Everything packed in the car. Breakfast with the birds in Montangon and away we go at 8.30. Easy drive with two coffee stops and a picnic. Vero prepared salad, bread and délicieux petits gateaux from Piney.
Arrive at Didier's house in Nantes at 2.45. Luck was on our side : the code worked for opening the garage door, the bike started up (just !) and it was pleased to see the daylight. Our bags were condensed into the Paneuropean panniers and top box ; we managed without having to leave anything behind. We changed into our biking gear in the garage and with excited anticipation to what lies ahead of us, off we go !!!
5 km and we stop for fuel. Initial feeling is good. The bike is heavy and old, but with a certain charm and when moving we do not notice the weight. It is easy to ride down the motorway, quiet even, the bike is obviously designed for this. No need to stop for fuel too often, the tank must be big, I will find out later. Vero is happy to watch the world go by and escape the stress of Electrolux !
One quick stop for biscuits and water and into Royan for 7.00pm. Bags dropped quickly in the room 109 at "Grand Hotel de la Plage" with sea view. Confortable room, everything works. We cannot miss any time in the sun, so with shorts and T-shirts we walk around the coast to St Vaux sur Mer along the sentier des douaniers track to have dinner at Maison Blanche on the beach. Light dinner with "moules" for Vero. Too chilly to walk back along the coast, so back through the town. Our reward was a big ice cream in front of the hotel.
Sat on the wall, now very cold ! Back to hotel for tea ! Day 1 over at 12.20 - 280km
Blue sky, blue sea, but no time to spare. up up up and first stop at Royan Honda shop to fix a faulty front indicator. The Honda team was so kind and helpful ! The mechanic fixed the problem whilst we had complimentary coffee. They would not take any payment. We thanked them and Vero put a very good recommandation on facebook.
Next up the Royal ferry to Le Verdon, just on time, no waiting. 20 minutes later we are on our way on the other side of the estuary. We rode through Soulac, maybe a beautiful village, but there was a market and we could not ride into the centre.
Continuing south through the forest with the fantastic smell of pine and quiet roads. Coffee stop beside a lake, a strol through the local market and a so so sandwich for lunch. On the road again, soon to have the best 20 km of road of the day, smooth surface and lovely twisty not sharp bents, and on our own. Past a forward facing speed camera which flashed, I hope there was not one behind also !!
Onto the worst 40km of the day, Route du Bassin, very busy, one village blended into another, so busy (it is school holidays) all the way passed Arcachon to stop at Dune du Pilat. A strange massive sand dune in the middle of nowhere for no reason. A popular tourist stop. Very warm to clim to the top with our bike gear on !
By now it was late afternoon, and we have seen enough of the forest. So we headed for the motorway to speed down south. We were in desperate need of a coffee and apple cake ; so stop on the motorway to recover for the last bit. Soon off the motorway and the air changed. A fantastic view on the Pyrennees via the so lovely village of Bidart to our hotel in St Jean de Luz, Best Western Hotel Colbert well signposted in the centre.
A quick change and a walk into the town. It is now 8.30 so a well earned beer on the sea front watching the sunset before dinner in a small quaint bodega, chez Theo. Ice cream (very rich for Vero) with a traditional band on the square. On our way back to our hotel, we came across "Chez Renaud", an ex Renault garage left as it was, with a huge bar in the middle, food stalls around the edge, improvised seating. So different it worked very well, and impossible not to have another beer. We last came across something similar in Budapest 3 years ago. It is a perfect for young and old students.
Well past midnight, we collapsed at the hotel ! It had been a long hot day but all is going to plan so far and the bike is working well. Running total 664km
Depart St Jean de Luz in the sun around 11.00. Straight onto the motorway, very busy. Pffff the French blip does not work in Spain ! A scenic motorway, bents, uphill, downhill, the sea on the right, small mountains on the left. Industrial in places.
We left the motorway for Bilbao. After the peage, through the tunnel and straight in front appears the Guggenheim Museum, WOW !! Magnificent building !! We walked around the outside to watch the construction of metal, glass and titan, built around 20 years ago. Given the title of the "most beautiful museum of the world 2016". Franck Gehry, a North American, is the architect. We had no time for a full visit inside much to hero's frustration ! but we plan to return one day. A bike photo on the pavement, accosted by an unfriendly Spanish gentleman 😦
Quick lunch and then back to the motorway (not easy at all to leave Bilbao !), past Santander and turn off at Cabezon de la Sal on to the small roads in the hills.Such a contrast to the motorway. In San Pedro, we passed an old man with his scythe going to cut the grass. Typical of the area, suntanned, wrinkled face, big brown eyes, long hair, in his own world, it would have made a great photo. Around a corner a dog asleep in the middle of the road with no intention of moving, and later a weasel crossed in font of us.
