A Travellerspoint blog

This blog is published chronologically. Go straight to the most recent post.

Day 1: Getting There

Swept Away

When telling a story you often share a little backstory or set the stage. The trip is beginning but I have been thinking about it and preparing for it for quite some time. No surprise, we all do that. For me, I start looking at places I want to visit and how I can connect them by bike--some roads and routes are not ideal for biking. I also need to schedule things so I am only biking on average of 60 miles a day. I use a couple of maps sites to plan the trip. There is Komoot which is a bike specific map app, and I still find Google maps very helpful. I want to look at the street view, see how busy/large the road is, and also look at the elevation. I don't mind mountains but I do avoid the steeper routes--higher elevation isn't as big an issue as the degree of incline. All that said, by the time I actually go on the trip I feel like I have already started in a way.

For this trip I thought I would try something different--to bring my own bike. I have a great old bike which I purchased used, and the main reason was because it was fitted with couplers that allow the bike to be taken apart in the middle so it can be packed in a large suitcase. Although I have had this bike for a few years this is the first time it made sense for me to bring it. Delta has made it easier to fly with a bike and reduced their fees, I am not going places where it would be difficult to manage a bike when I am not cycling. I am bike two separate times during the trip--a week at the beginning and 2 weeks at the end. Renting a bike would have been quite a bit of money so I thought it would be a good opportunity to try bringing my own.

Of course, taking my own bike added more steps in preparation than the usual trip. I had to make sure the bike was in good working order and do some preventative maintenance. I also practiced taking the bike apart and putting it back together several times until I felt comfortable with the process and had my own system down. It is not a difficult task, and I have become more efficient with practice. When I say take it apart I mean into very small pieces--it is not simply undoing the couplers in the center and having two pieces to pack.

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Preparing for vacation also meant getting my yard and garden in shape before leaving. We are going on this trip a little earlier than our usual summer vacation and April and May are busy times as far as my outdoor duties. Lots of planting, dividing perennials, weeding, etc. In addition to maintaining the existing plants I use the spring to expand my flower garden and this year there was a huge section that needed attention. It began with mulching and preparing the soil, planting with cuttings from existing perennials, and then planting 22 new rose bushes I purchased 10 days before leaving on this trip. I want to give a shout out to Nan a friend and fellow gardener who is watering the garden and tending to the life of these new roses. I know they are are in very capable hands. Although I will miss the may blooms (the garden is ready to burst into bloom as may is probably its best month) I think going to Portugal in May will be an amazing time when the weather is still somewhat cool and the countryside is greener and blooming as well.

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As I mentioned I am doing my biking in two sections, so here is a breakdown of the itinerary. April 23 An evening flight to New York as Crystal has to work on Wednesday. She is between sublets, so I will be spend Wednesday working remotely at her office April 24 (Wednesday). This is also the day we have an evening flight to Lisbon. Arrive in Lisbon Thursday morning and take a train to Porto (northern Portugal) where we finally get to our first hotel.

Crystal and I will be together until Saturday afternoon (April 27) when I get on a bus with my bike and head to Ponte de Lima north of Porto. Crystal stays in Porto and joins her friend on a Culinary trip of northern Portugal and into Spain. A week later on Saturday May 4 I arrive by bus back to Porto and join Crystal who also finished her tour on that day. We are together until the morning of Monday May 13 when Crystal head to the airport and New York and I head to Belmonte, Portugal on a bus with my bike. I will then bike outh to the coast then along the southern and western coast back to Lisbon, flying home on May 27th.

While this itinerary should make more sense as you follow the trip and see my travels as they are mapped out. As you read this you may have guessed that I was writing this first bit in the comfort of my chair at home. As you may know from previous adventures (such as Norway) the actual getting there doesn't always go to plan. Let's see how this trip goes.

