We headed off aware that we were threatened with a day of rain. In fact we were into the last 8k of our 50k run to Beja before the rain found us. In fact we rather found it as it was waiting over the city for us to arrive.
Before that we enjoyed a pleasant coffee and pastel stop In Cuba which apparently claims to be the home of the real Christopher Columbus.
After that our only worry was whether we would be allowed to use the IP2 to reach Beja, so we were mightily relieved to find it doubled as the old N18 for this section of its route.
This uncertainty over the status of routes is coming to be a real pain in Portugal as they create more and more IP and IC roads by upgrading N roads and leaving us cyclists with no options on the routes.
This was a short, but enjoyable ride that brought us to our Tourismo Rural in short order – except, of course, we could not find it.
The ride was typical – reasonably flat, but with long rolling hills up and down. Again we were in cork, vine and olive country, with a fair bit of livestock thrown in.
Once in the square at Viana it was clear we were in something of a one- pony town. The Central Pastelaria was typical and run by George and the Dragon. They did have Pastel da Nata mind.
The saving grace for the town was the Tourist Office staffed by a Celtic fan and its fine castle-church.
We ate at a local bar – the 3 Bicos and we were pleased to find it. It was a league or so above the others we saw. The restaurant was fully booked, but they did us proud in the bar.
Las we rolled out the next day the Saturday Market was in full swing making the square look a very much more welcoming place.
Still we were pleased to wave Viana goodbye. I doubt we will be tempted back.
Our plans had always included three days in Lisbon with family. We had thought we would cycle in and out of the city. After researching it we decided there was no point. We would not cycle in the city, so why fight our way in and out? We decided to let the train take the strain. Concession tickets first class from Évora to Lisbon return were 17 Euro. What happened to the bikes? We arranged to leave them in our hotel’s ballroom no less until we returned from Lisbon.
So, we became tourists again!
And in passing, celebrated our 42nd wedding anniversary in some style with my sister and her husband with a meal arranged by our daughter.
I used to be a purist about bike touring meaning only touring by bike, but Jacqui and micro-touring have taught me life’s too short for such dogmas. Get on your bike for sure, but variety is indeed the spice of life.
Lisbon was wonderful and we hardly scratched the surface. We will need to return.
I am always unsettled by transition days when we move from being cycle-tourers to tourists and vice versa. Today was no different. After the euphoria of our fast – for us – run from Torráo to Évora yesterday, we had to adjust to late rises, leisurely breakfasts, strolling the Sunday city streets and taking in the tourist sites.
Évora, even late season, has a lot to offer the tourist.
And visitors come from all around for sure, bringing their own colour and cultures to the place and the party.
But somehow the cyclist in me feels a little out of place on these occasions. I find myself looking out for bikes and bikers. Checking out their gear and their cycle styles, especially the proper tourers.
I even find myself feeling a little disappointed and a little guilty. Did we really need a rest day? Did we actually need to step off the bikes? Were we not just beginning to get into the daily routine of getting up and underway and finding the joy of feeling the bikes move somehow effortlessly beneath us with only minimal pedal power applied? Was it really worth trading the feeling of being on an adventure for the few for the mass anonymity of the tourist, just for the sake of sparing the odd tightening muscle for a while?
Ah well, it’s done now and we enjoyed it. Especially as the day served up some wee reminders of what we are really about.
Well maybe whoosh is a bit strong, but we certainly romped the 45K despite 10K of climbing at the start and arrived to check in at exactly 14.00. After eight days of cycling we are getting a bit fitter.
We stopped once for coffee and met this amusing pair.
Then it was water stops only as we pushed to get our average up towards 14 an hour well fast for us!
In passing at our hotel we met Cornelius and Marita who had been cycling for 88 days, all the way from their home near Frankfurt. Not only that they were Trans America veterans with all sorts of good tips to share. Cornelius’s Blog provides a super account of their trip.
Now we have a wee Holiday ahead in Évora and Lisbon to look forward to with time off the bikes. Micro-touring at its best!
Our run today took us a couple of hours or so, but perhaps twenty years back in time. The 30K in bright sunshine and super quiet roads were a pleasure.
We only had one village to visit on the route and from a distance Odivelos seemed less than promising.
However once we climbed up to it, it proved to have an old world charm all of its own.
Back on the road we were in a world of trees – olive, cork, fruit, eucalyptus and pine.
