Get Me To Coimbra
My last day in Porto hadn’t had the best start, and by the time I boarded the evening train for Coimbra I was pretty fed up and absolutely shattered. All I wanted was to be in Coimbra, tucked up in bed and just able to go to sleep. As the train rattled along, I noticed we were following the coastline. The sun began to set and it was the most stunning, relaxing and spirit-lifting view. I videoed what I could, but just sat staring out of the window, wanting to soak up every moment.
The perfect end to a less than perfect day, I was soon in Coimbra, making the quick change from Coimbra-B to Coimbra station. As I stepped out of the station contemplating the walk to my hotel for the next few nights, I spotted it on the other side of the road. What a booking, and it couldn’t have been a more welcome sight after being absolutely shattered!
Let’s Get Going!
With just one full day in the former Portuguese capital, I had my walking shoes on and on a mission to fit in as much as I could. Needless to say my ‘walking shoes’ were sandals, and weren’t so great in the old city covered in smooth cobble stone streets. After waking up to stunning views of the river, I chucked on my sandals and skated over the cobble stones past the charming little shops to Igreja de Santa Cruz. Once the world’s noisiest tour group left, there weren’t many people in there and I got a little freaked out as I explored the quiet reliquary and other back rooms. All I could think of was the room full of remains and I quickly made my way back to the main church area and hopefully where I’d see other alive people.
Stepping out into the sunny courtyard outside the church, I was so pleased to feel the warmth and noise of other people. Trekking up an unnecessary hill then down some stairs, the next stop was the Manga Cloister. A pretty water feature with a small cloister, I grabbed a drink nearby to sit in the sun and soak up the views.
Passing Fonte Nova, it was up another hill to get to the market, Mercado Municipal D. Pedro V. As I neared the huge building, I realised there was a distinct lack of other people coming and going. It soon became apparent as I entered the building, as all of the stalls except a handful were closed, and the expansive two-storey market hall was eerily quiet. No problem, I would just use my imagination of what it’d be like with all of the stalls open and place buzzing with activity…
Next up was a tour of the city’s gardens. The first few lining the streets were smaller than I’d expected, and as I got to the top of yet another hilly street I took a short stroll in Jardim de Sereia to find it was a bit neglected and not somewhere I’d be spending a long time exploring. After another quick rest from the heat, I made my way to the botanical gardens. Not quite what I was expecting, the gardens weren’t very well tended, brown and just a bit overgrown. There were signs everywhere about a storm that had happened a few months before that they were still trying to tidy up from, but after a little while exploring I made my way to the university up, you guess it, yet another hill.
As I neared the university I was getting tired. The combination of heat and hills were draining, and when I spotted some more stairs by the university I could have cried. Quick rest for my legs, then up the stairs to find the university square, and all the people huddled in the shaded areas. I took a few photos before moving on to another square in the university grounds. The buildings were stunning and had so many impressive statues, I couldn’t help but think what a disappointment my university was in comparison!
The main university square is surrounded by buildings on three sides, and breathtaking panoramic views on the other side. The combination of heat, hunger and hills meant I was absolutely shattered, and sat for a while on the library steps admiring the view from the shade. Making the most of the break, I caught up with a friend back home and before I knew it time was getting on and I was running out of time to visit the two churches that were still on my to-see list.
The new and old cathedrals are right next to each other, and by the time I arrived, both appeared to be closed. Oops. Making a note to get up earlier tomorrow to fit in a visit to at least one before I left in the morning, I decided it was finally time to get some grub. After what felt like a whole day climbing the hills of Coimbra, it was finally downhill! I made a quick stop to Torre de Anto, which I completely walked past without realising before backtracking and admiring the view from the tower.
As I carried on heading down through the charming narrow streets to the river, a gust of wind blew through and caught me unaware while wearing a dress. Thankfully there was just one other person in the street, who claimed he hadn’t seen anything as my dress blew up revealing everything. I found the whole thing hilarious, he scuttled off embarrassed as anything!
Making my way to the riverside, I passed by a bakery that had such delicious cakes in the window it would have been rude to just walk by and not buy anything. So, cake purchased, I grabbed some other bits for dinner and wandered along the riverside back to the hotel for dinner in bed and to watch the stunning sunset from my balcony.
Grand Plans With Less Than Grand Execution
Up early the next morning, the plan was to head back to the cathedrals that had been closed yesterday. For some strange reason, even though I was up earlier than normal, and my room was only big enough to fit a double bed and me, I still found enough to procrastinate with while getting ready that I didn’t have enough time to get to even one church and back in time for my train. In fact, because I was ready so early I was lulled in to a false sense of security and nearly missed the train. It’s lucky the hotel was the other side of the road from the station, as I had to run from my room, and only just made it on to the train. I would say lesson learnt, but you’ll soon find out I didn’t. Oh well…I was Lisbon bound again!