Photo stop at a dam in the hills. Then from nowhere and suddenly a could came down and we could see really northing. Riding down the valley the sun returned but the roads were wet. Not easy with the big Pan European and a worn out front tyre. We had one "exciting" moment but the bike stayed up right. I think I was more anxious than Vero !
We were not sure we were going to find the hotel, no signs for Potes or for Perozzo where our posada for the night was waiting. Eventually a small crossroad and 2km up into the hills we found Perozzo. A small hill village with Pousada Tredede at the top. A beautiful little house in the middle of nowhere, but out of 6 rooms 5 were booked ! The sun was out, we had a beer sat in the middle of the road with a wonderful view on the Picos Europas, only moving for one tractor, a lorry, and a farmer with his dog.
Dinner at 8.30 cooked by the owner with vegetable and fruit from the garden. Not what we were expecting ; it was very good and a good moment. A walk in the hills to watch the sunset. Still the man and his lorry loaded with straw is up and down. The tracks in the hills would be fantastic for trial bikes ! Finally we settle down to watch France beat Germany 2-0 in euro 2016 semi-final.
More wine and retire well after midnight again. Total 1022 km
Breakfast with our friend at the Pousada, a quick wash of the bike, and we were on our way again. Into Potes, then the N621 (which links Leon with Cantabria through the Asturias) over Puerto de San Glorio, 1610 m high, A wonderful road over the mountains, magnificent scenery and no traffic. It is like a new discovery, how the Alps were 30 years ago. Our host at the Pousada told us of a track at the top of the pass, just 2 km long, but took us into the hills with views of the mountains and snow. Only one photographer and a hill walker were there, no coffee or souvenir shop, just nature. A sculpture of a bear had been built there, not sure why ?
We made our way back down the valley and turned off the main road into a small village Villa Area de la Reina, family restaurant, lazy village, onto Riano, this was the gift of the day. Breathtaking lake with mountains, no boats, no people, no animals, completely unexpected, highlight of our day, impossible to take a bad photo.
Continuing on the N621 and N625, leaving the mountains behind with stone built houses to a completely different Spain with brick houses and barren landscape, Cistierna would be the gateway to Picos de Europa.
We discovered another treasure of a road, this time more for the pleasure of riding rather than the scenery. The LE125 to Palacios de Sanabria, 80 km of beautiful open road, good surface, many bents, but not sharp bents, broken by small villages passed through very quickly. The barren landscape stretched for miles. The perfect road for the Morgan also. A Spanish couple on a bike joined us to make ride. The 80 km passed all too quickly. A recovery stop at Puebla de Sanabria, buying fruit and cakes from the little shops to make our picnic in the village.
Back on our way for the last 50km to Braganca crossing the Portuguese border, abandoned customs buildings like on all europeans mainland borders. This road was not so easy to ride with a big bike and the heat of the sun making it tiring. First impression of Braganca was "mosh" as Vero said, and it never got any better. There is no point to visit this town. Our hotel "Pousada de Bartolomeu" is good with a big room looking onto the old castle. We walked into the old town at night which again is not nice and had an improvised dinner in the castle walls at a quaint cocktail bar, the only one opened, with ham and cheese platter, "Duque de Braganca". The best thing about this town will be the road out in the morning
total 1384 km
Breakfast at the hotels very good. We changed route from planned because it was too much in one day. So it was 11.00 before we left the hotel. Already it is very hot, not fun to put on the biking gear.
E802-IP2 to Maceido de Cavaleiros, down through Bornes and first coffee stop at Cazeda de Ansiaes where a girl from Khasakstan looked after us, but sent us the wrong road to Tua. So we wasted some time having to double back. Road signs are not good anywhere in Portugal. Not long after Cazeda the Douro vineyards started and the scenery was magical. With the vines planted on plateaux along the hillsides up and down the hill. In Tua we came across an amazing construction, the biggest hydropower project in Europe for the last 25 years. Work started in 2007.
