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Tomar, Coimbra, and Porto...

Our trip began in Sintra, then we traveled to Évora... Afterwards we traveled to...

TOMAR...

I’m definitely grateful for the Portuguese Railways. However, I wished there was a more direct way to travel from Évora to Tomar.
Our journey involved traveling on the Intercity train from Évora back to Lisboa (Oriente station) where we transferred to a Regional train. Our Intercity train was about 10-12 minutes late.
When the conductor came by to check our tickets, I asked what I should do if we missed our connecting train. The conductor explained that he would make a call and that the Regional train would wait. Wow, talk about service!

We had less than 5 minutes to make the transfer but fortunately the conductor had also told me the platform number which was next to the one we’d arrived on.

We enjoyed our two nights stay at Thomar Story Guesthouse. A small hotel with comfortable rooms and modern bathrooms with a rain shower! We paid €5/person extra for breakfast which was adequate; yogurt, cereals, ham, cheese, fresh fruit, juices, coffee, breads and jams.

Here are the highlights of our time in Tomar:

  • Castle and Convent of Christ - truly spectacular and not to be
    missed! TIP: If you’ll be walking to this site, I’d suggest staying on the road (same road taken by cars, buses and Tuk-Tuks) that winds around to the entrance instead of taking the steep uneven cobbled stone pathway.

  • The small Synagogue - no longer used as a synagogue but amazing that it's still here!

  • Church of St. John the Baptist (Igreja de São João Baptista)

  • Praça da República

  • St. Aria chapel (Capela de Santa Aria)- amazing azulejos (ceramic tiles)

  • Church of Santa María da Olival

  • Mouchão Parque- peaceful park in the middle of the Nabão River with
    an ancient waterwheel.

  • The old Roman Bridge

  • Museu dos Fósforos - The Matchbox Museum was truly amazing! It
    consists of seven rooms filled with perfectly displayed matchboxes
    from around the world.

Restaurants we enjoyed:

  • ‘Restaurante Bela Vista’ - overlooking the river. The portions are
    HUGE! We shared the Brazilian steak- very tender and tasty, served
    with rice, black beans and crispy homemade potatoes chips. We also
    shared a fresh mixed salad. The meal could have been shared by 3
    persons!

  • ‘Taverna Antiqua’- located on Plaça da República. (reservations
    required)- the food was truly delicious! The setting was very rustic
    and interesting.

Next... Coimbra!

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4622 posts

COIMBRA...

We traveled from Tomar to Coimbra
via train (journey time 2.5 hours with a train change in Lamarosa)

We stayed at Hotel Vitória- conveniently located near the train station.
Our room on the second floor was spacious and comfortable. The only problem was the noise coming from the building next door that was under construction. If you decide to stay here ask for a room away from the construction. We had a twin room and was told that most other rooms only have one bed.

After checking in we went to ‘Porta Larga‘- a small place recommended by Lonely Planet that has been serving roasted pork sandwiches for over 76 years. We ordered the sandwiches to go and found a shady bench right across the street from the police station.

After our tasty lunch we visited the Mercado Municipal and got some sweet cherry tomatoes and some juicy oranges. We then walked to the university and managed to get lost! We ended up walking for a long time before arriving back at our hotel.

Highlights of our time in Coimbra:

  • Church of Santa Cruz- beautiful!

  • Sé Velha- Old cathedral & its cloisters - beautiful Romanesque
    architecture

  • The University of Coimbra - pre book tickets that include a guided
    tour €15 (without tour €12)- request preferred language.

  • Mercato Municipal - filled with wonderful merchants selling fresh
    fish, poultry, meats, variety of cheeses, olives, vegetables and
    fruits. Some vendors also sell table linens, underwear, socks, &
    other clothes.

  • Convent of Santa Clara (across the Mondego River)– Great Gothic
    architecture. I only visited the exterior.

  • Quinta das Lágrimas - beautiful gardens! Great place to escape the
    heat of the day under the shade of a great Sequoia tree.

Favorite places for delicious meals:

  • il Tartufo - Italian Restaurant with great food and good service.

  • Café Santa Cruz - Famous café housed in an antique chapel next to the
    Santa Cruz church. Try their signature pastry, the cruzios, a sweet
    pastry with an almond and egg cream filling.

  • Hotel Vitória - good authentic dishes.

On our last day in Coimbra, a Sunday, we took the public bus to Conímbriga at 9:30.
The bus stop is just beyond the train station.
Buy tickets from the driver (€ 2.60pp one way) the journey took 40-45 minutes.

Visiting the Roman ruins in Conímbriga was interesting and the weather was pleasant when we arrived but then it became hot.
[Be sure to wear comfortable shoes, a hat, and sunscreen]

The beautifully intricate mosaic floors reminded me of the ones I saw in Sicily at Villa Romana del Casale. The latter are much better preserved though.

