630-632: Coimbra in 3 days!

 630 – Thursday 16th – Coimbra 1 – Orientation

Coimbra (pronounced Koyimbra) is very special. One of the best places we have seen in Portugal, definitely – well worth a 3 night stay.  2 days of hot sunshine and 1 day of showers and colder – woolly hat weather for that day.  Free parking by the Rio Mondego – lots of vans unsurprisingly – and a short walk to the city centre along the river – free rein for OscarK9…  

Easy orientation walking for day 1 – the Botanical Gardens are a haven of tranquility – and the fountain flowed in the river…a very peaceful evening.  

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The very convenient pedestrian walkway from our parking … a couple of lads were throwing themselves off – they confirmed the water is very cold!  It’s the Pedro and Ines bridge … but I don’t think chilly waters and a very sad love story are connected.

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The Botanical Gardens with the aquaduct. 

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631 – Friday 17th – Coimbra 2 – Town walk

We saw tears and love at the fountains – poor Ines – how can you murder someone twice in the same city?  Monastery Santa Clara, a Lilliputian Garden and an Igreja before the Santa Cruz cafe for wine – and the most beautiful impromptu open air music performance in the square below… 

The old Cathedral and the new – mixtures of Manuellian and Baroque – lots of steep hills and steps – good training for all 3 of us…

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Quinta da Lagrimas Gardens – The Fountain of Tears.  The guide said this is THE spot where Ines was murdered at the behest of her father in law, the King.  The red lichen only turned red after her blood flowed!  I just have to wonder if the mad passion Pedro felt (such as exhumation and making subjects kiss her decaying hand) would have survived a longer and more normal course… I just feel that real love deepens despite learning each other’s flaws and foibles, but is not all consuming.

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But what!?  The Santa Clara-a-Velha Monastery claims that THIS was where poor Ines lost her life.  She was buried here until exhumed.  The Monastery had to evacuated as it kept flooding and was only fully excavated and made watertight in the late 1990’s.

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We decided not to pay the high fee to go into the Portugal dos Pequentos (Portugal for the Little Ones), even though the child sized Portuguese monuments sounded interesting.    It was built only in 1940 under the Estado Novo (Salazar regime).  

If we ever end up towing behind Jez – we want a Booze Wagon!

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Igreja Sao Bartolomeu – the site has been used for liturgical use for over 1000 years.

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Originally part of the Santa Cruz Monastery, it became a famous cafe in the 1920’s … we just had to sample a little white wine … 

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The Interior of the Cafe Santa Cruz … the roof was impressive and the stained glass came later.

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Igreja de Santa Cruz:  Interior of the former Santa Cruz Monastery church … handed to the locals as a church after the Portuguese Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1834 … as they’d all got too powerful!  Either side of the alter are the ornate tombs of the first two Kings – Alfonso Henriques and his son, Sancho I.  Another case of a subsequent heir, feeling the existing tombs did not fully dignify their importance and had them exhumed and interred here.  Apparently the bodies had hardly decomposed … not sure how long after death … but no one had to kiss their hands!!!

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The main reason we chose the Cafe Santa Cruz for a wee glass (or two) … some of the students wearing their traditional year 2 & 3 uniform performing beautiful ballads.  Check out the chap doing map leaps.

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Would that be glass number 2, Mr C? ….

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… While O waits patiently.  A pose he seems to have perfected!

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Is it a castle?  No, the Old cathedral – Se Velha.  We did not go fully in due to the costly EUR2.50 each … built under Alfonso Henriques, the first King.  Too small, so a larger church was used …

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… Interior of the Se Nova C16, but owned by the Jesuits, until they were expelled in C18.  Unattractive exterior, but Baroque madness inside … so many cherubs.


632 – Saturday 18th – Coimbra 3 – The University & Museum

Up and at ‘em at dawn – for us, anyway 0730 hours – dog walk and minibrekkie – Oscarusualbrekkie.  Then, we left him in the van alone at 0900 – sorry Oscar.  We know he has left the WSSU Union and transferred to Younight – not Unysign Union – he was unhappy with his subscription level – 5% of his dogfood – per month!  His secretary is no longer Dai – it’s now Hai (you know what’s coming next, folks) Yundai!  Sorry – it just had to be.  It could have been – Toy Yota – or Ma Asda, even.  But not ‘Hill ManImp’. Enough – back to topic, please.

