University of Coimbra

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    • Day 34

      Aveiro to Coimbra

      October 3, 2015 in Portugal ⋅ 🌙 19 °C

      Saturday morning we once again packed up our things, unfolded our bikes and hit the road at around 9:00 towards our next destination, Coimbra (pronounced Kuweem-bray).

      As was the case on Thursday, the temperature was a cool 14ºC, but today the skies were overcast as we started the ride. Since the only biking top I brought with me is sleeveless, I have to admit, I found it to be a little chilly.

      Once we managed to find our way out of the city, we settled into a nice slow rhythm along route N-335 and I quickly forgot about the chill in the air.

      When we arrived in Porto, one of the first things I did was to re-inflate our bikes' tires using my little hand pump. According to the manufacturer, you're supposed to be able to get up to 125 psi out of it and, since our tires only need a maximum of 90 psi, I figured we were good to go. I don't know, maybe I need to work out more, but there's no way I could get the pressure up higher than about 70 psi. Traveling distance, up steep hills carrying 20 lbs of weight on the rack with spongy tires makes for an unhappy Brenda, so we stopped at a gas station to top things up. After a couple of minutes of my futile attempts at trying to figure out how to use the pump, the station attendant, a very sweet Portuguese woman who was perfectly fluent in French, came out and not only explained how the pump worked, she filled up all four of our tires! And the kicker was that unlike in Canada, the gas stations here don't charge you for air. She wished us bon voyage and bom dia and went back to her routine.

      After about 25 kms on N-335, Google maps told me to take a left, off the main road.

      Now, the problem with Google Maps here in Portugal is that the biking route option is unavailable. I could choose the vehicle route, but that typically takes you along highways that are off limits to cyclists. The other option, the one I chose, is the pedestrian route that sometimes has us going the wrong way down one-way streets or around the wrong side of a roundabout.

      Today, after about 5 kms of riding southeasterly away from N-335, Google maps told me to turn onto a narrow dirt road that appeared to be in about as good condition as a Montreal street in late March. Hmmmm, maybe we'll just keep going.

      After trying to lure me onto similar dirt paths four more times, Miss Google finally brought me to N-224 and then N-111 that brought us right in to Coimbra. Our little detour cost us only about 5 additional kilometers, but it was well worth it.

      Overall, the route was fairly flat, but there were a few decent hills that made us work hard to climb up, and were a real treat going down. The scenery was beautiful, particularly when we were off the main roads. The rolling hills were covered with grapevines, orange and lemon groves and olive orchards.

      They're calling for some wet weather over the next few days so we're planning to wait for the rain to stop before we head out to our next destination.

      Distance traveled today: 63.5 kms.
      Moving time: 3:57
      Average Speed: 16.0 kms
      Elevation Gain: 389m
      Total distance biked so far: 150 kms

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    • Day 35

      Rainy Days in Coimbra

      October 4, 2015 in Portugal ⋅ ☀️ 20 °C

      We knew when we booked our hotel for four nights here that we were in for some rainy weather in Coimbra. Had it not been for the Weather Network's forecast, we likely would have only planned on a two day visit, but riding in the wind and rain is very unappealing, particularly this early into our journey.

      As it turns out, there's lots to see and do in this Unesco World Heritage city, so between showers we'll be able to make the most of our time here.

      Coimbra is a preserved medieval town that served as Portugal's capital in the 12th and 13th centuries. The university was founded in 1290 and is the 10th oldest continuous operating university in the world (for trivia fans, Bologna is #1 followed closely by Oxford).

      Like Porto, the topography here is extremely hilly with the university sitting high atop the hillside. The narrow, winding cobbled streets that we became accustomed to in Porto are everywhere here, with medieval stone walls and ancient buildings bordering both sides.

      When we arrived on Saturday we strolled through the old city center and up the hill to the university. Unfortunately, as we neared the university, a construction crew was operating a crane on the street we were climbing and had blocked off any further access. We had to turn around and head back down the hill, but we took a different route to take in as many of the sights as possible. Beautiful scenery and vistas were everywhere.

