In September 2022 we took a trip to Portugal for 10 days. Read about the first part of our journey in this post: Portugal Part One – Lisbon & Sintra.
We arrived at the walled city of Obidos late in the day. There are no non-residential cars allowed inside the city walls so per the directions from our B&B, we parked in the free lot just outside of the walls and walked in.
We would only be staying in Obidos for one night. While there are more conventional places to stay outside the city walls, we wanted the full experience so chose a B&B inside the walls. As a result, the place where we stayed was a very, very, very old building. It was visually charming and we appreciated all the architectural details both inside and out. Unfortunately, it was not a great place for sleeping as the interior absolutely reeked of mildew, the AC was finicky at best, the advertised wifi non-existent, and the beds were so hard it probably would have been more comfortable to sleep outside on the cobblestone streets.
Despite the issues we had with this place, I am purposely not naming it because some of our distaste might have stemmed from the fact that neither of us was feeling great when we arrived. We had both been a little under the weather all day, and after spending hours walking around in the sun and humidity (Portugal is soooo humid) all I wanted was to lay down on a comfy bed in the cool air. Neither of which this place offered.
We walked around the town a bit when we first arrived and then found some dinner and called it an early night. The mustiness and broken AC in the room meant that I barely slept at all and by the morning there was no denying that I was sick and not just suffering from allergies (I have a pretty bad mold & mildew allergy). Tim also was still not feeling well but seemed to be hanging in there while I was barely functioning when I “woke” up. Unfortunately, this illness persisted for the rest of the trip and at least a week after we got home. Turns out I had either allergies or a cold that then turned into a sinus infection. It’s probably not fair of me to blame it on that musty building, but I know it didn’t help.
Despite this setback, Obidos was a worthwhile stop. And after seeing the tour buses rolling in as we left in the morning, we were very happy that our visit occurred in the late afternoon and early evening when the city was not very busy. I can imagine those narrow streets get really crowded when all the buses unload.
From Obidos, we drove a short distance to the coastal town of Nazaré. Tim seemed to have regained some energy, but I was only functioning at about 25% so we kept this visit short and easy. Nazaré is a beach town known for being one of the top surfing destinations in the world. The waves were at a minimum during our visit and we only saw a few surfers, but we did very much enjoy walking on the beach and around the town.
We walked around the main part of town and along the water’s edge first. It was a hot day and a good amount of people were in the water. We waded in up to our knees and immediately regretted not putting our suits on. The view of the beach from the bluff might look a lot like Oregon, but trust me this is not the same as visiting the (freezing) waters of the PNW! I am sure it gets crazy busy during the summer and the surfing competitions, but on the day we visited in mid-September, Nazaré had the feel of a somewhat sleepy beach town with a laid-back vibe. If we had more time on this trip, I would have loved to have added more stops along the Atlantic coast.
After getting our fill of the beach, we drove up to the upper part of town to see the famous beach where the surfing happens. We had seen some parking that looked easy to access on Google maps but ended up driving in circles around the narrow one-way streets before finding a spot. This was really the only time I remember having any issues with driving directions or getting turned around while in the car. Probably because for the most part, we only drove on the highways between destinations and not around the towns or cities which tended to have very narrow roads and lots of one-way streets.
Coimbra is well known for being the home of the University of Coimbra which is the oldest university in Portugal. Coimbra was also the capital of Portugal until 1255 and boasts many famous attractions such as the Biblioteca Joanina (Joanina Library) and Capela de São Miguel (chapel of São Miguel). But before we get to all that, let’s talk about where we stayed.
The Quinta das Lágrimas is a very grand, very old estate where the royals used to hang out. Legend has it that Prince Pedro and his bride’s lady-in-waiting Inês de Castro had a forbidden royal love affair for many years at the Quinta. It all ended very badly in 1355 when the prince’s father, King Alonso IV found out about the affair and sent his henchmen to stab her to death. As the legend goes, she shed her last tears here and gave the romantic (yet slightly gory) name to the estate. Quinta das Lagrimas translates to “The Estate of Tears”. Legend also says that the estate is haunted by the ghost of Inês. I can confirm that we had no ghostly sightings, but with such an amazingly comfortable bed and a much-needed good night of sleep, I probably wouldn’t have noticed anyway.
