Earlier Posts

Lisbon Or Amsterdam?: The Battle For The Top Spot, Pt. 1

Amsterdam has always been my favourite city, but our recent trip to both Portugal and the Netherlands could have its status in jeopardy

The annual Euretina Congress was here again, this time being held in Amsterdam, meaning that Anna and myself would be making another visit. This would be our sixth trip to the Netherlands and I wasn’t complaining one bit, because I think it’s safe to say that Amsterdam is my favourite city in the world. Depending on who you are, people equate Amsterdam with different things; some will conjure up images of canals, clogs, and windmills, while for others weed and hookers will instantly come to mind and that’s about it. But there’s so much more than that (although all of them are in copious supply); the city is absolutely beautiful, the nightlife is great, and the people are really friendly, that’s why we always love it there.
However, there was an ulterior motive for this particular getaway. Anna’s conference would begin on the fourth of October, but we were going to leave a week early and go to Portugal, spending most of our time in Lisbon, but also two nights in Coimbra. The motivation for this is that it is reasonably easy for foreigners to buy property in Portugal and we figured it would be nice to have a place that we could use as a base to get away to Europe, particularly down the track when Anna eventually retires, and in the meantime we could mostly rent it out as an Airbnb. By sheer coincidence, we had brought the idea up with Anna’s former colleague in the US, Jesse, and it turned out that he and his partner had already begun the process to be able to do the same thing in the same country! We had heard mostly positive things about Lisbon, almost everyone we know that had been there absolutely loved the city, and Jesse had brought up the option of Coimbra as well, due to there being a large eye research centre where they could still do a little volunteer and mentor work.

I had never been to Portugal before, Anna had, but only overnight and quite far from the centre of Lisbon. Jesse would be attending the conference as well, but we would only be seeing him on the Amsterdam leg of the journey. I was definitely looking forward to this entire trip, but had no idea what to expect when it came to Portugal, however, I had a feeling I would like it regardless.

There were many people behind us, too!

Wednesday, September 27, 2023
Flights are currently extremely expensive so in order to get to Portugal a little cheaper, we would be flying with Turkish Airlines with a stopover in Istanbul and another hellish one in Amsterdam where we would have to queue for an hour to get through immigration (right) and then another hour to get through security before we reached our final destination after 24 hours in transit.
We would be staying at the 1908 Hotel, a classy place in a bizarre location, an area with a substantial number of Indian restaurants nearby, but it turns out that Bangladeshis are Lisbon’s fifth largest foreign resident community so I guess we were staying in their ‘hood. The hotel was really cool with sculptures of insects made from recycled materials in the lobby and the bar, as well as a mural that ran up the entire shaft of our glass elevator. Once in our rather small room we cleaned up and then stood on our balcony that overlooked an open area full of bars, restaurants, shops, and residential buildings, one house with red coloured clothing draped all around, almost all of the buildings with beautifully tiled walls, and there was also a castle on one of the many hills in the distance.
It looked like we were going to enjoy this place:

Once we had showered and changed out of our stinky aeroplane clothes, it was time to hit the streets and explore this town:

Lisbon is the capital and largest city of Portugal, with an estimated population of 548,703 within its administrative limits in an area of 100.05 km2.

About 2.9 million people live in the Lisbon metropolitan area, which extends beyond the city’s administrative area, making it the third largest metropolitan area in the Iberian Peninsula, after Madridand Barcelona as well as the 11th-most populous urban area in the European Union. It represents approximately 27.7% of the country’s population.

