Weekend Road Trip: Conímbriga, Bussaco and Arouca

Arouca

Long were the days where roadtrips meant recording cds with playlists – equal to the amount of hours on the road. Staying awake was a struggle, but it was a sign of fortitude!

Often, we resorted to little games to make time go by faster, like counting the amount of black cars passing by or punching someone when we saw a yellow one. Nowadays, we settle for the radio and let the car rock us to sleep like a baby.

Thanks to the revolutionaries of 1974, Portuguese now have a long weekend to escape from reality or simply a reason to catch up on all the Game of Thrones episodes. To me, it was time for a family trip.

Conímbriga

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We had booked a guided tour in Conímbriga at 11:30am, so we had to wake up early and head to S.Sebastião to meet my dad, aka the captain of this trip.

I’ve learned about the Romans a long time ago on my History lessons. At the time, I was more concerned about memorizing dates, that I never really admire the great things they left us, like roads, aqueducts and bridges.

Besides the temple in Évora and a couple of bits here and there, I’ve never seen remains like the ones found in Conímbriga. Like the Roman Galleries in Lisbon, this structure dates back to the 1st century BC, but it was only excavated at the end of the 19th century!

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Endless stone structures, remains of two city walls and remarkable floor pavements await you in this small town near Coimbra.

Along with the outdoor area, you can also visit the museum, which features unique finds like coins, kitchen utensils and even hair accessories – all things you still use today!

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Bussaco

As much as I wanted to visit Bussaco, we had to make a small stop first at Rei dos Leitões.

Vegetarians beware, this restaurant is not for you! The King of Suckling Pigs – as you would call it in English – has pigs in all shapes and forms. I’m not talking about the food here, but rather the extreme decoration with pig-related toys and statues.

If meat IS a part of your diet, then go ahead and try “Leitão à Bairrada”, make sure to bring friends with you ‘cause there will be plenty to share!

With our stomachs full, I was looking forward to see the Bussaco Palace in person. Similar to Sintra, this area is surrounded by green woods and photo-worthy scenarios.

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The palace’s architecture reminded me of Jerónimos Monastery in Lisbon. I later found out that it was in fact inspired by it, along with the Belém Tower.

I was particularly eager to find the spot where you can see the reflection of the palace. After a few minutes, I crossed paths with a Chinese group who had beat me to it! No worries, I still captured what I came for 🙂

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Arouca

Arouca was the main stop of our trip, so we went on Airbnb and rented a house there.

Maria de Fátima welcomed us as soon as we arrived and made sure we had dinner sorted at Assembleia – a restaurant specialized in veal dishes. After indulging so much red meat, the grilled salmon the next day was more than welcome!

I’m used to waking up to loud alarms and snoozing countless times, but here the birds were enough to make me jump out of bed. We also had sheeps in the garden, who greeted us every day 🙂

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While we were waiting for lunch, I had a look at the map of the area and found a couple of things worth seeing:

Frecha da Mizarela, the largest waterfall in Continental Portugal;
Serra da Freita, where you can admire the valleys and scream whatever comes to mind;
Radar Meterológico – a tall building where you have a bird’s-eye view of the surrounding towns, most of them with less than 30 residents and a senior population!
Casa das Pedras Parideiras – the source of a geological phenomenon that makes stones pop out of rocks every once in awhile.

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We checked everything from that list in one day, but we were still missing one –Passadiços do Paiva or Paiva Walkways.

Trusting the GPS tricked us twice, and we ended up literally on goat paths in the middle of nowhere. If you suffer from motion sickness, this will probably be your worst nightmare!

After asking around a couple of times, we made it to Espiunca, one of the main entrances to the walkways. The other one is Areinho, which according to some is the hardest way to go – by the end, I couldn’t tell you which one would be worst!

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The scenery was overwhelming at first, the sight of the mountains and the Paiva river was worthy of multiple shots, halfway there and we no longer needed the camera. Our eyes were admiring, while our feet did all the work.

It took us almost 4 hours to finish the 8K, with a couple of stops here and there, mostly to gain courage to climb the scary looking stairs in the distance. Luckily, we made it to the end and we were rewarded with a cold drink on the river beach. It was so hot that I almost forgot it was April!

If you are brave enough you could do a round trip, but most people choose to take the bus on the way back – smart people I call them.

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Driving back is always the hardest part…In a matter of hours I saw the sky turn red, then blue and slowly the stars took over.

Halfway to Lisbon, we stopped to stretch our legs and I realized how much my dad drove this weekend. Kudos to him for making this trip happen!

I struggled to find a comfortable position in the car before I fell asleep again. When I woke up, we were back in the city – drinking tea and watching Game of Thrones at 11pm, that’s how you should spend every holiday!

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