Around the World... One Journey at a Time. Around the World... One Journey at a Time.






Portugal: Day 8

by Kathy 31. March 2011 18:55

Back to Portugal Index Page

<< Day 7: Nazaré and Sítio | Day 9: Marvão, the Eagle’s Nest >>

 

Miniatures and Majesty of Coimbra

Some places look “good” on paper, but dish up something different in person. Sometimes you can leave feeling a bit hollow. Then there are places like the city of Coimbra, which delivered such unexpected treats that we were completely bowled over. The only disappointment came when we realized that we just couldn’t stay another day.

On paper, Coimbra was a university town about 1 ½ hours northeast of Nazaré. We were drawn to it initially because it offered a children’s park full of miniature monuments and buildings around Portugal.

After two nights in Nazaré, Sebastian and Genevieve were well-rested and ready for more adventures.

Sebastian, in the car, with his favorite traveling companion—“Kitty”:

Genevieve:

Our road north took us through many patches of neatly planted trees:

Most of the vehicles in Portugal were on the small side, compared to those in the United States. Even the trucks were generally smaller. The trucks that we would consider to be “normal” sized back home all had warning signs on the back, reading “Veiculo Longo” (Long Vehicle):

(We presumed that this was to allow more accurate timing/distance calculations by drivers that wanted to pass the trucks, especially in the presence of oncoming traffic.)

In Coimbra, we stayed at the Hotel Astoria, built in 1926, with a genuine shabby-chic appearance that totally charmed us:

Our large room was on the 4th floor, overlooking the red-rooftops of University Hill:

Even looking at the pictures now, my heart does a double-time happy beat.

Coimbra has a long history as a thriving commercial town, and has been occupied by many groups, such as the Romans, Moors, and Spanish. In the 12th century, Coimbra became the first capital of Portugal, until the capital was moved to Lisbon in the year 1255. In the 16th century, the University of Coimbra moved into the Royal Grounds on top of the hill. The university had been established in Lisbon in 1290, and is one of the oldest universities in Europe.

We could see the university’s clock tower peeking out over some of the school buildings:

I just loved the plants growing on a nearby rooftop, across from a satellite dish:

Some more modern apartment buildings rose off to one side:

A “for sale” (“vende”) sign hung on some beautiful blue doors nearby:

Hmmmm . . . what would it be like to live here?

The streets in the old district around the hotel were narrow, with many off-shoot alleyways that twisted around. For lunch, our trusty guidebook recommended a cozy place tucked away near the hotel. After getting lost for a short time, we circled back, tried a different turn, and finally found it:

The food at Restaurante O Bizarro was delicious, and the atmosphere “homey” and welcoming. Here is Sebastian, sucking the last bit of juicy tartness from his lemon rind:

After lunch, 1 15-minute walk took us to the children’s park called Portugal dos Pequenitos (Portugal of the Little Ones).

First, we crossed the Mondego River on the bridge called Ponte de Santa Clara. Here is a view looking back toward the historic part of Coimbra, with our hotel on the left:

Portugal dos Pequenitos was opened in 1940 as a “learning through play” park, aimed at children. The project was created by Dr. Bissaya Barreto who was very active in social work and cultural activities in the central region of Portugal. Here are Ben and the kids, at the entrance:

Inside was a wonderland of miniature buildings that were famous throughout Portugal. Genevieve and Sebastian immediately recognized the National Palace of Sintra, with its twin chimneys:

Other buildings were less familiar to us:

There were also miniature houses that showed the architectural heritage of Portugal:



Sebastian and Genevieve loved exploring each little house, and they picked out their favorites. Sebastian liked this two-story home because he could look out of the upper window:


Genevieve liked this house with the blue trim.  She said, "If I could live here, I would!"

The park also contained several museums, displaying costumes, furniture, and boats. We really enjoyed looking at all the exhibits in the Naval Museum. Many of the boats on display had originally been constructed as miniatures in the Mondego Naval Yard before the actual boats had been constructed. Here is Sebastian’s favorite boat:

Relaxing in the park’s spacious plaza:

Sebastian patiently waited in line for his turn to ride the cars:

The park also had structures and characters from other countries in which Portuguese influence can be found:


We finally tore ourselves away after the kids had crawled into, climbed, explored, and then revisited “one last time”, every single building in the park. Sebastian’s legs were weary, so he got his usual piggy-back ride on the walk back to the hotel (he sneezed as Ben snapped the photo):

Genevieve had plenty of energy still. She charged ahead, and occasionally waited for us to catch up:

I loved the buildings that revealed their layers of history:

Crossing the bridge, we had a clear view of University Hill, which was crowned by what used to be the National Palace for the royal family in the 1100’s:

To our left was our beautiful hotel, where we returned for a brief rest.

