My Three Days in Portugal

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Day Trippin'' started by johnnywheels, May 6, 2018.

  1. johnnywheels

    johnnywheels Been here awhile Supporter

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    April 25, 2018 - Arrival

    It’s 6:45 AM at Lisbon International Airport and passport control is a madhouse.

    As luck would have it another airbus discharged its load just minutes before our arrival from Miami. Add to that it’s a national holiday and the night shift looks grossly undermanned; two agents to handle ~500 tired travelers. I’d had a long night myself - New Orleans to Lisbon with a four hour layover in Miami meant I’d been on the move for about 15 hours. I’d managed a few hours of sleep and honestly felt pretty good.

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    Hmmm...two agents, about 30 seconds to clear each traveler, and it looked like we were in for a long morning! This higher math wasn’t lost on passengers with tight connections, some whom began to yelling at the the customs agents. It was about to get ugly when fortunately the Calvary arrived in the form of a well-manned day shift. Within 20 minutes I was on the other side. Despite the theatrics, 35 minutes to clear passport control in a major airport isn’t too bad. My freshly renewed passport received its first stamp: “chachunk”

    This solo tour of Portugal is the result of several weeks of planning and input from many inmates (see “If I had 3 days in Portugal I would...” in the trip planning section). It’s many firsts for me:
    - my first motorcycle adventure outside of the US
    - my first time in Portugal
    - my first ADV ride report (comments, concerns, and mild criticisms are welcomed!)

    The adventure itself is sure to yield many more firsts - I suppose that’s the idea right?!

    Forgive me if I get a little long winded!
    #1
  2. TM1(SS)

    TM1(SS) Been here awhile

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    I was in Lisbon 1n the early nineties on my submarine. I had the use of an old Vespa for a couple of days and had a blast exploring both Lisbon and even better, the countryside. I hope you have a most excellent trip, looking forward to following along!
    #2
  3. johnnywheels

    johnnywheels Been here awhile Supporter

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    Very cool! I began my career in that program too. I was a civilian plant engineer, EOOW and shift supervisor at the S3G prototype in West Milton, NY in the mid to late 80’s.

    Thanks for connecting!
    #3
  4. johnnywheels

    johnnywheels Been here awhile Supporter

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    April 25, 2018 - Communications up and runnning

    Since I use Verizon at home I have the option of using their international plan which I’ve done in the past when I needed use for only one or two days and small amounts of data. On this trip however I need 24/7 coverage and plenty of data as a backup for the GPS and as a means of communicating with loved ones who are concerned I’ll ride the GS off a cliff.

    I may very well ride off a cliff, but when I do at least the iPhone Friend Finder will track the location of my demise.

    My research told me a good option was a local SIM card from Vodafone and just as some nice person posted on TripAvisor, the Vodafone kiosk was just to the right in the arrivals hall as I walked out of baggage claim. I grabbed a coffee and relaxed for a few minutes waiting for them to open.

    They opened at 8:00 and by 8:15 I had a local SIM card up and running in my iPhone. For reference the agents at Vodafone speak excellent English and took care of swapping out and activating the new SIM card. I was set with one month of unlimited local text and voice, and 10 GB of data - for 10 €, a bargain in my book!

    The local only text & calling wasn’t an issue because the data plan would enabled me to message and call using services like Skype, FaceTime, and iMessage.

    As I was exiting the Vodafone kiosk I was surprised to see a long line had formed while I was being helped.

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    Here’s a tip: there’s another Vodafone location 50 meters away, upstairs in the departures area. Guess what: no line at all up there.

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    #4
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  5. TM1(SS)

    TM1(SS) Been here awhile

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    Cool!! I loved my time in boats. I was at Groton, CT. A nuke friend of mine from the Archerfish took me up to upstate NY for a long weekend, he had gone to Balston Spa, it was gorgeous up there in the Fall.
    #5
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  6. johnnywheels

    johnnywheels Been here awhile Supporter

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    (4/25/19 continued)

    Fellow inmate Carlos M of MotoXplorers and I had agreed on a meeting time of 9:30. Since it was only 8:20 I figured to have some breakfast. The Goggle told me there was a cafe just around the corner from Motoxplorers, so I hopped a taxi for the 12 minute ride to Sam Croissants.

    I was their second customer of the morning and was treated to a ”Pastéis de Nata” or custard pastries, a tradition in Portugal, and a steaming coffee (espresso or “beeka”).
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    Ok...that was freak’in awesome! I gotta have some more of that!

    At 9:20 I said my goodbyes and walked around the corner to meet my ride.

