A Travellerspoint blog

A Sunny Portuguese Sunday

semi-overcast 23 °C

We’ve been spectacularly fortunate with the weather since we arrived in soggy Santiago a week ago. It has certainly rained – poured on occasions – but only at night or when we’ve been travelling. Our arrival in the ancient city of Coimbra is a good example. Never heard of Coimbra? Neither had we. But it’s Portugal’s third largest city and it was home to the country’s only university until 1911, (this has to be a record, though not an enviable one). Much of the university is housed in magnificent palaces and historic buildings clinging to the steep sides and top of a small mountain…
The skies opened as we drove into the city during the evening rush hour and we would never have found our hotel in the narrow, winding streets without our GPS. But, by the time we had checked in the clouds lifted and the rain stopped. Coimbra University is similar to Vancouver Island University in Nanaimo in that there isn’t a patch of flat land in sight...
but VIU never had buildings like this…
Or a church like this…
Churches, cathedrals and monasteries form the backbone of historical buildings in Portugal and many of them are still in sacred service, albeit catering to a dwindling congregation. We thought that visiting religious buildings on Sunday might prove difficult but, joy of joys, not only were they open for business on the Sabbath – there were no admission fees. So now we can take you on an absolutely gratis tour of the incredibly ornate Monastery of Santa Maria da Vitoria in Batalha. Part of the building was never completed after the great earthquake of 1755, but the giant pillars point to the enormity of the planned structure...

And then on to the vast Cistercian abbey in Alcobaça…
This abbey, completed in 1222, housed 999 friars together with hundreds of novitiates and workers. Despite earthquakes and wars the abbey remained in use until 1834. Here’s James trying out the kitchen table for size…
While Sheila wonders how much washing up she would have to do in this sink...
Two extensive abbeys before Sunday lunch is just about all we can manage, so now we’re off to visit a castle or two – so much history and so little time.

Posted by Hawkson 14:27 Archived in Portugal

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I have always loved churches and castles and these are so different and beautiful. We think we would love to follow in your footsteps.

by keithandhelen

That kitchen table is the perfect height for a chef's work surface, eh, Jim? Sitting at it in a chair, however, would put my morning coffee cup at chest level. I thought everyone was short way back then or maybe they weren't allowed to sit down.

by R and B

Good to see you're on the road again, so to speak. We just returned from our cruise through Eastern Canada and New England. We also had superb weather and enjoyed our adventure.

by Terri & Paul

See, I do read your blog and find it quite enjoyable too.

by Peggi Diebel

Thank you for your easy to follow prose and stunning pictures. Love the ancient buildings.

by Janet

Oh I love Coimbra! that's where I got my inspiration for Malaspina's strategic plan! What, you say? I was at an EAIE PD session on Strategic planning and internationalization. Other than that, that's where I first drank port - and I haven't looked back. Also, heard my first Fado! Fabulous! Sheila and Jim, we just missed crossing paths. We were in soggy Lisbon three weeks ago. Looking forward to following your travels. Bronwyn and Edwin

by Bronwyn and Edwin

Beautifully presented as usual lots of information and first class pictures.

by david henderson

999 busy friars on the wall - take one down and pass it around.... Or is that 99 bottles of beer? If you could stand the crowds, the abbey looks like a great address. I think the library in Coimbra is one on the list of great world libraries. Likely part of University.

Pleased to report that we are getting our share of sun now.

by Tom

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