I had developed the hiccups during our walk. Back in the hotel room, I did a double-take when I saw this on my pillow:

Ben and Genevieve, both intimately familiar with my fear of spiders, had concocted a scheme to “scare” the hiccups out of me by placing a drawing of a spider-like bug on my pillow. My hiccups did not disappear, but we all laughed and laughed!

Later that evening, we began an upward wander through the old town area. A short nap had rejuvenated Sebastian, and he and Genevieve led the way:

We started at a small plaza called Largo da Portagem (Place of the Gateway). In the center, a statue of Joaquim Antonio de Aguiar, a former Prime Minister of Portugal who was born in Coimbra, welcomed people to the old city entrance.

The streetlights were coming to life, shining down on the narrow cobblestone streets and people returning home with small shopping bags—perhaps full of ingredients for tonight’s dinner.

The Old Cathedral of Coimbra, named Se Velha, loomed around one corner, resembling a fortress with its crenulated rooftop and solid presence:

Construction for this church initially began in the 12th century, shortly after King Henriques selected Coimbra to be the capital of Portugal. Historians consider the Old Cathedral to be one of the best preserved Romanesque buildings in the country.

The swirls and other patterns around the arched doorway reflect an Arabic influence:

The back side of the church (on the east side) had a semi-circular apse, where the interior altar is located:

Daylight was fading quickly, and we continued following the skinny streets upward, trusting that they would eventually lead us to the university on top:

And they did!

The University Tower stands over 110 feet high and was built in the early 1700’s. Under the clock is an open space with some bells, and university students purportedly refer to the bell tower as “a Cabra” (the Goat).

To Genevieve and Sebastian, the clock tower was “nice,” but the vast open space in front was much more exciting, as it represented freedom to run and jump and twirl and run some more:

Here they are beside the statue of King John III, the fifteenth king of Portugal, nicknamed “the Pious”:

Genevieve took this photo of Ben and I, with Sebastian:

Sebastian was busy creating hearts for me on the ground:

As the last rays of light disappeared, I was absorbing all of the fascinating architectural details of the old buildings around the university:

One final photo of Genevieve and I, overlooking the Mondego River and the modern bridge called Ponte Rainha Santa (also known as Ponte Europa), which was completed in 2004.

The enchantment of Coimbra was perhaps all the more sweet because we hadn’t anticipated it.  Today, we felt as if we had opened an seemingly ordinary box and discovered an abundance of treasure.   

Back to Portugal Index Page

<< Day 7: Nazaré and Sítio | Day 9: Marvão, the Eagle’s Nest >>

Add comment

  Country flag

biuquote
  • Comment
  • Preview
Loading

Map of Our Journeys

(click the map to enlarge)
Our travel map



Places We’ve Been, w/Quick Links

Bhutan
   Bumthang Valley
   Gom Kora
   Kanglung
   Mongar
   Paro Valley
   Punakha Dzong
   Sangdrup Jongkhar
   Thimphu
   Tongsa
   Wangdi Phrodrang

Bolivia
   Caranavi
   Guanay
   Janko Marca
   La Paz
   Laguna Colorada
   Laguna Verde
   Llica
   Potosí
   Queteña
   Rurrenabaque
   Sajama
   Salar de Coipasa
   Salar de Uyuni
   San Pablo
   Santa Rosa
   Sorata
   Sud Lipez
   Tupiza
   World’s Most Dangerous Road

Canada
   Banff National Park
   Battle Hill Nat'l Hist. Site
   Boya Lake Prov. Park, BC
   Burns Lake Bike Park
   Canyon Sainte-Anne
   Chetwynd
   Dawson Creek
   Eastern Townships
   Fort Nelson
   Isle-aux-Coudres
   Jasper National Park
   Kluane Lake, YK
   'Ksan Historical Village
   Lake Louise
   Liard Hot Springs
   Montreal
   Niagara Falls
   Ottawa
   Quebec City
   Quesnel
   Thousand Islands
   Toronto
   Vancouver
   Vancouver Island
   Victoria
   Watson Lake
   Whistler
   Whitehorse

