Let’s Go Exploring! The Terrifying Love Story of Coimbra, Portugal

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FIRECracker is a world-travelling early retiree. She used to live in one of the most expensive cities in Canada, but instead of drowning in debt, she rejected home ownership. What resulted was a 7-figure portfolio, which has allowed her and her husband to retire at 31 and travel the world. Their story has been featured on CBC, the Huffington Post, CNBC, BNN, Business Insider, and Yahoo Finance. To date, it is the most shared story in CBC history and their viral video on CBC's On the Money has garnered 4.5 Million views.
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I thought Romeo and Juliet was the most tragic love story I’d ever heard. But then we went to Coimbra, Portugal, and discovered the story of Pedro and Inês.

In 1340, Prince Pedro was betrothed (aka “forcibly married”) to Princess Constance of Spain. Back then marriages were less about love and more about king and queens pawning off their kids in an exchange for political alliances. And King Alfonzo wanted his son Pedro to produce a heir that’s half Portuguese, half Spanish so prevent their asses from being invaded.

This loveless marriage of convenience would’ve been fine, except Princess Constance had a super-hot lady-in-waiting Inês, who Pedro instantly fell for.

They tried to keep their affair secret but failed miserably on account of the fact that he couldn’t keep it in his pants and impregnated her, causing her to birth a whole gaggle of illegitimate children.

bow chicka wow wow

This, understandably, didn’t sit well with his dad, who was terrified Pedro would give one of his bastard children the throne over his legitimate half-Spanish son, thus ruining the Portuguese/Spanish alliance. So, one day while Pedro was out, he hired 2 assassins, who dragged poor Ines into the woods and beheaded her in front of her children.

So basically, some real-life Portuguese Game of Thrones shit.

When Pedro found out what his dad had done, he not only refused to speak to his father, he waged a civil war.

Father and son only made up after Pedro’s mother intervened, and Pedro grudgingly put up with his dad until he died of old age.

BUT, the second King Alfonso died, Pedro’s first order of business as king was to have Inês’ body dug up, be clothed in royal finery, and sat up on the thrown as his true queen. Each member of the royal court was then forced to kiss her decomposed hand to show respect to their true queen.

When you play the Portuguese Game of Thrones, you either win–or you dig up your lover’s dead corpse and make everyone kiss her hand.

He then killed her assassins by ripping out their hearts with his bare hands.

After avenging Inês, Pedro never remarried, choosing instead to have side-by-side coffins built depicting scenes of their time together.

Biblioteca de Arte / Art Library Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian [No restrictions]

 

Hmm, should I be swooning or screaming? Maybe both?

If you visit Coimbra, take a walk around the gardens in the Quinta das Lagrimas Hotel (which translates to “Estate of Tears”), built on the site where the lovers fell in love and where Ines was later killed. 

photo credit: Sergei @ Flickr

Apparently the fountain on the grounds is still stained with her blood (most likely just rust) and the flowing water is her tears (the Portuguese can be a tad melodramatic).

The hotel staff has even reported seeing her ghost roaming the grounds, crying and looking for her prince, Pedro.

So…yay?

To capitalize on this, the hotel offers a Pedro and Inês (or P&I as the cool kids like to call it) menu and even a P&L wine paring for all the hopeless romantics out there. The menu includes a duck ravioli “amuse bouche”, octopus and scallop starter, and finishes off with “male and female” desserts of black forest cake and crème brulee.

What does octopus, duck, and scallops have to do with Ines and Pedro? And why is black forest cake masculine while crème brulee is feminine? No clue.

In the immortal words of the great philosopher Jim Carry on In Living Color, “I’m capitalizing on a trend that’s rising! Way to milk that story, tears hotel!

University of Coimbra

Once you’re done visiting the P & L hotel, you can head to the University of Coimbra, which has one of the prettiest campuses in all of Portugal overlooking the Mondego river.

As one of the oldest universities in Europe, UC also has a library that looks like what would happen if the Palace of Versailles and the Hogwarts’s library had a baby.

Josep Renalias [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]
Fun fact, with over a million books to protect, the library comes with its own colony of trained bats that come out at night to eat any insects that might damage the books.

The university also comes with a prison to hold unruly students. Yeesh and I thought the Chinese school system was harsh.

The Botanical Garden

 

Ever since our experience with the terrifying MadMax garden in Las Palmas , we’ve been pretty weary of Botanical Gardens, but I’m happy to report, we didn’t have to do any death-defying stunts to explore this Botanical Garden near the university of Coimbra.

It’s got an ornate fountain, a greenhouse, a chapel, and even a bamboo forest!

