Apart from travelling about and eating, what else did I find to do in northern Portugal at the end of October?
I was lucky because the weather was very kind to me, and placed no limitations on what I got up to. In Porto it was sunny and around 20º. It was a little warmer inland in Coimbra, and a bit warmer still (25º) in Lisbon.
Another factor was how content I was just to be somewhere else, and somewhere outside the UK as well. It was a massive factor, to be honest.
Everything else was almost a bonus!
The first day in Porto I dug out my Lonely Planet and followed one of the walks it recommends. As well as seeing stuff, I thought it would help my general orientation in the city. It took me a couple of hours – slowly so I could soak up the rhythm of the city, and without going into any of the sights along the way.
The next day I took a wander around the Centro Português de Fotografia. Entry was free. It has a wonderful collection of old cameras, and even a Photomaton! We are always learning (assuming we choose to) and on this visit I learned the Photomaton’s inventor was born in Russia but had migrated to Hungary at an early age.
Those of us who are old enough will have lots of memories of cajoling those machines into producing the instant (well almost) passport sized photos we needed. Yes, I am old enough to remember tobacco advertising too.
A real highlight of Porto was visiting the Livraria Lello. I invested in a priority ticket, and was glad I did. At 5 minutes before opening (09:30) on Sunday morning the other queue was 150m long. I love a good bookshop, and this one is special.
I had my food tour and port tasting on other days.
Coimbra is another city where just wandering around is sheer pleasure. I covered the University area that way on my first day, without stopping for anything more serious than coffee (and pastéis de nata). On the second day I visited the botanical garden, and enjoyed my meanderings there.
Easily the highlight of my brief time in Coimbra was a guided tour of the University by Sara from Go Walks Portugal, taking in the Biblioteca Joanina, Paço das Escolas, Capela de São Miguel and Prisão Académica.
Her knowledge is amazing and gave me some fascinating insights.
Coimbra is certainly on my list of “places to go back to”.
I only had an afternoon and evening in Lisbon. I saw quite a bit of the city during my previous visits, so I was content to relax in and around my hotel while trying not to get anxious about my flight home the next morning.
ⓒ iain taylor, 2021