Portugal, 2007
Sept. 16, 2007 / Oct. 26, 2007

Michael J. Ferguson

Les Publications INRS-Télécommunications, Montréal

Journal Index


1  Montreal to Lisbon, Sunday, Sept. 17
2  Lisbon, Monday, Sept 18
3  Lisbon, Wednesday, Sept. 19
4  Lisbon to Sintra, Thursday, Sept. 20
5  Sintra to Ericeira, Friday, Sept. 21
6  Ericeira to Praia Da Areia Branca, Saturday, Sept. 22
7  Praia Da Areia Branca to Peniche, Sunday, Sept. 23
8  Peniche to Foz do Arhelo, Monday, Sept. 24
9  Foz do Arhelo to Nazaré, Tuesday, Sept. 25
10  Nazaré to Batalha and Leiria, Wednesday, Sept. 26
11  Leiria to Louriçal, Thursday, Sept. 27
12  Louriçal to Coimbra, Friday, Sept. 28
13  Coimbra, Saturday, Sept. 29
14  Coimbra. Sunday Sept. 30
15  Coimbra to Póvoa Do Salgueiro, Monday, Oct. 1
16  Póvoa Do Salgueiro to Torreira, Tuesday, Oct. 2
17  Torreira to Porto, Wednesday, Oct. 3
18  Porto, Thursday, Oct. 4
19  Porto to Rio Minho, Friday, Oct. 5
20  Rio Minho to Quinta do Foja, Saturday, Oct. 6
21  Quinta do Foja to near? Lamego, Sunday, Oct. 7
22  Lamego and beyond, Monday, Oct. 8
23  Beyond Lamego to Viseu, Tuesday, Oct. 9
24  Viseu to São Antonio, Wednesday, Oct. 10
25  São Antonio to Luso, Thursday, Oct. 11
26  Luso to the Rio Mondago, Friday, Oct. 12
27  Rio Mondago to Penela, Saturday, Oct. 13
28  Penela to Tomar, Sunday, Oct. 14
29  Tomar, Monday. Oct. 15
30  Tomar to Golegã, Tuesday, Oct 16
31  Golegã to Vila Franca de Xira, wednesday, Oct. 17
32  Vila Franca de Xira to Lisbon, Thursday, Oct. 18
33  Lisbon, Friday Oct. 18 to Thursday Oct. 25
34  Lisbon to Montreal, Friday Oct. 26
35  Maps and Such

1  Montreal to Lisbon, Sunday, Sept. 17

I started this trip by riding out to Trudeau Airport. It was quite pleasant and a relatively easy 15km. I folded my bicycle, and carefully placed the stuff in my trailer and bicycle bag. Today I was flying Lufthansa and I had discovered that the transatlantic free baggage allowance has been reduced from 30 kilos to 23 kilos. I was able to very carefully arrange the two bags so that one was 23.1 Kilos and the other was 23.4 kilos. This was deemed acceptable, but then they wanted to weigh my backpack. It weighed 18 kilos and I discovered then that there was a 10 kilo limit on carry on, and only one bag. This meant that I had to shift 8 kilos from my backpack to trailer, and pay an overweight baggage charge of $60.00 CDN - ugh!!

Other than that the trip was uneventful, and we arrived in Lisbon approximately on schedule. Lufthansa's service was exemplary, and unlike American Airlines, there was no ``nominal'' charge for wine and liqueur. They even had real cognac.

One problem I have with flying with my bicycle and trailer is that I don't know whether they will come out on the normal belt or in the oversize area. This time it was the oversize, and they were late.

After putting everything together, I started my ride to the campground at Parc Monsanto. My initial impression of Lisbon is that it is not particularly bicycle friendly. The drivers were continually honking at me an the sidewalks were covered with glass. In addition, the city is crisscrossed with large fast streets where, it is obvious, that bicycles are discouraged.

I have GPS coordinates for about 200 campgrounds and 600 WiFi places. Except for finding. After struggling to find the waypoint for the campground, it was easy to make my way towards it. My only complication were the unfriendly streets.

2  Lisbon, Monday, Sept 18

Today was a beautiful day for exploring central Lisbon. Getting into Lisbon from here is not easy by bicycle and I did not really want to go along yesterdays route. Instead, I went up, really up, over Monsanto and then down, at almost 50km/h but still slowed down cars behind me.

I am navigating using my GPS, and find that I know exactly where I am, it is very difficult to see where I want to go. The small screen makes it almost impossible to see the layout of a large are to make the appropriate strategic decisions. I decided to use the Lonely Planet map, but found it almost impossible to see any landmarks I recognized. The Lonely Planet named streets were too far away and the GPS names disappeared before They appeared on the screen.

Obviously, though, I would eventually close in on the central area and first did. My first recognizable landmark was the Lisbon City Hall looking appropriately ostentatious.

Across the square from the hall was a fence to remind the politicians that they should not let their legislation get buggy.

I turned into the real center of town at Portugal's own Arc de Triumphe - Arch de Victoria and rode slowly up the long pedestrian street, Rua Augusta.

