I actually have no idea if everyone uses this word the same way we do, but when a plan either fails to materialize or has to be changed on short notice, we say we are punting. It’s vaguely based on American football, where you punt the ball to the other team because the current offensive drive has stalled out. (Don’t think about the football analogy too hard, it’s not that airtight.) Another way to think of it is a reset.
You see, we’d been planning to go to a Dark Sky Reserve here in Portugal to see the Milky Way. The historical rain fall in that region in April is like one-tenth of an inch per month; clear skies were a safe bet. And this is why the casinos make money on suckers like me – safe bets aren’t. Thunderstorms were suddenly in the forecast for last week. No biggie, right? Reschedule for some other time. The only hiccup there is that it was a celebration which is somewhat hard to reschedule – our 10th wedding anniversary. Oops. We needed something special to do, on short notice. Time to punt.
One of the many benefits of being married to my wife (this is mostly a John post this week) is that she loves looking ahead to future travel opportunities. She’ll plan a trip, for example, to the Florida Keys. We almost went several times, but never did. But if you think that plan was discarded you would be mistaken; if the opportunity ever presents itself, she will whip that file out and we’ll be all set. So, when we need to change our plans at the last minute for something nice to do, we were not starting from scratch. Leaving out how the sausage got made (because, you know – sausage) we put together a couple of days at a relative new place, Quinta das Lágrimas, in the city of Coimbra that was just established in *checks notes* 1:26PM.
Hang on. *checks notes again* OH. Established in the year 1326. My mistake.
Silly goofs aside, the place is absolutely right for a special time. There are acres of gardens and trails behind the “house” to meander through, which contain an amphitheater, formal gardens, and remnants of the original 14th century buildings. We booked in a couple of nights and, thanks to some Hyatt rewards, had our nice room upgraded to a nicer junior suite. The space was nice, but the real perk was that the back of the room opened up with french doors onto a little stream the burbled happily. The weather was nice enough that we just kept the doors open and had the sound of the stream whispering through our room the whole time.
The place was lovely and we had a very nice time there. One of the features that I think they consider a cute throw-away but that we adored was the library. Apparently the place is still in the hands of a family and so it has little touches like the family library still being intact. While, yes, the library was largely in Portuguese, they had several decades-worth of Paris Match magazine bound into collections, stretching from the 50s to the 70s. The very first one I opened up greeted me with this:
Once we saw that we just sat down and started digging. The death of popes, concerts by Joan Baez, the moon landing, it was just one time capsule after another. Some savage had ripped out the issues about the Kennedy assassination, but otherwise the collection was in pretty good shape.
And speaking of Americans, the place was crawling with them. We went to their restaurant for lunch as soon as we arrived, and as we sat there we just exchanged surprised looks; without saying anything to one another we had both grokked the fact that we could understand the conversations at the tables around us. That hadn’t been true for so long that it was startling. Not that there were no Portuguese people staying there at all, but clearly Rick Steves or somebody had put the place on the map for U.S. tourists.
We spent two nights at Quinta das Lágrimas in the reportedly-beautiful city of Coimbra. I say reportedly because we only left the grounds once (for dinner); so we can’t actually say anything about the city that you can’t get from wikipedia. Next time. Between walking the gardens, spending a relaxing afternoon at the spa (hey, it’s a 10th wedding anniversary; we lived it up a little), and just chilling out in the hotel, the time flew by. We had an incredible meal out at Casas do Bragal which is a story unto itself; expect Lisa’s review to go up shortly. Short version: until we actually opened the door we weren’t 100% certain we weren’t walking into somebody’s living room.
This getaway marked the end of a pretty quiet month for us, which you may have noticed from our reduced posting schedule. When there’s not a lot going on we’re not going to just hammer out filler; one of the benefits of not trying to monetize the blog. 🙂 Next month is going to be a whole different story, when we see just how busy we can make ourselves and still keep our sanity. See you then.