A few days have passed since I wrote the beginning of this entry, and I have actually hit the skies and have started the journey. Crystal and I left Atlanta last night (April 24th) and flew to New York. The fight was smooth and bike and bags arrived at JFK airport. The taxi ride was without a doubt the wildest I have had in any country. The driver tried to extort extra money from us as it wasn't in his interest to take us a short distance to our hotel. We were already in the car and on the way and we said no and that we would not pay extra. He decided the best way to handle this was to race--no exaggeration--as fast as he could, weaving in and out of traffic, to get us to the hotel quickly so he could return to the airport for another fare. Needless to say we were happy to get out at the hotel and we did not give him a tip. He would have done much better if her had just followed the rules.

Wednesday I went into Crystal's office and worked while she prepared for a presentation.

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Her presentation was at noon. She went to another building and did her presentation, and I went to Washington Square and enjoyed the sun and warm weather. The park was teaming with life and seemed the epitome of every popular scene from a movie--interesting people, bustling activity, live music. The pictures can capture just a bit of the excitement. They cannot communicate the strong smell of pot that permeated the air.

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When Crystal finished her presentation we grabbed a sandwich at a great local market and sat out and enjoyed the city. Hated to go back to the office but a few more hours of work yet today and then it is off to the airport.

At the airport and finishing my writing for the first day before getting on the plane. We went back to our hotel and took the airport shuttle. Our driver navigated the maze of construction at the airport and got us quickly to the gate. I am spoiled traveling with Crystal as she can check in with sky priority since she travels so much. We quickly checked our bags then headed to security. The lines looked long but we have digital ID and there wasn’t a single person in line. We just walked right through. We are relaxing at a restaurant and have a couple hours before our fight. I don’t want to jinx things, but so far all has gone according to plan. I know that this could change quickly and part of travel is being surprised and going with the unexpected.

I am not a Tolkien geek or anything but there are some great lines that speak to facing an adventure. “You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.” I am looking to being swept away a bit on this trip, and I am happy to share my journey and have you join me.

Posted by guylch75 23:30 Archived in Portugal Comments (2)

Day 2: Planes, trains and automobiles

The Journey continues

We landed at 8:15 in the morning only a few minutes late despite being behind schedule. Although we sat on the tarmac for an hour and took off late, the pilot made up most of the time. Through customs and on to baggage claim where everything made it without any trouble. A short taxi ride and we were at the Orient train station and on a fast train to for the3 hour journey to Porto. Hence the subheading the journey continues.

We settled in our seats on the fast train—a smooth and quiet ride. Of course we were excited to get out of Lisbon and see some of the countryside. It was beautiful, but jet lag got the better of us and we both succumbed to sleep. While it was easy to sleep we would wake up periodically and ooh and ah over the green and blooming landscape.

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As we approached Porto the tracks took us along the coast. After wrestling our bags off the train in Porto we grabbed a taxi—of course our driver didn’t speak English and looked at our bags and expressed that they would not fit in his car. While we usually try to travel light we do have a big ole bike with us. I assured him I could get everything in the car—and I did. One bag went in the front seat but everything else went in the boot.

We splurged a bit on the hotel here—it is in the historic center. While that added some challenges for the driver, the route was even more complicated as certain streets were closed for a national holiday—Freedom Day. The driver talked to police and used an intercom system at the top of our street—a pedestrian street—to get a barricade raised. He slowly made his way down the street, honking at oblivious pedestrians and tourists enjoying the city and the weather.

I should say that today’s weather is amazing—sunny, 63 and slight breezy.

Our driver safely delivered us to the hotel which has been operating since 1829. The kind young attendant checked us in and explained the story being Freedom day which involved a young girl giving red carnations to soldiers. We got red carnations as well as a port tasting and the ubiquitous Pasteis de Nata (Portuguese custard tarts). We pretty much just dropped our bags off and headed out into the small plaza outside our hotel. We selected one of the cafes and got a couple small dishes—shrimp with chorizo over corn purée and another with goat cheese, beets and pistachios. We are going to like it here.

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When finished with our snacks and fortified we headed down the steep streets to the Douro river which is dotted with boats and lined with shops and cafes on both sides. We crossed the iconic steel bridge and shopped and ate our way along the water. One of the places we went to had an organist playing. The place sold port and a very large egg shaped coquetta fill with cod and cheese. We tried both and sat and listened to the organist.

