Though I visit Portugal pretty much every year, there's always something -- or more than something -- to be discovered. On my latest trip to the Centro region, I spent one day feeling like I stepped into Hogwarts, the fictional school of magic created by J.K. Rowling in her Harry Potter novels. As I roamed the ornate halls and library in 13th century Coimbra University, passing some students garbed in the traditional long black cape, I found it surprising that I never realized that this university may have provided Rowling, who once resided in Portugal, some inspiration.
This region is brimming with a rich diversity of culture. Not only is it home to one of the oldest universities in the world, but a section of the coast is lined with a dense pine forest; abandoned stone villages have been transformed into charming accommodations; and a network of bicycle paths attract cyclists, and joggers, as well as parents pushing strollers and older citizens just out for a stroll. The accommodations range from the luxe and contemporary, such as the Areias do Seixo Hotel and the Cooking and Nature Emotional Hotel to the traditional (Hotel Quinta das Lagrimas) that dates back centuries and protects a spacious garden. The quaint cobbled village of Obidos is perched on a hill ringed by fortifications while the Santa Clara Monastery offers up its archeological finds for the visitor to inspect. My short YouTube video slideshow reveals some of my finds in this lovely region.