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Our day nine on the Camino Portugués was the shortest yet, a lovely saunter into the historic university town of Coimbra. Arriving early meant we had an entire half a day to explore the wonders of this college town, home of the first university in Portugal.
"Religion points to that area of human experience where in one way or another man comes upon mystery as a summons to pilgrimage." ~ Frederick Buechner, Author and Theologian
To determine the reasons behind your call to pilgrimage is a mystery indeed. It is something that I continue to reflect upon. I think of myself more in spiritual terms, rather than religious terms, yet I still feel the call.
Our human experience, in and of itself is sufficient to question our purpose, the reason for life, and a pilgrimage gives us the opportunity to explore this at a deeper level.
In my totally interactive Google map, that I uploaded from my own personal Camino steps, I placed albergues/hotels/cafés on the map for your convenience.
If you zoom in the map, above, you will see the extra detour we had to take from our hotel in Condeixa-a-Nova to the little Camino hiker icon, where our detour joined the actual Camino. If you are walking through from the ruins, you will, of course, not have to walk the detour route.
Here is the elevation profile for the almost two kilometer (1.2 miles) portion that leaves the town of Condeixa-a-Nova, to walk back to rejoin the Camino. It is at the Bar Triplo Jota, (see above google map) that we rejoined the Camino, a very straightforward path. Of course, the bar was closed at 7:30 in the morning.
Here is the remaining 17.2 kilometers of the day's walk. Some upsy downsies with a nice downhill jaunt into Coimbra at the end, to join the Mondego River.
We woke up on day nine to a dark and quiet Condeixa-a-Nova. Nothing was stirring, nothing was open. Despite it being a Monday after a holiday, the town was as quiet as death at 7:00 a.m. when we left the hotel.
I looked at my left ankle and sure enough, once again the swelling had gone down entirely overnight. The amazing mystery of my pilgrimage! I was thrilled. It was going to be a good day. I could feel it in my bones.
Our day nine's goal on the Camino Portugués was to reach Coimbra, a mere 19 km away. I knew I could do it without a problem. I was eager to explore this historic town of which I had read so much!
Leaving our hotel, with nothing open so early, we were lucky enough to find vending machines at the main intersection, where we were able to get café con leite. There were snack machines as well, which we skipped, hoping to find a real open café along the way soon.
But alas, the Bar Triplo Jota, as referenced earlier was closed. We hoped to get lucky later.
My first photo is the intersection where our detour from Condeixa-a-Nova joins the actual Camino route. The red arrows, along with the yellow Camino arrows denotes yet another walk, that shares the Camino de Santiago called the "King's Road."
Shortly after joining, we turn left at this inviting olive grove.
A right turn on the Rua Principal, a kilometer or so through rural villages and we join the Rua Pregeira, below. These are quiet, paved roads, peaceful and perfect for a pilgrimage.
Even when crossing a busy highway, below, in another kilometer, there was little traffic to be found.
At about 3.5 kilometers, we reached the hamlet of Orelhudo. Not much here in this town, but quaint homes.
In town, we turn right here onto the Rua Ribeira. The blue X is a unique phenomenon, as far as I know, to the Portuguese Way. It means don't enter here! If you go towards a blue X, you are going the wrong way!
The delicious and unkempt orange trees continued to grace our walk with blessings from its branches!
Just outside of town, Orelhudo, the sign below announces that we were entering the region of Casconha.
Straight on until this Casconha waymark informs us to turn left...
and join the Rua Cruz...
to walk into Cernache, after about 2 kilometers additional, a total of 5.5 kilometers from the albergue in Conimbriga.
Coming off the Easter holiday, Cernache had lamppost adornments overhead. Here is the Albergue de Peregrinos de Cernache, which you walk by right along the Camino. I believe it is a municipal albergue, and is about 8 Euros/night, if your Camino ends here for the day.
Having not had a substantial breakfast, we were very impatiently looking for an open café in Cernache, and had to walk through almost the entire town before spotting the café umbrellas below! It was over six kilometers into our walk and time to eat!