China
   Beijing
   Datong
   Forbidden City
   Great Wall at Mutianyu
   Hong Kong
   HuaShan
   Lijiang
   Summer Palace
   Terracotta Warriors
   Tiananmen Square
   Xi’an
   Yangshuo
   Yungang Caves

Costa Rica
   Arenal Volcano
   Finca Corsicana
   Hanging Bridges
   Manuel Antonio
   Poas Volcano
   Proyecto Asis
   Quepos
   Sarchi
   Sky Trek Zip Lining
   Venado Caves
   Zarcero

France
   Paris

Ecuador
   Amazon Rainforest
   Chaquiñan Bicycle Trail
   La Mitad del Mundo
   Napo Wildlife Center
   Papallacta Hot Springs
   Proyecto DCR
   Quito
   Yasuní National Park

India
   Bagdogra
   Darjeeling
   Delhi
   Gawahati
   Jaigaon
   Kalimpong

Mexico
   Baja California
   Crucecita
   Frida Kahlo Museum
   Hierve el Agua
   Huatulco
   Marietas Islands
   Mazunte
   Mexico City
   Monte Alban
   Oaxaca City
   Patzcuaro
   Puerto Angel
   Puerto Escondido
   Puerto Vallarta
   San Agustin
   San Martin Tilcajete
   Santa Fe de la Laguna
   Santa María el Tule
   Sayulita
   Studio of Jacobo Angeles
   Teotihuacán
   Teotitlán del Valle
   TzinTzunTzan
   Yagul
   Yelapa

Namibia
   Caprivi
   Dead Vlei
   Elondo Village
   Etosha Nat'l Park
   Hippo Pools Camp
   Hoba Meteorite
   Katutura
   Khowarib Camp
   Moose McGregor's Bakery
   Mowani Camp
   Ngepi Camp
   Nkasa Lupala
   n'Kwzi Camp
   River Dance Lodge
   Seisfontein
   Seisriem Camp
   Sossusvlie
   Swakopmund
   Treesleeper Camp
   Twyfeltein
   Windhoek

Peru
   Balsas
   Barranca
   Cajabamba
   Cajamarca
   Caraz
   Cañón del Pato
   Celendín
   Cerro de Pasco
   Chachapoyas
   Cusco
   Huamachuco
   Huánico
   Huaraz
   La Oroya
   Leymebamba
   Llanganuco
   Lima
   Machu Picchu
   Moyobamba
   Nuevo Jaén
   Pallasca
   Pampas
   Tápuc
   Tarapoto
   Tarma
   Tingo Maria
   Tocache
   Yungay Memorial

Portugal
   Burgau
   Coimbra
   Evora
   Lisbon
   Marvao
   Nazare
   Obidos
   Portimao
   Sintra
   Sitio

South Africa
   Johannesburg

Spain
   Barcelona
   Bilbao
   Hondarribia
   Madrid
   Montserrat
   Nerja
   Rock of Gibraltar
   Ronda
   Santillana del Mar
   Tolosa
   Zaragoza

United States National Parks
   Arches National Park, UT
   Badlands National Park, SD
   Bandelier National Monument, NM
   Bryce Canyon National Park, UT
   Cahokia Mounds (UNESCO site), IL
   Carlsbad Caverns National Park, NM
   Canyon de Chelly Nat'l Monument, AZ
   Cape Hatteras National Shoreline, NC
   Capitol Reef National Park, UT
   Civil Rights Memorial, AL
   Death Valley National Park, CA
   Denali National Park, AK
   Devil’s Tower National Monument, WY
   El Morro National Monument, NM
   Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C.
   Glacier National Park, MT
   Grand Canyon National Park, AZ
   Grand Tetons National Park, WY
   Great Basin National Park, NV
   Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, HI
   Joshua Tree National Park, CA
   Kaloko-Honokohau Nat'l Hist. Park, HI
   Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks, NM
   King's Canyon National Park, CA
   Martin Luther King Jr. Nat'l Hist. Site, GA
   Mesa Verde National Park, CO
   Montezuma's Castle Nat'l Monument, AZ
   Monticello, VA
   Mount Rushmore National Memorial, SD
   Mt. Rainier National Park, WA
   Olympic National Park, WA
   Petrified Wood National Park, AZ
   Pinnacles National Monument, CA
   Pu'uhonua o Honaunau Nat'l Hist Pk, HI
   Pu'ukohola Heiau Nat'l Historic Site, HI
   San Antonio Missions Nat'l Hist. Park, TX
   Tuzigoot National Monument, AZ
   Walnut Canyon National Monument, AZ
   Washington Monument
   White Sands National Monument, NM
   Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, AK
   Wright Brothers National Memorial in NC
   Yellowstone National Park, WY
   Yosemite National Park, CA