    There may be other options I’m unaware of, but I’d learned of two for renting a bike in Lisbon:
    - Imtbike.com
    - MotoXplorers.com

    Prices and choices of model were similar between the two. I really can’t speak much about Imtbike; in what little contact I had with them they were responsive and professional. I chose MotoXplorers because of recommendations from inmates here. I made all of my arrangements via email; dates, rates, choice of bike, meeting time, etc

    I can’t say enough about my experience with MotoXplorers! Carlos greeted me like an old friend, offered me a coffee, and introduced me to my ride for the next three days. He spent as much time as I needed explaining Portugal’s electronic toll system (bike was equipped with electronic toll transponder) speed limits, fueling instructions, and rules of the road. He also walked me through the controls on the nearly off-the-showroom-floor 2018 GS1200. I’m thinking, “Great! A spotless new bike that I’m gonna be the first to drop with no way to hide the evidence of my sins!”

    The walkthrough was time well spent; my normal ride is a Tiger and it had been several years since I last rode a BMW. One option I was not expecting but was glad to have - the SOS system on the bike that automatically activates in a crash. Carlos explained if the bike falls the system will open a communications channel and I’ll be speaking with an operator who will have my location. If I don’t answer they’ll notify local emergency responders. There’s downside of course: no hiding a parking lot tip over!

    I should mention that Carlos threw in a GPS for no additional cost as an ADV member discount; that saved me 30€ because I certainly needed a GPS! It was a BMW Nav 6 integrated with the controls on the GS. After discussing my plans for the next three days he suggested some tracks he had pre-installed on the unit.

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    After changing into my riding gear, choosing a helmet from their selection (modular Givi), transferring other gear from my suitcase to the bike’s panniers (liners supplied), and setting the GPS for my first waypoint, I rolled out of the lot and headed north. It was 10:30 AM and Portugal lie ahead.
    #6
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  7. oldmanb777

    oldmanb777 Just say NO to socialism!

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    Tell Carlos I said hi. :wave Since I'm not flying there anymore, I have not stayed in touch. That was one of their bikes. By the way, if you have not noticed, the color of the gas pumps is switched from the US (and most of the rest of the world) Don't ask how I know that, its too embarrassing. :fpalm

    Attached Files:

    #7
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  8. johnnywheels

    johnnywheels Been here awhile Supporter

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    Yes! Carlos was very specific: “green fuel pumps and green toll lanes! Just remember GREEN is good”
    #8
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  9. johnnywheels

    johnnywheels Been here awhile Supporter

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    I was glad it was a national holiday as traffic was light on my way out of Lisbon. April 25th is “Dia da Liberdade” or “Freedom Day” and as I headed north it occurred to me that is exactly what I felt at that moment: freedom! A new adventure beginning, unexplored roads, new people, places, and cultures to experience. It was my “Dia da Liberdade” too!

    My general plan for the day was to head north along the coast to Nazare then head inland and NE to Lousã where I’d booked room for the night at Palácio da Lousã (a recommendation from Carlos). I decided to take the A8 north for a bit to put some distance between me and the Lisbon metro area, then jump west to a coastal track northward on national and local roads.

    I didn’t make it far when a road construction project stopped me dead in my tracks. That surprised me - I didn’t expect to see road work on a holiday. No problem, it’s not the destination but the journey!

    I jumped off the A8 near Torres Vedras and took N8 and N9 west to EN-247 north. The roads were fairly busy and twice I was stopped in places where local construction temporarily restricted traffic to one lane.

    As I neared the ocean the wind grew quickly and the air became cooler and noticeably more humid. As I began to catch glimpses of the Atlantic I could see it was a mean day on the sea for small craft. The water was green with white specks. Even from miles away I could see the white tops of waves to the horizon. While it was a clear day, a low haze hug along the coastline. I’m no meteorologist but I suspect the haze was moisture picked up from the rough seas by the gusty westerly wind.

    I continued to make my way north on EN-247 though villages and farmland, often riding the edge of a bluff that runs parallel to the coast. There are many giant wind turbines and they seemed to be enjoying the weather. Often you see them stopped or barely moving, but not today! From what I know of wind turbines I suspect they were operating near their max output.

    I passed several groups of bikes out for a holiday ride. Some groups of locals on sport bikes, others looked more like me; foreigners on adventure bikes. At 1:00 PM I arrived on the outskirts of Peniche and decided it was time for a break. I pulled into a road side cafe, ordered a coffee and helped myself to two large glasses of water. I realized I was probably dehydrated from the flight.