One curious attraction, just off the street is the Elevador de Santa Justa, built in 1902, as a tribute to a transportation engineer.

Rua Augusta ends at the large Pedro IV Square, where I decided to try to go up the hill to see the Castelo de São Jorge. After a short while, straight up, it appeared that I was actually going up away from the castle. This was an area of small houses and even smaller lanes.

It was clear, from the square with a symbolic castle, that this side was even steeper than the way had tried. I gave up, and settled for a distant view.

One of the highlights of Lisbon is the majolica tiles covering the houses. Indeed, there where many examples as I wended my way through the back streets.

I started my way out of the center of town by riding up the thoroughly delightful Rua de la Libertade.

At the end, I stared back to the Monsanto, following the line on my GPS. Unfortunately it ended up at the entry of a freeway, about 3km from the campground. This was too dangerous so I bailed out, turning very down, going under the bridge, and eventually got back to the same way I had been in the morning.

It was a tough day, although I only rode about 30km and climbed 400m (1300').

3  Lisbon, Wednesday, Sept. 19

It appears that I didn't close the trailer up very well when I had to add stuff in Montreal. When I found it in Lisbon, my computer extras, such as the power adapter and my extra batteries had almost fallen out. I think that a bag of clothes did fall out and there also seems to be other stuff missing, but at this point I am not certain whether I actually forgot them.

It also occurred to me that perhaps the reason my backpack was weighed was because it was so big. It also takes up an inordinate amount of space in the trailer so I gave it away to a young couple from Belgium. Now I will have to get some stuff bags to carry the ''stuff'' that I normally had in there.

Finally, I replaced the map in my GPS with a smaller one of just Portugal, that includes routing, even for bicycles. I will see how well it works, and learn to use it tomorrow.

4  Lisbon to Sintra, Thursday, Sept. 20

My surprise of the morning was a totally flat front tire. It was a slice at the valve and not at all fixable. I put on a new tube, and stopped at Decathlon, a large sports store just up the road to buy some new tubes and a stuff bag.

At my first banana break, people offered me advice on how to get to the Monsanto campground and were astonished at my courage in riding to Sintra. The route computed by my GPS was even more convoluted than my trial in leaving Madrid when I was in Spain. I was warned of turns, and given explicit instructions for which exit to take out of each roundabout. When I missed a turn, it recomputed the route and told me to make a U-turn as soon as possible. Not only did it get me to Sintra, it was able to, almost, route me to the address of the hostel that I wanted. That one, was of course full, but I was able to find another just down the street.

Sintra is built on the sides of cliffs and split by deep valleys.

Wandering around town was much easier for me because I left the trailer at the hotel. Just down the street was the Sintra City Hall.

At the end of the day, I watched the sunset, with a glass of wine, on the little square in front.

The center of town is dominated by the Palacio National de Sintra, with its carriages, and hordes of tourists.

High up on the top of the cliff is the Sintra Castle.

The back streets were too narrow and steep for me so I pushed up them, carefully avoiding the stairs.

Even with an empty bicycle, I was stopped by tourists and natives asking me where, and what I was doing, and encouraging me to continue to be an inspiration.

It was a good day of about 30km and 600m (2000') feet of vertical.

5  Sintra to Ericeira, Friday, Sept. 21

This morning I started out by looking for a WiFi location for which I have GPS coordinates. I found it, down some very steep hills but it required a prepaid password. This was a maintenance area for someone so it was impossible for me to access the net. The additional trial was that the hill was too steep for me to start up on the bicycle before falling over so I had to push it back.

Once I left Sintra, I headed up north, again following the convoluted route given by the GPS. It was reasonably easy but not very exciting - a strong headwind and the exciting scenery was primarily new subdivisions on the hills in the distance and paving stone factories one after another. When I finally reached the coast, there were beaches and beach towns.

The campground was just where it should have been, and I set up my tent in a common, pick your spot area, to settle in for the day. The campground has internet access, using locked towers, so I could not send my report. There apparently was WiFi access in town, so I rode in, found it in the middle of a square, and discovered that it was a private network. I am not certain that my list of 600 WiFi locations is all that useful.

6  Ericeira to Praia Da Areia Branca, Saturday, Sept. 22

I left early in the morning, hoping that the strong headwinds of yesterday would not have started - no such luck. They were with me all day.

My early, after breakfast banana fueling was at one of Ericeira's surfing beaches. Those ``very big birds'' that I saw in the water from the top of the cliff were actually early morning surfers.

The rest of the day was spent climbing up and down 10% grades, some very long, going in and out of only a few of the small hilltop towns that dotted the hills.

For the most part, these seemed to be new construction,

but these were made homier with real grape arbours.

There were two highlights of the day. The first was a talk with Meredith McKay, another cycle tourer, from Christchurch, who was going south with the wind, The second was picking up some fresh field tomatoes that had been plowed up and left by the side of the road.

The campground is really a trailer park with a sandbox for tents. However, the showers are very nice.

My disappointment for the day was still not being able to determine a way to pay for a WiFi connection when it works. I will have to work at it in Peniche tomorrow.