We rolled into Torrão a little after 1.30 and decided we had not worked quite hard enough to deserve lunch so settled for drinks in the sunshine.
We will look forward to our evening meal, however and building up our strength for the longer run and climb to Évora tomorrow.
Perhaps we were reluctant to leave the luxury of our rest day hotel, but we were late leaving and chose to do a short 30K hop to Ferreira do Alentejo.
With time to burn we turned down the N2 direct route and headed instead along the near-deserted M383. It proved to be a delight, except for some deep fissures that demanded some care.
We made good progress through interesting wee villages until I tried to get clever and took us up a back road that soon deteriorated into a muddy track.
This did allow us to get close to nature, however, seeing egrets, storks, buzzards and even a number of otters before we were back on the main road and passing through major olive oil-producing estates.
We rolled into Ferreira in time to join many of the same estate workers and half of the town enjoying some very significant lunches.
All in all a reminder that going slowly and getting off the beaten track often bring rewards.
We woke to thick fog and the knowledge that we faced our longest day of the trip covering 60k in some pretty lumpy terrain.
Our Residential offered no breakfast so we headed to a Pastelaria for coffee, orange juice and croissant. Good, but not our usual hotel buffet carb-fest. We were on the road by 9.30, but ran straight into a local diversion and so lost time until a Delta Coffee delivery man put us straight.
The sun was soon up and stayed with us for the day.
We were soon enjoying a typical days cycling in the Alentajo with bright sun, white clouds, smooth roads and apparently endless up and down rolling countryside. By the end of the day we had climbed very nearly 800 metres.
We were short on food so stopped for drinks and snacks where and when we could. Under these circumstances, Almond Magnums are very much our favourite fuels.
And so the day rolled on. We spun up many of the smaller rollers where we could, but the Scott bikes with weight are not the lightest nor the fastest so the miles and the heat took their toll.
Overall it was a great day, however and we sailed into Aljustrel tired, but happy after a memorable days ride.
Our day started with a very pleasant natter over breakfast with John and Sandy, fellow cyclists from Oregon. They are on a supported tour this time, but have all sorts of touring experience going back over many years. It was great to swap stories. Maybe I should have settled for a good blether.
You have days when your legs are good on the bike and days when they are not. Today mine were great for the first third of our 40k run to Odemira and our first coffee break, then they just run out of steam for a while.
Luckily, Jacqui took over in point position and I managed to hook on to her train as we worked our way up and down the typically endless Alentejan swells and troughs.
I think maybe I was reacting to my misremembering the fact that the run was largely flat – in fact we climbed over 450 metres on the day. Or maybe it was the heat – it was very warm around midday. Here we are after our banana and nuts lunch by the roadside at about the half way point. You can see which of us was looking the fresher!
And here are the bikes – looking better than us!
But don’t let me suggest we did not enjoy the day. Once I was latched onto Jacqui’s wheel and being pulled along my morale lifted and we could both enjoy what was a wonderful ride in near perfect conditions.
To top it all off, Odemira is a very pleasant surprise. It must be one of the prettiest towns in Portugal.
I am cheating a bit: we did this over two days, but the wifi in the esteemed Dom Pedro Hotel was so slow nothing would post and so details had to wait.
We found a super route out of Alvor heading passed the airport and missing the worst of the traffic and were soon zipping down the N125 in fairly light, if fast of course, traffic. We only detoured off the main route to Figueira in search of water.
Then in Odiáxere we spotted a road promising Meia Praia, the beach by our hotel on Lagos. We always like getting off the 125 and so decided it was worth the risk. It worked out, but only after stopping repeatedly to ask locals where the beach was. The Dom Pedro had an aire of faded elegance about it, but we made full use of its facilities and our suite with bedroom, lounge, kitchen and bathroom: all for 38 Euros. We also headed out and walked to the marina to see what the other half got for 38 Euros – not much as it turned out.
We expected a difficult day heading for Aljezur, but it turned out to be 10k shorter than expected and a delightful run in bright sunshine, but moderate temperatures and light traffic. Bliss! There was one testing climb to 243 metres, but with two pleasant coffee stops before and after we took it with ease and rolled onto town in time for lunch. Today was the sort of day that brings us back to the Alentego again and again – and will in the future I hope.
Here we are at nearly 243 metres and about to start on the descent to sea level again: this is what bikes were made for!