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The streets are full of people today since it is a holiday and while it is a little crowded there is also a lot of energy. Not a bad thing since we are running low ourselves.

During our walk we also went to the old train station which is known for it’s blue and white tiled interior.

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We finished the afternoon by walking down the pedestrian street that starts at the train station and passes by our hotel. Along the way we checked out the many shops and stopped to watch the young men of the Tuna de Techologia da Saude de Porto perform in the street. They played instruments, sang and danced—all very well. Always surprised by the amazing things I just stumble across when traveling.

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Considering we didn’t get settled into our hotel until 2:00. We are back at the hotel catching our breath and unpacking a bit before heading out to dinner.

For dinner we decided to head down to the river. There is an elevated street that we walked earlier and saw some places with rear views. W chose the first one we came to which was a tapas restaurant. We sat outside on the balcony and with the help of our server ordered some items which were typical of the local cuisine—pastel de Chavez (meat filled puff pastry), goat cheese with honey, walnuts, rosemary and black peppercorns, and thinly sliced Iberian ham on toast with cheese and a salad of local greens, dried figs, Marconi almonds, organic slices and a balsamic vinegar reduction. The food was incredibly tasty and beautiful to look at. I thought he dishes were amazing, and more importantly my wife with the discerning palette thought so as well. We sat, at and talked until the streetlights came on—all while enjoying the street musicians who were doing a very good rendition of Coldplay’s hits. As the sun set the lighted bridge and monetary across the river stood out against the night sky. I am not exaggerating when I say it was an amazing day and evening. Porto has set the standard pretty high for the rest of the places in Portugal.

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Posted by guylch75 20:39 Comments (5)

Day 3: The Accidental Tourists

Smooth operators

We both slept surprisingly well and woke up rested and ready to go. I started in on assembling my bike while Crystal performed her morning ablutions. My practice paid off the I had the bike put together without any issues. After I got clean and dressed we headed down to breakfast. Anyone watching us would question whether we had traveled much internationally. I somehow was having issues with the electric kettle to make hot water for my tea, and both Crystal and I fumbled with the toaster oven. Stared at the dial and three bottoms before getting some assistance from the breakfast hostess. But the highlight was Crystal flinging her hot toasted roll from the toaster oven, across the room and onto the floor. Maybe it is our experience or our age but we just laughed at ourselves—I am not sure Crystal knew it would be a great beginning to the blog.

After eating a delicious breakfast we hadn’t gotten enough food so we headed to the Mercado do Bolzano (a food market). The wonderful display of food-fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, nuts, spices, cheese—you name it, it is at the market. We are already planning on coming back tomorrow for lunch tomorrow. Of course, there was plenty of seafood at the market since we are on the coast. We also checked out the dried salted cod which is a favorite if the Portuguese.

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From the market we walked down a pedestrian street back towards the center of town—window shopping along the way. We stopped to look at pottery, jewelry, clothes, pastry, etc. We did stop at one pastry shop and bought a couple of tarts to go for a snack later. Porto is a very hilly town so your are often walking downhill or uphill. The hills do make for some great views, and many of the major sights on hill, such as Igreja e Torre dos Clerigos.

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When we arrive at the church around 1:00 we purchased tickets to walk to the top of the tower and for a laser show inside the church tonight. It supposed to be quite rainy by late afternoon so this will be a fun thing inside. The church itself was free so we just walked though. It was a small grand oval sanctuary with massive alter. We notice that there are free organ concerts at noon so we might be coming back tomorrow. Our visit to the town is at 2:00 so we had some time so we found a nearby cafe and ordered some drinks and ate our tarts from earlier.

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As expected the tower required winding narrow steps which had to be navigated with fellow visitors going the opposite direct. This involved getting unite close to fellow tourists. At the top it was windy and chilly but we had great few across the city. As part of our visit you could also get pictures taken again a green screen and applied to three different background. Of course it is obvious the the photos is not real so we chose to get the campiest one available. Iberian ham isn’t the only ham in Portugal now—Crystal will give it a run the title.