      As predicted, we awoke Sunday morning to the sound of wind driven rain pelting down onto the windows of our room. By noon the rain had pretty much stopped falling, so we ventured out to try some of the local goodies.

      We've realized that the Portuguese have a very serious sweet tooth.There are pastry shops literally at every corner, all of them doing a very brisk business. Right around the corner from our room is Pastelaria Briosa, a shop that displays many awards for their creations. I had a piece of Bolo Formigo, a sweet, moist almond, walnut and chocolate cake that was scrumptious. Brenda had five almond meringue cookies (okay, she had three and I had two) that were also spectacular.

      Afterwards, as we walked along the plaza, we noticed a sign advertising VII Mostra de Docaria. With our limited Portuguese, we were able to figure out that it was a show with something to do with desserts and cooking demonstrations. Since it was happening at that very moment, we got directions to the place and set off. As instructed, we climbed the hill towards the university, went past the statue of Diaz, skirted the Botanical Garden, walked past the Pope, admired the Roman aqueduct and went around the penitentiary.

      I've been to countless wine tastings where all kinds of producers are offering samples of their products, but this was the first time I've ever seen pastry owners behind the tables. Pastries from all over Portugal were being offered up by some of the best shops around. Many of them looked similar, but each region had their own twist. We bought a couple of pieces to bring home for dessert,bolo rançoso for Brenda and toucinho do céu for me.

      After we had finished drooling over all the treats, as we headed back towards our room, the weather was worsening and we decided to go back to our room, crack open our €3.00 bottle of sparkling wine and eat our desserts.

      It doesn't get sweeter than that.
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    • Day 17

      Coimbra Altstadt

      November 11, 2016 in Portugal ⋅ ☀️ 15 °C

      Wir erreichen unser heutiges Tagesziel und schauen uns die Universitätsstadt Coimbra an. Klingt vielversprechend, ist aber nicht unbedingt einen Ausflug wert. Man kann mal anhalten, wenn es sowieso auf dem Weg liegt, aber es würde sich nicht unbedingt lohnen den Weg extra auf sich zu nehmen um etwas besonderes oder sehr sehenswertes zu erwarten.
      Das Zentrum und die kleinen Gassen laden zu einem Schlenderspaziergang ein, vorbei an ein paar Barrockgebäuden. Die Universität an sich erinnert an einen 70er Jahre Plattenbau. Um es etwas ins Licht zu rücken wurden ein paar Skulpturen davor gestellt.

      Die Atmosphäre in der Stadt ist entspannt und man sieht viele junge Menschen. Es gibt auch ein paar schöne Stadtgärten, in denn man noch etwas verweilen kann. Wie gesagt. Wenn man sowieso dran vorbei fährt, kann man da mal zum kurzen pausieren anhalten.

      Parkplätze sind im Zentrum kostenlos und es gibt an mehreren Stelle freies WLAN.
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    • Day 157

      Universidade de Coimbra, 1290

      January 28, 2022 in Portugal ⋅ ☀️ 14 °C

      The University of Coimbra is one of the 10 oldest in Europe.
      Initially founded in Lisbon, it was moved several times until King Joao III permanently established it in Coimbra.

    • Day 5

      La dolce vita

      October 4, 2015 in Portugal ⋅ ☀️ 23 °C

      In the short week that we've been in Portugal, we couldn't help but notice the abundance of "pastelarias" or pastry shops there are in every city, town and village we've come across... and they're always full of locals.

      So what do you do on a rainy Sunday when almost everything is closed? You join the locals for a moment of indulgence because the pastelarias are open! After returning to Cafe A Brasileira for a big bowl of yummy vegetable soup, we fell off the vegan bandwagon and sat ourselves down at the award winning Pastelaria Briosa where Roch ordered a bolo formigo and some almendrado cookies to share.