This incredible place was just what we needed after our sleepless night the day before. I was still feeling pretty crappy when we arrived and nearly cried with relief when I laid down on the soft bed. It was tempting to simply cancel the rest of our plans and stay here lounging around the pool and strolling through the gardens for the remainder of our time in Portugal.
Since this was to be another one-night stop, we planned our arrival for mid-afternoon so we could get the most out of the hotel. It was only a short drive from Nazaré to Coimbra and we arrived before the official check-in time at Lágrimas. It was no problem though as they sent us to the bar/lounge area for complimentary drinks while our room was being readied for us. Have I mentioned that I loved this place?
After checking into our room we made a beeline for the pool while the sun was still out. Then right back to our room for showers and naps. That evening, instead of going into the upper part of town to where the university resides, we decided to lay low in an effort to recover some of our waning energy from the last few days. A very short walk from the hotel brought us to a cafe serving up delicious pizza (we ate a lot of pizza in Portugal) and another short walk took us to a gelato place that welcomed us in just as they were about to close.
The next morning, I was feeling more rested but still pretty crappy. Tim seemed to be bouncing back nicely though so we pushed through for a few hours of exploring around town. (By the way, throughout all this “feeling like crap” all Covid tests were negative, so we have that to be thankful for).
After a scrumptious breakfast at the hotel, we checked out and drove over the Mondego River to a public parking lot near the center of town. Like everywhere we went in Portugal, Coimbra is very hilly. In fact, it might have been the hilliest of all the places we visited with steep narrow roads weaving past tall buildings.
As Coimbra is a university town and we were visiting in September the school year had just started and we saw students everywhere. Many were wearing what looked like Harry Potter costumes to us. It was another hot, humid day and we could not figure out why these kids would choose to dress in heavy black capes when we were dying in shorts and t-shirts. Later we learned that there is a tradition in Portuguese Universities called Praxe described as a public hazing for freshman students. During this hazing, the older kids dress in a capa e batina (cape and cassock) modeled after 500-year-old clergy robes. Okay, but there’s no denying that this makes them all look like they’re extras on the set of a Harry Potter movie.
The main attraction in Coimbra is the university. In addition to being the oldest in the country, it is also a designated World Heritage Site which brings lots of visitors. It wasn’t overly busy during our visit, but some of the historical Royal Palace of the Schools was closed for construction so we missed out on a few things such as climbing the bell tower.
In addition to wandering up and down the steep narrow streets and stopping for lunch at a small outdoor cafe, we grabbed some tickets online for the Library, Chapel & Palace. The library had a timed entrance with a kind-of, sort-of tour. No photos are allowed in the main part of the library which is a shame because it was really impressive. The 18th-century library, named after its benefactor, João V, is composed of three vast salons filled with gilded shelves and enormous study tables. The lacquered bookcases are lined with nearly 300,000 medieval books and manuscripts from all parts of Portugal. And to keep all that paper from rotting away, the library hosts a colony of bats bred to eat the types of insects that destroy books. Thanks bats!
After the library, we ducked into the chapel to view the still-working organ that dates back to 1733. From there, we took a self-guided tour of the Royal Palace. This is Portugal’s oldest palace, built near the end of the 10th century and served as a fortress for the governor of the city during Islamic rule. In the 12th century, it became the home of Alfonso Henriques, who was the first king of Portugal and later it was incorporated into the university. As you can imagine, all this history has created some very impressive interior details.
And then as a complete surprise, we were allowed to step outside on a narrow ledge (with a metal fence) for a sweeping view of the city. Since the tower was closed, I was thrilled that we got this chance to see the city from above.
That wraps up our visit to Coimbra. We left a lot of things unseen here which means I guess we’ll have to return for another stay at Quinta das Lagrimas someday!
Portugal Part 1: Lisbon & Sintra
Portugal Part 2: Obidos, Nazaré & Coimbra
Portugal Part 3: Porto, Tomar & Evora