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From the church and tower we walked across town, down and uphill to the Porto Cathedral and cloister—a grand Romanesque church with elaborate alter. The cloister was decorated with the typical blue and white tile, and the surrounding rooms provided displays of various religious artifacts. It rained a bit while we were at the cathedral but had stopped by the time we left and walked back across the river for a 4:00 port tasting Crystal has reserved.

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We found the location of the tasting venue and were informed that our reservation was for tomorrow when I will be headed to Ponte de Lima. The accidental tourists strike again and we rescued by the kindness of the Portuguese—everyone is so kind and friendly. They sat us with two other couples and we enjoyed a great port and cheese tasting while learning about the history of port and the region. The other couples we interesting company, with one being from the US—San Diego—and the other from the Lake District in England. The couple from California had been traveling the region for over a week and gave some great suggestions for our visit. The English couple had just flown in for a long weekend. The guy was the spitting image of Kenneth Branagh. I jokingly asked if was his brother to which he laughed and replied not, but I was not the first to notice the resemblance. His wife mentioned that she works at marketing at a local theatre and that she has met Kenneth’s sister as well as actors that have worked with Mr. Branagh. They have also mentioned the resemblance.

When we finished we wandered our way back to our hotel, shopping and surprising stopping for another port tasting. This time the port was paired with various chocolates. I chose to just have hot chocolate while Crystal did the pairing. The on and off rain was never heavy or long and the walk was leisurely with numerous stops at shops.
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We got back to the hotel, and I took some time to sort my bags and separate the items I am taking on the bike trip. Crystal took the opportunity to take a little nap. We had made dinner reservations for hotel as we thought it might be raining. We enjoyed another great meal of local cuisine—Crystals fish dish was very tasting and fresh. For dessert we had the house special which was a king cake—a challah like bread, with topped with orange sorbet with a general helping of chocolate sauce drizzled dramatically over the top by the server. I attacked the dessert before Crystal had a chance to take a photo so you will have to use your imaginations.

We got back to the room around 10, and I began writing today’ entry. It was only then that I had a revelation. Those of you who are perceptiv sleuths may have come to the same conclusions. The accidental tourists strike again. As soon as I wrote about our visit to the tower I had the realization that we totally forgot about our 6:00 tickets to the laser show. I am sure it would have been amazing, but just another opportunity to laugh at ourselves and share for others to join in. We had a wonderful day and are happy the weather stayed nice enough for us to enjoy being outside.

Posted by guylch75 22:48 Comments (4)

Day 4: Such sweet sorrow

Mystery of the human heart

One of the first thing I do when I wake up is check my messages, and I am always happy to read messages in response to the blog from friends i family. Right now I am able to talk to Crystal, but when I start my solo bike trip it is mostly me talking to you and myself. As you can tell I freely tell embararssing stories about myself. Need a sense of humor to survive. I was glad to hear from Frank that we intentionally succeeded in making him laugh with our picture of my shoving Crystal off the tower, and unintentionally with my typing—getting some tarts from a pasty shop. I did finish that entry at 12:00 and posted without proofreading. The offending phrase has been corrected, and i am happy to make you guys laugh any way I can.

Although it rained during the night the morning was a mix a sun and clouds with limited outbursts of rain. I rechecked my bike and made sure all the nets and bolts were tight and everything ready to go. I then turned my attention to sorting out those items I needed on the bike trip and those items that could stay in Porto awaiting my return. I have a handlebar bag that is waterproof and there is where I keep my electronics, money and passport. I have two waterproof panniers that go on the rear rack. The panniers hold my clothes, toiletries, etc. I also have a trunk which sits on top of the rear rack and that has tools and miscellaneous items that I may want easy access to.

I got a good bit of the organization done before going down to breakfast. We navigated the treacherous food obstacles this morning without incident. I was somewhat comforted when Crystal pointed out another guest struggling with the tea kettle—a little vindication for myself. Crystal on he other has to live with the knowledge that very few guests through food around. Here is a picture of our usual breakfast. Lest you think I am a glutton—all that good in some mine. Crystal had the bowl of yogurt with granola at the very top of the image.

