Thursday, November 27, 2008

03 November: Salamanca to Coimbra

I spent the morning wandering Salamanca before getting on another bus. First I joined some of the group and we went to a local market. Not at all what we were expecting, I don't think. This was a food market (I eventually got used to them, but this was my first), filled with fresh fruit and veg, but also plenty of meat and fish. Yep, just lying there. Often whole animals and definitely all sorts of bits of animal I never needed to see, still looking very much like the animal they once were.

I don't plan on ever becoming a vegetarian and I'm not a big meat eater, really. But I prefer my meat not to look anything like the animal it once was ... call me naive all you want I know where it comes from and that cute little animals are dying to provide it, I just prefer not to think about it too much. These little piggies were especially upsetting, I love pigs (live ones ... although bacon too). But the biggest gross-out factor definitely goes to the skinned (nothing smooth about face muscle) goats heads with their eyeballs still staring out at you. Euw.

After that, we managed to get inside the New Cathedral, it was huge and ornate as you'd expect (pretty impressive as the first Cathedral I went into, but the novelty wears off!). And then I went off in search of Salamanca's other carved icon, "The Frog (La Rana) on the Skull", hiding somewhere on the facade of the Universidad de Salamanca.

He's pretty high up so quite hard to spot, but the few of us from the tour that were there looking did manage to find him :) I also only found out about him after seeing the frog and the clam shells (from the Casa de las Conchas) on so many tourist items ... and then on the post cards, of course!

Later, we caught a 5 hour bus ride, complete with a grumpy driver and hideous music to Coimbra. Had a very boring border crossing into Portugal. Although they did take slightly more interest in my passport (I was the only one in our group who needed a Schengen Visa ... or Moroccan Visa for that matter. How sucky is that?!). I didn't even get a stamp or anything :( Seems kinda ironic actually then that I had to apply for the visa at the Portuguese Embassy since that's the one country of the three that doesn't even show up anywhere in my passport!

We arrived in Coimbra at about 6pm (now SA Time - 2 hours). We're staying at Hotel Oslo, and it's right next door to a pet shop which I explored while we waited for the keys to our rooms. They had three bunnies, one very like my sweet Henna, but a bit lighter. They also had an albino hedgehog (although all we could see of it was prickles inside it's plastic house) and a little squirrel (chipmunk, maybe?). So cute!

That evening, we went for dinner. I don't think I especially like Portuguese food. Lots of meat and potatoes. I had grilled veal or something (it was a little hard to tell since we could barely read the menus). Plus, they bring loads of food to the table before you've even ordered, a little like what they do with bread back home, but it's bread, cheeses, pate's and sometimes even plates of prawns. But, if you eat any of it (even the bread!), you pay for it. Quite rude and presumptuous if you ask me ... we had to actually ask them to take the plate of prawns away. No doubt the next table got them instead. Gross.

After dinner we did a bit of a steep walk / hike up to the Old Cathedral (Sé Velha). It's not very exciting. Instead, when we got back to the hotel, I visited the pet shop again (it was open late!) and I found some treats to take back for the bunnies. I know that sounds truly peculiar, but South Africa isn't exactly advance in the pet bunny department and this shop had so much bunny specific stuff, it was hard to just limit myself to just treats and not toys. Varen says they're all doing well, but I miss them and their cuddles!

Note: That's a pic I took of the girls with one of treats I bought. They loved loved loved them :)

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