Today was a tough day of only about 50km but about 700m (2400') of at least 10% grades.

7  Praia Da Areia Branca to Peniche, Sunday, Sept. 23

Today I rode to Peniche, a rather short distance, arriving there in the morning. I was still looking for a WiFi location I could use but struck out again. The free one by the visitor center was not working and the other one that was on my list did not exist.

The tourist part of the day was spent riding around along the walls and around the peninsula back to the campground.

I had intended, when I got back to the campground to get some wine and go out to stare at the ocean. However, as I was leaving, an English couple started talking to me and I ended up by trueing up the back wheel of one of there bicycles. It took a while, so I didn't go any where. They invited me for supper and that was the end of the day.

8  Peniche to Foz do Arhelo, Monday, Sept. 24

I tried again, and failed, to get WiFi access at the tourist centre in town. It was still not working. I rode out along a flat bicycle path beside the coastal dunes, that also doubled as a parcours training route. Just as I was turning inland I was stopped by a surfer from Thunder Bay. I mentioned to him that he was a bit of a masochist to surf in these waters - full wet suit and all. He said that this was not to bad. He claimed that he surfed on Lake Superior, even in the winter time. Maybe ... but !!!

I went up and down through small towns until I reached the highlight of the day - the walled town and castle of Óbidos.

It was originally built by the Moors, and became a wedding present to Donna Isabel, the wife and queen of Dom Dinas in 1228. It, of course, has the requisite stuff shops, restaurants, and tourists,

but its real charm is the castle and the walls.

The windows you see on the side of the castle wall are, indeed, quite modern. Inside is one of the most elegant Posadas in Portugal.

The new stage set under construction seemed a little out of time with the castle.

Although the town is obviously a monument, real people actually live inside.

The outsides are fresh and white, but I didn't get to see if the insides were brand new like those in Pérouges, the medieval town just outside Lyon.

I had one success here. I was, with some difficulty, able to get WiFi access and sen my first trip report. I had great difficulty registering, both with the Portuguese language and ambiguities that were a mystery even for the nice lady in the tourist office that was helping me. My username, turned out to be my email address.

From there I was to ride, ostensibly 12km, to my next campground. Unfortunately, the GPS coordinates in the camping guide book were wrong, and I got totally lost. The routing sent me through small villages, up and down some of the steepest hills I have ever seen. I couldn't consult the map in the camping book because it had been totally destroyed when my water bottle leaked in the tent.

I had pretty well given up in finding it when I saw a sign pointing towards El Campismo. A few questions later and I found it.

9  Foz do Arhelo to Nazaré, Tuesday, Sept. 25

Today I rode most of the time through eucalyptus and pine forest.

At times it was quite pleasant because I was protected from the wind. generally, though, the respite did not last.

My first major town was São Martinoh do Porto a large beach town surrounded by sand dunes.

From there it was up and down through the woods to Nazaré. This was, and still is, an important fishing centre but is now really overwhelmed by tourism.

The old fisherman's quarter narrow streets have no cars, mercifully, tiled houses, and flowers.

There is a cable railway to the top of the cliff behind the fisherman's quarter that has a small chapel, and magnificent vistas of the beach and town below.

The top of the cliff stretches out into open space, and is sufficiently inviting that there are numerous signs to stay away.

Some spires are just harmless and beautiful.

Some of the new architecture is as sad as the old.

After I came back down, I stopped for a beer and watched the boogy board surfers on the shore breaks. The breaks were very dangerous and they had to bail out on time to avoid becoming paraplegics.

I had hoped that my ride out of town to the campground would be through a nicely sloping valley ... no such luck. It was straight up the side of the cliff. I survived, but was not especially happy. It was exhausting, but the campground was exactly where the GPS coordinates said it should be.

Today I actually found two WiFi areas, one by the tourist office in Nazaré and the other in the campground.

10  Nazaré to Batalha and Leiria, Wednesday, Sept. 26

I started out through the woods, and much to my relief, there was almost no wind and it was relatively flat. My first destination was the UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Monastery at Batalha. The last few km were downhill, and I thought that I would have to pay, but I didn't realise how much until later.

The main visitor area of the monastery is the church.

The entry door is enshrined by saints,

The inside is high gothic,

The outside has spires everywhere except at one end.

I found this rather strange, but went inside and found that this was the top of the Unfinished Chapels

From there, I started towards Leiria. The beginning was relatively flat but then I began to pay for my downhill. I began a climb of about 3km of 15% grades. It was so tough that I had to stop and rest almost every 50m or so. One of my rest stops was by a vineyard, and the nice man, picking grapes, gave me three large bunches.

I finally made it up to the top of the ridge, and rested before going down the last 10km to Leiria.

Leiriá main attraction is its castle. I parked my bicycle below it, and walked, with great difficulty, up. There was no way I was going to ride up such a hill.

It was clear that I was not going to ride out of town to find a campground, so I put the address of the Youth Hostel, in my GPS and rode, with one messy fall on a 360 degree turn to the Youth Hostel.

It was a delightful place, having a large backyard with palm trees,

and a nice place to sit and drink some wine. I didn't go anywhere.

