The Longest Road!... of Portugal

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Tigerswift, Jan 23, 2018.

  1. Tigerswift

    Tigerswift Adventurer

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    Step 0

    We started our journey on the EN2 (National Road nº 2) in the city of Chaves.

    Since we lived sensibly in the middle of the country and had to ride to one of the "tips", it seemed logical to go to Chaves, where the km 0 is situated. we just started from the beginning! We took advantage of the family home in the city of Coimbra to make the trip lighter, as it situated at half way to Chaves. After a meal at a cousins' house, and to catch up with the talk, the night recharged our batteries for the trip to Chaves, next morning.

    We arrived in the city of Chaves around 2:00 p.m. and we were anxious to go explore the territory.

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    Chaves, located in the region of Alto Tâmega, near to northern Spain border, is the second largest city in the district of Vila Real. Inhabited since the Palaeolithic, it presents/displays diverse marks of the different cultures that passed here, nevertheless the strongest, are of the Roman civilization. Aquae Flaviae, so denominated in those times, exhibits diverse constructions of that time, like the emblematic Bridge of Trajano or the hot spas. Even today, the hot springs of Chaves play a major role in the city.
    We had already designated the major landmarks we wanted to visit. So we left the two-wheeled "Suzy" to rest in the hotel and burst through the city streets.
    None of us knew Chaves (in fact, the north-east of Portugal is a practically new region for us) and we were delighted. Exceeded expectation.
    From the center, quite lively, with traditional commerce, the tangle of streets with the typical coloured balconies, the castle, or the riverside area, with a very well-preserved leisure park.
    Chaves really has a lot to offer to visitors. From its history, to the wellness and leisure activities, and of course, its rich gastronomy.
    Still, we had a general idea of the city and to experience some of the obligatory activities: walk across the Roman bridge, eat a cake of Chaves (cheap and delicious) in the Maria bakery and drink a glass of thermal water. The water runs freely from a fountain in the middle of a square next to the hot springs. At more than 70ºC and has a characteristic... smell... But it has a reputation for being miraculous, as we were there we saw several persons go there to fill their glasses and bottles with the thermal water!


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    The afternoon passed quickly and it was time for dinner. Although the fame and offer of catering were a lot, we ended up eating near our accommodation, which was a little way out of the center. The night was cold and we needed to rest to get up early. We had 3 days to do a total of 738 km, travelling the country from top to bottom.

    The next day, we would leave Km 0, to go through the first leg of our route along the old Royal Road, the National Road nº 2.

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    #1
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  2. flei

    flei cycletherapist

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    Beautiful! Portugal is a country i have long wanted to visit but have not yet taken the time to do so. After seeing your photos, looks like i need to move it to the top of my list.
    #2
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  3. Tigerswift

    Tigerswift Adventurer

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    Step 1

    It was not until eight o'clock in the morning when we left our hotel in Chaves. The night, had brought an almost impenetrable mantle of fog, which still lay in the city and barely let us see the road.

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    We head once again to the roundabout where the km 0 is, and we officially started our journey south on the EN2.
    In addition to the fog, the temperature was not very pleasant. The thermometer on the motorcycle marked 1°C when we left the city of Chaves and there it stayed for long kms. The frost covered the fields of white and although it beautified scenery, the risks of driving increased considerably.
    Shortly afterwards, the first stop of the day was the village of Vidago, a renowned thermal village with its iconic hotel, the Vidago Palace. We stopped just to enjoy the hotel and register the moment. Although not allowed to take photos, the security "closed his eyes" and consented, with the condition of not catching anyone in the photographs. It's really stunning. Not only the facade but the whole surrounding area with its fabulous gardens. The hotel, dating from the beginning of the 20th century, was rehabilitated a few years ago, recovering all its splendor. Within walking distance of the Palace, we fond the ruins of another hotel, the Salus, opened in 1918. At the time, it was also an imposing building, equipped with the latest technologies and facilities. Unfortunately, a dramatic fire destroyed it in the 60s, leaving it to ruin. Still, the ruins have an aura of ghostly charm that makes us dream.

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    Still on the route of the thermal lands, we passed through the village of Pedras Salgadas. Besides the thermal park, which is also surrounded by vast gardens and where you can taste a glass of the well known "Água das Pedras", the Pedras Salgadas village became famous for the motorized tests, among them a car Rally. Also obligatory, is to stop next to the old train station, just above the EN2 that is now deactivated.

