I’m not sure how much our readers know about Celsius temperatures, so here’s a good rule of thumb: if it sounds right above freezing in Fahrenheit, it’s $*&@ing hot in Celsius. (100° in F is 37-°ish in C; 0° in C is 32° in F.) So, when our weather apps showed nothing but solid yellow circles and numbers in the mid-to-high 30°s, we knew we were in trouble. We did our best to manage the heat for awhile; opening the windows up at night to air out, sealing the apartment up by 8 AM or so, judiciously placing our fans and, occasionally, huddling in the living room with the air conditioning turned on. But when the nights don’t drop below 23° it just isn’t ever *cool*.
Eventually we decided that we needed to get the heck outta town and made plans to escape for a couple of days. A quick perusal of places we thought we’d like to see, cross-referenced with weather forecasts, led to our booking a quick jaunt to the coastal town of Aveiro.
Turns out, this was a very good idea.
We left for the train station in Braga around noon; this is not at all unusual, as our sleeping and waking have been occurring at irregular hours thanks to the heat (and the managing thereof). We had two options, a commuter train with more stops that would take roughly 2.5 hours, or the zippier route with fewer stops that would have us there in about 90 minutes. We did that one. The ride is uneventful, which we’re still getting used to – outside of the Northeast of the United States there aren’t a lot of commuter routes that get a lot of use, but (as anybody who has been to Europe already knows) over here it is de rigueur*. The train station in Aveiro is at one end of an avenida that ends at the waterfront. It’s a lovely, 15 minute walk during which I decide it reminds me of the Champs-Élysées. This is a ridiculous thing to say – it’s a four lane street with some trees, not a world famous boulevard suitable for parading conquering armies. However. The Avenue Dr. Lourenço Peixinho is dead straight, with wide sidewalks between the road and the businesses that run along it, those sidewalks being broken up with frequent stands of trees. I can’t explain perfectly, it’s just one of those things I flashed on, ya know?
In any case, it was a straight shot to a lovely hotel that Lisa found – the Hotel Aveiro Palace. It’s centrally located in the Aveiro pedestrian zone and is also smack dab on the lagoon, so it has a lot going for it. The rooms themselves were tidy and comfortable if not overly large; I don’t have a formal review in mind but, in general, if you’re going to Aveiro you won’t be mad if you stayed there. The plan was to spend the afternoon checking out some easily accessible sights so we popped right back out and onto the streets. And the lagoon!
About the lagoon. Aveiro is known by some as “the Venice of Portugal.” I get why this is said, although I suspect the Aveiro tourism bureau is where you hear it the most. The thing is, the city is situated atop a lagoon… which can be toured in its entirety in a 45 minute boat ride. You don’t use the boats to get from point A to point B as you would in Venice; you take a single tour on them – the water ways simply aren’t pervasive enough to be much use in practical transport. That said, the boat tours look like a lot of fun. 🙂
We didn’t need a boat to get to our main destination, though – it was a teeeeny tiny walk to the Museum of Aveiro, principally home of the artifacts of Saint Joana, a Portuguese princess and quasi-nun (hang on, I’ll get there) who was canonized in the late 1600s, roughly 200 years after she died. Sidenote: if you’re into European art and history, even lapsed Presbyterians such as myself become passing familiar with Catholic lingo. Santa Joana Princesa retired to this convent in the 1400s. Due to… I dunno? “Rules.” Specifically the intersection of Catholic rules and Portuguese nobility rules; she couldn’t become a for realsies nun, but she apparently really liked it there and made up her own version of the holy orders, which she swore to and lived out the rest of her life there. Once she died, however, everybody was reminded that she was also royalty because she left piles of wealth to the order. It makes for a lovely museum with some truly amazing work done in the various chapels – wood carving, tile work, the works.
After leaving the museum and strolling for a bit, we arrived at our dinner reservation at Laguna. Honestly, I picked it primarily because of it’s location – Laguna is a boat docked in the lagoon. To be even more honest, I picked it from my list of potentials largely on photos that didn’t pan out – they have a bar and some seating on the roof, but apparently it’s not always in use and in fact, we were seated inside. Doesn’t matter; we had a fabulous meal. Laguna is one of those places where the proprietor cares passionately about every teeny bit of their menu, and it was all delicious. The manager also paired wines for Lisa that a) she never would have selected for herself and b) she adored. All in all it was a fantastic experience, and being on the water was great even behind glass.
After dinner we had a lovely walk back to our hotel, and by “lovely” I mean it was 19° with a steady breeze coming in off the water. Given that it was 30° back at home we counted this as a major win. We took our time, wiggling through the streets of the pedestrian area leading back, and then settled in for a long summer’s nap. The next day would be devoted to full-blown tourism!
*a french term that means “for shit’s sake you mean to say you’ve never seen a train before criminy and you people ran the world?