We had heard a bad story about Lisbon from one of Anna’s colleague’s who had been pickpocketed here, but some Singaporean’s tend to forget that not everywhere has such a low crime rate compared to home and putting your wallet in the top of your backpack in a crowded bus in front of everyone is not a great idea in any country, but we were still on our guard that first night. I put mine in my front pocket and immediately after we walked out the door there was a man against the wall being frisked by police. We continued on through the square which smelled like piss and only seemed to have men hanging around yelling out to us, particularly Anna, but we passed through fine. Once we were in the main part of the city it was time to find something to eat and we had found a small market made up of food stalls, but they were mainly selling snacks so we continued on, me being approached regularly by men asking if I wanted to by weed, hash, cocaine, and more. Maybe it’s just my appearance, because over the course of our time in Lisbon, these guys would ignore other obvious tourists and make a beeline for me, crossing the road under the impression that I was a good target. They were generally slightly overweight Eastern-European guys in track pants and it eventually got to the point where I could pick who in the street was going to approach me, but to be fair as soon as I said “no” they just moved on, Anna and myself laughing more and more each time as to what it was about me.
We soon found ourselves in a street full of restaurants and besides the dealers, we now had restaurant staff approaching us to come in. When that’s happening, the menu is written in multiple languages, and there are pictures of every dish, you’ve clearly stumbled into a tourist area and it’s going to be overpriced and not that good, the locals definitely don’t eat there. We looked online and we weren’t that far from what appeared to be a great food market, Time Out Market Lisboa. Sure, there are Time Out Markets in many cities, but they’re generally pretty good and this one was no exception, just rows and rows of of stalls, but we eventually settled into the outdoor section of Restaurante O Frade, and we weren’t disappointed with our first meal in Portugal. Once we had finished eating we went to cut back through the market in order to get to a bar district and to our surprise music had started playing inside and a bunch of people had just busted out dancing. If this is what things are like at 9:30pm in a market on a Wednesday, it looked like we were in for some fun!
Roaming around Lisbon, looking for dinner on our first night in town:

We had found an area online for nightlife so we walked down there and looked at our options. There was a lot of pineapple-related graffiti on the walls and we eventually decided on a bar that had shisha, but there was one problem; not long after we ordered, I went to the bathroom and I’m glad I didn’t need to poop, because someone had punched a hole through the door, but upon my return a group of men with horrendously strong body odour had pulled up a seat and we were downwind from them with the narrow streets creating a wind tunnel. It got so bad that Anna was smoking the shisha with her hand covering both her mouth and her nose in the hope that the tobacco’s fragrance would cover the smell of the B.O. Anna went to the bathroom and there was a table of British guys behind us, dealing with the smell from the exact same table so when they saw me cringing, one said sarcastically to me with a wink, “Is the smoke getting in your eyes?’. They finished their drinks and left, Anna came out and made up a story about how our table was wobbly and the shisha might tip over in order to get a table in front of the smelly guys, all the while a crazy old drunk was yelling behind us and a man sprayed a tag on a wall directly in front of a security guard. When the shisha was done we were both starting to fade so it was a good time to catch an Uber home, winding its way through the extremely narrow streets.
Some scenes from our after dinner drinks:

Thursday, September 28, 2023
It turned out our first impressions of Lisbon the previous day had been completely wrong, it is in fact one of the safest destinations in Europe, we had just listened to someone’s bad experience, overreacted, and looked for problems. The guy getting frisked could also be a sign of the police doing their job. Walking around the square like everyone else does instead of through it is just common sense at night in most European cities, but we had no real problems anyway. The hole punched in the toilet door could happen anywhere if someone can’t handle their booze, and the tag being sprayed was a non-event, because Lisbon has a thriving street art scene as we would see over the coming days.

What we didn’t realise, however, was that our legs were going to be burning constantly, because Lisbon was built over seven large hills so we were going to be doing some hiking and it would start that morning. There were apparently a bunch of secondhand stores in the streets behind our hotel so we walked away from the city centre, Anna taking in all of the old, tiled buildings along the way and almost immediately found a great store that sold a lot of random, local things, but there was also several different varieties of artisanal canned seafood and in particular the national specialty, sardines:

The history and culture of the Portuguese sardine have always fascinated most newcomers and tourists. These silver-scaled fish have found their way not only into culinary specialties but also into art, music, and souvenir shops.

Sardines are the Eiffel Tower of France, the Pisa Tour of Italy, and the Acropolis of Greece. Sardines even have their own holiday in Portugal, as freshly grilled sardines are the street meal of choice for St. Anthony’s Day, on June 13th.

The perfect quantity and quality of sardines throughout Portugal’s vast coastline turned this fresh fish into a national treasure, preserved and consumed fresh throughout history. However, the most celebrated sardine these days is not the charcoaled one but the one preserved in a tin.

