Ericeira

October 14, 2017

Ericeira was the final stop on our adventure.

Our good friend Cita is living there enjoying the surfing lifestyle and we were very excited to see her and were totally spoilt by her and the amazing hospitality of her boyfriend João. Muito Obrigado!

Rob even got a few surfs in while we were there.

In three months we cycled 3,000kms. Our bikes were excellent. We had the odd small maintenance issue but not even one puncture!

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We met lots of people and saw lots of things. This blog shows all the good times we had but doesn’t describe the days that we were tired or hungry or hot or cold but please believe there were hard times too. . . . but mostly we just had fun!

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Lisbon

October 11, 2017

Lisbon is fun, vibrant city that is only just now embracing tourism.

Alongside the standard tourist bars there’s interesting, arty things happening. We enjoyed checking it out and wished we had longer there.

Nazaré

October 7, 2017

After exploring inland Portugal we headed back to the coast to the town of Nazare. Nazare is famous for having the worlds biggest wave. We spent several hours watching the surfers as they were towed in to ride the massive waves. It is also famous for it’s many colourful, wooden fishing boats that are still in use today.

The town is filled with white-washed buildings and the characteristic Greek Island style blue trim.

From Nazare to Lisbon the coast is no longer flat but is a series of cliffs and ridges. Dotted all along this hilly coastline are many old windmills.

Ecopista

September 29, 2017

Portugal has a number of disused railway lines that they have turned into bicycle paths. They call them “ecopistas” which is quite a cute name. We needed a break from the pretty coast and decided to travel inland. The ecopista we found was 70kms in length and wound it’s way through pretty forests and small villages.

Pumpkin soup anyone?

It felt like we had stepped back in time as we passed through small rural villages and watched old men in peaked caps in cafes drinking port with their friends (but never getting drunk) and farmers hand picking grapes from their small garden vineyards.

Cork is harvested from trees throughout Portugal. Cork trees are easily spotted as they are usually missing the bark from the lower part of the tree (up to about head high). If the Portuguese ever discover ladders then I guess the trees will lose the rest of their bark too.

Port

September 25, 2017

Porto is built on the river Douro. It was along this river that the grapes were transported to make wine. Wine didn’t transport well and once it arrived in England it had already gone off. The Portuguese realised that if they fortified the wine before it left the river Duoro it would have a longer shelf life. Winemakers set up cellars on the banks opposite the town of Porto to produce the fortified wine and the port tradition began.

Porto

September 25, 2017

Porto is set amongst very steep hills, along the banks of the Douro River. The tiny, steep streets are cobbled, the houses are colourful and tightly squashed against each other and the many churches are tiled and very decorative.

As soon we as we arrived we fell in love with it.

The gorgeous city of Porto is best viewed sitting at one of the many port bars across the river. This is my new favourite city!

Menu do dia

September 24, 2017

The Portuguese, like many Europeans, eat their main meal in the middle of the day. They also like to eat out. Every town had a restaurant that provided a ‘menu del dia’ and once we discovered them we couldn’t resist tucking our little stove away and stopping for a big lunch each day. The food was always delicious and so very cheap.

For the princely sum of 5 euros ($7) per person the menu included all of the following:

– soup

– olives

– bread

– an enormous main dish of either meat or fish

– half a litre of wine

– coffee

– dessert.

oh, happy days!

The coast

September 22, 2017

The Portuguese coast is not dissimilar to the Australian coast. There are white sandy beaches, clear blue water and many places are famous for the surf.

There is mostly a north wind blowing in Portugal meaning we always had tail wind which, as every cyclist knows, is a wonderful thing. Some days it was blowing at 20km per hour and literally blew us along without us having to pedal.

A few areas are developed but a lot of the coastline is made up of empty beaches and the occasional fishing village.

There are a lot of beautiful places but, unfortunately, there is also a lot of litter and areas that are not well looked after.

Due to some strange weather phenomenon, it is also often extremely foggy along the coast. It was sometimes so thick that we couldn’t see the beach right next to us.

Of course, we loved the many beach bars along our route.

Portugal

September 16, 2017

At the west of Spain we crossed the Cantabrian Mountains. This was another challenge for the legs and stamina and again it took us three days to make the crossing. This time the crossing was very cold and the climb was much steeper than the Pyrenees. We’re certainly learning to love hills!

