Aveiro – Is it Really the Venice of Portugal?

Iggy the Hymer motorhome has moved again and is currently sitting quietly in a Sports centre carpark in the little Portuguese town of Aveiro. It is early morning, and, as is our usual habit, I am trying to catch up with the Blog before Jay wakes.

Once he’s up there will be no scope for writing. Breakfast will be made, dishes washed, latches secured. Gas will be turned off for driving, windows secured, and all the other little things that make up the morning routine in a daily moving motorhome.

Once all is ready we’ll roll onto the road. Normally with a vague “That-a-way” direction, but today I have already picked our next destination – the old Portuguese Capital of Coimbra. We’re still heading in a Southerly direction, but we’re thinking we may ditch our plan to head for the Algarve and over to Spain that way. We’ve really been enjoying the “real” Portugal, and think we may just stay inland and zig our way back to Spain that way.

For now though I must quickly cast my mind back to yesterday morning and leaving our friendly free parking spot on the outskirts of Porto. We’d had a great time in that unusual and interesting city, and it was a thought to leave. With every day that passed in Portugal we seemed to want to move slower. Maybe even stop for a while. 

But sadly Jay has yet to have that promised big lottery win. And our post Marley rescue life’s piggy-bank was currently only full enough for eight weeks travel. I would have to do some counting to see how much of that was used up already. Maybe have a look at the calendar to see what day of the week it was while I was at it…

In the meantime…We didn’t feel like any huge drives from Porto yesterday and I quickly found a little town called Aveiro, just two hours down the coast, that was apparently called “The Venice of Portugal”. Well that sounded interesting thought I. And off we popped to Aveiro.  

There was no Aire but the parking at the Sports Centre was fine to use according to our Apps, and was just across the road from the start of the canal that led the half hour walk into town. 

So somewhat expecting Venice we parked up Iggy and set off for the canal.

Rather fabulous shell sculptures by the canal basin in Aveiro

Now the problem with expectations is that it can leave us feeling a little bit let down when we don’t get what we were expecting. WHich is definitely how I was feeling as we wandered around the ultra modern canal basin site in Aveiro. I’ve not been to Venice yet…but I’m pretty sure it’s nothing like this!

“Not much like Venice is it?” says Jay. 

“Not so’s you’d notice.” says I. 

“It’s got a canal.” says Jay.

“Think I’ll pass on that.” says I

Whereupon we both fell apart in fits of giggles and proceeded to take a big chunk of the proverbial out of poor Aveiro. 

Colourful Tiled Houses Aveiro

Hysterics safely out of the way we got on with the enjoyable business of whiling away a day wandering a canal town in Portugal, in t-shirts, in February. Did I mention how much we love our vanlife?

Expectations of Venice safely removed we were immediately impressed by the amount of art work we found in Aveiro. Barely had we set foot on the tow path and we had already seen numerous pieces of interesting modern work. I loved the shell sculptures and we were both really taken by the Monty Pythonesque giant feet.

The Gondola type barges puttered their way up and down the canal, as we wandered it’s banks into the village centre. Pretty though the boats may have been the canal was just not appealing enough for me to want to pay to ride in one.

Sculptures apart it was a fairly monotonous scenery of modern flats, a shopping mall and the odd, vaguely intersting small bridge. An okay walk, but not really boat ride material to my mind.

The town centre when we reached it was no more Venice like than the canal. Or maybe less so to be honest. We gave Aveiro a little bit of the benefit of the doubt – it still being February – that a lot of the dirt and disrepair was just a seasonal thing. Despite there being a good amount of tourists wandering around.

For me there was a feeling of wanting to be a tourist destination, but not really getting one’s act together to do it.

Canal. Check. Great sculptures. Check. Portuguese style tiled houses. Check. One pretty bridge. Check.

But somehow, for me, it just didn’t all come together into a place to go for a holiday. The spots of interest and beauty were sadly mixed with ugly, utilitarian blocks of public housing. Areas that could have been pretty not quite making the grade because of dilapidated, dirty surroundings. 

The “run down” feel prevalent in much of Aveiro

But for all that it was an interesting place to visit for a day. But more for the ordinary Portuguese Village that it is, rather than for the tourist resort it really isn’t.

Ignore the attempts at glitz, and the tourist touts trying, good-naturedly, to push a boat ride to nowhere on you.

Ignore the fakeness of the boats themselves, and the strange practice of painting rather pornographic pictures of women on them. And ignore the inoperable decorative rudders giving a pretence of a far different experience than the outboard motors that actually move the boats through the water. And the strange practice of painting rather pornographic pictures of women. If you’re travelling with children, or are just crazy about boat rides then go for one. It will be fun.

Then go for a stroll around the village. Admire the different tiles on the houses, the plant pots of flowers, the mosaics to village life.

Eat lunch in a cheap, simple Portuguese cafe in the plaza. Where the booming, friendly owner brings out free Serrano ham for your dog. After you’ve already spent your money, so there’s nothing in it for him.

Watch the people. See them talk and laugh together. See how they have no money for fancy facades and new paint before the winter is over. Marvel at the old man who can’t walk straight after his siesta beers in the taberna. But can jump on his bicycle and ride it straight as an arrow.

If you go to Aveiro for Venice – you’ll probably be disappointed. But if you go to Aveiro for Aveiro? Well…you decide.

Fi. x

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