11  Leiria to Louriçal, Thursday, Sept. 27

I started out in the morning after breakfast, with the castle, bright in the morning sun.

I wanted this to be an easy day since my legs were still feeling it from the grind yesterday, and I had a little too much wine, while relaxing in the backyard last night.

There were a couple of hills as I was leaving Leiria, although a little painful, were doable. The only trauma was that the road to the campground had been closed because of a new highway. There was another one up the road so I made it without much trouble. I didn't think they would cut off western access to Louriçal, and they didn't. I was here early enough to do some washing, which might even be dry in the morning.

12  Louriçal to Coimbra, Friday, Sept. 28

Today was up and down all day, but mercifully with no wind.

As usual I was routed through small villages, which around here seem to nestled in valleys rather than on the top of the hills.

I also saw a villa for sale for all those that want to have a stake in Portugal. It may require a little work.

This is a lumber area with eucalyptus and pine and some of the trees are almost works of art.

After struggling up hills for most of the day, I was mercifully treated to an almost continual downhill, of a very steep hill for the last 6km. I think I would have almost died coming up. There were a couple of river valleys to keep me honest.

The municipal campground is up the hill from the River Mondago and even that was a struggle. However, it is very nice and I had my shower and relaxed.

13  Coimbra, Saturday, Sept. 29

I spent today riding around Coimbra, exploring, looking for supplies, and a WiFi outlet. My major success was to find a commercial WiFi location and figure our a way to pay for it. Maybe in the future it will be easier.

As you will see from the pictures, Portugal does not have sunshine all the time. In fact, it drizzled and rained on me for most of the day. I was quite happy that I had decided to put the rainfly on the tent this morning. Normally I use it all the time, but the wind has been so bad that I decided to opt for tent stability rather than to avoid non-existent rain.

Apparently the best place for a complete picture of Coimbra, is from the middle of the pedestrian bridge over the Rio Mondago.

The university is one of the oldest in Europe, and was moved there by Don Diaz, whose statue in front of the main entrance does not seem to engender much respect.

It is built on the top of one of Coimbra's many hills and looks almost fortified.

As one might expect from such an ancient university, the buildings have a certain elegance.

The Chemistry building seems to be especially so, given that it is for mere science.

Construction is everywhere in Portugal, and here they have a unique way of hiding that ugly scaffolding.

It appears that some things never change at a university, although spray paint was not available in the thirteen hundreds.

Down the hill a bit is a rather interesting church, with no signs, or name in any of the guidebooks, but the square in front said Largo de Sé Velha.

The roofs may be tile, but there are some modern intrusions.

It was nice riding around wherever I wanted knowing that I always could find my tent again.

14  Coimbra. Sunday Sept. 30

It is still raining so I decided to stay here today. It almost cleared so I went out to get supplies and reply to email. The large Coimbra Shopping centre near here was open but I got roundly soaked on my way.

It was a successful foray as I was able to get several electrical converters that I left in the plug at my hotel in Sintra. I had improvised by putting a new plug on my extension cord, but the only one I could find in the country was huge and grounded. I replaced it with a normal two prong plug. I gave my big one away to a couple from the Netherlands that just arrived.

I am now restocked.

15  Coimbra to Póvoa Do Salgueiro, Monday, Oct. 1

Today I left Coimbra in brilliant sunshine and was rewarded with the university shining in the morning sun.

I followed the Rota do Vinho da Bairrada through small towns and past vineyards that were being harvested, entirely by hand.

A pleasant surprise for today was that I occasionally had a tail wind. I quit early because the next campground was over 50km away.

16  Póvoa Do Salgueiro to Torreira, Tuesday, Oct. 2

The receptions at most of the campgrounds open at 9:00am, but this was a small one so I thought that I could get someone up sooner - no such luck. When I looked carefully the sign, it said 10:00am. There was no one around, but they did arrive at about 9:15am and I could leave.

On the way out of town, I saw one of the many completely tiled churches that seem to be all over around here.

I was guided very nicely through small back roads that I would not have found otherwise until the guidance failed because of new construction. I was supposed to go up the IC2 to Porto, but this highway has been upgraded and bicycles are not allowed. It took me a while, and a lot of wandering, including a dirt track through the woods before I discovered this problem. My first encounter with IC2 merely did not have an entrance to the road. I finally gave up trying to convince Garmin not to user the IC2 an struck out for Aveiro, Portugal's Venice which is near the coast.

I had to go back inland to finally reach the coast and my campground at Torreira, where I put my tent up in the rain.

17  Torreira to Porto, Wednesday, Oct. 3

I was able to start out early because I was able to pay when I arrived and they let me keep my Camping International Card. It was overcast, grey, and very flat, and there was no wind, as I rode up by the shore.

I was hoping that these beautiful riding conditions would last to Porto, but that was not to be the case. About 20km out of Porto, the hills, and cliffs began. I got all the climbs back as I sped down hill, but that did not reduce the pain. In addition, it started to rain, or more accurately, drizzle - on and off.