The pastry shop, below, was the typical Portuguese fabuloso, and we quickly ordered up a nice spread! We actually tried the meat/cheese-stuffed pastries and didn't even have our usual custard tarts (Pastel de Nata)!
Right after our break, we slung on our packs, walked to a roundabout to turn right, then a quick left, here, onto the Rua Tirado.
A short but steep walk on the pavement brings you to Pousada.
In about a half kilometer, a left turn takes you to a gravel lane...
through a forest...
up a hill...
to the top...
across the way...
past a quaint camino waymark, a blue boot for the Camino to Fátima, the yellow boot for the Camino de Santiago...
and down the hill into the next town of Palheira.
After passing the industrial building above, on the outskirts of town, the Camino turns left onto the Estrada Principal to walk through town. There is significant climbing on this pavement.
Over 11 kilometers down. Six or so left to go. My ankle was holding up great. It was a day that I must say, gave me reason to believe that I was indeed a pilgrim and my pilgrimage was special just as it was. I liked the shorter days, despite my husband's desire to go farther. I was with him, my best friend and confidant and I was asserting my needs.
In the town of Palheira, we turned up a hill on a side street to climb to the town chapel, below.
Once again the side road turns to a gravel lane, called the Rua Vale to walk onward on day nine of our Camino Portugués.
The country lane turns right on yet another lovely, unpaved lane, below. We continued with the steady climb.
Here is a Fátima pilgrim, one of many that we saw, heading the opposite direction from us! This young Portuguese gentleman obliged Rich, to snap this photo. He was so amused by their traffic vests, and their going the opposite way! I think he just wanted to have more pilgrims to talk to!
Because May of 2017 was the 100th anniversary of the event of the sightings of the Virgin Mary at Fátima, many pilgrims were on the road to there in April.
After about 1.5 kilometers on the gravel lanes, we rejoined the pavement. We were nearing the alto for the day, or the highest elevation point.
Reaching the town of Cruz dos Morouços next, in about another 1.5 kilometer, we turned right here on the Rua Além. The town of Cruz dos Morouços is indeed the highest point of the day. It was all downhill from here!
It is here in Cruz dos Morouços that we strolled by this café. This is the only café we saw until Coimbra.
Since we had less than five kilometers to Coimbra, and were still full from our breakfast, we saved ourselves for later and walked on by.
After the café, the Camino turns left onto the Calçada Cruz dos Morouços and begins a long downhill walk. Coimbra is visible ahead!
The road flattens and walks through more of the town...
then turns left on the Estrada Mina, to walk again downhill by the path of the highway, the IC2. We could smell the city nearing.
In the above photo, you can see how the IC2 cuts through this historic aqueduct, below. The Estrada Mina crosses the highway, and bends to follow it parallel, but now on the other side and towards the aqueduct.
Following the Estrada Mina down the hill and into town, it still feels quite rural, until the bottom of the hill. Then we turn left on the Rua 10 de Junho at a T intersection to begin the walk through the suburbs of Coimbra.
There are many places to eat, for many kilometers before the center of Coimbra, and they are too numerous to describe!
A traffic circle with a right turn on the Rua Central da Mesura and we began the long climb back up a hill on the other side! We are not yet in Coimbra. In the photo below, we are just about at the top.
You can see the water tower ahead. That is essentially the top.
If you are doing this climb as a long day from Rabaçal, I imagine that this climb would hurt at the end of the day! Even for our short day the long hill climb on the cobblestone seemed to take forever!
Then suddenly, several hundred meters onward on the Rua Observatório and this amazing first view of Coimbra comes into focus.
The view opens up farther on and the pilgrimage traveler just MUST stop and take it all in for awhile. The view from this Observatório is fantastic!
It is a moment of pure enjoyment, stopping at the Observatório! Here is the view, unimpeded.
Heading farther down the hill, the Monastery of Santa Clara a Nova, is a huge complex overlooking the river. and contains the Albergue de Peregrinos Rainha Santa Isabel. We wanted to stay in town, so we kept on going. Unfortunately, the albergue is almost a full kilometer from the center of town and all the sights.
