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We watch a massive graduation fete in Coimbra and a visit a temple of bones in Evora

Updated: Jun 10, 2023

The final week of this very long bit of travel will be spent in Lagos in the Algarve which is on Portugal's southern Atlantic Coast. But first we stopped in the two ancient cities of Coimbra and Evora.

Cyn, Robert, and I travelled by train to Lisbon where we Ubered to the airport and picked up a car using an online app called Virtuo. There was no interpersonal interface at a car rental company and there are no keys - Cyn's phone unlocked the car (after we found it in airport parking) and turned on the engine. The contactless service has its positives and its negatives.

Anyhoo ... we took off for Coimbra, which is actually halfway back to Porto from Lisbon.

We were eager to the see the place that is the site of the former Portuguese capital (back in the 1100s) and home to one the oldest universities in the world. But we were also a little tired by the time we got to our AirBNB so we just ordered UberEats and watched educational television (Naked and Afraid) for a few hours before turning in.

The following day, Cyn and I set out on a walking tour of the city centre that we found in Rick Steves' guidebook. We started at this bridge which crosses the Rio Mondego from Santa Clara into Coimbra's old downtown.

Our arrival coincided with the annual graduation event at the University of Coimbra and there were thousands of students in black capes strolling the streets, many wearing the colorful top hats of graduates.

We walked through the beautiful town square and quickly found a pastry shop where we sat and ate sweet things with coffee while being serenaded by this guy.

Coimbra's story is much like that of the rest of Portugal ... the Phoenicians get conquered by the Romans. The city is taken by the Visigoths and the Celts after the fall of the Roman empire. They, in turn, get vanquished by Moors in the 700s. Then the Moors get booted by the Christians circa 1100. Which means there is layer upon layer of history.

And there is a lot of old architecture... like the Monastery of Santa Cruz (above) which dates back to 1130.

Or this fountain in the Jardim da Manga (below) from the 1500s.

The university is built at the top of the hill that dominates the city and the lift that takes folks up was broken (naturally) ... so we had to walk. In the main square of the university, these floats were being prepared for the graduation parade.

Then we visited the old Coimbra Cathedral which was established in 1146.

Throughout the city there are remnants of the Roman occupation.

We met up with Robert at the bottom of a cobbled road known as the street of broken ribs because it becomes so slippery after a rainfall.

It has this great statue (below) that is a tribute to Fado.

The three of us wandered a bit before settling in at a patio by a main walkway where we had wine and cheese and tempura tapas as we watched the students head to the graduation festivities.

The following day we got back in the car and headed for Evora, a place with similar history to Coimbra, that lies south of Lisbon.

Our AirBNB was close to the centre of town and we found this great restaurant nearby where we had lunch - we got the only thing they were serving which was pork and potatoes and salad. So I ate pork.

Then we hiked up to the ruins of a 1st Century Roman temple which has been attributed to the worship of Diana but was probably built to honour Augustus.

We strolled the city, climbing the 140 steps to the top to the Evora Cathedral where the views are incredible.

We found some Roman ruins that have been excavated beneath city streets.

Then we went to the Chapel of Bones in the Sao Francesco Church where the walls are literally built of human bones - a construction choice meant to signify the temporary nature of human life.

We ended the day at a great restaurant where, again, the chef decided what we ate. It was eight courses of wonderful things - including chicken and fish and veg ... so I could pass on the veal and ox tail and beef tongue.

Now it is off to Lagos and the final stretch of this epic tour that began back in January. And I am actually a bit eager to get back to Canada.

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