I arrived in the early afternoon in Vila Nova de Gaia, just across the river from Porto. This is the area where the English port companies, such as Taylors, Sandeman, and Croft set up shop to invent Port. I stopped to visit and taste ports that I could not possibly afford to buy in Canada. My first stop was Taylors.

Their tasting room had a vintage ruby port (2005 - very recent) and a white port, something I had never tasted before coming here. They were both pleasant, but I was not overwhelmed.

I next visited the Croft tasting room and tasted, for an exorbitant fee, a vintage ruby port that had won the? International Wine Challenge. I don't think that I have the ability to do these justice.

Porto was on the other side of the Douro, and I was dearly hoping that I could avoid climbing the cliffs that I saw.

Not only was I not able to avoid climbing them, I had to do it twice. The Porto Municipal Campground was on the other side, and it turned out it is closed permanently because the town authorities have decided that the temptation of the money for development is too great.

I did find a Lonely Planet recommended residencial, but the pain was hauling my bicycle and trailer to the second floor.

The Canadian Flag on my trailer attracts much attention. I was stopped by a Portuguese who had lived in Canada, and turned around to talk to me. Maggie, from Vancouver came over to talk as I was locking my bicycle in Vila Nova de Gaia, and as I was looking for a place to stay after the campground disaster, a man from Kirkland, a suburb of Montreal, stopped by to ask me where I was from. However, the most surprising event of the day was the discovery of a Canadian tooney, the Canadian 2$ coin under one of the map clips on my bicycle.

18  Porto, Thursday, Oct. 4

Maggie said yesterday that it was supposed to be sunny today and tomorrow. I started riding around, on a totally empty bicycle, and it sure looked as though she were wrong.

The small Ribeira area of Porto is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It has charm, cliffs, and rather steep hills.

A Porto university tradition, at this time of year is for the upperclassmen, dressed in black robes, to harass the first year students.

Each student in each of the different groups, and there were several, wore identical tee shirts. The upperclassmen in each group were even less distinguishable.

Perhaps it was coincidence, but quick on the heels of the first gaggle of students was a long line of mounted policemen out galloping their horses.

The grey of the morning gave way to sunshine in the afternoon, considerably brightening the Douro

The Casa da Música and the Fundaçao de Serralves building and park are two of Porto's newest architecturally significant acquisitions.

I was sort of hoping to be blown away, as I was by the Guggenheim in Bilbao, but I wasn't.

In the afternoon sunshine I relaxed in the Praça de Gomes Teixeira watching and listening to more harassed students, as I enjoyed the sunshine and a glass of wine.

19  Porto to Rio Minho, Friday, Oct. 5

I left in the early morning fog and climbed high above the Douro to leave Porto.

By early morning the fog had lifted and there was much sun, but not too hot, and no wind. Ideal riding weather. I rode about 50km, through less than inspiring country. It appeared to be almost continual urbanization, interspersed with uninspiring industrial construction depots and an inordinate number of furniture stores.

Portugal seems to have a love affair with cobblestone roads. I dislike them intensely.

They are hard to ride up, jarring, and impossible to ride down quickly without shaking the entire bike, trailer, and rider apart. Fortunately I did not have to navigate them in the rain where they must be very dangerous.

Most of Porto's streets are cobblestone, but the highways tend to be asphalt. However, after about 30km, I ran into a 10km section of the N15 that was continuous cobbles. In the middle of one town, I saw a possible reason - support of local industry.

It was clear that I was not going to reach the campground so I started to look for a place to camp. I was not too hopeful because of the continually dense inhabitation but the Rio Minho was a deep river valley, and perhaps I could find a place there. Unfortunately the banks were covered with trash and cars so I opted to climb up the other side.

Nothing was possible there, so I continued through the town that was on top of the ridge, and just before sunset found a place in the woods on the far side. It was quite well protected, but a little trashier than I would have liked. However, there were a few decrepit garbage bags which I filled and will haul out in the morning.

20  Rio Minho to Quinta do Foja, Saturday, Oct. 6

Today was the prettiest day I have had in Portugal. The Douro was living up to its Heritage designation.

It started out with early morning clouds with the Douro far below me.

There were reminders everywhere that this was still granite country and that it was being used in new construction.

Maggie had told me that she was going to pick grapes in the Douro but it was late this year because of the cold and wet. As I rode, I heard voices in the vineyards indicating much activity. Right by the side of the road this group of kids was hard? at work.

Apparently the one thumb up is encouragement, and not The Finger in Portugal. By early afternoon the sun had come back and I ws on way down to river level.

It was early afternoon when I arrived in the vicinity of the Campismo Quinta do Foja. I was a little worried because the GPS showed a straight line from the road to the waypoint, with no road. Indeed, when I got to the turn, it went straight up a cliff. I rode on a bit looking for a way, and then turned back to ask at a café. Indeed, the campground existed, but it was closed. I still wanted to know where it was - the turn was about a 1km up the road, I hoped that maybe I would be allowed to stay.