Seafood is my favourite and I’ve loved sardines since I was a kid, whereas Anna loves the tiles here so she wanted to buy something made from them, most likely some coasters for home. Either way, it looked like we were in the right place. Naturally, I bought some various cans, including what I thought were chocolate-coated sardines, but once back in Singapore my little boxes of lies would turn out to be sardine-shaped chocolates. We moved on uphill to get coffee and have a look at the other stores and while there I saw an exceptionally old car outside, but over the course of our stay I’d come to learn that there were many of them and they were a kind of taxi.

After picking up a secondhand Charles Barkley ’92 Olympic jersey and a Macho Man Randy Savage t-shirt, we climbed back down the hill and went into town to find something for lunch. Portugal is also known for its sausages so we looked up where to find some good ones and it turned out that the market we had passed the night before had a stall renowned for them so we wandered back down and grabbed a large sausage platter, an excellent choice. An interesting one was the alheira, a traditional sausage created by Portuguese Jews in the 16th century that contains poultry and game meats, often a combination of chicken, turkey, duck, rabbit, venison, partridge, and pheasant, but no pork for obvious reasons.
Looking around different areas of Lisbon with Anna posing with just some of the tiles she liked, but this time during the day:

Lunch was soon done, meaning it was time to explore the shops a bit more. We were in the land of sardines and Mundo Fantástico Da Sardinha Portuguesa was just across the road so it only made sense that we have a look at ‘The Fantastic World Of Portuguese Sardines’. We were initially under the impression that it was a sardine museum, but as their nonsensical website shows, we were way off the mark when we entered the weird, circus-themed franchise store that sold essentially one kind of overpriced sardine variety that came in a colourful can that allowed people to buy sardines for their year of birth with a piece of trivia and a couple of celebrities that were also born that year. I had a look at the cans for myself, Anna, my sister, and my father and it needs to be said that the fact printed on my dad’s can was pretty miserable compared to the rest, as you will see in the photos. There were a few other options available, but when the main cans that they sell were the cheapest at €7.00 (US$7.50) each, we figured based on earlier in the day that we could get a few more cans of better ones at smaller stores so we got a quick photo of me sitting on my throne as the King of Sardines before moving along.
We continued walking around, looking at more vintage stores and taking in the gorgeous buildings, but after a while our legs were really starting to burn and it had been a hot day so we went back to the hotel to have a shower and relax for a bit before dinner:
Scenes and sardines:

Once we had made ourselves a little less fragrant and the pain in our legs was subsiding, we pulled up a seat for a drink in the bar across from our hotel to see what we could do for dinner. Unsurprisingly, Anna puts as much research into what there is to do on our holidays as she does for her work and in doing so she had found a cocktail bar that she wanted to try, plus a fine dining restaurant where she had managed to nab some seats.
I donned a terrible shirt and we started to walk up more steps, particularly a multi-storey outdoor staircase required to reach our destination, that familiar burn working its way back into our legs as I resisted more drug offers, because I was now able to easily pick who would attempt to sell them to me, but after what seemed like forever we were soon at Red Frog, a speakeasy cocktail bar that was voted one of The World’s 50 Best Bars last year. Red Frog was hidden up another staircase next to a restaurant and although these types of places aren’t particularly my kind of thing in which to spend the whole evening, I still didn’t mind enjoying a couple of cocktails before dinner. The cocktails were great, but we also had to get to the restaurant so after two drinks we struggled down the staircase again to the street, down the giant outdoor steps once more, deferring the pain from our quadriceps to our hamstrings, then up several more hills to get to where we’d be eating that night, Boubou’s. Anna had booked a table for two at the back of the restaurant so we pulled up a seat and ordered the omnivorous sample menu. The food was fantastic, however, the menu seems to have changed since then so I’m not entirely sure what we ate. When we had finished Anna insisted I get a photograph of the wallpaper from the corner in which we were sitting and then we struggled back to our hotel and closed out the night with some drinks once again at the pub across the road. I mentioned earlier that I knew we were going to be doing some hiking and according to the health app on my phone we had climbed the equivalent of 41 storeys worth of stairs on top of the distance we had covered that day!
Dinner and drinks, sans descriptions of the food:

Friday, September 29, 2023
We were going to take a different approach to this day; because we had been hiking so much around the city, it just made sense that we do some actual hiking so we got an Uber to take us into the Monsanto Hills so we could have a look around Panorâmico de Monsanto:

Located on the outskirts of Lisbon is Parque Florestal de Monsanto, it’s Lisbon’s largest park and it covers most of the Serra de Monsanto – The Monsanto Hills. At its highest point and offering the best views of Lisbon and the Tagus River is the Panorâmico de Monsanto. In its 1970s heyday it was an exclusive panoramic restaurant catering for rising upper classes of the city. Today, it’s now abandoned and is one of the most unique miradouros you can find in Lisbon! Not only famous for its views, but it’s also now an urban art destination with an array of both official artworks, and less official graffiti.

As of 2022 Panorâmico de Monsanto is supposed to have official opening hours, 09:00-18:00 daily and we were certainly there between those hours, however, when we arrived the gates were locked and there was an armed guard in front of the building. That full article made it look like it could be a fun morning exploring this abandoned building with its panoramic views of Lisbon, but it wasn’t to be, however, I managed to get some photos from the outside, one of which could’ve landed me in a little bit of trouble. You see, Panorâmico de Monsanto is located next to a military base and it turns out that I had inadvertently taken a photo in there, pissing off an elderly man who had been walking around with his wife, picking wild mushrooms. Although she didn’t seem too concerned, he just started screaming at me in Portuguese and nothing could calm him down. I tried to apologise and point out that it had happened completely by accident, but this seemed to trigger him more, most likely due to the fact that we couldn’t understand a word he was saying. We did our best to slowly tell him we only spoke English, but he continued on his tirade even louder so Anna and myself figured it was no use attempting to reason with him and continued on our way, but he just followed us, yelling more intensely to the point where he was now going red in the face. After a few minutes his wife, maybe fearing him having a heart attack, managed to convince him to give up so he grunted loudly and continued back down the hill, probably to collect more mushrooms and complain about foreign spies.

We continued hiking in the heat, eventually going downhill in the Monsanto Forest Park, laughing at what a strange morning it had already been, and after about 40 minutes we found ourselves outside The Palace of the Marquesses of Fronteira:

The Palace of the Marquesses of Fronteira was built in 1671 as a hunting pavilion to Don João de Mascarenhas, 1st Marquis of Fronteira, who received his title from King Afonso VI of Portugal for his loyalty to the House of Braganza in the Portuguese Restoration War.

The palace is the private residence of the Marquesses of Fronteira.

There were large tour groups there and the option for a private tour of the palace was available, but it really didn’t seem like our sort of thing, we figured we could use the time better so we just waited for the buses to leave so I could snap some pics before moving on.
Our morning up until that point:

In that last photo you will see that Anna is on her phone, researching where to have lunch and before long she had found the perfect location so we caught an Uber, moaned audibly in unison as we took the exact same route back through the forest that we had just spent the last hour walking, and soon found ourselves at LXFACTORY:

It is in the year of 1846 that the Company of Wiring and Fabricos Lisbonense, one of the most important factory complexes of Lisbon, settles in Alcântara. This industrial area of 23,000m2 was in subsequent years, occupied by the Industrial Company of Portugal and Colonies, Typography Anuário Comercial de Portugal and Gráfica Mirandela.
A fraction of a city that has remained hidden for years is now returned to the city in the form of LXFACTORY. A creative island occupied by companies and industry professionals has also been the scene of a diverse range of events in the fields of fashion, advertising, communication, multimedia, art, architecture, music, etc. generating a dynamic that has attracted countless visitors to re-discover this area of Alcântara. In LXF, at every step you live the industrial environment. A factory of experiences where it becomes possible to intervene, think, produce, present ideas and products in a place that belongs to everyone, for everyone.
Sounds like something we’d love! There were three multi-storey rows of what were old factories, the outer rows full of art studios, tattooists, really cool clothing, jewellery, furniture, book, and homewares stores while the middle row was mostly bars, restaurants, and cafes and a lot more street art as well.
The first port of call was to get a coffee and start exploring this place, first the enormous bookstore, one so big it even had a cafe and upstairs bar in the centre of it, followed by Anna picking up a ring as she does every time she’s overseas. There were quite a few dishes on our list that we wanted to try while we were in Portugal, one of which were Pastéis de Bacalhau, fried Portuguese cod cakes so the obvious choice was to go to a very upmarket store that specialises in them, Casa Portuguesa do Pastel de Bacalhau, and this was certainly the place to get them, because not only did theirs come fried with the standard fish and potatoes inside, but also Estrela cheese! A perfect, albeit, sloppy combination, so much so that a woman sitting behind us accidentally cheesed herself, her fried cake bursting open and covering the crotch of her pants in the oily, yellow goo. Not a good look.
We finished our cod cakes and looked in almost every other store, but probably the funniest moment was when some hipsters were looking at old Kodak cameras they wanted to purchase, but were completely perplexed as to how film works. They were having trouble comprehending that, although the vintage cameras and their rolls of film looked cool, there wasn’t a way to preview individual shots and that they’d need to get the films developed into hard copies by stores that barely even exist anymore.
Anyway, LXFACTORY was fantastic and don’t let the early photos fool you, it got packed!:

After LXFACTORY Anna had found another spot we should have a look at, Village Underground Lisboa, an area of food and bars built into stacks of old busses and shipping containers and it was about a 15-minute walk away, but there was one little problem — It was absolutely boiling outside and there wasn’t a lot of shade. Getting an Uber would take almost as long as it would if we walked so we decided to hoof it and were a little underwhelmed upon arrival. It was supposed to be open, but besides the employees we were the only ones there, and the people working were just sitting around, drinking, and chatting amongst themselves.
We were near the waterfront area so we could go down there and fortunately for us there was a long underpass we could walk through that was linked to the subway, however, we wouldn’t need a train, the underpass would take us almost to our destination and it was a lot cooler in there.

I’ve already mentioned street art in Lisbon and we saw some awesome examples that day so here are some shots of the more SFW bits from LXFACTORY, a look at Village Underground Lisboa and some of its pieces, followed by some scenes as we were walking in the underpass:

It was still very hot once we had cleared the underpass and Anna was desperate to keep out of the sun for the foreseeable future so we followed through with our plan and found a spot, Descardo, for some drinks and oysters while watching schools of fish swim around in the water beside us. The view wasn’t too bad either, just looking across the water to another grassy hill.

A handful of drinks later and those pastéis de bacalhau were beginning to wear off and the oysters just weren’t filling the void in our stomachs, we were starting to get really hungry so it was time to move along. Something we had wanted to try in Lisbon, but had been unable to find were caracóis, small Portuguese snails, and apparently a reasonably nearby place called O Lutador was the place to get them, but when we arrived they were not available, the little gastropods eluding us for a third night, however, all was not lost. Two of my favourite things to imbibe in this world are beer and pickles so I was a tad excited when our waiter told us about pica-pau:

Literally translating into “woodpecker,” pica-pau is a Portuguese snack usually enjoyed with a round of cold beers and some bread for dipping. It consists of small beef pieces, swimming in a light gravy made with beer. Pica-pau is not complete without the addition of Portuguese style pickles (normally carrots and cauliflowers) and olives on top!

Yes please! There was the option of pork or beef, the latter being the more traditional choice so we decided that would be the way to go and also ordered a few other dishes including another stew made of beef offal and I think it’s safe to say that pica-pau is awesome, I never knew it was possible to make beer and pickles even better. Might have to try the pork next time.
Dinner was soon done so we hit the road again to find another bar in which to spend a Friday night and that landed us at Quiosque Verde Lima, a place directly under the city’s flightpath that had a giant outdoor area with coliseum seating as well as the typical tables and umbrellas, plus a small indoor bar. Also, they were gearing up to show a local football derby and although we’re not soccer fans, it can be a bit of fun when everyone’s into it so this could be a great night out, but I soon noticed a minor issue when Anna’s mojito came; she thought there were french beans in her drink when in fact they were the straws and that’s when it dawned on me that, while I had only been having beers, she had had a glass or two of rosé at each stop, from LXFACTORY to the waterfront to the restaurant for dinner and now she was rapidly starting to fade, feeling the need to take a much earned nap.
Once our drinks were done we called another Uber back to our hotel and we were back by around 8:30pm so I pulled up a seat at the bar outside while Anna took a two-hour power-nap, joining me later for a nightcap.
Friday afternoon and evening:

Saturday, September 30, 2023
This was the day that we were going to catch the train up to Coimbra, our home for the following two nights, but that wasn’t until the afternoon so we thought that going to a large street market was the right way to spend the morning. The only downside to this plan was that to get to the market we would need to climb up a lot of steep, narrow streets again and also it was incredibly hot and the sun was glaring outside, but after we checked out of the hotel and got them to stash our luggage we eventually made it up to our destination, our legs burning again and both of us dripping with sweat. The views over the city from our walk up were stunning and there was the token street art, but it was the market on which we were focused and it didn’t let us down, however, the heat and the blinding sun made it almost impossible to enjoy. After looking at several stalls selling bootleg records, another selling an jamón holder with a human mannequin leg screwed in, and pondering whether to purchase an enormous, exceptionally heavy book of works by one of my favourite artists, Hieronymus Bosch, we needed to get back to the hotel due mostly to the lack of any shade. Again, we called an Uber and it immediately became clear how difficult it would be trying to drive in this part of the city, some of the tight angles in the narrow, winding streets that needed to be navigated even requiring five-point turns.
Our Saturday up to that point:

Once our Uber driver had navigated the way back, it was time to collect our luggage from the hotel, get to the train station, and make our way to the next stop on this European getaway, Coimbra:

Coimbra is a city and a municipality in Portugal. The population of the municipality at the 2011 census was 143,397, in an area of 319.40 square kilometres (123.3 sq mi). The fourth-largest agglomerated urban area in Portugal after Lisbon, Porto, and Braga, it is the largest city of the district of Coimbra and the Centro Region. About 460,000 people live in the Região de Coimbra, comprising 19 municipalities and extending into an area of 4,336 square kilometres (1,674 sq mi).

The journey took us a little over two hours and it was getting even hotter as we went, a screen in the train showing the outdoor temperature reaching 38°C (100.5ºF). Once we arrived we had to book another Uber, because while planning this trip, Anna one night figured we might want to get out of the city for a bit, despite Coimbra’s relatively small population, so she booked us into what was allegedly a four star resort about a 20-minute drive out of town, Palácio São Silvestre. The place itself wasn’t too bad (although nowhere near what they made it out to be), our room was enormous compared to back at the 1908 in Lisbon, but there was one major off-putting factor; it was in São Silvestre, a town that is actually a ‘Civil Parish‘ with a population of about 3,100 people, give or take, and besides some factories, a cemetery, a supermarket, and a vet, not much else around. Looks like we’d only be here to sleep.

Coimbra was another city where it was recommended to look at properties, a small college town with one of the oldest universities in the world, first established in 1290, so it definitely had some potential. We booked the 20-minute drive into town and were there a little after 5:00pm. Once in Coimbra it just seemed that everyone was at the pub and we were a bit peckish so we grabbed a table at one, got some drinks, and then ordered a couple of things we hadn’t had yet on this trip, some grilled, fresh sardines and a francesinha, a traditional Portuguese sandwich, while a guy nearby played a saxophone.
After about half an hour we went to explore the beautiful buildings while keeping an eye out for somewhere for dinner and maybe it was due to being a small town on a Saturday evening, but it did seem very sleepy. There wasn’t particularly an abundance of shops that really appealed to us, however, there were a lot of cafes, but after it seemed that we had pretty much been through the bulk of the city centre we found a place to eat and settled in for a bit.
We did a bit of research and Anna found a hidden rooftop bar that had live music so we made the trek down there, passing a store with some incredibly creepy mannequins inside, and when we got there the place was great. We had to pay a small charge to get in and there was an entire courtyard up there with cheap beer on tap. We got to see two performers, the first one was a guy singing with an acoustic guitar that was incredible, even though he was singing in Portuguese. He was followed by a girl who may have been the daughter of one of the owners, but she was really good too and once they were both done we took the ride back to where we were staying, having climbed the equivalent to another full 40 floors by the end of the day.
A whole heap of photos looking around Coimbra and a bit of live entertainment:

Sunday, October 1, 2023
If we were going to be staying in São Silvestre, we might as well have a walk around and take in the sights, no matter how bleak it seemed so we decided to skip the dull-looking breakfast that had an add-on charge and just got a coffee from the malfunctioning coffee machine each, me needing to press multiple different button to have the coffee ultimately miss the cup, and then we set out. Now, I’ve mentioned many times before that I grew up in a small town and I know not a lot is open on a Sunday, but at least Traralgon has four streets of shops, not just four actual shops. I guess Anna predicted we really wanted to get out of the city. It was kind of depressing in the town and there was only so much we could look at in the supermarket so the next step was to wander around our hotel to see what was there, but besides a statue out the front, there wasn’t a whole lot there, either.
I guess it’s time to go back into Coimbra, but first a quick look around São Silvestre:

Once back to civilisation in the middle of the afternoon we found a cafe where they could actually get the coffee into the cup and although it was a lazy Sunday in a small college town, it was an absolute hive of activity compared to São Silvestre, but first we decided to have a look at some different areas to begin with. The plan for that afternoon was to meet up with one of Anna’s colleagues, Professor Rufino Silva, for dinner, but before that we ended up doing a lot more climbing, at one point ascending an extremely high outdoor staircase, only to be greeted by a broken, used toilet on the ground at the top, followed by another enormous staircase.

I mentioned that one of the oldest universities in the world is in Coimbra and we were quite close to it so we met Professor Silva, had a look around and it was absolutely stunning from the outside so we decided to take a tour and it was just breathtaking inside. Photos weren’t allowed on the tour, but here’s a bit of background information on the University of Coimbra:

The University of Coimbra is a public research university in Coimbra, Portugal. First established in Lisbon in 1290, it went through a number of relocations until moving permanently to Coimbra in 1537. The university is among the oldest universities in continuous operation in the world, the oldest in Portugal, and played an influential role in the development of higher education in the Portuguese-speaking world. In 2013, UNESCO declared the university a World Heritage Site, noting its architecture, unique culture and traditions, and historical role.

What it doesn’t mention are the bats that live in the library, eating the weevils that feat on the books, several of them on a ledge above us. After our tour we wandered around a bit more, the professor then taking us on a drive around the city to areas that were too far to reach on foot, until it was time for us to go to Tasca das Tias Camellas for dinner. He chatted about the conference with Anna and when he found out about the bar we had visited, it turned out his daughter sometimes performs there and it was also once the location for a family member’s birthday celebration. He also gave us some valuable real estate advice for Portugal and I think it’s safe to say that we’re city people so it would be Lisbon for us over Coimbra, and one point he made that we didn’t take into account were the earthquakes in the country so that would be something to consider if we were to choose a place. Get something newer or at least reinforced.
Strolling around new areas of Coimbra, the University, and an after dinner shot with the professor:

Monday, October 2, 2023
We checked out of our hotel and boarded the train back to Lisbon for one final day in town before catching a flight to Amsterdam the following day. We had already spent multiple days walking around the city and finding some really cool stuff, but we figured it would be even better on our second stay if we got someone local who knew where the really good stuff was so after we checked into our hotel we went on a Street Art Tour that Anna had previously booked.
The tour was just a group of about 10 of us, except when a fat, old American tourist yelled, “Show me where the castle is!” and then he and his wife joined us while we walked in that general direction. We started off in a more traditional area, where first there was a tiled piece on the ground that mimicked the building in front of it, followed by small, old pieces on the wall in a laneway that memorialised famous singers of fado, a genre of traditional Portuguese folk music. From there we continued on to see more of the modern contemporary stuff we were after, at one point even walking up through a multi-storey parking lot to see how each individual level had been uniquely painted, some by artists who had done pieces in the underpass that we had previously seen.
Our street art tour lasted for over two and a half hours, our guide shedding light on some great urban paintings, as well as showing us even more of the city.
Here are some of the highlights (there are a lot, just scroll on if you’re not interested):