Today we drove to Porto via Coimbra. Our mission was to visit the library at the University. It is renown for being one of the most beautiful in the world. Established in 1717 and called the book house it has the most lavish of baroque decorations, gold leaf embellishments and oak shelves because that wood does not attract insects! The books were chained to the shelves in some places too. The shelves themselves are all intricately decorated with Chinoiserie patterns with gold leaf from Brazil. What I found fascinating was the fact that they had bats living inside for nearly two centuries to eat the insects that might devour the books. The staff needed to cover the tables at night to protect the furniture from bat droppings! The tables were made from exotic timbers and very beautiful. We couldn’t take photos which was disappointing but I found this one on the Internet. We were in awe of the beauty.it was a place that cherished learning, wisdom and openness to new information.
Even more interesting was the academic prison where students were held for committing disciplinary offences. That puts a new slant on detention! The University was a guild and administered itself and used the prison till 1832.
The St Michael’s chapel was another elaborate though not large chapel with exquisite tiles and a huge organ in the Baroque style, with 2000 pipes. Dedicated to Our lady of the light, the patron of students, it is an impressive place.
The last part was the Palace which is now used for ceremonies. A well proportioned building with a great hall, formerly the throne room but now used for conferring doctorates or investiture if the new rector of the University and a private exam room and cloisters surrounded by tutorial rooms that are still used. We saw a class come out on Saturday.
The forecourt of the Palace and Library.
By now we are hungry and conscious that Bill was waiting in the car. He had been sleeping and anxious about leaving it as they have been robbed from a car in the past.
We stumbled upon a Japanese restaurant of all things where we could keep an eye on the car as well. The food was delicious and beautifully presented.
We were now ready for Porto. We got onto the freeway without too much trouble and Irene pushed a button and some how the GPS in the car came on in English and we were set! We arrived without any trouble despite the wet and found our accommodation which turned out to be the best we have had so far. Phew on my part because this was my booking. Irene and Bill went off to deposit the car and had a fair distance to cover but managed to find a train for the return and got off close to our apartment.
We are all thrilled. So far all the places have had their idiosyncrasies. Lisbon had , the smallest toilet room that we all sat on the loo side saddle. The next had power issues which shorted out if you had more than three things on. It also had a door that was incredibly difficult to open. I never mastered it! This place is gorgeous but has automatic lights that come on and off all the time. We are travelling well however and adapting all the time.