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October 8, 2017 - Porto, Portugal

John had impressed on us the need to leave by 8am but breakfast didn't officially start until 7.30am. We went down to check-out and hopefully to breakfast at 7.15am. Other tour groups were just heading in for breakfast so we tagged along.

We left Fatima a bit before 8am for the drive to Coimbra. The Universidade de Coimbra is the oldest university in Portugal and John had booked an early timeslot for a tour which gave access to view the library which houses a number of old books. Some of the books on display also had the original copper engravings for the illustrations. It all seemed a bit rushed as we were marched through the various exhibit spaces. This time the pace was forced on John by other tour groups that queued up behind.

Time in the campus quadrangle gave us time to reflect before we walked down to the riverside through the old town. There was a lot of student digs and graffiti around as well as a few shops selling tourist tat including recordings of Fardo music, a sort of melancholic, medieval serenade. In the square by the river we had coffee and a pastry and a bit of a chance to walk around.

On the way to our next stop we pulled in at a roadside restaurant that advertised roast suckling pig and we were herded into for lunch. Perhaps John thought of that as a taste of Portuguese culture but it wasn't for Margaret or me. We decided not to stay but had to wait around for the best part of two hours with nothing to see. The place was on a highway interchange so hardly anywhere to walk. We did walk along by a furniture store and some car yards and also watched in amazement as group after group queued up for Sunday lunch. The others agreed the restaurant was a waste of time as well and a bit of a shambles for them trying to pay the bill.

The bus then drove on to Aveiro were there was plenty to see, including a Cathedral, and choices of places to eat and only ten minutes away. Instead we only had fifty minutes for a look around or a 45 minute boat ride on the 'moliceiros', and maybe have a 'oves moles' (sweet filled with egg custard). It would have been a great spot for lunch.

We all filed back into the bus for the drive on to Porto were John had arranged to visit Burmeister Cellars this afternoon rather than tomorrow. There we had a tour to see Port wine production and to taste a white port and a tawny port. Nerrida didn't want hers so Max claimed an extra glass of Tawny.

It was probably a good idea to do the tasting this afternoon. The group was happier for the drive back into Porto through the old town to drop most of the group at Hotel Teatro. We went on with John and the bus to Hotel Vila Galé. The room there was similar to last night's hotel but we are on 17th Floor with views to the ocean. That would have been nice on a good day but there was so much bushfire smoke around that we could only see the sun glints through the haze.

We had a beer in the bar and Margaret talked to John about splitting the group and the sort of bus we will have for the next few days. A smaller bus this time for 18 plus the guide. That may be in contemplation of narrow streets in medieval towns but it sounds like a disaster in the making.

There were no cafés or restaurants within cooee of the place so we had dinner in the hotel restaurant. €25/person for a buffet, otherwise there was a la carte. Pork loin for Margaret and Sirloin for Max; both were good and filling. A glass of Santa Vitoria red with dinner. Rice Pudding for Margaret and Custard with caramelised banana for Max. Coffee to follow. €50 but much better than a buffet.

I walked outside afterward and confirmed that a small bus parked outside was one from Grayline and Cityrama and counted the seats. Five rows of three (as two plus one) and a row of four at the back plus a seat for the guide and the driver's seat. That means there will be one spare seat with little room for luggage. At least we are based here for three nights but when we leave Porto there would be no room for our bags.


Pictures

Chapel at Universidade de Coimbra
Brass inset on the footpath
View to Coimbra from the hills
Moliceiros in the canals of Aveiro
 
 

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