Onto Alijo, a lovely small town but we did not stop. Vineyards all the way to Pinhao where we had a water break, it is so hot. But it was a bad spot we stopped at because as we left the town looked good on the riverside. Many famous Porto wine makers in this area, made famous by the English known as Sherry !
We followed the Douro river to Peso da Regua, an amazing boat lock along the way which took cruise boats. From here through Lamego, a smart town with an amazing cathedral at the top of a hill.
We easily found Posada de Viseu, a beautiful 18th century building, ex hospital turned to an hotel in 2007. Very warm welcome from Antonio with a big glass of iced fruit juice. A lovely room and good to take time to recover from a hot long day. Shower, a massage and we remained fully under control layer on the bed ! We walked into the town where there were a lot of small bands and musicians playing. Some just making an awful noise ! There was a quaint bar called "Old skull inn" with a bike and 4 locals around a small table. I asked if I could take a photo and we were offered a complimentary glass of "Ginja" bu the owner "B" who spoke good English. He showed us around his bike and we shared a good moment. Later Vero found the inn on Facebook and we sent him a thank you. Looking for a restaurant was hard because the town was so busy. By chance we got a table at Calmeia which is in Le Routard recommended. Served by Juan, a great young kid who looked after us and made our evening, bringing more hot meat, pineapple and drinks, and recommended our Dao wine. Leaving the restaurant, next door was a rock band playing Pink Floyd, straight out of the 70s, very long hair, and great musicians. It was just in an old house that was being renovated ! Another great moment.
Tea back at the hotel finished off a superb evening. So much friendlier and a great ambiance compared to Braganca. We will return to Viseu.
Total 1688 km
Another beautiful breakfast as good as yesterday. Definitely a good way to start the day. We were the first in for breakfast at 8.00 and away for 9.20 to try avoid the warmth as much as possible. We nominated Antonio as the "employee of the month" at the posada. A little apprehensive about our worn out front tyre, very ready for changing.
We made our way via Seia to Piodao, a small smart village recommended by our friend "B" at the old skull inn. It is indeed a lovely village with stone built houses, slate roofs and narrow lanes. No way to get any motor vehicle in the village. An old man opened the church for us, so we bought 2 postcards for 2 euros. Later the improvised "car park attendant" was tipped 1 euro ! very enterprising ! We had coffee then carried on down the valley with fantastic scenery, small villages and a cooling breeze making it a very pleasant ride.
Up to Arganil it was a good day's riding, but from then on, we just had a standard trip to Fatima with nothing to report along the way. Easy to find Hotel Regina at Fatima. Fatima is built from a theory of 3 shepherds who were cousins and saw the virgin appear may 13th 1917 and then every 13th up to September/October. A magnificent has been built, visits from the Pope Paul XI th in 1967. Then a even more impressive igrejadelatrinidade built for the coming of Pope Jean Paul II in 2000 ; 750000 people attending his speech. These are the only architectural interests in the town. Nothing else in Fatima. It is safely operating for religious visits. We arrived perfect timing fr the Sunday service and march, so worth the visit. Light dinner in the hotel watching the euro final France à Portugal 1. Not the result we wanted !
Total 1988 km
On réflection it was not a good town to spend the night in, not recommended. Nothing to do. No atmosphere. A very average breakfast and we left in good time. Very windy on the motorway to Peniche and we felt the cold also. The scenery was not bad, even fields of rice. Again on reflection we should have taken an alternative to the motorway. If the front tyre of the bike was in better shape, maybe we would have.
Obidos looked great from the motorway, it would have been a better option to sped last night there. Down the coast to coffee stop in Santa Cruz. Girls sunbathing on the beach vs Vero freezing cold with bike gear on. But we lost 10° from in the mountains and the wind is not warm at all.
A short ride down the coast to Ericeira, we had lunch on a small square in the old part of the town, but this town is a tourist trap and not friendly. So much new build and over developed. Friendliest person was the street cleaner who showed us the way out with a smile !
From here the scenery got much better along the coast. Many surfers in the strong sea. Through Sintra, the old town of the Portuguese Royal Family. Houses and beautiful buildings more or less well maintained. A very busy place, as you would expect in July, full of tourists and coaches. A town to come back to out of season. Back to the coast road past big gardens through the woods and parks.