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    We continued the way, still very cold, as the ice-flakes testified in our jackets..., but the fog was beginning to dissipate, which allowed us to enjoy the trip more.
    The next landmark was the city of Vila Real, the district capital. With great sorrow, we could not visit the city. To see all the places of interest, we would need many more days of travel. This is our Portugal, so small and with so much to offer. This time, we stood by the views from the top, truly amazing. The geography of the city is unique, nestled high in the hills and with the Corgo river running down there. Another place to visit in Vila Real and that will also be for a next visit is the Palace of Mateus, also known as Casa de Mateus and to which the name Mateus Rosé wines owes its name. We should also remember that this is the area of the black clay of "Bisalhães", considered by Unesco as Intangible Cultural Heritage and that it runs the serious risk of disappearing, due to the lack of potters who dedicate themselves to art.
    Thanks to the technologies, common GPS, the route through the N2, it is done without great hiccups, however, for travelers in the old fashion, we warn that it is not easy to keep the track of the road. The indications are scarce and we are easily diverted to other roads. One more fault of the tourism of Portugal that does not seem to see the tourist and economic potential of this route.
    We continued to descend, although still in the highlands... this first day provided us with altitudes, with the typical meandering of curves and countercurves, surrounded by mountains and valleys. Of note, that in general we found the roads in good condition.

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    We crossed Santa Marta de Penaguião village and its cellars and soon afterwards, we were amazed by the landscapes of the demarcated area of the Douro vineyard. The terraces, so characteristic of this region, the cradle of some of the most precious nectars of Bacchus, dominate the scenery.
    Usually, we see photographs of this region at their peak of flowering, in spring, when everything green. Let us not underestimate, however, the charm of autumn. Traveling at this time, presents us with magnificent colors, which beyond the green, pass through the ochres to the most intense reds. And when the sun appears, the palette extends in an ... inexplicable way! Along the way, we passed by what makes the real life of those who live there... the women in the countryside, the men in the tractors, the fires of the old leafs... the socio-cultural identity of the country. What still lasts, beyond modernity and the internet...
    It was in this scenario that we arrived at Peso da Régua village, emblematic city of this wine region and the departure/arrival dock of the famous Douro river cruises. As we already knew the city, we did not stop, but we took advantage of the beautiful view as we crossed the bridge over the Douro.
    And suddenly, we were in another district: Viseu, more precisely in the city of Lamego, where we obviously had to make a stop. Lamego has a lot to know, but what can not fail, is the Sanctuary of Nossa Senhora dos Remédios and the 686 steps that elevate it. On the pretext of getting hungry for lunch, we had to go up the stairs and to be frank, on each step, there is art works that deserve to be contemplated, and in the end, the view on the city is superb.

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    Such a caloric expense, it required a replacement and with the lesson studied, we made the road towards small village of Mezio, near Castro Daire city , where we had lunch in his typical restaurant, right by the roadside. The food is really homey and although the offer is not much, it is enough. Also, the prices are unbeatable and the service very friendly. We ate spiced rice, a bean rice with
    spicy sausage served in black clay. Delicious. The bread was still hot, and red wine. We wished to have a bigger stomach...

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    So we got back on the road. The rain threatened to fall and shortly after we were wearing the rain suits. The rest of the day was not very nice given the weather and fortunately we had not planned big stops. Viseu, the biggest city we would pass by, was nothing new for either of us, so we didn't stop. Other points that could have some interest like city of Tondela or the city of Santa Comba Dão, also stayed by the way. At this point, we deviated from the route and left the EN2. There was a surprise for us to spend the night. In the district of Coimbra, we arrived at Fiais da Beira, a village where Hotel Stroganov is located. And no, it has nothing to do with food ... it has rather to do with Count Grigory Stroganov and his love story with Juliana. The hotel is set in a palace from the end of the 19th century, and was totally recovered by a Moscow decorator. It is a 5-star hotel with only 12 rooms, each of which is unique, exuberant and inspired by the Russian romance. It makes us feel like we were in a fairy tale. In addition, the spa area and indoor pool was a real treat.

