Fado and Reunions – Coimbra, Portugal

We started the day with a lovely walk along the Duoro river. We passed the dock containing some of the very large river cruise boats we had seen plying their trade up and down the river as we drove around. One of the boats had guests aboard waking up alongside the dock, with a local cork ware seller setting up his stall awaiting for them to arise. It was already getting warm by 8am and there was not a cloud in the sky so we knew we were in for another hot one.

We had a couple of hours drive down from the hills of the Duoro to Coimbra, which was founded by the Romans then later became the capital of Portugal from 1139 to 1385 and is still the fourth largest urban area of Portugal. We had this on our list to visit anyway, however, we had another good reason to go there today as my parent’s tour of Spain in their motorhome had now ventured to Portugal and we had coordinated to meet in Coimbra.

We drove down through the trees and lakes of the lower ground arriving into Coimbra around lunchtime. My parents and Molly their dog were there to meet us at the free carpark by the Santa Clara bridge over the Mondego river from the city centre. After a quick catch up looking at our new motorhome we head into the city to see some sights and have some lunch, plus perhaps a beer or two. It was now lower into the low 30’s degree C and all of the dogs were not enjoying the stroll. It was cooler walking over the bridge but soon heated up in the narrow streets of the old city. Consequentially we chose the nearest restaurant with shade for lunch rather than the best.

However, we all had catching up to do, plus comparing forward travel plans and places to stop. So much so we may have needed a beer or two more. We managed to see a little bit of the narrow stepped streets of steep hills of Coimbra however as that involved Dad carrying Molly up the stairs in the heat due to her sore legs it was not a day for extensive touring.

I had done some research before we arrived in Coimbra and the top rated Thing To Do in Coimbra was the nightly small audience live music concert of the local Fado music which originates from the university here since the 1940’s. Although myths vary on the actual source and date of the origin. Fado includes the Portuguese guitar and as we had always admired the Spanish guitar we thought it would be worth visiting. I had managed to get us some of the last tickets for the 6pm showing with a port tasting afterwards.

Therefore, we all headed off to the small venue in the narrow streets and found quite a crowd gathered in cafes, on the street awaiting the concert etc listening to a busker. It was a lively atmosphere for the early evening. We filed in on time for the 50min concert and took our seats on the second row. There was projector with photos showing the origins of the music at the university and some of the key figures in its development. The students wore the black suit and white shirts which is the unofficial uniform of students even now in Portugal to enable rich and poor alike to integrate seamlessly for their studies.

Views over the Mondego River

Introductions were in Portuguese and English for the two guitarists – one on the Coimbra specific guitar which is between a Spanish guitar and sitar, accompanied by a standard acoustic guitar. Apparently the music originated from the need for male students to serenade their loves, Romeo and Juliet style from the balcony / window. Sadly, as one cruel observer (who shall remain nameless) concluded after the concert, it would have driven them to jump from the balcony as the singing was rather doleful 🙄🤫😳 Nonetheless it was clear to recognise the talent of particularly Jose on the Coimbra guitar. However, to our uncultured tastes, probably 50 mins was enough.

Afternoon impromptu concert

I think the very classical style of music being developed by students through the 1960’s in Portugal; whilst the rest of the western world were enjoying flower power, the Beatles and The Rolling Stones; says a lot about the level of separation from the world Portugal experienced during their dictatorship period where apparently even musical choices were dictated by the state.

Anyway, we carried the night on with some tapas, craft beers and port & tonic (a new find for me) or sangria depending on what the waiter decided to bring me 🙄😂

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