A walled fortress city, the oldest university in Portugal and Fado…what a wonderful two days. After we left Lisbon, we headed north to the beach town of Figueira da Foz.
There our guide took us to a gorgeous university in the nearby town of Coimbra (pronounced Quim-bra). What a view these university students have. Established in 1290, Part of the university was a 15th century palace that the king gifted to Coimbra. The university also houses a fabulous library (no photos allowed) from the 15th century. Visiting the library is by appointment only and just a few people are allowed in at one time in order to protect the ancient books. The university grounds are beautiful and we got to see a private chapel with a HUGE organ and the room where dissertations are defended. The 20,000 students have to put up with just as many tourists on their campus. A bit of graffiti on a wall on the way to the university provided the sentiment of at least one student. It said “tourists – my university is not your postcard.”
After the university tour we were on our own for lunch in Coimbra. After lunch our tour leader surprised us with private musical entertainment…a Fado presentation by Coimbra University students. Fado music is a form of Portuguese singing that is often associated with pubs , cafés and restaurants. This music genre has much earlier origins but is generally originated in the 1820’s in Portugal. Fado is known for how expressive in nature it is, as well as being profoundly melancholic.
In fado music, the singer will sing about the hard realities of the daily life, balancing both resignation and hopefulness. And sometimes, the ballads are love songs. It can be described by using the Portuguese word “saudade”, which means “longing” and stands for a feeling of loss. . Fado music often has one or two 12 string guitars, one or two violas, and sometimes a small 8 string, bass.
In Figueira da Foz we visited a kindergarten/grade school to learn about Portuguese education and completed the evening with dinner at a local family’s home.
Before leaving Figueira da Foz we visited their local indoor market. Oh my gosh!!! I was in heaven. Yes, I took way to many photos of the fruits, vegetables, flowers and fish. But everything was beautiful and fresh and I couldn’t resist. I so wish we had markets like these in Oregon so we could purchase fresh food every day. Sigh.
Our last stop before going to Porto as the walled fortress city of Obidos (pronounced “Oh-bee-dosh”). Winding cobblestone streets (well basically almost every street in every city/town in Portugal is cobbled – how did they have time to lay all those stones?!), bright stucco buildings, beautiful painted doors, and incredible cherry liquor poured into small chocolate “cups”. Several of us found a lovely place to eat lunch literally under a large pear tree. Nothing better than eating local cheese, fruit and wine outside in the shade.
After our arrival in Porto, we we toured salt beds and learned about how this particular company continues to produce and “farm” the salt the old fashioned way. All by hand. Several salt beds in the area are owned and farmed by individuals who sell the salt locally. Bill stopped by one of the beds and purchased salt from a very happy salt producer. Next stop….Porto! Enjoy!