After ba 15% climb up a small cobblestone road, I found it. It was indeed quite closed, totally fenced in, and no one around. The pedestrian gate was locked, but, much to my surprise, the main gate was not. I decided to stay and be discrete. Hopefully I will not be locked in. It was a beautiful afternoon from my front door.

21  Quinta do Foja to near? Lamego, Sunday, Oct. 7

I woke up to a beautiful, hazy morning, made more so because I had not been locked in over night. I backtracked slightly and crossed the Douro to a beautiful, rising sun.

The Douro may be referred to as a valley, but only the train has the luxury of a flat track. The rest of us have to climb up and down - mostly up it seemed - the cliffs. The villages were on top, in the middle, and down by the water.

Occasionally, there was a farm, that obviously did not make it.

The past few days appear to have been holidays in this part of Portugal. I have been hearing explosions all day that turn out to be daytime fireworks over the river. I passed through the Paroquai de São Miguel de Anreade - Resende which was evidently have its own celebrations in front of the church.

One pretty teenager did not seem to be too enthralled by the festivities.

I did not have all that far to go to get to Lamego, but I didn't take into account the sustained hill, of up to 18% grade, at São Martinho de Mouros.

My margin disappeared rather quickly, and I started to look for a place to camp at about 5:00pm - sunset was at 7:12pm. Both sides of the road were shear cliffs, and there were times when the road was so steep, and I was so tired that I couldn't even start without falling over. Then I was forced to push for a while. I finally reached the top of this ridge, went down a bit, and then climbed again - not so steeply. Finally it opened up into semi-flat high grassy area with signs Perigo - Explosifs. Just before sunset, I saw a place with a small, ungated road and very tall grass. I looked behind the grass, found a small clearing and stopped - totally invisible from the road.

22  Lamego and beyond, Monday, Oct. 8

I woke up to brilliant sunshine, with the Douro covered with clouds, but I was far above them..

From there it was mostly downhill to Lamego. I had intended to stay the day there at the campground near town but it was up the hill and it was quite early. I didn't want to go up twice so I went down into town. This was where I am leaving the Douro, and going south back to Lisbon. I reread Lonely Planet and discovered that the main reason to come here was to visit the shrine Igreja de Nossa Senhora dos Remédios at the top of the hill, and to climb up the steps that lead to it.

Lamego is quite pleasant, both down below, and up on top in the small walled city around the castle.

I reprovisioned and climbed out of town around the backside of the hill that holds the shrine. It was a beautiful day riding on sharp ridges through deep valleys.

At about 4:00pm I started looking for a place to camp and found a reasonable, one by 6:00pm. It was large, and I found a place that was relatively free of trash, and set up my tent.

23  Beyond Lamego to Viseu, Tuesday, Oct. 9

Again I started out in beautiful sunshine, after putting my dew-drenched tent away. After a small uphill it was downhill for most of the day through beep rounded valleys and ridges to Viseu. The campground in Viseu was just where it was supposed to be, but was very closed. This one I could not get into. Right beside it though was a huge city park and garden. There were pedestrian gates, and the place was overrun with joggers. In addition, the forest was very open so there was nb place to hide. I found a nice clean place in one of the wilder parts of the park, up a hill and behind some rocks. However I couldn't get my bicycle up the hill. Finally, after dark I found a building near the wall, whose backside was completely hidden. I was able to spend get my bike up yo it, and set up the tent in the dark. It is, unfortunately, trashy and a bit smelly.

24  Viseu to São Antonio, Wednesday, Oct. 10

After one failure, I found a WiFi outlet where I could send my journal. This took some time riding around town, but, Viseu is big enough so there were several choices.

Then, at about 1:00pm, after some repairs to my bicycle, I was on my way. I followed the IC3, which was a rather new, unexciting highway, but had very wide nice shoulders. The countryside was pleasant, but not very exciting. I finally found my campground, exactly where it should have been, rang their bell, and the owner eventually came to the gate. Although he was also closed for the season, because I was alone, and riding a bicycle, he let me stay. he also told me that virtually all of the campgrounds around were also closed.

It looks as though at about 3:00pm each day, I will have to start to look for a place to camp. Sunset is at about 7:00pm, and getting earlier.

25  São Antonio to Luso, Thursday, Oct. 11

I left nice and early because the owner had to go to work. It was a beautiful day, and again I was routed through small back roads that I would never have found on an ordinary map.

I spent most of the day going up and down, mostly up it seemed, through pine and eucalyptus forests.

After about 20km, I saw a sign to Luso. According to the campground owner last night, this was one of the few places that was open. It appeared to be a feasible distance so I hoped for the luxury of two campgrounds in a row.

Of course, the ride was not without some pain. I had a final long climb up a ridge, passing the small village of Sura, and at the top, it opened up to a huge valley with Luso at the bottom.

The long ride down was welcome. As I turned into town, to follow my routing to the campground, Garmin was sending me down a hill, a decent double diamond ski hill, that I couldn't possibly get back up. According to the map, there was another way, so I followed it. It was feasible, rode a little bit out of town,

and found the campground where it was supposed to be.

