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Friday, 20 September 2013

Coimbra Attained

We left Lisboa Monday morning about 11am heading to Coimbra. Our Fiat Egg Beater was delivered to our hotel. Let me introduce you to this little car. First of all it could fit comfortably in the trunk of our previous Van. The size of the car actually fits better in the narrow roadways here; but the engine is also small and doesn't like hills or highways. Next time a BMW!

The road signs on Portuguese roads are plentiful and many are very different from North America. Leaving Lisbon our GPS could not get a signal so as Monica shook the Tom Tom I found myself at a set of lights that had red arrows, yellow arrows and eventually many honking horns behind me urging me to move forward. But I also had several rows of cars streaming all ways in front of me. Finally I made it across the intersection, and for just a moment thought I was in Vietnam again. Pulling over behind a line of parked taxis we contemplated our directions. Monica left the car to consult a taxi driver - who spoke French, but not English while I used talk therapy (CBT) to convince the Tom Tom to connect with the world. We were both successful and soon on our way.

Coimbra is normally about a 2 hour drive north of Lisboa. Our navigator (Monica) suggested a few stops along the way. The first destination was Obidos, a charming infinitely photogenic village with a Moorish castle. The streets are narrow and lined with many shops determined to sell local specialities to tourists. There was even a lovely guitar player sitting under an archway using the great acoustics to sell his CDs. Despite the commercial aspects the streets and buildings were worth the visit. We also bought some local cherry Ginjinha and a cork purse.

Our next stop was a small seaside fishing village, Nazare. Although the beach road was lined with restaurants the rest of the village was an authentic working fishing town. We had parking karma and were soon site seeing along the sea. It was windy, otherwise we would have been tempted to take a dip. This town has an amazing long and deep beach.

For lunch we consulted Trip Advisor and found an out of the way restaurant down an alley. The owner was delightful and started us off with small glasses of port. He had spent 7 winters in Toronto working at - of course - Portuguese restaurants. We shared grilled sardines which were delectable followed by delicious grilled Dorado. We also shared Monkfish rice which was less impressive.

Following lunch we drove to Alcobaca where we briefly walked around and saw an old Monastery. Then we were off on the final leg of our journey to Coimbra. Unfortunately at this juncture our Tom Tom no longer recognized the roads. Apparently we were on a rather new highway which was not in our maps. Ever resourceful Monica saved the day while our Tom Tom kept telling us to turn left about every kilometre - a difficult task on a highway.

Arriving in Coimbra we easily found our hotel, the Quinta das Lagramas - a part of a collection of small luxury hotels. The staff were friendly and quickly checked us in and parked our car. Our room was large and vintage with twin beds. Monica liked the room, Joe not so much. Internet connection was poor.

The hotel is located on 50 acres of garden which are beautiful. The public rooms are spectacular with an ancient library, art work everywhere and a lovely pool. When we checked in we asked for a reservation at the "Michelin Star" restaurant only to find out they had recently lost their star. Two meals which we will describe later made it clear why the Star was lost and is still far out of reach.

After a brief rest we headed down to the Wine Tasting Room for the nightly "Welcome Tasting". Our first night we were offered a local sparkling. Since we were still full from our wonderful Nazare lunch we decided to order a small repast from the bar menu; a small soup and a vegetarian sandwich. And then off to bed.

Tomorrow - Exploring Coimbra, Mixed Food Reviews and New Friends

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