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May 30, 2009

Coimbra a central Portugal place to visit

Coimbra - Montego River - image author - licence
Mondego River CoimbraSpread over a hillside beside the river Mondego at the north of the Silver Coast region (195 km north of Lisbon) is Coimbra, which was the country's capital in the 12th Century.

Coimbra is a cultural and educational centre of the country with the University of Coimbra being the oldest academic institution in the Portuguese-speaking world and one of the oldest and most prestigious universities in Europe.

Click images to enlarge.

The traditional fado music, the student and bohemian life, academia and tradition blend with monuments, ancient Roman remains and architecture.

Coimbra Aqueduct The Roman name for the place now known as Coimbra was Aeminium and there is a well-preserved aqueduct (pictured left) from the Roman city of Civita Aeminium.
image author - licence
Cryptoporticus Coimbra

The cryptoporticus, an underground gallery of arched corridors built to support the Roman Forum of the city also survives. (pictured right) Now it is beneath the Bishop's Palace which was built over the forum in the Middle Ages. The cryptoportico can be visited through the Machado de Castro Museum.

The Roman town of Aeminium came under the protection of Conímbriga (15km to the south) until the Germanic Sueves razed Conímbriga in the year 468 when most of the inhabitants fled to Aeminium. It is thought they adapted the name to Coimbra. Today the ruins of Conímbriga are one of the most important and well-preserved Roman ruins anywhere in the Roman world. (see separate article on Conímbriga)

Between 586 and 640, the Visigoths altered the name of the town to Emínio. The Moors occupied Coimbra around the year 711, and made it an important commercial link between the Christian North and Muslim South. The city was reconquered by Ferdinand I of León in 1064 and important archeological remains date from the time when it served as the capital of Portugal (from 1139 to about 1260). In the Late Middle-Ages Coimbra began to evolve into a major cultural centre with the foundation of the University of Coimbra in 1290.

Joanina Library
image author - license

One of the city's most outwardly noticeable landmarks is The Baroque University Tower (Torre da Universidade), built between 1728 and 1733, and pictured left.

Built in the 18th century, the Joanina Library (Biblioteca Joanina pictured right) is a Baroque library in the ancient university

Coimbra was one of the main artistic centres of Portugal during the Age of Discovery (15th and 16th centuries) and many important manueline and renaissance works are to be seen in the town, including the tomb of Kings Afonso Henriques in the Santa Cruz Monastery which is pictured left.

The Baixa (downtown) of Coimbra, pictured on the right, has many cafes and pastry shops.

Coimbra Fado (Fado de Coimbra) is a highly stylized music genre of the traditional Portuguese fado. According to tradition, to applaud fado in Lisbon the audience claps, while in Coimbra one coughs as if clearing the throat.

Coimbra has been called the city of the students or the Lusitan-Athens. It has students from 70 different nationalities. Coimbra is also the place where the oldest students' union of Portugal was founded in 1887.

Botanical Garden - image author - licence

The Botanical Garden of the University of Coimbra is the fifth oldest in the world. The Jardim Botânico was founded in 1772 and then integrated in the Natural History Museum established by the Marquis of Pombal. The area of the Garden has since been enlarged to cover 13 hectares of land, most of which was donated by Benedictinne monks and is considered one of the most beautiful of Europe. The Botanical Garden shelters several species of birds in a natural environment.

Six couples of brown squirrel introduced into the Jardim Botânico in June 1994 have also adapted and bred well since then.

Quinta das Lágrimas, a 19th century palace and estate, which was transformed into a hotel and golf resort, also contains a large park. The "Fonte das Lágrimas" (Fountain of Tears), which according to the legend originated from the tears shed by Inês de Castro when she was killed, is located close to the spring. The entry features a broken arch, probably from the fourteenth century.

Nearby there are also several picturesque mountain towns such as Lousã and Penacova and spa towns and villages such as Luso, Buçaco and Curia with it's Grande Hotel Da Curia Golf And Spa, Curia.

Without going far from the inner city there are plenty of mountain and river landscapes including the river beach of Palheiros do Zorro in the parish of Torres do Mondego pictured on the right.

Click images to enlarge.

Property for sale in Coimbra

Places to Visit - The Silver Coast

Hotels / Villas / Accommodation in Coimbra

May 27, 2009

Cascais - a Lisbon Coast place to visit

The coastal settlement of Cascais originated in the 12th century. The former fishing village gained fame as a resort for Portugal's royal family in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Due to Portugal's neutrality in World War II and the town's elegance and royal past, Cascais became home to many of the exiled royal families of Europe, including those of Spain, Italy and Bulgaria.

Photo courtesy of http://MarkSwatzell.com

There is now a yacht harbour, several small beaches, a ruined castle, an art and sea museum, parks and the cobbled streets of the historic centre. The town has many hotels, tourist apartments and restaurants. Cascais is a famous vacation spot, a residential area for the Lisbon jet-set and favourite night spot for young people.

Click the image to enlarge it.

