did see some students in capes.  Some were engaging in hazing-like activities, which I unfortunately didn't get a picture of.  Others were out on the campus trying to sell official photo books - photos aren't allowed in any of the buildings - and fado (a type of Portuguese music) CDs to tourists!  I was a bit surprised the university had these kids out there in official attire trying to make tourist bucks, but they were all really nice and helpful (even though we didn't buy anything).

We split up from D's family and after checking out the university we continued on to the botanical garden nearby, which definitely had an air of former glory about it.  It could use some upkeep, but had some nice settings nonetheless.  We stopped for lunch at a cafe near the Old Cathedral, where D had some kind of cod and egg dish that was really good and I had delicious calimari!  We poked around the beautiful cathedral, which is filled with mosaic tiles, and ran into a British guy who wanted us to explain, as Americans, why things always get really bad when the US is hit by big hurricanes.  Sandy was in progress that day. Sometimes Europeans really do not seem to get natural disasters, as lucky for them, they are much more unusual here!

Wandering the neighborhoods around the university, we came across tons of rep├║blicas - student houses with various themes, much like frats.  They were often covered in graffiti and had appliances - blenders, computer keyboards, and blow dryers - hanging off the facades or out the windows!  Even though I made the frat comparison, wandering the streets full of these didn't feel anything like walking down frat row or like any other place I've been.  It was something special.

We ducked out of a sudden downpour into a bakery where we sampled yet more new goodies.  Several pastries we saw in Coimbra came with some yellow shredded bits on them which turned out to be an egg yolk and sugar candy!  They are masters of the egg!  Afterward we found ourselves on a narrow pedestrian street filled with shops with well-dressed, attentive shopkeepers selling house dresses, baby clothes, shoes, and all kinds of stuff we didn't need but kinda wished we did.

For dinner we met up with my in-laws again and had pizza at a restaurant where my father-in-law had seen some business people eating earlier in the day, which he took to be a good sign.  I had been craving pizza, and they had a brilliant idea to put pepperoni and pineapple together on a pizza.  So delicious.  Shoot, I'm hungry now...

TL;DR: Coimbra is really worth a trip, especially if you enjoy hills and academics!  I hope the photos prove it!

Coimbra Okt 2012


  1. Well they DO say that a bird dumping on you is good luck, or at least I have heard that......!

  2. Googling: "is it good luck when a bird poops on you"


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