After the sun – came the rain and colder weather.  0930 hours at the University – timed ticket for the Library – anyone could study in this atmosphere – amazing, again.  The whole area of the Library, Chapel and Palace is unlike anything we’ve seen – the top University in Portugal, it is said.  Some of the structures (replaced under Salazar) are very Mussolini-ish but good lines.

The National Museum is on many floors – starting with the Roman Cryptoporticus – underground – at a junction joining 2 main roads – 2 thousand years ago.  Art, paintings, sculptures… maybe a bit much of the dark religious depictions – a la the Ufizzi Gallery in Florence – but of it’s time.  Small discovery – 15th Century alabaster – much favoured for sculpture – best supply in Europe – England – and specifically – Nottingham! 

3 course lunch across the river – under outdoor cover – heavy rain at times – we were dry, luckily.  We did the menu proud – eh, Katherine? (Yes, I over ate – mine and J’s leftovers!)

Now there’s this bar on the north side of the river – we have some minor difficulty passing it without stopping (our third visit in 3 days!) – no such problem this time!  We met a birthday girl – Hannah and her family – all much taken with our boy, Oscar – who isn’t?

Back to Jez for R&R – a fabulous time in Coimbra.



Porta Ferrea (Iron Gate) – the entrance to the old part of the University.  C17, topped with the female figure of wisdom two kings either side – Dinis and Joao III; the founder and a major investor / developer.


Entrances off the Paco das Escolas to the Library, Chapel and Palace.  Originally the Royal Palace of the first King Alfonso Henriques.  

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No pix allowed in the library, so an internet image.  Joao III was asked for a new room for the expanding library … he liked to large things up (he had Mafra built with its amazing library) so he gave them a whole new building on several floors.  The upper is the show case with every artistic feature from coats of arms to chinoiserie paintings, the middle is plain for more serious study and the basement is the academic prison.  Yep,  Universities administered their own law, but students could only be interred for a week.  I wonder what penalty non submission of homework would warrant?


St Michael’s Chapel C15- the organ (2000 sounds) and the beautiful tiles stand out.  Nice that the chapel is still in use – there’s a service every day at midday.  


Inside what was the Royal Palace – the Sala dos Capelos or Ceremonial Hall.  Originally the Throne Hall, this is where the University holds its official ceremonies, such as awarding Doctorates and opening the academic year.  A bit intimidating for the candidates, but this is where PhD oral examinations (viva voce) are held.


The Private Examination Room with 38 past Chancellors images.


 The Bell Tower 1753 is the highest point in the city.  It is 15 minutes slow and of its three bells one is called the cabra – the goat.  So named as first year students had to prance like goats at the end of the day or have older students pounce on them.  Students have removed it’s clanger to prevent it reminding them to go to bed and arise in time for studies!  This courtyard originally had all the classrooms off, but under the Marquis of Pombal, the number of faculties was increased from Cannons, Law, Letters (grammar and philosophy) and Medicine. 


Salazar had many of the old buildings replaced with these square edifices in the 1940s.


The Museu Nacional de Machado de Castro is housed in what was the Bishop’s Palace.  It sits on top of a Roman cryptoporti – being atop a hill, the Romans needed more level land for a Forum, so they built a two tier archway support, which has been excavated.  The rest of the museum included some of the best stone and wooden sculptures … really well laid out.


Inside the cryptoporti.



Some of the finest Alabaster – all the way from … Nottingham.


Life size terracotta 12 apostles that had been made for the Santa Clara convent.  


View down to the old Cathedral.


Lunch and the grey skies and rain have returned.

4 thoughts on “630-632: Coimbra in 3 days!

  1. There’s a pic., of James in a Green coat here and he is the image of our brother Thomas! Lovely place! Oscar has so much patience! Xxxx

    Sent from my iPad



  2. Wow. You have been busy. I loved Tomar, Bathala and Fatima but didn’t enjoy Coimbra at all. Bit too touristy for me and possibly the poor weather didn’t help. Weather can make such a difference in experiencing a place. Luckily I’ve bought the nice weather back to the UK with me which is helping with my travel withdrawal. The cheese & wine I bought back also helps!


  3. Oh wow that looks an interesting place. We love botanical gardens and haven’t been to any on this trip. We absolutely must do that route through Portugal another time. It looks like Oscar is learning how to do the travelling thing. We’re having a last few days in Spain and playing tennis. 😉 M & S x x


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