The Ines and Pedro bridge

This funky multi-colored bridge connects Coimbra with Alto de Santa Clara across the river. Because the bridge consists of two cantilevered walkways that are connected by a viewing platform in the middle, from each end it looks a bridge that never meets. It’s supposed to represent Ines and Pedro, two halves of a whole that can never meet.

I love the melodramatic symbolism. And I guess the clever engineering and incredible views of the river are nice too.

Overall, Coimbra is a hidden gem that reminds me of a mini Porto. If you’ve been reading this blog, you’ll know that Wanderer and I are huge fans of university towns. You get great value, good transportation, and lots of bars. Coimbra definitely fits the bill.

If you like creepy love stories and want to get away from the crowds and cliched touristy crap, this is the place to be.

Here’s how much we spent in Coimbra:

Category Cost in USD/couple Cost in CAD/couple Notes
Accommodations: $40 USD $51 CAD We took the train from Aveiro to Coimbra for a day trip so the cost was just the cost of the Airbnb in Aveiro.
Food: $25 USD $33 CAD ($17 for eating out, $16 for groceries) We ate some pastries at a cafe and picked up a sandwich for lunch. For dinner we went back to the Aveiro and cooked.
Transportation: $25 USD/day $33 CAD/day Transportation was quick and convenient as all we had to do was take the train from Aveiro for only 5.35 Euros per person each way.
Entertainment: $0/day $0 CAD/day Entertainment was free because walking around the university and river was completely free. We would've gone into the garden at the Quinta das Lagrimas Hotel as admission was only 5 Euros each, but they wouldn't take credit card and we couldn't find a working ATM nearby.
Total: $90 USD/couple/day $117 CAD/couple/day

Have you ever been to Coimbra? What do you think of the creepy love story?


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14 thoughts on “Let’s Go Exploring! The Terrifying Love Story of Coimbra, Portugal”

  1. As long term travelers, we are 100% to avoid touristy places anywhere we decided to go settle down for a few weeks. Since we are currently in Portugal this article is pretty timely as we might still have a chance to add Coimbra to our list of things to do here. Thanks for reviving this love story with us!

    And what about these touristy “Quinta” that don’t take credit card these days for a 5 EUR entrance fee. Aren’t we in the 21st century already? 🙂

    1. Yes, please check out Coimbra if you get a chance!

      Yeah, I don’t get the aversion to credit cards. I guess they don’t want to pay the fee. It’s worse in SE Asia, so if you want to go to the best local places, always bring cash 😀

  2. Great write up, guys. I visited Coimbra almost a decade ago and MAY have drunkenly said to a U Coimbra grad student during a night out at What’s Up Doc bar that I was searching for my Ines. I meant it in reference to romance rather than, you know, beheading and exhumation, but, in retrospect, not a line I would recommend to others. But I do recommend hiking through Lousa forest and up Lousa mountain while you are there — gorgeous, and a great way to work off that Black Forest cake and creme brûlée!

  3. I just came here to say that I’ve never heard of anything more magical than a a real life ancient library with trained insect eating bats.

    Looking forward to visiting (but probably not staying at!) tears hotel.

  4. That’s so Game of Throne. Not sure what I think of the part where he required people to kiss Ines’ decomposing (aka rotted) body. That’s another level of messed-up. Otherwise, I love looking at the photos of Coimbra.

    I’ve been to Portugal twice now and I still miss it. Basically left my heart there.

  5. We’re starting to make our slow travel plans for next year, and at the moment we’re limiting ourselves to English speaking locales. How do you guys get by with all the different languages?

    At a guess, what would you say is a good average accommodation rate to use in our calculations? Thanks

    I’m enjoying the book, its a really good read. Your search for ways to get rich by trying different business ideas reminded me of my long ago attempts to do something similar with inventions and innovations. It took me some time to realize that too many people wanted too big a cut of my project or business in return for their meager investment. I got fed up of submitting business cases to banks, and started sending them home made postcards with just the message “I have a business idea. I need an investment of $x0,000’s. Are you interested in meeting?” and gave them a “Yes” and “No” box to check. Those postcards got me more meetings with bank managers than my formally submitted business cases, even resulted in one bank willing to loan me the money.

  6. Wait, what about Constance? What happened to her??? I know the story’s not the main point of the post, but I love a good, gruesome love story! And… I totally see an animated Disney pic being made of this.

  7. I am requesting that your next book be a Travel Guide! With stories like these, that really make people want to visit these areas, another bestseller is at your fingertips. Seriously the BEST retelling of a historical event/doomed love story EVER. If not a book at least lend your descriptive writing talents to the “Drunk History” folks. Portugal has always been on my list, but now I know where to start the trip. Thanks for narrowing it down for me.

  8. Been waiting to read this one and can finally say that I’ll be checking this off the list in a few short weeks. Can’t wait to get back to Portugal, one of my all time favorite countries.

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