Lisbon is amazingly not as busy as expected. Even with many road works we found our hotel, Bessa Hotel, on the avenue da Liberade, easy enough with the help of Vero's map reading and some improvised road turns. A very good high standard hotel in a chic part of the city. The receptionist located a Honda bike shop close by ! Finally ! So we took the chance to visit whilst it was still open to see about a new front tyre. The Honda guys were very helpful and we left the bike there. It was past 9.00 before we went out to find a place for dinner, with the first two we tried fully booked, we came across Tascardoso ; a small very Portuguese family restaurant. It is maybe an old butchers, very quaint. Mammy and her two friends/sisters ? cooking and hand washing the dishes. Three oldish men vey busy serving. It was really a fun place. We both had bacalao which is salted cod fish, very good. With complimentary cheese for starters which Vero loved, and "creme brûlée" and pineapple for desert, we were very full ! A short walk back to the hotel down a steep hill tram lane. Tea and another day done.
A day in Lisbon and no riding except to collect the bike from the Honda garage.We picked it up in the morning with a new tyre fitted. €188 total. Our new friend Luis had looked after us very well. Good to have this issue behind us now. We started with coffee on our tour the city. Walking onto to visit a number of sites and the city in general. The railway station building, an old elevator made of rivited ironwork Santa Luiza still working but there was such a queue... So we moved on to visit the old and famous Department Store Pollux where everything was chic and the ambiance of the 70s. Our plan was to take Tram 28 but again such a queue of people so we walked down to the river and the commercial centre. Lunch on the Praca do Commercio, then a visit to Portuguese wine tasting cellar in the same area. We spent a good time. We took time and tried to understand the different tastes and smells.
Onto the cathedral, 11th roman, a bit heavy, some nice glass with reflections on the stone pillars. Many good view points as we climbed the hill, San Miguel, Portos do Sol, and the plan was to visit the castle, but a very friendly security man advised us of another entrance and told us where to find the highest point of the city. Passing church Igreca da Graca, onto Miradouro da N.S. do Monta, the highest point, well on time to admire the city in the end of the day light.
Back down through Mouraria with lots of construction work going on. A "Ginjinha" stop was mandatory, a bit like schnaps made of cherry. Then a beer, post cards writing and dinner at Leao d'ouro, a small bistro recommended in the guide book. We shared a mixed grill which was very good and not expensive. A cold windy walk back to the hotel for tea. It was good to have a day's rest from biking, and a bit bizarre at the same time.
Total 2242 km
We had spent a very good time in Lisbon, a place to return. Very easy to leave via the iron bridge past the Cristo Rei statue looking over the city. Then we realise how big the city is and how much industry is built along the river. The ambiance of a big city but without big stress, ... a good combination.
A good run on the motorway to Evora where the temperature started to increase... a lot ! Up to 40°. We had a tour of the city on the bike, and coffee at a small local bar, full inside but an empty terrace because of the heat.
Back on the bike heading to Moura. We almost had the road for ourselves. Olive tree plantations and vineyards dominated the countryside, but we never passed a wine maker. Where do the grapes go ? Close to Moura is a dam/electricity generator complex ; you could hear the electricity in the air, but it did not stop a local family enjoy a picnic under the shade of a tree. The dam forms the largest artificial tank in Europe : 83km long. Lunch stop in Moura, a pretty white washed town, we had a beautiful salad for lunch on a tree covered square. Still so hot ; it was hard for us to move on from such an idyllic spot. A couple on an Harley arrived, towing an old army trailer.
On to Serpa, more vineyards and olive trees ... and no one. The smell of nature is so strong , unpolluted by industry and transport, it is a beautiful and unexpected environment. Gentle rolling hills clotted with trees and small lakes in valleys formed by the amount of dams in the area to catch as much water as possible. Serpa is another white town with an old park in the city walls. We made another stop in the town square and we tried the local speciality, a cake made of goat cheese, queijadas, Serpa is the place for the best goat cheese in Portugal.
The last 50 odd km of the day took us to our hotel in Mina de Sao Domingos, the "Alentejo star hotel". A big hotel in a very small village. It did not start off good with a very long wait at reception. Then we had a twin room when we just specifically asked for a double, but we were both so ready to crash out and need of a shower. We took a walk to the disused copper mine which was closed in the mid 60's and now in ruin. It looks like another planet, very red/orange dust everywhere. Still so many buildings standing ; it is amazing the lack of vandalism and abuse that the same development would have suffered in the UK. Now rabbits and storks are happy to be there. The mine worked for 100 years, was managed by English, and at the peak employed 6000 people. An amazing industry in the middle of nowhere, during the time the invention of steam trains replaced donkey pulled carriages. Our hotel has been renovated from the drawing of administrative offices. A walk down to the little lake nearby for sunset before a light dinner at the hotel. Just one waiter, very busy, but we had time. It was a beautiful warm evening on the terrace, feeling like our trip to Brazil.