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After breakfast we finished packing and gathered up our bags and rolled them and the bike onto the elevator and down to the small lobby. I wish I could read the minds or at least understand Portuguese so I could know if they were surprised to see my bike since I had assembled it in the room.

Once out we headed down toward the water and another famous church. Religious sights are a big part of the landscape in Portugal. The church was basic romanesque on the outside but the inside had been elaborated decorated with golden wood and some painting. Very different from anything else we have seen. The attendant indicated that no pictures were allowed and although I saw others breaking the rules my background is such that I couldn’t do that. It is just a picture—I am sure I came find a great one on the internet and I will copy that one.

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In addition to the church we also visited the museum next door. It contained a number of religious relics. We also walked down into the catacombs with winding rooms of people buried in the walls. There was even a large clear of bones. There was also a collections of the floats with figures used for religious processions. The “floats” were large with bars and padding for several men to use while carrying though the streets.

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There is a palace right next door to the church which we thought was worth a visit, but the Sunnis skies greeting us when we came out of the museum persuaded us otherwise. We strolled down to the water and just sat and enjoyed the water, boats, sun and of course other people.

We didn’t disregard all of our plans and around 11:30 start walking toward the church where we missed the laser show. There was an organ concert at 12:00 we wanted to attend. The most direct route to this church which is on the top of a hill it’s via a long winding set of stairs. The views along the way were nice, but the one from the top was even better and helped us forget the effort getting here.

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Once at the church we saw a long line winding around the building—so much longer than yesterday. We walked to the front of the line and said we were here or the concert and just walked right in to the chapel. I am not sure what those in the long line thought but signage there is not good. You do have to stand in line if you are waiting to buy tickets and make and appointment to visit the tower. When we came yesterday we waited in line and bought our ticket only to be told we had to make an appointment. Maybe there is more information in Portuguese, but we wondered how many people in line know that they weren’t going to get in anytime soon.

The lunchtime concert was 30 minutes long and, in addition to the afore mentioned view, a great reward for the steep walk. The walk back to the areas of hotel was much easier. We strolled and did some shopping. We went to the pedestrian street where we first arrived by taxi and sought out a couple shops we wanted to revisit. A couple small purchases and we had some momentous from Porto.

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A little before 2:00 we returned to the square where our hotel is and ate again at the restaurant where we had our first meal. A relaxed meal of meat and cheese boards while soaking in the sun and surroundings. A great way to spend our last day in Porto. I could tell that Crystal was thinking about being apart for a few days. As I indicated with the blog title—parting is such sweet sorrow. We have had a great time in Porto and although we will return in a week, there is some sadness in leaving. One would think that an old married couple who are often separated by travel and work would be sad parting ways for a few days. Time for me to through in some words for a song by Mary Chapin Carpenter who is quoted in several past blogs—there's no doubt that life's a mystery, but so too is the human heart.

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We said our goodbyes and I headed out on my bike though the city to the bus station. I love biking the roads in the countryside, and I don’t even mind a little traffic. City biking on the other had I do out of necessity. All things said it wasn’t that bad, and I arrived at the bus station in less than 20 minutes. Although the building is up on a hill I bike down to where the buses were and tried to enter the area where they were parked. Two security guards with loud portuguese words and animated arm gestures indicated that I couldn’t go in this way—although there were people walking in. Rather than cause an international incident I rode my bike to the top of the hill, walked through the bike station, put my bike on the elevation and went down to the lower level and walked by bike to the gate where I could see the guards from earlier. I didn’t
Pay attention to see if they saw me, but I hoped they would. It seems like animated conversations are part of the culture. While in line for checking my ticket and getting on the bus there were several passengers who had some lively back and forth words with the bus driver, with him pointing and shaking his head and more back and forth, with the passengers eventually walking off talking and or shaking their heads. I decided not to take my previous brush with the law too seriously. Unless I see handcuffs or a stun gun I think I am ok.

The driver scanned my tickets, one for me and one for the bike, and in portuguese told me to stand to the side and wait which I did. I assume if there is no further conversation that I am getting the the gist of things. I used the two hours on the bus to write this blog entry. The scenery is beautiful with the blue ocean to my left and great mountain to my right. I did not attempt to take any pictures so if you want to see you will have to come back for the next entry.

