The weather is far more bearable further north and on the coast (mid twenties during the day and high teens during the night) and our revised route should ensure more of the same. Everyone is happer. The drive today took us towards Costa Nova (Vanya wants to see the beach houses there) and was notable on two counts. First, it took us through Aveiro (a place I was keen to visit) and second, we passed the 4,000 mile mark for this trip.
Known locally as the Portuguese Venice Aveiro is a delightful and very colourful city less than 10 miles from Costa Nova on the Ria de Aveiro lagoon. The place is crisscrossed with canals and they lend the place considerable character but the similarities with Venice end there. Visit Aveiro expecting to see a replica Venice and you will be disappointed. Arrive with a more open mind and, like me, you will love the place.
Aveiro is a city of more than 60,000 people but parking up just outside the older part of the town by the (Terminal Rodoviario de Aveiro) railway station and walking 15 minutes or so through the Parque da Fonte Nova to the canals into the old centre (Vera Cruz) you really wouldn’t believe that. It seems small and cosy.
In some respects it is not hard to see why Portuguese Travel Agents(?) might refer to Aveiro as a Portuguese Venice. There are canals and there are bridges crossing the canals and there are colourful boats but, get a grip, it’s nothing like Venice. The boats are known as Moliceiro and were used to harvest seaweed to fertilise the land. Now they are used to ferry tourists around the city and the adjacent lagoon at a tenth of the price of a Venetian Gondola.
Three very distinct styles of houses are to be found in the old town(Vera Cruz) area. Many of the older buildings that used to house the fishing community are painted in pastel colours not unlike those in Burano (okay so there is another Venice connection) but alongside these are houses adorned with the beautifully painted azulejo tiles and then, perhaps most impressive of all are, the elegant properties built by emigrants returning from Portugal’s colonies (particularly Brazil) with their mixture of colour, ceramic art and ornamental wrought iron balconies. It is quite unlike anywhere else we have seen in Portugal with a wonderful mix of old and new .
Oh, and did I mention shopping? I can’t believe I’m saying this but the shopping here is not at all bad. There is an unusual, largely open air shopping mall (the Forum Aveiro) which has all the shops you would normally expect to find in an Abu Dhabi Mal and more besidesl. It sits by the canal and we passed through it both on the way into Vera Cruz and on the way back (yes, I was with Vanya). I am advised that a large antiques market is held in the shopping centre on the last Sunday of every month which attracts collectors from all over the Iberian Peninsula. Of course that last comment could just be clever marketing by travel agents(?).
I’ve not mentioned food. That is unlike me. The city is of course renowned for it’s sea food (particularly salted cod) but it was the sweet known as Ovos Moles (sweet eggs) which most interested me. Apparently, this sweet is protected and can only be bought in Aveiro. They are made with egg yolks and sugar, wrapped in a crispy wafer in the shape of sea shells. After tasting them, I can report that the initial taste is great (albeit very sweet) but then the sugar gives way to the egg and you are left feeling as if you have been sucking on the yolk of a hard boiled egg. Well, that is my view. I was not impressed with them.