Off to University! – Coimbra Portugal 2004

Sunday, July 25, 2004  10:25pm Figueira da Foz, Portugal

One week since we left Canada – seems so long ago, yet so recent.  Tomorrow we leave the coast for the interior – where the fires are raging.  The A1 was actually closed today right at the section we will be taking tomorrow – just south, between here and Situbal.  Hopefully it will rain soon.


George changed 500E for us today – hopefully we can get more changed tomorrow.  We’ved decided to head for Evora rather than Coimbra since it’s more en route and should be a large enough city to have a Bank of Portugal.

We watched the Real Madrid vs. Benfica (Spain vs. Portugal) game.  Ended up a tie – B. scored in extra time to tie it up.  A “for show” game – Mike thinks it’s the 100th (could be longer?) anniversary for Benfica, so they are playing lots of exhibition type games.

We got away by about 8:30 am today for Coimbra.  We got there by about 9:20 (gas 52E) and parked for free.  We did LOTS of walking.  First had some breakfast then headed through the old town to the Santa Clara Eglise.  Passed a souvenir shop and picked up some tile and cork mats (2@5E) for Mum & Dad & Mr. Cameron and thimbles and cockerel for Natalie & Daria (prob. for them)

Mass was on at the church so Marucia attended, but we walked up further to  other old churches, both which were closed.  Then we proceeded to lose everyone.  Mike & Marucia w/o walkie / talkie – George with a w/t and the boys and I with a w/t.  After about an hour of serious steep climbing and descending to the university we finally met up.  Walkie / talkies don’t work very well between the old buildings and around all the wires.

The boys hold on to tour the university (13E).  We saw the exam hall – where they now hand out the doctorate degrees.  From there you walked around outside for a magnificent view of the city.

The hall was full of ornamental detail – very much like the Portuguese trademark.  From ornate carpets or tile mosaic or inlay floor, you move up to the tile wainscoting then to elaborate wall painting then to crown molding and painted ceiling.  Gold foil is very common and carved wood also.

Next we saw the Bibliotheque Joanina.  Again fine detail everywhere and still lots of old books kept on shelves (behind chicken wire).

The chapel was off limits as there was a wedding taking place – just like Mikey & I!  So we didn’t get to go in there.

While we waited for the library to open, 2 students (1 from Toronto, 1 from Brasil – both of Portuguese ancestry) spoke of being a student at Coimbra.  The robes have a great history. Friends can tear the robes.  You know who is available by the rear side.  A large tear is made by your ‘date’.  If it sewn back up, you are available again.  Hats used to be used to carry things and also filled with stones for protection during medieval times.  Groups of students also create singing groups and tour around the cities.


Next off for lunch – we were Very thirsty – food was ok but not great.

Then over the river to another church and the tomb of Queen Saint Isabella (late 1200’s – not of Columbus fame).

Mike wants me to go to bed now – so I’ll be quick.

Then another refreshing drink (Kyle could not resist giving a beggar money en route) and walk back to the car. Stopped to pick up water on the way home, but the food stores were closed.  Had dinner instead (20E) and Mike bought some more film (?E)

One last note – the smell of fig trees is unique – almost like Pina Colada’s

lights out…Good night I guess…

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