Popular beaches include Guincho Beach to the west. The lush Sintra mountains are to the north. It is a popular golf destination. Surfing, sailing, windsurfing and kitesurfing are also popular in the region. In 2007, Cascais was the official host of the ISAF World Championship in sailing for dinghies and racing yachts.

International tennis and motorcycling events have been hosted along with the Formula One Portugal Grand Prix. The famous Estoril Casino is one of the largest in Europe. Near the casino is the "Hotel Palácio" (Palace Hotel), a 5 star hotel where scenes of the Bond 007 films were shot.

Property for sale in Cascais

Places to Visit - The Silver Coast

Hotels / Villas / Accommodation in Cascais / Estoril

May 25, 2009

The Monastery of Batalha - a Silver Coast place to visit

Batalha:- The town grew up around the Dominican monastery of Santa Maria da Vitória, of Batalha. The monastery was built to fulfil a promise made by King D. João I of Portugal who had prayed for victory over the Castillians at the Battle of Aljubarrota (August 14, 1385) which ended the crisis of 1383-1385.

batalha.jpg image derived from an original photo by Georges Jansoone

The Monastery of Batalha is a majestic building classified as world heritage by UNESCO it has flamboyant Gothic architecture, intermingled with Manueline style. It is one of the best and original examples of such architecture in Portugal. It amazes the onlooker with its profusion of gables, spires, pinnacles and buttresses.

Lateral view. Monastery of Batalha. (image derived from original by Georges Jansoone)

The monastery took two centuries to build, starting in 1386 and ending circa 1517, spanning the reign of seven kings. It took the efforts of fifteen architects. The construction required an enormous effort, using extraordinary resources of men and material. New techniques and artistic styles were deployed. It is a symbol of national pride.

Under its naves you will find the tombs of João I, his English wife Philippa of Lancaster, and their offspring, Prince Henry the Navigator who is famous for exploring the world.

Property for sale in Batalha

Places to Visit - The Silver Coast

Hotels / Accommodation in Batalha

May 24, 2009

Alcobaça - a Silver Coast Place to Visit


Alcobaça:-A provincial town situated in a valley where the rivers Alcoa and Baca join.

Cistercian Monastery of Alcobaca. Begun in 1178, facade re modelled in the 17th and 18th centuries in baroque style. Gothic portal; tombs of King Pedro and D. Ines; mediaeval sculpture; water course diverted to run through the ancient kitchen.

Alcobaca is famous for it's Cistercian abbey, one of the finest architectural monuments in Portugal, and one of the first examples of Gothic architecture in Europe. The town grew up around the abbey which was an important centre in mediaeval times. The surrounding countryside was cultivated by the monks for almost 700 years and it remains today one of the most fertile regions in the country.

The city of Alcobaça became notable after the first king of Portugal, Afonso Henriques, decided to build a church to there celebrate the conquest of Santarém to the Moors, in 1147. The church later evolved into the Monastery of Alcobaça, one of the most magnificent gothic monuments in the country. In the church are the tombs of King Peter I and his murdered mistress Inês de Castro.

A few kilometers to the north of Alcobaça is the Monastery of Batalha, an impressive gothic building constructed in memory of the important battle of Aljubarrota. To the west of Alcobaça is the well-known former fishing village of Nazaré ,now a town. To the south is the city of Caldas da Rainha and the mediaeval town of Óbidos that is an attraction for any tourist who enjoys a true glimpse of the past. To the northeast is the town of Porto de Mós with its fanciful rebuilt castle.

Property for sale in Alcobaça

Places to Visit - The Silver Coast

Hotels / Accommodation in Alcobaça

May 14, 2009

Penha Longa Golf Resort - Sintra - Villas and Hotels

At the southern extremity of the Silver Coast, adjoining the Lisbon Golf Coast and poetically described by Lord Byron as "this glorious Eden", Sintra is surrounded by greenery and is rich in different species of vegetation. A romantic town with a turn-of-the-century atmosphere, it's luxuriant vegetation hides numerous country properties which blend perfectly into the landscape.

It was the summer residence of Portuguese kings from the end of the 16th century. It was here that D. Ferdinand de Saxe Coburg built a revivalist palace (The Pena Palace) in the style of one of the castles of his cousin Ludwig II of Bavaria.

Nowadays it is a favourite spot for visitors who like to discover it on foot or in one of the horse-drawn carriages for hire in the main square of the town. The 15th century palace in the village is well worth seeing for the painted ceilings and the Moorish patio. The simplicity of the Capuchos convent in the Sintra hills is well worth the drive out.


Designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr, the Penha Longa Atlantic Course is an 18-hole, par 72, championship course of 6,290 meters. Set in the gently rolling hills, and wooded valleys with magnificent views of the Sintra Mountains.

The Penha Longa Monastery course, is equally pretty but less demanding. A nine-hole, par 35 course of 2,588 meters.

Villas and Hotels at Penha Longa.

Villas and Hotels at Sintra

May 11, 2009

Rainha Golf and Spa Resort - 200m €uros more invested in Silver Coast Property, when?

