We often pass signs to ‘Ruinas Romanas’ but our guidebook told us that the best preserved in Portugal were at Conimbriga, just south of Coimbra. Our ‘All the Aires’ book didn’t show anything nearby, but it turns out that it doesn’t cover anything like all the aires or possible overnight spots. We found a mention on a Portuguese website that it was possible to spend the night at Conimbriga – really? That would be handy! We got there late afternoon and found a large carpark with big bays and lots of trees. Better than some of the campsites we’ve paid to stay on. We checked with the museum staff, explaining that we wanted to visit the site & museum the following day and spend the night in the carpark. Not a problem, said the staff. Oh, and you are welcome to take your dog around the ruins with you. Well, thank you very much. I love Portugal.
Conimbriga was a large Roman town, built on the site of an Iron Age settlement, remains of which are still visible. One of the most striking things about the ruins is the defensive wall that was erected as the empire was crumbling – parts of the original town, including the amphitheatre and several villas & other buildings, were sacrificed when the wall was built, in some cases right through the villa. Only 15% of the town has been excavated and much of that is open to the elements, including some stunning mosaic floors. We complain sometimes about the cost and commercialisation of historic monuments in the UK, but at €4 a pop, it is going to take a while to raise the money to do more with this site. Never mind – what is there is amazing.
Apparently the Romans played Trivial Pursuit. Who knew?!…
We are now at a campsite in the Serra d’Estrela – we are at about 1200m and it is cold. Really, really cold and damp. We came here to use the washing machine and wifi – turns out they don’t have a washing machine and the wifi only works in a room that can’t be much above freezing. We have light a fire in the hope of warming it up a bit, but the effect is purely psychological at the moment. Despite this, the site is beautiful – in the mountains of a natural park, quiet, surrounded by trees. So we are going to stay – which is a bit odd for a group of people who don’t like cold or damp.
I must go now – I can see my breath and can’t feel my fingers, which is making it increasingly difficult to type. Back to the van for heating and a hot chocolate I think!