Travelling by train has always been a passion and discovering Portugal an objective. That is why I decided to chose somewhere outside Lisbon or Oporto and set off on an adventure!
As I had decided to take a trip to Coimbra more than eight days in advance, my journey just cost me €7.50. I enjoyed the journey, the countryside and the money I saved!
When I arrived in Coimbra, I had my lamprey rice waiting for me on the table (cooked the way they do it in the Mondego valley) and some Pasteis de Santa Clara set aside for dessert! In the afternoon, I went to visit the cathedral, the old town centre and the Academic Museum, not forgetting the famous 'Portugal dos Pequenitos'. I was lucky as it was the first Saturday of the month so I managed to see the “Feira Sem Regras” where anybody who is not a professional trader can sell their things from bric-a-brac to furniture or even second-hand clothes. As night was falling, I got the chance to see the town's academic spirit and remembered my student days here…
The next morning I visited the iconic Quinta das Lágrimas, with its charming Fonte dos Amores, a fountain symbolising the tragic romance between king Pedro and Inês de Castro. I stayed for lunch and took advantage of the visit to look up some old friends who took me to some of Coimbra's most secret places… but I'll let you discover them for yourselves, when you visit this incredible city! :)
When time came for me to return home, it felt good to remember I had spent a great weekend in my own country and with a really cheap journey!
Buy your train ticket at least 8 days in advance and make the most of the discount...
What to see:
Where to eat:
Some journeys you never know where they start. But they always start somewhere, a starting point, a decision, a ticket.
When we get on a train, we are generally intending to go somewhere. The train has a destination with or without us. For us, the destination is much more than a city; it is a friend's hug, a grandmother's smile, the laughter of a young cousin.
When we get on a train we go with longing in our heart and expectations, to rekindle old flames or discover new joys. We are always different when we arrive that when be leave. We shape ourselves to the rolling countryside.
In the sunset outside the window we let thoughts go and leave behind a week of work, study or mandatory tasks. We leave behind what we did and look forward to what we want to do.
In the few hours we spend sitting on a dark green seat we have time to think about the great journey that all our journeys build. The people we have chosen as travel mates and those that appear like the rain, that buy a ticket and never knew they were beside us.
They often ask – too often – where we are heading. But does our destination interest them? Can't we just appreciate the journey and hug the destinations that inspire us? Give journeys their time, our heart begs our eyes to let us absorb the colours and our lips the flavours... This journey - life - is made of many destinations.
Today we're heading off for Coimbra
They call it the “Pearl of the Mondego”, because it is the beauty of this city that makes the waters of the river shine. Home to one of the oldest universities in the country, Coimbra is often called the “city of knowledge” or “city of students”.
Coimbra university was founded in 1290 by King D. Dinis, and it is the reason the city dresses in black in May. The students wear the traditional academic clothes and the academic activities in this month make the city explode with life.
Music is more than just a tradition in Coimbra. The oldest chorus in Portugal is the 'Orfeão Académico de Coimbra', which was founded in 1880, but the history of music in the city doesn't stop here: The Coimbra fado music was born with the habit of students to take their guitars to the city where they studied. The fado was generally sung at night in the streets of Coimbra, only with male voices dressed in their traditional capes. Serenades are also common and there is a serenade sung at this time of year to the city itself, in front of the cathedral.
And if the guitars brought fado, they also cry in the fingers of talented musicians: Carlos Paredes was born in Coimbra and although he was greatly influenced by his life in Lisbon, he never forgot his Coimbra roots.
Around Coimbra we can also visit the Quinta das Lágrimas, the stage of one of the great Portuguese love stories: Pedro and Inês. The farm is home to two important fountains for history, the Fonte dos Amores – which gets its name because it witnessed the couple's love – and the Fonte das Lágrimas – alluding to Inês' tears when her love was assassinated. This fountain still lets us see the red bottom, allegedly Inês' blood .
About 16 km from Coimbra we can visit Conímbriga: a huge archaeological site with remains of Roman dwellings. There are references that say this city was on the Roman road from Lisbon to Braga.
See the photos of this outing here.