    After the coffee and some self reflection I realized my plan for the day may have been overly ambitious. While I’d gotten a few hours of sleep on the overnight flight, I was beginning to feel the effects of air travel, a 6 hour time change, and a lack of sleep. This, in combination with the dropping temperatures and rising wind helped me decide to turn inland and beeline for the hotel for a good nights sleep. Lousã was still about 2 hours away. It was a good decision; when the coastline was about 10 miles in my rear view mirrors the wind gusts dropped and the temperatures began to rise. The exception was when crossing the many ravines and valleys where I came to appreciate the wind socks on the major bridges. Most were sticking out straight at 90 degrees! I’m sure their placement is to warn 18 wheelers of the crosswinds, but they help those of us on two wheels just as much! I wish we had wind socks on the interstate highways in the US! (Maybe some states have them but not those near me in Mississippi).
    #9
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  10. johnnywheels

    johnnywheels Been here awhile Supporter

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    I slabbed it north on the A-8 and A-1 to Condeixa-a-Nova, just south of Coimbra. While the driving wasn’t exciting the expressways were empty and the views beautiful! Over mountains, across rivers in deep ravines, through valleys and up into pine forests. The last 20 miles into Lousã was on a local road up and over a mountain and down into the valley were the village lies.

    I arrived at the Palácio da Lousã Boutique Hotel around 4 PM where they graciously offered to allow me to part the bike in the courtyard (cars park in a lot behind the hotel).

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    The hotel


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    After a long hot shower and a nap I explored the town near the hotel.

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    Church and square in Lousã

    It had been a good first day.
    #10
  11. johnnywheels

    johnnywheels Been here awhile Supporter

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    #11
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  12. johnnywheels

    johnnywheels Been here awhile Supporter

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    Day 2 (morning of April 26, 2018) - Lousã to Serra da Estrela

    After a great night of sleep, breakfast and four strong cups of black coffee I rolled out of the hotel around 8:30 and headed NE out of Lousã on N342. It was a beautiful sunny morning around 57 F. Soon I was following the Alva river valley as it snaked its way towards its headwaters in the Serra da Estrela mountains. The views of the terraced fertile slopes and ancient villages were stunning! Everywhere there are remnants of centuries old structures; bridges, walls, mills along the river. Throughout the day I was reminded of the devastating fires that swept through Portugal last fall. To see the widespread damage firsthand puts it in perspective and makes me wonder why the fires were not more prominently reported in the international press.

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    I stopped to stretch and for some water in Côja. I made a mental note to return to this beautiful village someday.

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    North of Avô N342 joins EN 230. By this time I was beginning to get hungry and decided lunch in Manteigas would be a good thing so I reset the GPS and next thing you know it’s pointing me up a goat trail - a hard left uphill off of EN 230 onto EM-518.This was some of the most challenging riding yet; mostly one lane with multiple switchbacks up the mountainside, often at 25 degrees or more incline. The GS was made for this and I appreciated its excellent, smooth low speed fueling; a lot of this road was handled in 1st gear. I passed though the tiny mountain hamlets of Cabeça and Casal do Rei. Trees were getting more sparse as I ascended, making way for meadows of wildflowers then later mossy rock. The views were spectacular but often when I most wanted to capture the moment there was no place to safely stop for a photo!

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    Viewpoint below the summit on EN 338

    518 ends at a five way intersection with EN 231 and EN 338 just inside the National Park boundary. From there I headed right for the tower, or Torre at the summit of Serra da Estrela.

    As I climbed I began to see snow! First small spots in the north facing shady spots then finally fully covering the ground. When I reached the top I was surprised to find the ski slopes were open and people were enjoying the slopes is just sweaters and gloves!

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    For an instant I considered parking the GS and renting a snowboard for an hour or two, but I quickly brushed those silly thoughts aside. I came to ride.

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    Serra da Estrela, Portugal’s highest peak
    #12
  13. johnnywheels

    johnnywheels Been here awhile Supporter

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    Serra da Estrela to Manteigas

    By the time I reached the top it was close to 2 and after the obligatory “top of the world” selfies I headed down the glacial valley to Manteigas for lunch.
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    This was another stunning ride with barren rock and snow giving way to a moss and brush covered high plateau, then pine forests as I weaved back and forth down the mountain.

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    Arriving in Manteigas I couldn’t help but be reminded of Leadville or Aspen in Colorado; towns whose culture and lifeblood is the mountains.

    Google led me to Restaurante Santa Luzia where I had a leisurely lunch of traditional Bacalhau (salt cod) with potatoes and cabbage. I was expecting it to be salty but is wasn’t at all. In fact, it was delicious!
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    The view of Manteigas from Restaurante Santa Luzia
    #13
  14. oldmanb777

    oldmanb777 Just say NO to socialism!

