written 14th January
As always Bill was right, as we found it, as promised, at the southern end of the massive beach, where they are continually doing some sort of processing of massive rocks.
We think they are extending the breakwater at the mouth of the river, the result of which is that the beach at that end is about 300m deep and floodlit with all sorts of permanent facilities in the sand like basetball and tennic courst, football pitches and children's play equipment. The sea is so far away there are even cycle track boardwalks to help you get half way there - it is massive! We also met an english couple in the carpark who live there in their motorhome from Novemeber to April every year. They have friends in the area and this year a little car (last year it was a scooter) to potter about in and that is just what they do - apparently know one seems to mind! They pointed us in the direction of the good supermarkets and also the public showers on the beach, 20 minute walk away. We are finding that motorhome people are very friendly (in general!) and everyone we've spoken to has contributed something useful or helpful to our adventures so far which is nice.
Housed in a blue and white candy striped building and presided over by two dumpy women in overalls, it was like standing under a hot fire hose on full blast - I have never been so clean!
We had fancied a bbq and had suitably provisioned ourselves with beer and chicken legs but unfortunately it turned out to be just too windy and on reflection, a fire next to a shipping lane would probably be frowned on - they might think we are wreckers or smugglers or something :)
We have also seen two of the most massive camping-car conversions here. In St Sebastian, we were parked next to by a converted English Routemaster double decker (we think it was a hire vehicle but we never saw the occupants) which was big enough but here we saw two separate converted coaches, one from the Netherlands which was towing an MX5 on the trailer and one articulated coach - so in effect two coaches, like a bendy bus, which had twee little lace curtains - what do they do with all that space??? and how do they ever find somewhere to park??? it is simply astonishing.
After one final day of fettling and painting - Jules now has a blue face! which looks terrible, even if I do say so myself, but at the same time, so much better than it did before :) I just need to some maksing tape to sort out the white stripe then from a distance, in bad light, if you squint, at speed - it will look ok... :) - we set of to Coimbra, in the hopes of some friday night fado.
Coimbra is Portugal's famous university town - its version of Cambridge - set high up on the hill over looking the new town and the river, the university is housed in an old royal palace, which was donated for university use in 1530-something by King Jao (although one of the buildings remained a roayl residence untilt he monarchy dies out in the 1950's). The university itself was actually established 300 years previously by King Dinis but swapped between lisbon and Coimbra until it finally settled here.
The journey to Coimbra was uneventful (although it did mean we will miss Bill's recommendation of a drive over the huge Vasco da Gama bridge at Figueira) and the tourist offices non-existent (and probably shut) so we parked ourselves at the top of the hill behind the physics dept and set off into town. Which was completely deserted! We had hoped for food and fado (Portuguese folk singing) but at 8:00 on a saturday night, nothing seemed to be open. We evenutally found ourselves in really cheap but really nice self service caff, down in the town where we were served caldo verde (portuguese speciality of potato and cabbage soup) and some sort of chickeny, sausagey breadcrumbed thing whilst watching what we guessed must be students who got all the left overs cheap - takes me back to pipe cleaning night at the Albion, students will really eat/drink anything cheap! The waiters were really friendly though, the food was delicious and we even got some port and cake on the house so all good!
onwards again the next day in the torrential rain to Nazare, a seaside resort where in the summer, you apparently get the full beach tourist experience with local costumes and everything.
On a sunny day in January, you get some traditional costume (dumpy old ladies wearing really unflattering kneelength skirts with the tradiional 7 petticoats (according to the tourist brochure - we didn't stop any old ladies and count them!), beige knee socks and shawls, either clashing colours or black if they have lost a male relative to the sea),
fish drying on fish drying racks
and a nice walk up to the cliff top pilgrimage village because the funicular is broken :)
Apart from the beaches, Nazare draws its crowds though its local miracle. Apparently in the early years AD, a monk brought a statue of the virgin mary here from the midle east and put it in a grotto where it was subsequently discovered and worshipped by fishermen. After that, the man who founded Portugal came here on a hunting trip and just as the stag he was hunting tumbled over the cliff and his horse had only its two hind legs on the cliff edge and was about the follow it down, a vision of the virgin mary appeared in the sky and miraculously his horse found its footing and crisis was averted. He was so stunned and amazed, he built a small chapel with a little grotto for the statue to commemorate it, and then returned and built a proper sanctuary which was later rebulit by another king and a hospital and pilgrims rest house established. Miracle or early examples of public vote winning PR, who can say but the church was very nice - even by our churched out standards - and nicely gold leafed and polished, although we couldn't work out which old testament stories the tile paintings we supposed to show - sorry no pics allowed so you will have to go see for yourself!
and it was all jolly very nice :)
Monday night - golly, where has the week gone! - we headed on to Obidos which is apparently a very pretty walled city with lots of history and, finding that they wanted to charge us €6 for a parking space with no facilities, parked behind Pingo (supermarket) instead where Will set about swapping the distributor over - very easily done and less traumatic than last time but still hasn't fixed the juddering problem. Tuesday morning was torrential rain again and we decided that there us no point going to a photogenic town in the rain if we can help it, so we checked into a lovely campsite new Foz da Arelho which has free electricity and wifi and have spent the last 48 hours squeezing every last cents worth out of both - so Will has fettled (and encountered all sorts of bugs and problems and redo from start errors and may have fried something) and all my pictures are now uploaded!
The sun is finally shining again so in a bit, we will get going and try again for Obidos.
Oh, challenge for you all - see below a link to a picture of the entrance to the maths dept at Coimbra - we could work out some of the pictures but not all - prizes to anyone who can correctly identify all of them!