The town of Coimbra was a last minute change to our plans, booked only three months before departure. (To a man my age, “last minute” is a frightening phrase in its literal sense, when using the word “literal” in its literal sense. I’m getting dizzy.) Coimbra is a natural pause in the drive from Lisbon to Porto, sitting equidistant between the two.

That the city hosts one of Europe’s oldest and most prestigious universities was a draw with unexpected benefits. Our one-night stay coincided with a city-wide party of graduating students and others young and old who like to celebrate. Such crowds are remarkably easy to assemble in Portugal, or in any country where pleasure and fun are elevated above church attendance—countries commonly referred to as “civilized.”

The students group according to college color, yellow for medicine, red for law (if not order), blue for science, and other colors I could not identify. Rod referred to the contingent of young women in the float as “nurses.” I ran from the scene expecting a cascade of beer.

We found the merrymaking to be in good spirits, though there was a lot of spilt beer, much landing on male students in black robes.

We were lucky to stop into a fine restaurant just as it was opening for dinner. Within 30 minutes, it was full. Great place to go to school, which I am discovering a little late.

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