26  Luso to the Rio Mondago, Friday, Oct. 12

I continued east from Luso, for a relatively easy ride through flat, winders country. It was pleasant, and I discovered, at noon, when I looked at my map, that I was almost directly north of Coimbra, and was being routed north of Coimbra. In Viseu, I put in a routing request to the airport in Lisbon. Garmin is supposed to use a ``minimum distance routing algorithm'' so I assumed that it would send me straight south. It didn't. It sent me east. It is very difficult to check the strategic routing with the small GPS screen and there is no routing on the computer version. So I am now east of Coimbra, having just crossed the Rio Mondago which flows through Coimbra. Hopefully the hills here will be easier than the ones I came down into Coimbra.

27  Rio Mondago to Penela, Saturday, Oct. 13

I woke up to another beautiful day with a tent soaked with dew. My camping spot was clean but the brambles, dead and alive where everywhere. I think one of them punctured the trailer tire and I had to replace it when I got out to the road. That was the cause of the strange flopping noise I heard as i was riding back to the road.

I was hoping that this routing would avoid the evil hills around Coimbra, and now that I am almost due south in Penela, that appears to have been the case. The hills, of course existed, not entirely benign, but there was no malevolence. The last section was a nice downhill into Penela, where I was rewarded with views of it's castle.

However, as I feared their campground was closed so I had to continue on towards Tomar.

It was still nicely downhill and when I reached a highway, I opted to go in the direction the sign said to Tomar, rather than the opposite one, as indicated by Garmin, which would have put me back on the original route. In a few minutes, still going downhill, I found a small dirt road, leading to two huge steep hills, all, just out of sight.

28  Penela to Tomar, Sunday, Oct. 14

Again this morning is cold and sunny. I started out wearing two shirts, my down vest, and Gore-Tex jacket, but by noon, I was down to the one short sleeved shirt.

As I have been mentioning, the trash by the road, although not as bad as in Italy in 1991, is still rather distressing. As the sign here indicates, the problem, though, is perhaps worse than I thought

Although there were no real hills of note, and the riding was indeed quite pleasant through olive groves - one town was named Venda das Olivais - it was not without strain. I was looking for a campground north-east of Tomar, and Garmin insisted on routing me over small farm gravel roads. The routing instructions are to avoid gravel roads. After one fall, and two different routing failures, I rode directly into Tomar. It was there that I discovered that the city campground, which is still on the city maps as a campground, has not allowed camping for 4 years. I gave up on camping and found the very nice Residential Unaio, right in the middle of a Sunday market, and a short walk from both the park and the Placa Republicana. They even had a nice courtyard for my bicycle. I didn't have to dismantle it and carry it up a flight of stairs.

I spent the rest of the afternoon and evening, wandering around the centre of town, and with a glass of wine in the Placa Republicana, watching the children harass the pigeons and play badminton.

Tomar is famous for being the world headquarters of the Knights Templar. Their bastion, the Convento de Christo sits high above the city.

It started to dribble, so I went back to my room for my customary on the road supper.

29  Tomar, Monday. Oct. 15

Today was a lazy tourist day where I spent the morning visiting the Convento de Christo, the Knights Templar world headquarters. I wondered why it was not called the Mosteiro de Christo, considering all the knights were men? I learned later, while I was at the Castelo de Amoural, that after the Templars were dissolved, the residents of the castle were nuns. I am staying here two nights and it was nice not to have to rush, or pack my bicycle before I went up.

I walked up the (an?) old cobblestone road that led up to the top, and was a little surprised that it did not take longer. The castle is not as high as I thought.

The central feature of the castle is the 16 sided church,

Inside is a high alter, with the appropriate scaffolding for repairs, and an unusual feature. The main knave is on two levels, with the lower one looking like a crypt.

One key feature of the church is the Manuline Window. I was looking for magnificent stained glass, and thought i had missed it. In fact, the opulence is the stone work of the frame, not the window itself.

Around the church were various cloisters that appeared to have mostly administrative functions.

There were a number of small chapels,

and of course, kitchens, a huge dormitory, with doors that were slightly under 6 feet (1.8m), and a dining hall.

Water is always a problem for any fortified area, and here, there was an aqueduct that brought it in.

After visiting the castle, I spent some time wandering and riding around the old city.

I am beginning to think that pigeons were allowed on this earth to amuse people.

It was a good day.

30  Tomar to Golegã, Tuesday, Oct 16

Today's highlights were two. The first was a visit to the Templar Castelo de Amoural, build on a small island in the Rio Tejo.

The site, apparently has been an occupied stronghold since the Romans. It seems hard to believe that convincing attacks could be launched from such a site. This castle is officially one of Portugal's Seven Wonders.

After leaving the castle, and climbing up the 9% grade, I started down the N3 towards Lisbon. I had been looking all day for a grocery store to reprovision, and finally found one at about 3:30pm. The N3 was much too busy and populated to allow for any camping, so I decided to go south the 8km to Golegã, which also had a campground, hoping, but not expecting, that it would be open. That was the second highlight - it was open.

31  Golegã to Vila Franca de Xira, wednesday, Oct. 17

I started early, in bright sunshine, and no wind. The Tejo valley is very flat, and I spent the first 30km passing vineyards, corn, and red pepper fields. I wonder if the peppers add spice to the wine.

