GPS systems are great- except when the route you are taking is not on the mapped roads. Our ride today took us off the beaten track and through some beautiful landscapes. We biked by the Aveiro lagoon for quite a distance enjoying small fishing harbours, marinas and fishing villages. The traditional fishing boats are wooden, quite small and brightly painted. They are shaped like Aladdin’s slipper at the front and back but these days have outboard motors.
Our trail took us onto cycle tracks which are where we came a bit unstuck. We followed the written instructions closely but lost our pink line (which I have since changed to a more obvious orange line for the colour challenged). Unsure of ourselves, we cycled back to a point we knew was correct and tried another way, losing the blue line again. The upside was that we got to bike around a quaint little village which we would have missed otherwise – but we did add a few extra kilometres to our trip. In the end, we decided to go with the written instructions which made sense. We also had a local Portuguese man wave us down the cycle track using his arms wildly to direct us and a stream of Portuguese we didn’t understand. The language barrier didn’t matter here. It was quite clear where we were supposed to go.
We passed through wetlands, biked alongside a river, through blackberry brambles, fields of corn and rice paddies. Big old brick wells helped guide our way. The track was quite good but tended to be rutted and stony in places making for a bumpy ride, especially when we were going up an incline into a head wind.
For the last short stint, we had to catch a train. It was only about a 10-minute ride but the road was apparently too dangerous to bike on. There was no bike lane or shoulder and the traffic included lots of trucks, so I was convinced! Getting on the platform at the station was interesting because we had to catch a lift to take us up to the top of the overbridge then another lift down the other side. Only one bike fitted in at a time.
We arrived in Aveiro safely, though we were pretty hot and tired. Another 50 km today (including our extra wee jaunt) but the ride was physically a bit tougher.
Our boutique hotel is across from the canal and close to everything. Having said that, Aveiro is a small town, only about 70,000 inhabitants, so everything is in walking distance. Once again the footpaths and many of the arterial roads are Portuguese stone and cafes and restaurants spill out onto the paths and in the alleys. Food and wine are inexpensive and delicious.
Breakfast is always good fun. There is a choice of pastries, cakes and doughnuts. The doughnuts are either round and filled with custard, or plain ones with the hole, or covered in chocolate! I know someone who thinks doughnuts for breakfast are a staple! You can also have fresh fruit, cereal, cold meats, a variety of cheese and cooked eggs, bacon, sausages, tomatoes and beans! There is something for everyone and just about every cultural taste.
We took a canal tour to get a feel for the city. The canals are all natural and the working classes and poor used to live along them. Kelp, which collected and processed for fertiliser, and salt and fishing are the primary industries here. The guide on the boat was an intelligent lively lady who spoke five languages: Portuguese, Spanish, French, English and was currently learning Italian. So she pointed out all the landmarks and points of interest in each of the languages since our boat had all these nationalities on board. Switching from one language to another without mixing the words is not an easy thing to do. I was in awe of her!
We visited the Museu De Aveiro. This is the ancient Dominican monastery. It is known for its collections of sacred religious art, for the golden carved works of the church Igreja de Jesus and the majestic tomb of Princess Santa Joana, who was made a saint about 200 years after she died.
Much of the architectural design was flamboyant and ostentatious, covered in gold leaf and elaborate carvings. The clergy commissioned many works of art and the wealth of the time (14th and 15th century) is evident in the artefacts. Portugal had so much gold coming from the Brazilian gold mines and they wanted to show off their wealth. The entire wall and ceiling decorations were covered in gold leaf. Apparently, they wanted to show Rome that they were just as wealthy as them. I say it was a case of ‘keeping up with the Joneses’!
The photo to the right is the organ built in 1784. The organist, one of the nuns couldn’t be seen playing it so she was hidden by a curtain. The whole thing is covered in gold leaf.