Monday, January 29, 2007

Coimbra for Business and Pleasure

Sorry for the lack of posting over the weekend. I was on a trip to the city of Coimbra, about halfway between Lisbon and Porto, which is the home of the the country's oldest university. We (my sidekick, R, and I) trekked up on Saturday for a series of training sessions, before having Sunday to explore and enjoy the place.

Just a word on the training sessions: I had feared the worst before I left, and indeed felt somewhat morose after the first seminar (involving reading a lot of pieces of paper blu-tacked to the wall) and lunch (it took over an hour for my spaghetti to turn up, and it was disgusting when it arrived), but a couple of the afernoon sessions were actually quite interesting. Of course there were moments where we had to get out of our chairs and read more pieces of paper blu-tacked to the wall, but overall the thing could have been a lot worse. And R and I were able to escape sharply afterwards and find a decent place to stay.

I'll let the pictures do most of the talking about Coimbra. Suffice to say it's a pleasant city to spend a day (although I doubt you'd need more time than that) with narrow winding streets in the old city around the cathedral and university, and some attractive buildings and views of the countryside.

This is the main square of the old university. If you see one thing in Coimbra, you should see the old university. We got there early and that's the best time to visit: by about 11.30, there were loads of coach parties milling around.

The highlight of the university is the ancient library. The decoration is magnificent, although they don't have any Catherine Cookson. Apparently a colony of bats lives inside to eat the insects that might damage the books, but we couldn't spot them.

Coimbra has a reputation as a party hearty student town, and we spotted some evidence. The rags you can see hanging from the branches and strewn about the ground are in fact trousers and shirts, and although we didn't see any young people running about in the altogether, there was a stench of beer around those trees.

I find something about Portuguese cathedrals a little disappointing. They don't have the great gothic fronts that adorn so many in England or other countries. Coimbra's is typically solid, but somewhat uninspiring.

Here's a view of the centre from across the river. The university precinct is right on top of the hill. You'll spot that the weather got a bit gloomy in the afternoon, as did my mood when I discovered the "miniature Portugal" theme park was closed for annual repairs. Still, if you search hard enough, you can find plenty of places to enjoy a cup of tea or a sugar-laden pastry.

So that's that. I'll stick more pics of other cities up as I visit them.


Anonymous said...

No photos of your sidekick then?

Rebirth 2.0 said...

Firstly, I second the first comment.

Secondly, I completely agree; there is nothing more disappointing than a cathedral that looks like a sandcastle.

It reminds me of Disappointment, a cape in southwest Washington, named so by a British sea captain because of how narrow the river was.

No sandcastles there, mind.