On the other side of the mountains we found ourselves in Portugal.

It was at the very first shop after the border that we had our first Pastel de Nata – Portuguese tart – and the love affair began. These delicious pastries are a Portuguese staple and are found in every cafe, bar, supermarket and restaurant and cost only 50c – yum!

We entered Portugal from the north and again were surrounded by small scenic villages and many vineyards.

Jamón serrano

September 15, 2017

We spent a few weeks cycling across the top of Spain through the towns of Pamplona, Logroño, León and Ponferrada. They are all beautiful Spanish towns.

Each town we passed boasts a cathedral that is grander, more impressive and has more saints buried under it than the previous town.

We are also loving the tapas and the almost sacred fascination with Serrano ham. It is served at every bar, cafe or kiosk, the bar tender taking great care to slice it correctly and estole it’s merits to anyone that will listen.

This is the selection on offer in the supermarket!

Red hot chili peppers

September 14, 2017

Everyday we see something interesting.

Yesterday we saw a factory catch fire. The day before, we stopped and watched as farmers collected seaweed with a tractor and spread it on the sand to dry, to be later collected and used as fertiliser.

Another day we stumbled across a bush fire and nearly got wet with the water from the helicopter trying to extinguish it.

We passed a convent where thousands of people were tortured during the Spanish civil war.

We visited a house built by Gaudi. We sat in an outdoor thermal spa with old fat women with very droopy breasts.

Today’s surprise was a bucket load of peppers.

The rain in Spain falls mainly in the plain – not

September 13, 2017

For many, many kilometres Spain was brown and hot. Clearly no rain has fallen on these plains for a very long time.

We thought it was never going to end.

Luckily, it was interspersed with cute little villages like this.

Every teeny tiny village in Spain has an historic church. Each one marks the passing of time with enormous bells. It’s quite comforting to hear the time as each half hour passes.

Each Spanish village we pass is different from the last. There may be few campsites in Spain but it’s a delight to know that every Spanish village, no matter how small, has a bar.

Camping

September 4, 2017

France was abundant with campsites. Each morning we set off not knowing where we would end up at the end of the day. At lunch time, over a baguette and cheese, we would consider our options, or visit a castle, have a glass of wine and then consider our options. Either way there would be a campsite with warm showers (never hot or plentiful but definitely warm) not far away. Mostly the campsites were pretty places with trees shading the sites and lush green grass.

Spain is quite different, although the water is always hot, the campsites are not plentiful and not often found. Today, for example, there is not a campsite anywhere near our route for over 100kms.

A fascination with the Spanish is to to go on holidays to an onsite van that you own that is parked in a ‘campsite’ one metre from another on site van. We stayed in a few of these where there were more than 1,000 onsite vans next to each other. I use the word onsite van loosely as these vans had no wheels or axels so were not going anywhere soon – more like really small houses with no running water.

Tents are definitely not welcome in such places and we have often been asked to camp on a piece of earth outside the amenities block that would have normally be left for walking to the amenities block.

It seems a strange concept to you leave the crowded city you live in to come an holiday to be in a crowded place you don’t live in.

Free camping is looking not only much more interesting but necessary.

Here we are free camping in the Cantrabrian Mountains

(note: solar charger in operation).

We have the power

September 2, 2017

The downside of being modern cyclists and using the iPad for all of our navigation is that we are constantly chasing electricity. Many campsites do not provide powered sites for tents and when we free camp we can’t recharge our devices at all.

We found ourselves in the ridiculous position of choosing where to camp based on how accessible the electricity was. One night when we found ourselves eating dinner outside the amenities block of the campsite while our devices were charging above the basin we decided enough was enough and a good solution was necessary.

We researched the options, chose a possible product, navigated through the Spanish website and ordered a portable light weight solar panel online. We had it delivered to a Poste Restante in a small town in Spain and collected it on our way through.

Voila! We now have power on the go!

From Bonjour to Hola

September 1, 2017

Once across the Pyrenees we found ourselves in Spain. Chateaux have been replaced with churches, the villages are completely different than their French counterparts and pan au chocolate for breakfast is no more. Instead the bars are filled with pinxos or tapas and the scenery has changed from lush trees and rivers to kilometres and kilometres of dry brown fields.

All is not lost – a massive glass of vino tinto is only 90 cents and it is served with a side of chorizo and bread. Happy days!