The narrow cobblestone street walks by the monastery and turns sharply to go very steeply down the hill on the Calçada de Santa Isabel, below. Rich is facing up the hill, but the way is downhill!
It would be a real chore to climb back up this steep hill after a nice evening in town, to get back to the albergue!
At almost river level, the Convento São Francisco welcomes the pilgrim. Here is Rich walking on its upper level.
Here is the convent as seen from the street level farther down the hill, below.
And then, the river and the bridge are the final obstacles before town. The University of Coimbra buildings loom above you as you walk across the bridge.
Immediately after the bridge you come to the main square, the Largo da Portagem, with its famous statue of Joaquim António de Aguiar, the Portuguese prime minister in the 1800's, is the place to be for outdoor restaurants and just people gazing.
We went directly to our hostel that I had pre-booked, just mere steps from the Portagem square on the Rua da Couraça Estrela.
The Coimbra Portagem Hostel is a fascinating place, a former governor's palace, right along the river. It is adorned with painted murals, like the one below, going up the stairs to the sleeping rooms.
The hostel is very reasonably priced, has a choice of accommodation, from dormitory rooms to private rooms, all with large shared bathrooms and shower rooms, one for men and one for women.
Our double room was very tastefully appointed as you can see below. We paid only 30 Euros for the night, as inexpensive as a private albergue for two. If you need towels, you will have to pay for them. The proprietor was also willing to store our packs, until check-in time, so we could explore the town that afternoon without them.
The hostel has kitchen facilities and a living area downstairs as well. With its fantastic location, friendly staff, brand-new and clean facilities, patio views over the river and a reasonable price, I would highly recommend it! Just click here to see more photos of this gorgeous place.
Of course, there are many, many more places to stay in Coimbra. Click here to see them. I put on the map above, places with "hostel" in the name, a good second to the albergue up the hill. Three more hostels most convenient to the center of town and the onward Camino are the Serenata Hostel, the BE Scobar Hostel, and the BE Coimbra Hostel. If you want a room or suite click the first link.
My ankle was doing well, with only a slight swelling on day nine of our Camino Portugués. It hurt way less than on day eight. In fact, a mystery of mysteries, it never swelled up again after day nine! I didn't know this, when in Coimbra, I purchased a thin ankle compression brace. If it was sprained, I felt the added support would help and reduce the swelling as well.
For many days after the swelling no longer occurred in my ankle, I continued to wear the brace, just in case!
Did I create my injury because I was not fit enough initially, or because I wanted to walk less kilometers?? I'll never know. It just was. In fact, the rest of our Camino was filled with long 30+ kilometer days, without any trouble with my ankle whatsoever. It was and would be a mystery to me forever.
However, I knew my day here was not over, that we were to explore the old and hoary university town of Coimbra that afternoon.
At noon we filled our bellies with nourishment at a lovely southside, riverside café, for our bodies, and our hearts and minds, before setting off to see the town of Coimbra in the afternoon. The university buildings on the hill were calling loudly to us, and the weather was near perfect on this glorious spring day nine on our Camino Portugués.
The adventure portion of our pilgrimage was at its highest on this day, and we wanted to experience as much as we could! The food and the city revitalized us and we were eager to get started.
The rest of our day was spent touring the glorious old town of Coimbra, then meeting up once again with our Aussie mates, who had arrived here the night before. They were taking a full rest day, and we had caught up to them, running into them at the Sé Velha on our city tour.
Later we joined our Aussie mates for a fantastic bottle of wine and dinner, outside in the Largo da Portagem square. We were fast forming a significant connection with these two pilgrims, the only consistent ones we met thus far on the Portuguese Way. We sat and reflected on what this whole pilgrimage thing meant to each of us! It was a fantastic conclusion to a fantastic pilgrimage day!
I am not sure what my lesson was to be learned for this day. Indeed, it did not matter. I was enjoying the fantastic day and felt lucky to be here at all! I enjoyed solidifying our relationship with the Australian couple we met again and again.
May your own day nine on the Camino Portugués help you remember the joys of the pilgrimage and what called you to do it in the first place. May your summons, "religious" or not be the fullest experience possible! Ultreia!
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