We toured the ruins and the museum in about 1.5 hours.
The bus back to Coimbra was at 13:55 so we sat on the shady terrace of the café, and enjoyed a tasty snack.
I took this opportunity to write in my journal.

As you may know, this is the day when my daughter and I began having GI problems. We both experienced abdominal cramps followed by more GI issues (I will spare you the details...) Here's my post related to this: Who would have thought...

We found a 24 hour pharmacy and was able to buy some electrolyte tablets and probiotics.
Initially I’d thought it was food poisoning but since our symptoms lasted several days, the most likely diagnosis is a viral infection.

Our next destination... Porto!

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4622 posts

PORTO…

We arrived to Porto via train.
Most trains arrive at the Campanhã train station where one can transfer to a train that will take you to the São Bento station, the one closer to the city center.

Our apartment was not too far from the station but since we weren’t feeling our best we opted to take a taxi (cost €5)
Fortunately for us, the apartment was ready when we arrived (I had sent an email prior to departing Coimbra asking for an early check-in)

We spent 6 restful nights at My Story Apartments Santa Catarina.

I’d booked the Family Studio with a balcony, and the extra cost was well worth it, specially since we spent more time there than we’d originally planned.

My original itinerary had included day trips to Guimarães, and to Vila do Conde. I’d also planned to visit Matosinhos for a great seafood lunch. However, since we became ill, we didn’t feel up to it, so we took our time resting and walking around in beautiful Porto instead.

Before our trip, we’d planned to meet Helena Andrade (a great contributor to the Portugal forum), so after a few days we met her, along with our friend Chani (who was also traveling in Portugal) and enjoyed a delicious dinner together.

Here are the highlights of our time in Porto:

  • Capela das Almas ( Chapel of Souls)- beautiful façade covered in blue
    and white azulejos (ceramic tiles)

  • The temporary Mercado do Bolhão - great place for fresh produce,
    fish, meat, cheese, wine, etc, etc...

  • São Bento station- walls lined with amazing azulejos.

  • Igreja and Torre dos Clérigos (Church and tower)

  • Sé do Porto- Porto’s cathedral & its Plaza - great views of the city.

  • Muralha Primitive- ancient walls of the city (near the cathedral)

  • Igreja dos Carmos & Igreja dos Carmelitas, and the narrowest house in
    between these two churches.

  • Walking across the upper level of Ponte Luís I, ( Luís I Bridge), then across the lower
    level and going up in the funicular dos Guindais.

  • Walking around one of the former Jewish neighborhoods and admiring
    the city views from the Miradouro da Vitória.

  • Walking up & down the isles of the ‘Continente’ supermarket within
    the Via Catarina Shopping mall.

  • Watching the world go by from our apartment balcony three stories up
    on Rua de Santa Catarina- a pedestrian only street.

There are many other beautiful sites we didn’t get to visit... But there’s always next time! ; )

We ate most of our meals in our small apartment with supplies from the following establishments:

  • Continente and Pingo Doce markets

  • “Canja”- chicken soup from Confeitaria Império - their pastries
    looked amazingly tempting but we didn’t consume any of them during
    our stay as sugar is not part of the BRAT (bananas, rice, applesauce & toast) diet.

  • Roasted chicken and fries from 'Pedro dos Frangos' - tender and juicy
    chicken roasted on a spit over hot coals.

  • 'Amorino' - we finally enjoyed a delicious gelato on our last day in
    Porto.

  • 'Manteigaria' - delicious pastéis de nata (custard tarts)- just baked
    warm and sweet (also on our last day in Porto)

Next destination... Lisbon!

Posted by
4700 posts

Sounds like had a great trip and enjoyed these places! I did it in this same sequence but about 2X faster LOL! I found Tomar delightful and quiet - but small. I had only a few hours there between trains. I would have appreciated a few more hours or even a night just to wander around...but my trip was not very long and I opted to move on.

I think Tomar is to be included in the next (current?) RS Portugal book, so it might not be so quiet for much longer!

Posted by
4622 posts

Hi Andrew!
I also liked the fact that Tomar was not overrun by tourists! : )

Will you be writing about your recent trip? I enjoy reading others' trip reports!

Posted by
2886 posts

Priscilla,
Beautifully written, and detailed! Sorry we missed Tomar on our tour a few years ago. Glad to hear there was some Jewish history there. That was missing from our itinerary.

Good to hear you and your daughter recovered at the end of your 6 nights in Porto! Glad you were able to try the wonderful Gelato!

I agree, take a guided tour of the Coimbra University! It was incredible.

Your report made be feel like I was reliving this magical country. Looking forward to your next report. Obrigada!