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Colorful beach houses on praia da Costa Nova (Feb 2016).

The same day that we made our day trip to Sintra, the assistante and I took the train back to Lisbon, where we were to transfer over to another train to take to our next destination in Portugal. We’d taken the 14h41 train, arriving in the Rossio train station, and needed to go across town to the Santa Apolonia train station to get the direct train to Aveiro.

However, we made the mistake of not allowing ourselves enough time to get from one station to the other: mind you, it was easily a 20-minute walk over, granted if you really book it. We’d planned to take the 16h00 train to Aveiro, but by the time we got back to Lisbon Rossio, it was already 15h20. Somehow, we made it over to Santa Apolonia by 15h40, having sped-walk up and over the hills of the city (goshdarnit, Lisbon- why do you need to be so hilly?).

However, the next hurdle was to purchase tickets for Aveiro: we’d assumed (and falsely so) that we could purchase them at a ticket stand as we’d seen at the Rossio station. I don’t recall seeing any at Santa Apolonia, which surprised me and the assistante. Panicking, we only had ten, then five minutes, to spare before the 16h00 train took off, and we didn’t know where the ticket office was. We were seriously considering just hopping the train sans ticket to make it in time. We actually tried to, and a worker caught us, so we didn’t succeed (in retrospect, that was stupid of us to do). Then another worker was saying something to us in Portuguese, and mind you, we don’t know the language and of course had no idea what he was saying; I think he’d seen us trying to hop a train and tried pointing us to the right platform for another train- again, I have no idea. Granted, it was very nice of him to try to help us, but it ended up not helping at all, since we didn’t know what he was saying!

In our panicked, stressed-out state, we ended up missing the 16h00 train. What made it worse was that, literally a minute or two after we’d missed it, we found the actual ticket office. We purchased tickets for the next train to Aveiro at 17h00, which was a setback, but then again, it could be worse, i.e. no more trains running there for the rest of the day. Reflecting on that incident, it was very stressful, but at the same time a minor inconvenience. After all, who were we to have known that you still had to purchase tickets directly in-person, rather than at a machine, in the train station? As the old saying goes, what are you gonna do about it?

We caught the 17h00 train, spending the next two hours in transit going from the south to the north of Portugal. Finally, we arrived in Aveiro at 19h10. Interestingly enough, it’d been raining while taking the train ride over, so the streets were wet and slippery as we made the 20-minute walk from the station to our hostel, where we were to stay for one night. Checked into our hostel and, aside from one other hostel-goer, we were pretty much the only travelers in that room that night. I also remember the room being a bit chilly, which I hadn’t expected being that it was Portugal. Still, I suppose that, being February and all, it was still winter all over Europe…

Any case, we dropped our belongings off in our room; I wanted to go out and see if I could get some dinner in town, but the assistante preferred to stay in for the night; she seemed exhausted, to say the least. I ended up going out on my own, but only down the street where I saw one restaurant open for business: I got a quick bite there before returning to the hostel to freshen up and turn in for the night.

The following morning, we checked out of the hostel after a (very nice) included breakfast, but decided to leave our large backpacks in the storage room as we explored Aveiro for the one day that we were there. Considered the “Venice of Portugal,” it didn’t come as a surprise that there were so many boats along the canals. Colorful boats, as well: I’m talking bright, cherry red and vibrant electric blue. Paired with the cheery sun that day, I found Aviero to be incredibly picturesque.

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Along the canals.

As I wrote in the previous post, it’s a known fact that each city in Portugal has its local pastry. Not region, but city. That said, the assistante and I have tried the pasteis de belém in Lisbon, the travesseiros in Sintra, and now, we were set on trying what Aveiro had to offer, which was the ovos moles. Containing a rich concoction of egg yolks and sugar, the ovos moles is shaped into a fish and baked off, although still retaining a pale color in the end.

We popped into a pastry shop to purchase them; we tried them out, and they were absolutely packed with egg yolk-sugar filling inside. Personally, I found them to be a bit strange in taste, and I’m not sure if I would say that I liked them, but now I can say that I’ve tried the ovos moles!

Aveiro isn’t a very big town, perhaps having only 80,000 inhabitants. That said, we were able to see most of what it had to offer, which was the picturesque canals, the museu de Arte Nova (modern-art museum; didn’t go in, but the outside looked nice), and overall, just colorful, elegant architecture spread out all over town. Seriously, it could’ve been just a bank building, but you can bet that we snapped a photo of it!

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The streets of Aveiro.
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Museu de Arte Nova.

Besides staying in the town proper, there was also two beaches a bit outside of the center, the praia da Barra and praia da Costa Nova, which was mainly the reason why I wanted to visit Aveiro in the first place. Aside from the sand and water, there were also colorful beach houses along the coast, and I wanted to see them- simple as that. There were buses that took you over, so we caught the 11h00 bus, taking it to Barra first and getting off to wander the beach, desolate and windy, but all the same bright and sunny. We saw the Barra Lighthouse, known to be the tallest in Portugal, and otherwise just putted around on the sand, taking in the sun.

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Barra Lighthouse.
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On the boardwalk.

From Barra, we decided to walk all the way to Costa Nova, which was easily 45 minutes to an hour away. However, we had the time, so we headed over, arriving close to 13h00 and seeing the famous colorfully-striped beach houses. At last, my dream was fulfilled!

Getting hungry, we decided to pop into a restaurant for lunch. As noted in Aveiro with the practically-empty hostel and town, the beaches were quite barren of people. I suppose it’s because of February being off-season, but all the same, we found a restaurant that was open and reasonably-priced. I’d researched beforehand on Portuguese dishes to try in the area, so we opted to try out the arroz de Marisco, which is like the soup version of the paella, with seafood and rice. It came in a massive bowl and, paired with some white wine, it ended up being a really filling dish for the both of us!

After lunch, we took a short stroll along the beach once more before deciding to catch the bus back to Aveiro. We returned around 15h00 and pretty much got our belongings at the hostel before making our way to the train station for our next destination.

I would say that Aveiro turned out to be a pleasant, albeit very short visit. It was definitely a more laid-back kind of travel, since all we did was stroll around, whether along the canals or on the beach. Again, we went during off-season, so there wasn’t much happening; I can imagine it being really tourist once summer comes.

Overall, it was pretty, even though for the “go-go” attitude of me and the assistante, it was a bit uneventful. Then again, perhaps it’s all right to have a trip in which we take it easy, not necessarily needing to pack in so much culture and visits that exhaust us at the end of the day. Sometimes, “taking a vacation” really means to slow down and enjoy it all the more so.

Stay tuned for the final destination during last year’s vacances! Next: Porto, Portugal!

 

— Rebecca

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