Driving throughout Portugal has been relatively easy. Toll highways are pristine, have little traffic, a speed limit of 120km/hr., (although many exceed this and have a tendency to tailgate), and makes Hwy401 pale in comparison. Fertile farmland with red soil, fields of eucalyptus, olive, and cork trees, depending on the region, not to mention the huge number of vineyards that seemingly covers the whole mid to northern region
The Portuguese are the masters of roundabouts, they are absolutely everywhere! Navigation is tricky at the best of times, especially in smaller villages (more roundabouts!). Bob has definitely met the challenge driving the VERY narrow cobblestone streets of the cities/towns/villages we have visited, nothing to do with the excellent navigator, I might add!!🤣
Heading out of Obidos to Coimbra, we stopped to check out the popular fishing and beach town of Nazaré. The town is split into three main districts – Praia (beach), Pederneira (main lower town), and Sitio (upper town ). Located on a rocky outcropping over 100m above the main part of the town, Sitio provides wonderful views over the bay and beach. Parking down near the beach we took the funicular to Sitio and walked the promenade enjoying the spectacular views below. This area also attracts some of the world’s best and bravest surfers and has recently put itself firmly on the global map with the biggest recorded breaking waves ever being ridden here.
A quick stop at the huge gothic monastery in Batalha was impressive and provided a great photo op.
We passed several groups of pilgrims walking to Fatima for the 101st anniversary, (October 13, 1917), of the last apparition of Virgin Mary to three local Shepard children. More on Fatima in an upcoming blog.
Coimbra, a well-preserved medieval center and the historic University of Coimbra was the next stop for a couple of nights. This is one of the oldest universities in continuous operation in the world, the oldest university of Portugal, and one of the country’s largest higher education and research institutions. Impressive!! The campus is beautiful and the historic centre full of narrow winding streets to get lost in.
This city along with Porto were the inspiration for JK Rowling’s Harry Potter book series. Everywhere you look upper year students are dressed in the same Hogwarts garb-black suits and cape.
We happened upon the town during Recepção ao Caloiro (The Freshman’s Reception) or what is known as ‘homecoming’ back home. Lots of festivities were happening the weekend we visited with freshmen wearing interesting costumes, displaying each faculty’s colours. The garb was made up according to the creativity and imagination of their ‘godmothers’ or ‘godfathers’ who are upper class men.
We also witnessed the special parade known as the Latada. After marching through the streets of the city, the new students are baptized in the Mondego River thus entering into the Coimbra academic fraternity. Sounds similar to like the kind of indoctrination at Queens U. but much more traditional.
Aveiro, aka the ‘Venice of Portugal’ was another short stop to see the colourful gondola style boats gliding tourists through the canals that crisscross the city. The boats, (barcos moliceiros), were traditionally used to harvest seaweed in the lagoon that feeds the canal which was then used to fertile the surrounding farm fields.
On to Porto my friends, AND the 🚗 is still intact (as well as my nerves).