      The bolo formigo was a very moist cake that tasted of walnuts, coconut and chocolate chips. The almendrados are gluten-free cookies made with mainly almonds, eggs and sugar, and they have a wonderful chewy texture.

      Coming out of the cafe, ohh sweet serendipity, we see a poster for a pastry show at the Antiguo Convento de Sant'Anna... happening today. How could we not go?

      With determination, we trudged up and up and up the hill and eventually found the Sant'Anna convent. On display and for sale were pastries from some of the best pastelarias in Coimbra. We ogled and drooled at every table, tasted free samples or simply feasted our eyes. At Doçaria Paula Rosa's table, we even found gluten-free treats so as we left the convent, down and down and down the hill we skipped swinging our little pastry box of "bolo rançoso" and "toucinho do céu".

      PS: Bolo rançoso is made with pumpkin, ground almonds, egg yolks and sugar. We mistakenly thought "toucinho do céu" meant touch of heaven but later learned that it meant 'bacon' of heaven! The name was so derived because the traditional version of the cake was made with lard. Thank goodness the modern version is more Esther-the-wonder-pig friendly!
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    • Day 6

      A Toca do Gato

      October 5, 2015 in Portugal ⋅ 🌙 20 °C

      Another rainy day in Coimbra and a good day to curl up with a book, do laundry and take a nap.

      We managed to get out in the morning to visit the municipal market before the downpour. The fruit stalls at Coimbra's market had the best prices we've seen since arriving in Portugal. We couldn't resist buying a big bag of the juicy sweet green figs on sale for 1.99€ per kilo. On the way home, we stopped for some roasted chestnuts, 10 for 1.50€.

      Later in the afternoon, we once again ventured out, this time in search for a late lunch. Our intention was to go to a vegan restaurant we found on the Happy Cow website but we got sidetracked by "A Toca do Gato", a little mama-papa restaurant with only 3 tables. We asked if they could serve us something vegan and they offered up vegetable soup, salad, and rice with beans. Sound great, we thought, so in we waltzed and sat ourselves down on 2 of the 3 bar stools since all 3 tables were full.

      I've been wanting to go to a mama-papa restaurant since arriving in Portugal and this one did not disappoint. The place was quaint and unpretentious. The other patrons were all locals and as tiny as the restaurant was. The food was simple but delicious. We each had a home made vegetable soup followed by a plate of beans and rice, followed by salad... then followed by another plate of beans and rice and another salad! Oh what gluttons we were! The total including a glass of wine for Roch: 10.60€
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    • Day 7

      Dux - Petiscos e Vinhos

      October 6, 2015 in Portugal ⋅ ☀️ 18 °C

      The sun was supposed to come back out today so we decided to visit the university and its library dating from antiquity. Since the botanical garden was virtually next door, we went in for a stroll. The sun, however, remained shy behind the clouds and we had to duck under trees for rain cover on more than one occasion.

      We eventually strolled through the botanical garden and emerged on the far side and took a roundabout route to get home so we could see more of Coimbra.

      We needed to stop for a washroom break so we went into Dux, a "petiscos & vinhos", which is the Portuguese equivalent of a tapas & wine bar. The restaurant looked rather bland from the outside but inside, it was quite swank. They provided us with an electronic menu in English and we ended up ordering all their veggie options: soup, sautéed vegetables, cabbage greens, rice cooked with onions, and fried potatoes.

      We were so happy to see veggie options other than soup and salad on the menu. Everything was delicious but I must say the cabbage greens sautéed with garlic was exceptional. Total cost for our veggie fare was 16€, including a generous glass of red wine for Roch.

      PS: I later discovered that Dux is rated #1 out of 267 restaurants in Coimbra on TripAvisor
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    • Day 6

      Lazy day.

      September 3, 2017 in Portugal ⋅ 🌙 18 °C

      I was not feeling real well yesterday (Saturday) but I did go to mass. I enjoyed it and the priest spoke clearly and I was able to understand some of the words in Portuguese that were similar to Spanish. The rest of the day I just walked around São Miguel, rested and did laundry.Read more

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