United States, Cities and Places
   The Alamo, TX
   Alaska Wildlife Conservation Cntr.
   Alpine Loop in CO
   Anchorage, AK
   Antares Junction, AZ
   Arctic Circle, AK
   Barrel Oak Winery in VA
   Biloxi, MS
   Bottle Tree Farm in CA
   Calico Ghost Town, CA
   Canfield Mountain Trail System, ID
   Cape St. Vincent, NY
   Carson City, NV
   Carter Caves State Park in KY
   Chappie-Shasta OHV Area, CA
   Child's Glacier, AK
   Circle B Chuckwagon Show in SD
   City Museum in MO
   Cody, WY
   Corn Palace in SD
   Crazy Horse Memorial in SD
   Custer State Park, SD
   Dalton Highway, AK
   Dinosaur Tracks in AZ
   Discovery Place in Charlotte, NC
   Dry Falls (Sun Lakes-Dry Falls), WA
   Fairbanks, AK
   Front Royal, VA
   Gallup, NM
   Goffs, CA
   Grand Canyon Caves, AZ
   Grand Canyon Skywalk, AZ
   Grave Digger Monster Truck in NC
   Great Salt Lake, UT
   Hackberry General Store in AZ
   Hannibal, MO
   Hatteras Island, NC
   Hawaii (Big Island)
   Hickison Petroglyphs, NV
   Holbrook, AZ
   Hole in the Rock, UT
   Homer, AK
   Honey Island Swamp Tour in LA
   Hoover Dam, NV
   Hyder, AK
   Jim Gray’s Petrified Wood Co. in AZ
   John’s Peak OHV Area, OR
   Kailua-Kona, HI
   Keepers of the Wild Nature Park in AZ
   Kennecott, AK
   Kennecott Copper Mine in UT
   Kingman, AZ
   Lake Havasu, AZ
   Lake Tahoe, NV
   Las Vegas, NV (winter 2010)
   Little Brown Church in IA
   London Bridge in AZ
   Loneliest Road in America, Hwy. 50, NV
   Los Angeles, CA
   Lost Colony Show on Roanoke Isl., NC
   Lowe’s Speedway in NC
   Mardi Gras World in LA
   Mark Twain Museum in MO
   Meteor Crater, AZ
   Million Dollar Highway, CO
   Minnesota Zoo
   Mitchell, SD
   Moab, UT
   Moab, UT (dirt biking)
   Montgomery, AL
   Montpelier, ID
   Navajo Nation, AZ
   Needles, CA
   Nevada Beach, NV
   Newberry Springs, CA
   New River Gorge, WV
   New Orleans, LA
   Niagara Falls 
   North Pole, AK
   Oatman, AZ
   Old Faithful Geyser in WY
   Omak Stampede, WA
   Painted Desert, AZ
   Park City, UT (summer)
   Plymouth, NC
   Portage Valley, AK
   Portland, OR
   Prospect OHV Trail System, OR
   Resaca, GA
   Riverside State Park, WA
   Rock City in TN
   Rosa Parks Library and Museum in AL
   Roswell, NM
   Russian River, AK
   Salt Lake City, UT
   San Antonio, TX
   San Diego, CA
   San Juan Islands, WA
   San Francisco, CA
   Santa Catalina Island, CA
   Seattle, WA
   Sedona, AZ
   Shoe Tree in CA
   Shoe Tree in NV
   Silverton, CO
   Sonora, TX
   St. Louis, MO
   St. Paul, MN
   Talkeetna, AK
   Telluride, CO
   Route 66
   Twin Knobs Recreation Area in KY
   Virginia Beach, VA
   Washington D.C.
   Wayne Fitzgerrell State Park in IL
   Williamsburg, VA
   Winom Frazier OHV Area, OR
   Winslow, AZ
   Zion National Park, UT

Planning Our Adventures

For us, each journey begins with the initial heart pangs to venture to a certain part of the world. Then the ideas start coming together . . . ahh, the possibilities . . . and the dream evolves gradually into an actual plan. But, oh, the joy of the dream!  Click here to learn more about how we plan and prepare for our journeys.

Where Are We Now?

Click here to discover where we are now, as well as our uncoming travel plans.


Words for the Heart

“. . . and then the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

Anais Nin