While leaving Crystal and Porto was difficult there is a week of adventure and cycling ahead of me, and a friendly city and loving wife who will be waiting for me. While I am not writer or poet, the older I get the more meaning the words of poets and writers have for me.

I thought I was done with the blog entry when on the bus, but as I crossed the bridge I suspected that I would have something to say about this town.

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I found the hotel, met the lovely hostess and quickly settled in. The town is small so I thought I could take a quick walk and go to dinner. From my hotel I walked to the city suite which is on he river right where a medieval bridge crosses the river. The massive bridge with gothic arches is quite massive and leads to a church on the the other side.

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Once on he other side I wandered behind the church and found an impressive city garden. It has playgrounds and exercise machines (like those I had seen in Spain, but in addition to the regular functional areas, there are wonderful formal type gardens including one of my favorites—a rose garden. I spent so long in the park that my battery was almost dead. I walked back across the river continuing taking photos until my phone died. I then return Tommy room and got my battery and headed back out.

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The somewhat sunny skies gave way to more clouds and some occasional drizzle but it did not deter my. I continued walking the small streets of the charming city.

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Although I enjoyed Porto—being in the country, surrounds by green, country gardens, and hardly any people is hard to top. When I talked to Crystal on the phone I sent her a pic while I was walking along the river and said the charm here was easing the pain of our separation.

I walked along the river taking pictures until almost 9:00. The streetlight had come on the added a new charm to a remarkable city.

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Posted by guylch75 20:54 Comments (3)

Day 5: Escape to the country

Ponte de Lima - Soajo -Vila Verde

The name of this entry comes from a British real estate show—just talked about this with the English couple we met in Porto so it was on my mind. For me going to the country sounds perfect rather than being deprived of all that cities have to offer. As I mentioned earlier I am using a new cycling app for this trip and it has a good summary of the day so I am going to share it.

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I was awake quite early this morning—my usual habit but also a little excited about the biking portion of the trip. I go o the kitchen to make some hot chocolate since it is chilly out. I pretty much figure out how to operate the the coffee hot chocolate machine until my cup overflows and makes a mess. Another guest comes in and explains the tricks—for some reason you have to manually shut the machine down manually as it can’t measure a cup. Why are breakfast appliances drought with such peril? The woman was from South Africa and hiking one of the a Camino into Spain. While waiting for the owner to show up and unlock my bike I walked down to the river for one last glimpse of the church in the morning light. The road out of town is uphill so although it is 45 degrees out I quickly warm up as I pedal my way out.

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I bike along the river and getting closer to the mountains and start the ascent which will last for several miles. The countryside is a garden—wildflowers blooming and all sorts of flowers adorning the tended gardens of so many houses. The hills are terraced with buildings scattered and appearing to just tumble randomly on the hillsides—-or to borrow a phrase from Dame Judi Dench “all higglledy-piggledy”. There is so much things I want to talk about so I am going to limit what I say in this blog and pace myself. I have three weeks of biking and need to save some things for the other days. I will try and focus on the mountains.

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As I get closer to the top there are fewer houses and more forests. The mountains are covered with a yellow flowering shrub which is common in Europe, and I have seen it several time before. I don’t know if it is the time of year but I have never seen it so much in bloom. The mountains literally look yellow. I cant help taking pictures of animals, particularly sheep and free range cows, as I work my way upward.

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As I bike the mountains and am replaying a conversation I had with Crystal when talking about this trip. I said that I was spending a good amount of time in the mountains and would have some challenging biking. I mentioned that I had bike Spain, Switzerland and other mountainous countries. Her response was “that was a long time ago”. What I heard and what I presume she was saying was “you are older”. Can’t argue with her but I did plan this trip with that in mind so limiting the miles on this my first day doing any climbs.