On the 14th May 2007 "Leiria Económica" reported that a Portuguese subsidiary of New World Investments was investing 200 million euros in the construction of the Rainha Golf and Spa Resort, in 170 hectares of land between Foz do Arelho and Serra do Bouro. (The land between Green Hills Disco and the water storage at the top of the hill shown in the image.)
Green Hills Disco shown bottom left - Click for larger image at Google

The reports at the time in "Diário de Leiria" were of 800 jobs during the construction phase, and 350 when fully operating. The resort would consist of a five-star hotel with 120 beds and seven suites, two tourist villages with 360 apartments and 550 houses, and an 18 hole golf course. Properties reported as totalling more than 2000 beds.

The construction of "Rainha Golf course" was reportedly going to start later in 2007 with all the work on property development not getting under way until the end of 2008, or the first quarter of 2009. The delays due in part to difficulties in the purchase of dozens of parcels of land. Diario de Leiria reported that Marques Pereira, lawyer and representative of the company in Portugal, said that "95 percent of the land had already been purchased."

As I previously reported (with various links and Rainha Golf contact info), A Gazeta das Caldas article of 13th October 2006 on the Obidos Council web site mentions a dinner where Dennis O'Sullivan, represented a company "New World Investments" linked to the Baden Powell family who were promoting the project. The lawyer "Álvaro Baltazar da Silva Jerónimo" a member of the Municipal Assembly for Caldas da Rainha was also reported by the Gazeta das Caldas to have been engaged to contact some of the folks who own the land, because some may have emigrated or moved away.

The Gazeta das Caldas reported here, that in the January 20th 2007 edition of Expresso, the supplement dedicated to the tourism fair in Lisbon (BTL), published a map showing "Rainha Golf and Spa" was planned for Serra do Bouro. The new tourist complex was then dependent on development of a detailed plan because the Caldas PDM (municipal development plan) did not provide areas for tourism development. The president of RTO (Oeste Regional Tourism) had obtained guarantees from Councilor Maria da Conceição that the process was "on track" and she believed that "we need everything to go well so that within a year and a half or two years work would be underway."

Now we are in the second quarter of 2009 and the project has not started by the dates predicted, but it is now rumoured locally that finally all the land needed has been acquired. Reports in the local media of the commencement of the project are notably absent.

The Gazeta das Caldas while reporting (here) on plans for the much needed new regional hospital, gave details of the projected total of 14,991 tourist beds in all the developments around the Obidos lagoon, made up as follows:-

Caldas da Rainha - Rainha Golf & SPA 4,642 beds
Óbidos - Quinta do Bom Sucesso 3,362 beds
Óbidos - Pérola da Lagoa 456 beds
Óbidos - Quintas de Óbidos 950 beds
Óbidos - Royal Golf & SPA 2,500 beds
Óbidos - Falésia D'El Rey 3,081 beds

Given the amount of property already constructed on Pérola da Lagoa, the number quoted of 456 beds seems strangely small. The figure for Rainha Golf & SPA seems somewhat larger than earlier estimates.

May 10, 2009

Silver Coast holiday price advantage

postofficelogo.gifWhether on holiday or property hunting, buy your sun cream elsewhere and pack it in your luggage to make Portugal the Eurozone's most competitive destination according to the data in a survey by Post Office travel services.

In a news release dated 01/05/2009 (linked here) the UK Post Office says the Eurozone may "costa" lot less than expected and offers cash-strapped tourists a better deal.

Foz Do Arelho Christmas 2008
Foz Do Arelho Christmas 2008

Portugal is back in the world´s top ten most competitive destinations for British tourists and placed second in the Euro Zone.

But using a survey of ten items, the cost in Portugal amounted to £67.47, only 39p more than in Spain. As the cost of sun cream is almost £2 more expensive in Portugal than in Spain, Portugal is the cheapest by far for those Britons who bring their own sun cream.

For holiday-makers on a strict budget this summer, price cutting in some of the most popular eurozone destinations mean that the UK's traditional favourite destinations may cost less than expected.

Sarah Munro, Post Office head of travel services said: "The eurozone has taken a bashing this year but our survey suggests that tourist outlets in many resorts are taking dramatic steps to encourage tourists. Despite the weak pound, this means that UK tourists who shop carefully could find that they get more than expected for their money."

France is the most expensive eurozone destination in this year's barometer - costing almost 17% more than Portugal. And one of the newest eurozone entrants, Cyprus, joins France as the highest priced European holiday destinations. Malta emerges as
third cheapest after Spain and Portugal.

Outside the of the more politically stable Eurozone area Bulgaria was cheapest overall in the survey. In Turkey the survey shows prices had gone up by over one third, but
ironically the biggest price hikes were in the long haul destinations like the USA, Egypt and Thailand which had previously been seen as bargains.

Obidos Lagoon Christmas 2008

Holiday Villa apartment Foz Do Arelho - Obidos Lagoon

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