England has Oxford, France has Le Sorbonne, Florida has Gainesville and Portugal has Coimbra. Yes, Coimbra is Portugal’s university town with lots of interesting things to see and do.
We arrived in Coimbra around 2 p.m. on a Saturday. Having never been there, I was not impressed with the hotel’s location in sort of dumpy part of the new town near the station and the river. In fact, the hotel staff had to convince me that Coimbra was worth an overnight stay. As it turned out, the Hotel Oslo has a wonderfully helpful staff, a good location to the sights and clean and modern rooms. I am glad I stayed in Coimbra.
I split up my afternoon at a medieval fair in the Cathedral Square and down by the river in a shady park. My friends Susan, Mrs. Mc and Lindsay are traveling with me on this whirlwind trip through central Spain and Portugal. Consequently, we kind of take it slow and easy because Mrs. Mc is a bit fragile and about 25 years older than me. However, she is a trooper and is willing to try and do almost anything. When it comes to climbing up and down steep cobbled lanes, stairs and paths… it’s slow, but steady, going.
Today, the climb from the river to the top of town was crowded with about 3,000 people attending the medieval fair and once we arrived at the cathedral square we all knew it was not the place for us. There was all sorts of meat being cooked and sold right off the spit. Beer and wine was flowing freely and local were dressed in medival period costumes acting out their various roles. If it were not so hot and crowded it could have been fun, but with steep streets and unsure footing this was not a pleasant experience.
Down by the riverside was a different story. Pleasantly cool and shady, we all could have taken a nap on a park bench. Instead, we enjoy a drink at the riverside cafe while watching local children learning to sail in their own little one-man sailboats.
Afterwards, we took advantage of the traditional siesta by resting back at the hotel for a few hours.