Total 2563 km
Aujourd'hui c'est la Fête Nationale Française ! Cette dernière page sera donc en français !
Après une pause photo à la mine le matin à la fraîche sous déjà 35 degrés, en route vers Mertola. Paysages de collines rondes, d'oliviers, de cyprès. Très doux. Très sec. Les senteurs magnifiques deviennent enivrantes amplifiées par la chaleur. A Almodovar, stop essence. Le thermomètre affiche 42°. Je papote en français avec un compatriote qui s'est installé ici depuis 3 ans. Un champion de cyclisme qui avait pour habitude de venir pédaler au Portugal et qui un jour a choisi de ne ne pas repartir. "Renversé une fois" dit il "Ici les Portugais roulent peu mais ils boivent beaucoup. Soyez prudents". Nous apprenons que l'énorme installation aperçue depuis la route à Monte Branca n'est autre qu'une nouvelle mine de cuivre, gérée par des canadiens cette fois ; une des plus grosses d'Europe ; 1,5km de profondeur ; un ballet incessant de camions bennes pour collecter le minerais sur une rampe à 18% ; "c'est bon pour nous ça, vous comprenez ?".
Sur le conseil de notre nouvel ami le cycliste, nous modifions notre itinéraire et nous empruntons la green road qui descend sur Faro. Mais nous le regrettons vite. Les virages sont très serrés et la chaleur est accablante. Bientôt je me sens très barbouillée et Gary très fatigué. Nous piquons à droite dés que possible direction Sao Bartolomeu, pour retrouver une route comme on les aime, toute en douceur, haut perchée, pour offrir des paysages typiques avec vue sur les vallées et loin devant.
Nous continuons de descendre et nous arrivons à Silves, ville médiévale très bien restaurée, toute blanche et aux pavés de roche (silex ?) très très glissants sous la chaleur. Une pause s'impose car nous avons vraiment très très chaud. Envie d'eau fraiche et de salade, nous nous posons au premier bar en vue, pas la force de marcher en plein soleil. Ah, des anglais, et en fait des anglais partout. Cafe inglese à droite, coffee shop à gauche, pub en face ..... Mauvaise salade mais tarte aux pommes offerte, alors ....
Départ pour Lagos. Déjà nostalgiques du voyage, tristes de l'arrivée imminente mais heureux aussi d'avoir atteint notre but et d'avoir rempli notre mission. Un "café baileys iced" à 11€ qui n'est pas ce que nous pensions, pour notre welcome drink in Lagos. Mais la ville semble adorable, ancienne, toute blanche, petites ruelles, et la promenade depuis la marina bien aménagée doit être très chouette pour le stroll du soir. Nous retrouvons Didier grâce à google il faut l'avouer. Il nous attend appareil photo en main. Il est heureux de nous voir tous les trois. Nous sommes heureux de les voir tous les deux.
Un verre de fraîcheur, on se change et on file car nous sommes attendus pour célébrer le 14 juillet sur la plage de Portimao. Beach Party organisée par l'UFE, Union des Français à l'Etranger. Apéritif sur la plage et excellent diner (bar poêlé) à un restaurant de plage, tout cela au son de l'accordéon bien entendu. Tout le monde parle avec tout le monde. Nos amis nous introduisent et prennent soin de nous. Gina est resplendissante. A la table de 6 avec nous, Didier et Gina bien sûr, mais aussi Alix et son mari qui parlent anglais, les nouveaux amis de Gary, car ils sont amoureux de l'Ecosse. Musique, danse, l'heure tourne, retour à l'appartement et dans les bras de Morphée en un temps record !
Voilà, mission accomplie. La moto est livrée, garée puis vidée. Et nous, nous sommes pleins d'un merveilleux souvenir d'une balade magnifique, dans un pays bourré de surprise, où nous aurons grand plaisir à revenir sans aucun doute. A nous Lagos maintenant pour quelques jours.
Total 2760 km
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