You can look forward to something too much, can’t you? You could definitely say that about our couple of days in Aveiro, back in July. The city almost made the itinerary on our Porto trip, a few years ago, but we opted for a day in Guimaraes instead. Aveiro seemed to warrant more time than that. I’d seen photos of the wonderfully painted barcos moliceiros that ride the canals, not to mention the candy striped houses at neighbouring Costa Nova. Both irresistible, in prospect.
A birthday is always a good excuse for a jaunt. It wasn’t mine, but that seldom stops me. I was surprised that he chose to drive us there, but it did add flexibility to the plans. And so we left the Algarve for the ‘cooler’ north. Except that the dial on the car read 36C when we arrived. Several degrees warmer than our sultry south. More of a surprise was the motorway, that ran parallel with the canal, right into the city and onward in a rush to the coast. Aveiro was much bigger than I had anticipated. Time to stow the car in the hotel garage and take to the streets. A canal boat with my name on it must be waiting out there.
No, not this one, but there actually was a lovely green boat, named Santa Joana. A sign, if ever there was, though the only certainty was that a boat ride would be taken, on the morrow. Wikipedia reveals that Santa Joana was, in fact, the daughter of King Afonso V, and spent her life in the convent in Aveiro. Meanwhile, a walk around the canal network seemed highly desirable.
The city rose to prominence on the strength of its salt production, stemming back to Roman times, and seaweed harvest. The moliço, or seaweed, was used as fertiliser before chemicals were developed for the purpose. The flat-bottomed gondolas were used to transport it across the lagoon. The silting up of the river in the 16th and 17th centuries hindered the trading of the seaport and led to the closure of the canals, and stagnation of the waters of the lagoon. The network of canals we see today were artificially constructed and opened in 1808, bringing prosperity back with them.
Canal Central is a grand sight! The graceful boats, with their highly accomplished crew of two- one steering and the other providing commentary and skipping nimbly onto the stern to signal manoeuvres- glide across the water in a serenade of colour and ceremony. Out past the Rossio park towards Canal das Piramides, and the salt pans, then under the bridge onto Canal de Sáo Roque. Old warehouses rub shoulders with modern developments here. A sleek bit of turning, and some hand signals guide the vessels through the narrowest of openings. Fascinating to watch how well they coordinate their efforts. In high season 25/28 boats ply their carefully orchestrated trade. Part way along Sáo Roque a new bridge was under construction. A gravity- defying curve of metal suspended over the water, I lingered over the reflections.
Much of the architecture is very beautiful. A combination of art deco and those so Portuguese azulejo tiles. An atmospheric fish market and a plethora of restaurants, huddled in back streets. A cathedral of contrasts- wonderful old chorister seats, in dark wood carved with African masks; an antique pipe organ and its shiny new counterpart. Churches, of course. Huge Dom Pedro park, with its golden yellow villas and Monet bridges. Two things not to miss : The Art Deco Museum, beside Canal Central, and a confectionery called Ovos Moles. Gooey marzipan in a soft, seashell sculpted case. We sampled ours at a tiny café by the canal, A Barrista.
Back through the city to Canal do Cojo and a sleek extravaganza of shopping mall, topped with a garden roof terrace. Time to sit in the sun and watch and wave, as the boats sweep beneath a bridge decked in ribbons. Sadly I can’t show you. Soon after our return from Aveiro I was having laptop difficulties. In trying to assist, my husband accidentally deleted the vast majority of my photos from the trip. To this day I have been unable to recover most of them. I was devastated at the time, but I’ve used what I have, including some from my phone and a handful borrowed, and credited, from him.
I loved the canals, the camaraderie of the crews, and the old part of Aveiro, but it’s fair to say, nothing was quite as I expected. If I hadn’t lost the photos I’d have regaled you with more posts. I’ll simply say that the weather changed, and the plan to spend the birthday by the beach at Costa Nova wasn’t feasible. A short visit on our homeward journey left us both underwhelmed. The stripey houses facing the lagoon had sacrificed much of their charm to commercialism, and the beach was no match for the ones here, at home.
Time to smile, and share. Many thanks to you all for reading, and for your welcome contributions. Join me any time, here on Jo’s Monday walk.
Let’s start out with Jude. This is such a beautiful post. Life is good, indeed :
I suspect the Christmas market will be brightening this place now, Drake :
Iceland doesn’t have the most reliable weather, but it is undeniably beautiful :
Nor would Switzerland be a place to seek winter warmth, but Mercedes loves it :
Someone else with a love for mountains is Nicole :
160 slices of cake! Even by my standards, that’s a lot, Jackie!
Alice likes cake too, but let’s start with a main course :
How well do you know South London? Anne is a good tour guide :
While Anabel is ‘away with the fairies’ this week :
Mel has big plans for 2020! How about you?
But Cathy is just one stop from her goal on this epic journey :
Taking us back though a shared European history, in his own inimitable style, it’s Andrew!
Denzil too enjoys sharing stories. Perhaps you saw the prequel to this :
Australia and Corfu couldn’t be more different, but they’re both islands, with lizards! Agree Carol?
I’m always on the lookout for something different, and this is fabulous!
Next week I’ll take you to the university city of Coimbra. It was a grey day, and I have just one single surviving photograph, plus a few of my husband’s, but it’s too interesting a place to ignore. Hope to see you then. Take care!