Not surprisingly it is a long climb to the top. The incline varies, but it is always uphill. I systematically removed once jacket, then the long sleeve shirt, the gloves, etc. until I just had shorts and a t-shirt on by the time I reach the top. There is a national park entrance at the top, and then I start the exhilarating descent. It is great to actually move at more than a crawl, but I am quickly cold as I had worked up a sweat. Soajo is a few miles from the top so I put on my jacket when I stop, but I am freezing by this time. It is only about 43 degrees up at the top.

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I stopped at Soajo to see the characteristic raised graves at the cemetery. It started to randomly sprinkle even though it was sunny out. I walked around and enjoyed this great viewpoint. I had parked my bike in the lot at a bike rack next to it was your typical tool caddy which houses multiple tools for bikes. I was surprised to see the special washing station up hear. I hung out for a few minutes during the light rain and put on my glove as I was still cold and the air was cold and chilly since the rain and I had more downhill ahead of me.

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The downhill has the same stunning views. I crossed a river and then bike next to it height on the ridge about. I finally turn off the river road and headed toward Vila Verde. I still had a smaller climb ahead of me and again the warm clothes had to come off. Then back on when descending. There were several times I saw patchy rain showers near me but luckily I never got wet. The other good news is that my bike did great. It is geared well for the mountains and although it didn’t make the climbs easy—it does make them easier.

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My hotel in Vila Verde is right on the main square and when I arrived I had trouble getting to the road as there were crowds everywhere. As I got closer I saw there was a market—used and new goods—on both sides of the road. I made it to the hotel and left my bike and luggage. They said my room wasn’t ready yet, and I said I would check out the market. As walked down the tree-covered walk I hear music at the end and make my way to the source. The first thing I see are people dancing and then behind then is kind of an accordion band. The dancers where just random people who were dancing and some had shopping bags sitting near them. The musicians were mostly older main. There were about a dozen playing accordions, and a handful playing simple percussion instruments. I was so excited because this is the exact reason I enjoy getting away from the tourist areas—just regular people doing what they normally do.

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The music would often start with one man playing a tune and gradually the others would join in. People in the crowd with also sing along. The dancers sometimes did the same dance and at other time they did their own thing. I noticed there was one young guy with a simpler accordion playing, and he very serious about following and joining in. I watched for over an hour and then went and walked the market. How great it would have been to find some small souvenir to remember this city. Unfortunately the wine bottles were to large and heavy, and the baskets, although light, were still too big. I would gladly settle for this great musical memory.

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After two hours I went back to the hotel and got my home, showered, and headed back out. I could hear the musicians from my room which is just above them. After coming out I listened and watched people for another hour. There were a few new musicians in the group. I must say that the older lady in the plaid squirt was still tearing up the sidewalk dance floor. Good for her—she seems unstoppable.

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I finally went to my room and got my iPad so I could start working on my blog. I chose a cafe on the squire right next to the performers. I got a tea and crepe so I could sit, enjoy the music, and use their wifi to work on the blog. Here is a pic—you notice anything. When I asked for milk with my tea they brought me and entire glass.

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The bill was 6 euros or so even with the glass of milk, well worth the cost to sit and enjoy the surrounding. Back to the musicians, they continued until after 6:30 and now some of them are in the cafe with me. I asked my waitress about the performance when I was checking out, and she said that local musicians meet every Sunday afternoon.

When I was biking today I was second guessing whether or not I should stay in Braga tonight instead of Vile Verde. I chose this city just to give me a short day to start. There is nothing here like Braga which has some nice historical sights. We all suffer from the idea of missing out on something with the choices we make. Today was a great lesson in enjoying what you have and being ready for serendipity. An amazing unplanned experience which I think will be one of my favorite and most memorable.

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That seemed like such a nice ending but I went to dinner and wanted to jot down one more thing for me to remember when reading his in January. I went to an upscale burger place for supper. Got a great onion, cheese and fried egg topped burger (very good beef cooked perfectly). The place is modern and in a newer building. When I went to use the restroom I noticed a sink (a very nice and stylish sink) at the back of the dining room not too far from the tables. Went to the restroom and sure enough had to come out and wash my hands in the dining room. I guess that is one way of shaming everyone into washing their hands. As I say, travel is full of surprises large and small—from local music to....

Posted by guylch75 20:17 Comments (1)

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