13.08.2012 31 °C
I felt a glow of satisfaction as the bus to Serpins pulled away with us on board. We headed out of Coimbra for the day to see some hill country around Lousa. (there is an important tilde there but I don't know how to do that). The town is only 25 km from Coimbra but via forested steep sided valleys which meant the road twisted around and up and up. I was chuffed that I had correctly worked out what, when and where from the online bus information, in Portugese. The day before, we had followed directions to find the local bus out to Conimbriga, what remains of a Roman city. At least there we pooled languages with a group of other tourists for travel information and reassurance.
But today, it was just us, and a collection of locals getting on and off as the bus worked its way out into the countryside. Lousa was a surprise, much larger than I had imagined, and the tourismo housed a really good collection of tools and equipment from the region. This is on the edge of the Serras, where village houses have been made of the schist or slate stone. Very poor, hard lives, isolated - and often abandoned more recently. People are realizing the interest in these beautiful locations and some of the villages are reviving and being repaired as a result. You really need either a car, or versus strong legs to walk
We walked from the town up to the keep, which tested my calves. It was only supposed to be 3 km but it certainly was steep all the way until just before the end, when the road dived down to a river pool. It was clear and cold which did not deter family groups enjoying the day. We sat by the water, watching leaves drift down from the trees clothing the steep valley, and ate petiscos of moelas( chicken giblets) and thick slices of spicy chorizo. And beer. Then that descent became a demanding start to the return walk. The hillsides were covered in eucalypts and wattles. On the bus, we could see harvesting of plantations on some incredible slopes.
Sadly, we decided not to buy that lovely battered old house in Lousa- green walls, elegant sweep of stairs and an overgrown walled garden. I can see why visitors lose sight of sense and follow a folly.
It was worthwhile to travel out of the city for a reminder of what life is like for many still in Portugal. And just how green it is on this central region.