January 1, 2017

acd9bd8b-80b9-437a-82c9-5eaa9afdc22bWe all had a great nights sleep and were up for breakfast at 8:30am. Of course the boys overslept and only woke up at 8:30am when we messaged them to say we were going for breakfast. They did get up in 5 minutes at least. The breakfast was a buffet with a really good array of breads, cold meat, cheese, scrambled egg, fresh fruit etc. I thought it was pretty good for the fact that it is included in the room rate.

We headed out to see the University of Coimbra which was founded in 1290 (one of the oldest universities in the world). The only issue is that you have to walk up (and I really mean UP) to get to the university buildings as they are on the top of the hill (see yesterday’s photo). As it was only 5 degrees C outside, everyone was panting when we finally got to the top due to the cold air. It was also quite a steep climb so even the summer we might have been panting.

227af858-0189-43e4-91fc-028886b2769dWe went into the New Cathedral of Coimbra. “New” is really not an appropriate description as it was built-in the 17th century. But it did displace the Old Cathedral as the seat of the Bishop of Coimbra and so it is now the officially recognized Cathedral of Coimbra. What struck me was the number of ways they try to get money out of you in the Cathedral. Not only did you have to pay €1 per person to enter it but there were at least 25 other forms of money collections in the Cathedral itself. From electronic candles (pay €1 and the candle lights up to pray for some dead person – the Cathedral has numerous stations remembering Our Lady of Good Death) through to electronic guides (pay €1 to be informed about some statue or altar) to a plain box on the wall to give whatever money you feel you need to give out of guilt or to get your loved one out of purgatory or whatever. It was so obvious to us that it makes you wonder why people attending can’t see it. It also frustrates me to think how much money would have been spent on the Cathedral in the 17th century  (it is pretty impressive inside) and that money would have definitely come from the people in the town who would most likely not have been very wealthy.

Michael was just itching to get himself into a confessional booth and eventually when everyone else in the Cathedral had vanished he did slip in (though unfortunately the photographic evidence didn’t come out well). I did get a shot of Lara and Olivia bowing at the altar though (don’t worry Simon & Bryan … I’ll sort out their theology by the time we get back). The best comment of the day did come from Stephen. When we were all together at the back of the Cathedral just before we were about to exit he said “Thank goodness for Martin Luther”. Quite appropriate given 2017 is the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther nailing his thesis to the door at Wittenberg.

0f820646-9f0f-4f76-b22c-a0ca903c9ee7We also walked around the university buildings which have quite fantastic views over the city and river. We had hoped to visit the botanical gardens but when we arrived we found a sign on the gate saying they were closed 31/12 and 1/1 so unfortunately our trips timing was going to prevent us from seeing those (they are the biggest gardens in Portugal). We walked back towards the hotel and found a street cafe to have some lunch. I am staggered at how reasonably priced everything is. Our beers at lunch cost us €1.50 each which really is incredibly reasonable and the total lunch only cost us €35.

This afternoon the ladies went shopping at the mall while the 3 men got in some sleep and recovered from the 7-8km of walking this morning. It is now 10pm and Helen is already fast asleep in the bed next to me. She is definitely not seeing in 2017 tonight. I am not surprised as she has walked about 40% further than me today and I’m tired too.

We had hoped to go to a restaurant for dinner tonight that was a recommendation on TripAdvisor. I had messaged them to ask for a reservation but got no reply. We walked up to restaurant anyway but unfortunately discovered they were totally closed. We tried a few other places also with no success and so we finally headed to the side of the river where we had seen an Italian restaurant yesterday and we were fortunately able to get a table (outside though they did have a heater). Nothing fancy as they had a limited New Years’ Eve menu but enough for all of us to find something we wanted to eat (I think Lara was the happiest because she managed to get a vegan pizza made for her). The food was fine but the dinner was quite enjoyable because of the company.

There are meant to be fireworks over the river tonight (and there is a band set up as well) but Helen is clearly not going to make it and I might not either given the lethargy I am currently feeling. I’m definitely posting the blog now regardless of whether I make it through to midnight or not because I am likely to get less criticism tomorrow morning at breakfast because they won’t be reading the blog while we eat breakfast. The 6 people traveling with me are the most brutal critics of my daily blogs (or at least 5 out of the 6 are).  They tell me what I said incorrectly, what I missed, what I shouldn’t have commented on etc etc etc. Lara remains the only exception to that general statement and for that alone she deserves to move up on the blog sign-off tonight.

Until 2017 …

P, S (for his comment on Luther), L (for her lack of commentary/criticism), H, C, M & O (and O earned her last spot today!)

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