Day 6: Coimbra

I woke up this morning surprisingly well rested despite the late bed time and the loud music that was keeping me from sleeping too well. As per the usually I got packed up and had breakfast then checked out. With my knew knowledge of Porto’s transportation system I was able to more quickly get to the station without much walking. I tried to buy a ticket on the Alfa to Coimbra, but found out that because today is a national holiday the train I was aiming for at 9:45 was not running. Instead I took 2 local trains to Coimbra, which has its benefits, moving at a slower pace stopping at smaller rail stations and what not, you see more of the country, not that there was a ton to see, mostly farm land. The train cars in this part of the country are MUCH MUCH nicer, no TVs like in Tokyo, but they are a lot wider thanks to the larger gage tracks. The weather today is kinda poor, no rain or anything, but the skys are very dark and foreboding. Arriving in Coimbra-B station I got off and went about finding how to get to the information office and the center of town, only to find out that I was meant to go to the Coimbra station station, not Coimbra-B, which is apparently different. 30 minutes later I was on the next train to the Coimbra center. When I arrived at the station I went to the ticket seller to find out how much the hotel train I was planning on taking to Madrid tomorrow night would set me back, as it turns out its very reasonable, a seat would be 6 euros, and a bed 30. I decided since I wasn’t going to need a hotel if I slept well, and thats how much a fairly cheap residential over here costs, it was a good deal, and bought my ticket with a bed.

I then set off for the hotel I planned to stay at, taking the long walk around thanks to the signs to the city center being for motorists, and one-way streets, I eventually found myself with a big street map with a “you are here”, which helped me find the residential I was looking for here in Coimbra. I’m not convinced that the maps in the Lonely Planet book I have this time aren’t worth a damn, I had an easier time finding my way without the map, than I have over the last few days with it. The lodgings for tonight aren’t bad, the owner doesn’t speak English, and she keeps the hall lights out, but there is internet, and the rooms are clean and in good shape. The road to it is a small pedestrian alleyway, which was a bit worrisome, but the place seems nice and there is a nice upscale restaurant directly across from it, and I’m sure if someone was going to come rob the place, they would stick to the lower floors (I’m on floor 4).

I decided that since my room was only 25 euros tonight, and I’m leaving the country tomorrow, it would be a good time to try some of the nicer traditional Portuguese cuisine, the restaurant across the way seemed like as good as any, so I got a seat. The waiter was nice and friendly but didn’t speak any English, about as much as I speak Portuguese. We tried our best and I eventually got him to suggest something off the menu, which was what I was after. When the plate arrived he seemed genuinely concerned whether or not I enjoyed the meal. It was a piece of what seemed like steak seared (pretty close to raw in the center) topped with a yellow sauce that was sort of sweet, I’m not entirely sure if I want to know what the sauce was made from, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it had egg yokes in it. The meal was pretty good, and not all too expensive. I don’t think I left the poor waiter enough of a tip, but I was out of small bills, and since apparently no one in the restaurant knows how to speak English, I had no clue how to ask for change in smaller bills… so I gave about 10%. Oh and last night the woman working at the front desk in the Porto place I stayed out was from South Africa and spoke English fluently, so I asked what was the customary tipping practice in Portugal. Apparently they don’t generally have one, if you fee like you should leave a tip, leave as much as you feel appropriate she said.

After returning to my room I asked where I could find a laundry place (in Portuguese, I’m getting a bit better), but because today is a public holiday, none are open, and just my luck my clean clothes have run out.. Tomorrow is going to be unpleasant, but with the last few days also being part of the holiday I didn’t see any open either. I guess the people need a day before San João to prepare, and the day after to recuperate. I’m hoping with my time in Lisboa tomorrow, I can wash some clothes, I’ve been avoiding using a hotel’s laundry service, which is never ever cheap. I hope my dad is proud of how frugal I’ve been so far haha.

Today I’m taking it easy, there isn’t a whole bunch to do in Coimbra other than tour the area around the university, one of the oldest Universities in Western Europe still teaching, which I did. Tomorrow I plan to go to a town/district of Lisboa called Belem, which is known for some famous landmarks and what not, as well as the best custard tarts in the country (YUM!). I also plan to go to Sintra, a town on the outskirts of Lisbon, its a world heritage site, and looks nice. Tomorrow is going to be a crazy long day, with a whole lot planned, I know I’ll be sore and tired at the end of it. I’m also hoping to find a lavanderia there in Sintra.

The woman working the night shift at the residential spoke pretty good English, and not just that, was wanting to practice her English through conversation, and I was more than happy to. We ended up sharing a pizza and talking about random stuff, helped pass away the time since no stores were open, and I had already seen the sights of Coimbra (which didn’t impress me much.)

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