I started the day with a bright sunrise, signs of good things to come, and I packed away the rain gear. Still colder than heck, and the guy at the hotel said it was much colder than normal this year. Great.
I headed south from Braganca on some smaller roads, some of which were good, some not. Here's a few pics of the area.
Sorry about the ones that are through the windscreen, best I could do.
Including one town called Sobreira where they dump their trash in the revine just outside of town. Way to take care of your little piece of the world, folks.
Pretty soon it started to look and feel a lot like spring!
Riding through the Duoro valley was really cool. I often ride up and down the Mosel river wine area in Germany, and expected the Duoro to be about the same. Not true. The Duoro is HUGE HUGE compared to the Rhine or Mosel. Not quite Grand Canyon, but as my brother the physics professor would say, it's orders of magnitude larger, deeper, and just amazing.
See that white building in the middle? That's a 12 or 14 room building!
This place is just really BIG!
Along the way I passed by this town and this is at the bus stop. One of the nicer ways to tell people where they are, isn't it?
Song on the iPod was "Fields of Gold", sung by Eva Cassidy, whose version I much prefer over the original.
I never made promises lightly
And there have been some that I've broken
But I swear in the days still left
We'll walk in fields of gold
After three hours of fooling around on twisty roads I figured I better get headed where I was going. And that was Lisbon. I said earlier that I usually try to avoid urban areas when on the bike, but iIm on a special quest to find a long-lost souvenir for a very good friend, and it can only be found in Lisbon. So I got on the tollway. Compare this service station picture her to what you've seen of the mobs in France on the way home from the beaches in the south after holiday.
Saturday afternoon at the service station, Portugal.
On the highway and I'm wondering about things. Every exit I go by, there's a sign telling me the "tax amount" for that exit. But there's never a toll booth. Hmm.. Then I notice the complex radar and camera systems I've been riding under just before each exit. Are they counting license plates and taking tolls that way? Really? Will it ever get to me in the form of a bill? Check out the sign on the far left. What else could that mean? Taxes by sonar ?! What a... great invention?
After two hours on the highway I need some twisty roads, so I pick a random exit, take the first turn that looks like smooth road, ride a few kilometers, and then tell the GPS to take me back to Lisbon. Hey, you gotta have a plan, and that was my plan. The next thing I know, I'm coming into Belvar, and here's what I see. No kidding, you can't make this stuff up.
Castel, coble stone streets, orange trees with fruit, white washed buildings... yep, got all that
For a kid from Ohio off traveling the world, castles still rate pretty high. Not as many in Ohio as over here.
Seconds before the camera tumbled off the fence post and landed on a big rock. Now with a new dent and fewer functions!
But on the way to Lisbon I want to make another stop. Cabo da Roca, the easternmost tip of land in Europe. As far back as the Romans this was pretty much the end of the world, they called it "Promontorium Magnum". I doubt I need to translate that for you!
A nice guy hanging out with his girl in a van offered to take my picture. We chatted in German, nice because it obviously wasn't a first language for either of us, so we both spoke slowly and with small words. Kind of nice, and we understood each other. :
He asks how many hours riding from my home in Germany and I tell him about 36 (according to Garmin).
After a long and frustrating trip into the center of Lisbon, the way these things often go in big cities, I made it to my hotel and went searching for the elusive souvenir. I got thrown off the trail by the hotel receptionist, bought the wrong transit ticket, got on the wrong tram (15 is not 15E), got left half way to nowhere when the 15E stopped, walked 6 kilometers, passed by while standing at the tram stop twice
, and still nothing. I finally walked into a nice looking bar, "light and bright" as the realtor who sold my house in 1996 would have called it.
I looked in the show case of food and saw potato chips and odd but not interesting pastries, and was just about to leave when the guy behind the bar asked me something. I still haven't bothered to find out of I should say 'para' or 'habla' when I tell someone I can't speak Portugese. (No habla is Spanish, no para is Italian). I guess either one works, being right or wrong, it gets the point across. Anyway, I mumble one of these and he switches to English with a smile and asks if I want to eat or to have a drink. I haven't had anything except a granola bar in thirteen hours but I say I want a dark beer. In less than 10 seconds I have one, and boy it hits the spot. Pretty soon I see a chalkboard menu and read "Gambas", which I know in Spanish is shrimp, usually in spicy olive oil. OK, lets call off the hunt and eat. Soon there are shrimp, sauteed pork, bread, and a glass (well, two) of FANTASTIC Duoro wine on my table. And while this is happening, people are streaming into this place.
Estado da Alma, one of the most enjoyable meals I've had.
The waiter who is helping me reminds me of my best friend's son-in-law Jeff, and he's great. He asks if he can pick the wine for me, since I order one that I think is red but turns out is white, so he knows I need some help. He comes back with a whole bottle, and starts telling me all about why this is such a good wine. I tell him I only want a glass, not a whole bottle, and he says yes, this is OK, but it is 7 Euros a glass, not the normal 2 or 3, but it is so good, I must try it.
OK, whatever, I was in a rotten mood when I came in and now I have great food in front of me, I'll go along with it. But MAN, was that wine good. Both glasses of it. So if you're ever in Lisbon, go see Victor at Estado d'Alma. Tell him the guy on the moto that said he hated Lisbon sent you. And tell him I changed my mind about his city.
All of which explains why I'm writing this at 1:15 AM. Now I'm going to sleep, like the evil trams that don't stop for me.
Tomorrow I resume the hunt, finish the kill, and head for some Roman ruins in Merida, Spain. If the bike is still there on the street where I parked it. I left it in the care of St. Pedro and St. Paulus.