Day 4 – Coimbra

University of Coimbra

The next morning, the weather wasn’t very cooperative. It started out very overcast and devolved into a rainy morning. Coimbra is a good-sized city, mainly known for the University of Coimbra. Housed in part in an old castle, the schools of medicine, law, literature, and other disciplines are in very WPA-looking buildings from the 1940s. The new students (male and female) wear black suits and long capes, reminiscent of Harry Potter’s Hogwarts School.

Our first stop was to the chapel in the old castle at the university. Although unused for regular services, it is rented for weddings and special religious events. The wall tiles are spectacular. The gold detailing is impressive and the organ is one of the oldest and largest still in operation.

From there, we went to the castle’s library. The books are from as old as the 12th century. The main room is three stories tall, with intricate wood carvings and Chinoise decoration in gold paint. The relationship between Portugal and China was very close when the library was built hundreds of years ago. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take any photos. The books, however, may be borrowed or used under special circumstances, like writing a book or for a Ph.D. thesis. In any case, they are also digitized in the university’s main library for everyone to see and use.

By this time, the rain made its appearance in earnest. We had hoped to walk together down the winding streets to the central part of town. However, the flat cobblestone sidewalks can be slippery, so we all went down on the bus.

Now, it was time for lunch. Some folks went back to the hotel to rest, some to the Centro area, and some, including us, to the nearby mall. We knew we could find something for lunch there.

My main goal was to visit Primark, a discount department store I enjoyed in Madrid. This location was much smaller (Madrid’s location was five stories tall). It is a crazy place but very trendy and incredibly inexpensive. What can I say? It is in my DNA! I returned to the hotel with a bagful of various clothes and assorted other goodies. Good thing that I have plenty of room in my bag. No photos needed!

After a short rest, we went back to Il Tartufo for another great meal. Sadly, it didn’t live up to last night’s level. We just chose items that didn’t measure up. Once back at the hotel, we ran into a few members of our group enjoying some port, the special fortified wine of Portugal. We are now converted port drinkers. We slept well that night.

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