*** This is a long one. I wouldn't mind at all if you just skipped to the food at the end of this post!
I was huffing and puffing up to "Old Town" like a wheezy old train when the Missus finally signaled a stop at this somewhat imposing Romanesque style building that looked like it a church....which, well, since it is Coimbra was one. This is the Cathedral of Coimbra, Sé Velha. The Cathedral is significant since it is the only Cathedral of the Romaneque style to have remained relatively unchanged from "Reconquista" times; the recapture of territory from the Muslims.
The structure is truly imposing, from the fortress like appearance to the battlement like notches on the roof. I'm guessing the folks around here still didn't feel completely safe from the Moors even after they had been chased out of the city.
The Main Chapel, dating from the late 15th century in the Gothic style is austere, but still quite grand in it's own way. Probably due to scale.
I actually found the side chapels to be more interesting. This one is the "Chapel of the Holy Sacrament" and was made by João de Ruão (Jean of Rouen) in 1566. It features statues of Jesus and his Apostles on the top ring and the Madonna on the bottom. I found it quite stunning and just loved the detail.
There are quite a few Tombs in the chapel as well. This one is of Jorge de Almeida who was Bishop of Coimbra in the 16th Century. Like I've said, here in the states, we talk generations and decades....in Europe it's about centuries..... And this one is from 480 years ago......
Queen Isabel (Elizabeth of Aragon) is beloved among the Portuguese.
This weathered painting alludes to one of the miracles that led to her canonization as Saint Elizabeth. According to the story; Elizabeth was devoted to the poor and sick, often feeding and helping providing for them. One day, the Queen returned home, and found to her surprise the King had also come home. The King did not approve of her actions with the poor. Depending on the version, Elizabeth was either holding bread or coins in her skirt. When the King asked what she was hiding; the Queen, who much like another character from later in American history, could not tell a lie, lower her skirt, and miraculously, whatever it was she was holding, be it bread or coins, turned into roses!
We soon headed back up the hill and eventually passed through this gate.....
And ended up in a courtyard where the extreme whites almost blinded us!
The lonely looking statue of King John III stands in the courtyard.
The reflection of the clear blue sky made everything seem so much brighter up here. We'd return the next day and I'll do a more detailed post later on.
Naturally, the views on such a bright, clear clear day were stunning.
We made our way across the campus to the area right above the Mercado (another future post), which you can see in the bottom of this photo.
This meant a fairly interesting steep walk downhill for me. Actually, walking down seemed harder on my legs than the walk up. Go figure....
Remember the young Chinese girl who looked at me puffing up the hill with amusement? Well, we ran into her as we descended. Naturally, curiosity got the better of all parties and we stopped to talk, well not me really, since they chatted in Mandarin. She was from Macao studying Portuguese in Coimbra for a year. Though missing her family, she was enjoying her time in Coimbra.
Eventually we made our way down to street level and back around to busy Praca 8 de Maio and probably the most well known church in Coimbra, the Church of Santa Cruz (Igreja de Santa Cruz). The facade is quite impressive and there's a very popular cafe attached to the church. It also helps that this is probably the busiest part of the pedestrian only shopping area in Coimbra......without a doubt the best place for people watching. You got everything from the women with over-sized designer sunglasses, to the guy with the accordion, to the young man giving his beloved mutt a drink at the fountain in the plaza that fronted of the church.
We spent some time in the church, but by now all I wanted was a short break and a shower.....
We found our way back via the alley-like side streets and freshened up. Soon enough, it was dinner time and there was one place I had in mind.
Located close to the Mondrego River and the Hotel Astoria......
Down a nondescript alleyway, you'll probably find a bunch of people lined up. For what you may ask? Well, it's for a restaurant that's so popular, even the young lady from Macao knew of it called Ze Manel dos Ossos. Don't be surprised if you see laundry hanging a couple of floors above where you're standing.....
If you're confused already, have a look at the menu that's hanging outside the place.
Ready to order yet? Yet never fear.......dos Ossos is here!
Luckily, I had found the place pretty easy....there was an 50 pound hardwood charcoal bag with trash for pick-up on the street and I thought the place had to be close by. We were second in line. The guy in back of us said that he drives to Porto form Lisbon every month and always stops here. He then uttered the two words were heard several more times during our meals here, "very tipico".
The restaurant itself is very small, you'll be sitting elbow to elbow. The walls are amazing with notes written in every language taped to them....this would be, without a doubt, a post-it wonderland.
It's all guys working here......like they decided one day, "hey, let's make a restaurant". Mario is the frontman, he speaks English, and in the wonderfully refreshing way, will tell you when you've ordered enough, as in "it is enough for you, no need to have more!"
When we had planned our trip to Portugal, we had thought of the food being hearty, rustic, and comforting, and places like Ze Manel and Quarta-Feira surely answered the call.
I mean, just look at the bread.....
So......as you can deduce by my post on Capela dos Ossos....Ossos means "bones". The name of the place is Ze Manel dos Ossos and all the locals are getting Ossos, well except for the German couple who insisted on "beefsteak". So of course we got Ossos.
A huge plate of simmered pork bones, simply seasoned, edging on salty, perfect with the house wine. This had us picking through every nook and cranny of the porky, slightly sticky (from the connective tissue), and wonderful pork bones. This was really good.
I ordered the Chanfana, a roasted/stewed goat dish that is from this region.
My response to the first bite was, "whoa", this was nicely gamey, it really tasted deliciously of the pasture with touches of garlic and onions. The meat was pretty tender. The sides were simple, I loved the simple potatoes with olive oil and hated the beans which were cooked to death, which the Missus loved!
It was interesting, most of the customers were Portuguese. The table next to us pointed to out food and said that often heard phrase here, "very tipico".
Ze Manel dos Ossos
Beco do Forno 12
As I looked up at University of Coimbra from our hotel room, I found myself very happy that we chose Portugal as our destination for our vacation.
I know this post was very long, thanks for reading!