Mariana from 6Only bids us a warm farewell as we wheel our bags around the corner to the car park, and pile back into ‘the beast’ for our drive to Obidos. Getting out of Porto is surprisingly easy and we are soon on the motorway. Our first stop is the charming town of Aveiro. The town’s fortunes have waxed and waned over the years, and it is once more on the up if the amount of restoration that is taking place, and the tour buses, are anything to go by.
Aveiro sits on the edge of a shallow coastal lagoon, and was once a large salt producer (apparently the salt harvested here was shipped to Newfoundland where it was used to preserve cod, which was then sent back to Portugal as bacalhau – global trade has always been alive). Today the canals are mainly used to ferry tourists in the brightly decorated moliceiros (traditional sea weed harvesting boats).
As well as cheerful painted houses, and the more usual tiled facades. Occasionally added into the mix is a completely modern addition. It all makes for a delightful hotchpotch of architectural styles.
I even have an enthusiastic chat, in Portugese, to the old man who owns the wool shop. Have no idea what we chatted about but it comprised much nodding on my part, and a stream of words on his. Seemed to be mutually enjoyable.
Our next stop is Coimbra, which was once the medieval capital of Portugal but is more famous now for its University, which is THE major university in the country and the oldest university in continuous operation in the world. Given the University’s history and buildings it is not surprising to find that it is on the UNESCO World Heritage register. Rumour has it that J.K. Rowling, who lived in Porto for several years, got some of her inspiration for Hogwarts from Coimbra University.
There are students every where you look. Tradition and rituals thrive here, and the students, after first year, wear formal academic attire; the boys wear a black 3 piece suit and the girls a black skirt and jacket, over which both wear a flowing black cape – hello Harry Potter and Hermoine. The Porto university students also wear this attire, and Hazel managed to take a photo of a very obliging young man in Porto which illustrates this tradition:
The central part of Coimbra University consists of a series of imposing 16th to 18th Century buildings, but the piece de resistance is said to be the library (Biblioteca Joanina). Unfortunately I am unable to confirm this as when we wandered up to the ticket office after a pleasant late lunch on the terrace at the cafe in the Museum (Museu Nacional de Machado de Castro) we discovered that the first available entry time into the Library was in 2.5 hours time, at 4.20pm. As we still had an hour and a half drive to get to Obidos we decided we would have to miss the library – a shame. Moral of this story is: always go to the ticket office before lunch. But, here are some of the buildings we did see:
On the road again we had a slight bit of miscommunication with Doris (aka the navigational system) that resulted in us not collecting a toll ticket in one section of the motorway. And of course it would be in a section that has no manned booths as an exit option. We present our problem to the lovely Maria, from Casa D’ Obidos (our accommodation for the next two nights), and she sends an email plus scans of receipts from the earlier stage – to prove we are law abiding – to the powers that be. Let’s see if that works, as Europcar are known to slug you with the fine plus a big premium.
It is dusk when we arrive at Casa D’Obidos (http://www.casadobidos.com/english ), which sits below the walled town of Obidos and behind what is a new little housing estate, complete with a row of restaurants, which in turn are built opposite an imposing but slightly decrepit 18th century hexagonal church.
And, a pool table – which is given a work out post dinner, while we enjoy our welcome shot of port and cake. The Morris team defeated the Esdale/Kilsby team on the last ball:
We walk through the orchard behind the Casa to the row of small restaurants opposite the Church. All look pretty quiet, so eeny meany miney mo, we select the middle one – even though we are a bit concerned at being the only patrons. We are served by a lovely old gentleman, with very good English (and rather odd, protruding eyes). We ask if we can sit outside first to enjoy a bottle of local white wine plus cheese, a very good tuna dip and olives. This throws them slightly into a spin as the bright orange plastic chairs outside are actually broken, however they drag out some restaurant chairs for us ( seems no one ever sits outside except to smoke!).
It is then a short walk back to Casa D’Obidos in what is now the dark. We set off confidently but somehow manage to miss the turn up through the fruit trees into the back of the Casa – probably because Pete had insisted we didn’t actually need the light of Hazel’s IPhone torch, and in the ensuing dark, missed the turn. However, we sorted it out amidst much hilarity on Hazel and my part. Another day done and dusted.