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    Nice. I didn't get that far, only had the day, or actually part of a day.
    #14
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  15. johnnywheels

    johnnywheels Been here awhile Supporter

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    Day 2 continued

    Where it had been near 50 F just an hour earlier, now I was shedding layers as the temperatures climbed into the upper 70’s. Then I had a brilliant idea - a fellow inmate had mentioned a natural swimming pool on the river a few miles down the valley in Valhelhas! It was a quick 25 minute ride east on N 232 where I found the park on the river. It was too early in the year for swimming but it was a great place to “cool my heels” for a few minutes.

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    After my mid-afternoon rest I decided to tackle the mountain again, this time on N 232 heading north (then west) from Manteigas. This was another “goat trail” climb up the mountain in switchbacks so steep I knew if I missed a turn I’d be flattened on the road I’d just passed but now 50 meters below. I swear that when I reached the top I could have thrown a rock and hit the Main Street of Manteigas!

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    A climb of approx 800 meters

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    The view from near the top on 232 west of Manteigas looking east to Valhelhas.
    #15
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  16. johnnywheels

    johnnywheels Been here awhile Supporter

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    The Nav 6 guided me up and over the top and down the western slide of the mountain on 232 to a questionable left turn on EM 1125. I’m wondering “where in God’s name am I going?” Here the fields and road were charred from the 2017 fires - it was a surreal, almost alien landscape. Even the road was pockmarked with blisters from the inferno.

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    I continued down EM 1125 and in a few miles emerged in Sabugueiro, the highest village in Portugal. The locals gave me a strange look as I pulled into the village; I don’t think many visitors enter town from the “back door”

    From Sabugueiro I headed south then east on N339 passing more amazing views. The sun was now low on the horizon on my right as I passed a small reservoir on the edge of a cliff. Even though my daylight was running out and the temps were falling fast I stopped for a few minutes to capture the moment.

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    Reservoir on EN 339 - notice road and switchback across the back of the lake.

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    Looking west from 339

    Within minutes I began to wonder if I’d pushed my luck too far. As I topped the mountain just beyond the small reservoir I was met with thick clouds, fog and a drizzle of rain. By my estimates I still had 90 minutes of light and needed no more than 40 minutes get to my hotel, but I’d not counted on fog or rain on the mountain! I wasted no time and bypassed the huge damn and hydroelectric plant without stopping as the thick clouds rolled across the road. I would have loved to stop but now I felt I couldn’t spare the minutes.
    #16
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  17. johnnywheels

    johnnywheels Been here awhile Supporter

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    Day 2 continued

    Then, when I descended just a bit down the other side as quickly as it had appeared the fog and rain vanished and it was clear again. I felt like I’d narrowly escaped a hazardous situation, and didn’t want to push my luck a second time. It’s amazing how quickly conditions can change in the mountains! I stopped briefly at the famous carving of the Madona for a quick photo and to add a layer as the temps continued to drop.

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    A final stop before heading down the mountain.

    I pulled into the Pousada Serra Estrela 30 minutes later.

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    The view from Pousada Serra Estrela

    What a day it had been!
    #17
  18. equyst

    equyst Adventurer

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    congrats. thanks for sharing[​IMG]
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  19. johnnywheels

    johnnywheels Been here awhile Supporter

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    Day 3

    Another good night of sleep. Pousada Serra da Estrela is a beautifully converted historic sanatorium perched on the north east side of the mountain. It’s easy to understand why this location was chosen a hundred years ago as an “escape to the mountains!”

    My plan for the day was to ride south to Évora, arriving in late afternoon. That would give me time to hop on the expressway for the last hour or so back to Lisbon; I needed to return the GS to MotoXplorers between 6 and 7 PM (they close at 8 PM on Fridays).

    After crawling down the mountain I connected with N18 in Covilha and followed that south. N18 snakes it’s way up and over another mountain on the way to Alpedrinha.

    I followed N18 to Alpalhão with a small detour on N18-7 and N233 to Escalos de Cima.

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    Around 10:30 AM in Vila Velha de Rodão I stopped at a small market called “Sabores de Ródão Amanhecer” for provisions; water, bread, cured meat, cheese, and fruit, all of which I stowed in the top case for lunch. Here N18 crosses the Tagus River on a spectacular bridge over a deep gorge. I lament not getting a worthy photo!

    At Alpalhão I took N245 south through sheep and cattle country. In Alter do Chão I stopped for lunch in the town square (castle included).
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    Then it was back on N18 for the final stretch into Évora.

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    The streets of Évora

    After a tour of the city square and mandatory selfie at the Roman Temple, I reluctantly mounted the GS for a final ride back into Lisbon.
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    As I rode into the city over the famous Ponte 25 de Abril I was treated to a spectacular view of the harbor. It was a fitting end to what was an amazing ride.!

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    #19
  20. nickguzzi

    nickguzzi Long timer

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    A great report of a tour of a lovely country. Thanks for posting.
    #20
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