Guimarães, the small city Mom and Marsh and I are staying in tonight, is one of the most beautiful places I've been in the world; made all the more exquisite by how harrowing our journey was getting here today.
We drove here today--the birthplace of Portugal--from Cascaís, which is near Lisbon, and about a five-hour drive. If you drive steadily.
I had forgotten, when I made our plans for this week, that a small country doesn't necessarily mean tiny. I had also forgotten that when Ian and I visited here 7 years ago we had rented our car in Porto--less than two hours away.
Jet lag, general anxiety, gut issues, some difficulty with maps and road signs and smart-phone driving directions (very stupid phone, in this case); a long stay at a turnpike rest stop for me to sleep the drooling sleep of the internationally exhausted; the necessity for Marsh to then take over driving from me for a time, and then us getting mired down in hilly, cobbled Coimbra's traffic with the poor man at the wheel of a gutless stick shift, with no Portuguese sign-reading skills, and no experience driving in the country that vies with Greece for Europe's most dangerous roads; a refreshing (enough) stroll through Coimbra University's Botanical Garden (Coimbra University is the second oldest university is the world that has been in operation full-time, starting in the early 1200's); a short discussion of whether or not we should forfeit our lodging in Guimarães (still about 2 1/2 hours further along) and try to re-navigate the narrow, winding streets of Coimbra in search of alternate lodging; but deciding ultimately to go on (I had recovered and the drive seemed way easier to me than a search for a room would be the), where we got to experience insane drivers (I was going 90 with the flow of traffic, at one point, and two Mercedes flew by me going at least 150, one car-length apart, barely able to keep to their lane) . . . where was I?
Well we made it; Mom and Marsh's room looks out over the idyllic square; we covered two cafe tables with local specialties around 8:30 pm (about 30 minutes before the locals started trickling in to eat) and ate them all, and I am delighted to be here :-)
And now I will sleep.
one-fingered on my phone