Getting our ya-ya’s out in Vila Nova de Foz Côa

Our only reason for stopping in Vila Nova de Foz Côa was to see to nearby prehistoric rock art in the Côa Valley.  As we were leaving the archeological site to walk the 4K back to town, a nice couple who shared our hike to the petroglyphs offered us a ride, so we ended up with an unexpected afternoon to see the town of Foz Côa.


Do you see a gazillion sunburned tourists swarming off a cruise ship in this photo?  After the lovely but massively overtouristed Lisbon and Coimbra, Foz Côa (in the northeastern corner of Portugal close to Spain) was a relief and an architectural delight.


Foz Côa’s main square is one of those perfect human-sized spaces where the stark Mediterranean sun sharpens the architectural details against a crisp sky.  That’s a Manueline pillory in the center—decorative now, but back in the day this is where they punished criminals.

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Manueline designs always have rope details, a nod to the seafaring culture of these rabidly colonialist people.

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As if it wasn’t enough that we got to spend the first half of the day looking at pre-historic rock art, then this church, Igreja Matriz, beckoned to us with a siren song of Manueline glory.  (This unique sacred space will be getting a separate post.)

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Formerly a synagogue, now Santa Quitéria is a chapel.

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The town has integrated the rock designs into their infrastructure, including this charming beast in the cobblestones of the pedestrian street.

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Even the graffiti incorporates the prehistoric art.  While no one knows the exact date the rock artworks were created, it is fairly easy to date this masterwork by the Paleolithic cell phone over on the right.

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This ad was posted on the outside of a pharmacy.  I guess if you live in Foz Côa you get your ya-ya’s out by bouncing on a cow-udder ball with grandma.  Hey, I’m not here to judge.

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For dinner HOB and I ran into a few shops.  I made the universal sign for “small wedge of cheese” to a shopkeeper and she proceeded to give me twice what I indicated.  We ate it all, along with cracked green olives, on the balcony of our hotel room.


How we got to Vila Nova de Foz Côa: bus from Coimbra.
Where we slept: Hotel Vale Do Côa. Price: €60 for a double. Recommended: no.


  1. I do love your illustrated descriptions, very Goldilockish (not too long, not too short), enough for my goldfish brain to vicariously experience and enjoy your sojourns. I was, briefly, in Vila Nova with you both, if that’s not too creepy!


    1. Ah thanks! If your brain is a goldfish, mine is an amoeba.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Bouncing on a cow udder ball with grandma. Hey, it’s the thing to do!

    Real good article. And a good place to visit.

    Neil S.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Neil! I don’t know about your grandma but mine certainly would have gone for it.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Clearly you never knew the joys of owning a space hopper in the 1970s. That’s what the ball is.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Any friends and family reading this please note I would like a space hopper for Christmas.


  4. I enjoyed the “small wedge of cheese” part! We are surrounded by cheese factories here in Ohio! Also I love cheese!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You must have earned a lot of great karma in your last life to be surrounded by cheese factories in this one. Portuguese cheese is much better than expected.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. ‘Recommended…no’. Hereby hangs a tale…..
    Super place to spend an afternoon…and am looking forward to the post about the church.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh dear that hotel (the only hotel, mind you). The surly staff had to be roused from their television watching to check us in. And then I had to wake a guy up to unlock the front door so we could leave in the morning to catch our train. Surely that was a severe fire hazard.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I know so little about Portugal. Lookin’ forward to more.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I didn’t know anything about Manueline architecture before our trip. I’ll write a post about it soon.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. The bulls remind me of the Picasso bull series. Wonder if this was a part of his inspiration. Lovely town. And now i know all the ways pillories were once used. Cant unlearn that, than you very much!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks for the art history link. What a great Picasso quote: “after Altamira, all else is decadence. “. Talk about freeing future artists from the yoke of absolute originality in their artwork! How can you hope to be original, if cavemen already have that claim, dead to rights? And yet, he was. 🎨


  8. you illustrate your travel very well with beautiful photos and colourfull sky from really blue to the cloudy day. The synagogue looks very old and interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The old synagogues make me sad because they are not usually in use anymore. Tblisi was the once city we visited where it didn’t seem like the Jews had been forced out or killed.


  9. Yeah, major cities/towns were MASSIVELY overtouristed! You were fortunate to see such a peaceful place!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This must be a recent phenomenon, since people have often described Portugal to me as sort of unappreciated….well not anymore!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Getting more popular – no wonder that I bumped into one of my work colleagues (we work in the same office) at the Jeronimos Monastery!! Very surprised!

        Liked by 1 person

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