if i have time, i usually make the best of it by visiting more than just my main destination.

on my way from lisbon to porto, i stopped in coimbra and then in aveiro.

coimbra is a nice little town on the bank of the mondego river and a former capital of portugal. a well-known academic center, it houses the oldest university in europe. i roamed the maze of little crooked streets downtown, had sardinhas grelhadas for lunch and went back to the train station.

aveiro is a few kilometers away from the atlantic, from whose waters they used to extract salt. to carry the salt they employed painted boats – moliceiros – on the local canals. nowadays, the colourful boats are used for giving tourists a tour of the place – 5 euro well spent!

other aveiro highlights? they have a fish market designed by gustave eiffel, a unique circular footbridge and you can surf the nearby beaches.

the following day, i visited guimaraes (a short train ride from porto – 40 km). besides being the cradle of portugal, it is also a european cultural capital of 2012.

i spent half a day in this very nice little town, mostly just walking around to get a taste of the place. they have some traditional touristic attractions as well as a few modern additions: centro cultural vila flor and the international arts center opened in june 2012.

i stopped for great lunch in the tiny garden of cor de tangerina, an interesting vegetarian place.

i shopped for local goodies for friends at portuguesa com certeza and saved the wonderful terrace of the vila flor complex for desert.

my travels taught me that each place has its own soul so even a short encounter can be meaningful.

photo credits: lilaesthete, google search