I had hoped that this would be my first day to take it easy in Portugal, but it was not to be the case. My first real town was Santorém, and it, of course was perched high on the top of the ridge.

It is the capital of the Ribatejo state, and its, apparently, shining glory, is the Praça de São da Bandeira, with the old Jesuit church which is now the cathedral.

It was all down hill from there to reach the flatlands of the valley again. I left the busy N3 for some time but was forced back on it later in the afternoon. As I feared, this meant i was back in heavy traffic, hills, and no possibility of roadside camping.

After fixing a flat tire, and having great despair because I had turned the tire inside out to check for glass, and was unable, for about 20min, to get it back so it would work, I arrived at the municipal campground of Vila Franca de Xira. It was at the top of a very steep hill, but it was open.

32  Vila Franca de Xira to Lisbon, Thursday, Oct. 18

This was a relatively easy ride along various N?? highways. The road was straight to Lisbon, but the number changed from N3 to N14 to N10 to N?? ... The final section was on the IC??. I decided to leave at the first exit where there was a sign for the Parque das Nações which was the site of the 1998 World's Fair. This year they are celebrating Portugal 2007. Perhaps next year it will be Portugal 2008?

From their it was up to the airport and in to Parque Monsanto essentially the same way I came on Sept. 17.

33  Lisbon, Friday Oct. 18 to Thursday Oct. 25

This essentially finished my bicycle trip. I am tired, and it is nice not be concerned about where I will stay for the night. It is also nice not to be constrained on shopping so it fits in the trailer. I will take some day trips, and slowly ride around Lisbon. It is much more relaxing to leave the tent standing, the trailer locked, and not have to pack everything, and then start out for the next camping spot.

On Sunday I rode down to Belém which has two World Heritage Sites. The first is the Mosteiro de Jerónimos named after St. Jerome. This was the spiritual and control center for Portugal's worldwide exploration. It is also considered the best, or perhaps most extensive, example of the extravagant Manuline style of architecture.

The second one is the Torre de Belém. I am not at all certain why it is on the list.

I then rode slowly along the waterfront, and even slower up the hill to Lisbon's Castelo de São Jorge.

I have worn out the brake pads on my bicycle on this trip and need to replace them. Although many small stores are open on Sunday, the large hypermercados are all closed, so I will have to wait until tomorrow,

On Monday I replaced the pads on both wheels and the difference is amazing. I have to be careful or I lock my rear wheel.

Monday is everything closed day both in Portugal and Spain. For that reason I decided to go, on Tuesday, to Palacio Nacional de Queluz which is apparently the local answer to Versaille. However, this was an exception to the Monday rule. It was closed on Tuesday, so I was out of luck for a visit and had to settle for pictures of the pink outside.

The highlight of the day, though, was the Museu Nacional do Azuelo, a museum to the tiles that cover Portugal.

It was in an old mansion, so, along with its tiles, it had a church, courtyards, and a garden. church.

The ancient tiles were all geometric, obviously showing the Moorish influence.

The first figures were, of course, biblical, and about a century later came secular scenes, dances, carts, and a colourful representation of Lisbon, Lisbonne Couleur obviously done by French artist.

and a 10m long panorama of Lisbon.

One of the most interesting one was done in 1988.

On Thursday I rode to the airport. On the way, I was stopped by a lady who, again, was intrigued by my flag, and couldn't believe that there was someone from Canada riding a bicycle. We talked a bit, an she invited me to lunch. I declined because I wanted to get to the airport and get ready to go. I really had enough time to accept, but did not want the interruption.

I arrived at the airport int he early afternoon and plenty of time to put everything together. I spent some of the night sleeping on the floor on my foam pad. It was actually quite comfortable.

34  Lisbon to Montreal, Friday Oct. 26

My flight to Montreal left at 6:30am from Lisbon to Munich. At about 4:30am, they started accepting passengers and luggage. My bicycle was weighed, but my trailer and hand baggage were ignored. This was much easier than coming in Montreal.

The flights were appropriately uneventful. I was impressed with Lufthansa service. The wine was free, quite decent Australian, and the food was not at all distressing, and maybe one might say, with a certain amount of generosity, good.

I and, my bags arrived on time in Montreal, and I emulated there, what I had learned in Lisbon. I rode slowly home.

35  Maps and Such

I am quite impressed with the routing capabilities of my Garmin GPS. Getting in and out of large cities by bicycle is usually very difficult. I would never have found the route that got me out of Lisbon, but it worked well, and a much easier time than I had getting out of Madrid. The only downside was that I didn't have anywhere near the satisfying adventure I had when the Burzaco's rescued me as I was trying to leave Madrid. I have created a Google Earth Map of my entire ride. This link, Portugal, 2007 leads to the map. On it you can see where many of my wrong turns led me.

I rode over 1,420km (900 miles) and climbed up almost 17km (56,000'). It was a good trip.

File translated from TEX by TTH, version 3.02.
On 12 Nov 2008, 09:03.