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    Tired and shake down by the last rainy kms, Hotel Stroganov, besides a surprise, was a true oasis, where we slept like royalty.

    See also the video of this day at:
    #3
  4. clintnz

    clintnz Trans-Global Chook Chaser

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    Excellent pics & poetic writing! Keep up the good work, I look forward to following the rest of your trip. :-)

    Clint
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  5. B10Dave

    B10Dave Long timer

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    Excellent pics and video. Looking forward to more. This is the first report I have seen from Portugal.
    #5
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  6. Duas Rodas

    Duas Rodas Been here awhile

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    Muito bonito!
    I'm really enjoying this report...bringing back memories from my youth. Obrigado...
    #6
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  7. Tripletreat

    Tripletreat Been here awhile

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    Brilliant report and excellent photos. I hope to do something similar this year, as we search for our new home.
    Muito Obrigado
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  8. Jim K.

    Jim K. Long timer

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    One more Obrigado! Portugal is moving toward the top of my "Euro Visit" list. Your photos are striking...love the rich saturated color. Can I ask what camera you are using?
    #8
  9. boristhebold

    boristhebold Been here awhile

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    Great report. Portugal is such a beautiful country both in its countryside and architecture.
    #9
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  10. Tigerswift

    Tigerswift Adventurer

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    Thanks guys! :clap
    It's really a small but beautiful country, with a long history, good people and delicious food!
    You guys are always welcome! :-)
    Unfortunately, last year, the central region of Portugal was devastated by fires... burned almost 210 thousand hectares and, sadly, 125 people died...


    @Jim K., for the photos i have been using a Fujifilm X30, and a Sony Xperia X Dual smartphone.

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    #10
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  11. Tigerswift

    Tigerswift Adventurer

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    Step 2

    After an enchanted night in Fiais da Beira and a breakfast of princes, we returned to the road for the 2nd stage of the EN2.
    Again, the chill of the morning did the honors, though not as aggressively as the day before. Besides, the sun had promised to appear.
    We entered again in the EN2, and a few kilometers later, we changed once again from district: from Viseu to Coimbra.
    Although the previous day we had a sample of what were the catastrophes of the fires, this time the damage was very visible and devastating. Kms and kms of burned forest. An almost apocalyptic scenario, impossible to not cause shivers to anyone. It is indeed impressive the extent of the burned area. In some places, one could see how the fire went from one side of the road to the other, melting even the traffic signs... although happy for the ride, we could not help to feel a tightening of the our hearts. On this second day, we had around 300 km ahead, the biggest stage of the journey, with the aim of staying overnight in the region of Alentejo. The first stop of the day was along the Aguieira dam, also known as the Dão dam. It was here that for the first time we saw signs alluding to the EN2 route.

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    The city of Penacova appeared at a glance, with the river framing the landscape. We had already known Penacova, but we had never visited before and admired the Mondego "Bookstore", a natural monument, carved over millions of years and thus baptized by its quartzite formations, which are vertically arranged resembling books on shelves. Penacova also offers its visitors, beautiful river beaches and monuments, such as the Monastery of Lorvão.
    Near Penacova and passing the city of Vila Nova de Poiares, we find another beautiful village, also with a very crowded river beach in the summer: thye city of Góis. In addition to its natural charm, Góis is the hospitable home of one of the biggest and most popular motorcycle party in Portugal.
    We continue along one of the most winding stretches of the day, both in curves and in altitude, crossing the mountains towards the city of Pedrogão. In the middle, we went through little villages with caricature names. Obviously we had to stop at "Picha" (the word of Picha in Portuguese, is one of the names you can give to a male sexual organ...) and take the photo of the obvious!

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    We were already in the district of Leiria and quickly reached the most talked place last summer, due to the tragedy of the fires: Pedrogão Grande. It is a small village, surrounded by several river beaches, which in an interior region like this, increase in an exponential way, its value in the summer season. Although the landscape is no longer so green, it still has much to offer and urgently needs investment. That is why we appeal to people to make tourism in these regions and contribute in this way to the rebirth of this area. We stopped again next to a dam, this time, Cabril dam, on the river Zêzere, one of the largest and highest in Portugal. The construction, separates the counties of Pedrogão Grande and Sertã, already part of the district of Castelo Branco.

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    Km after Km, towards the south, we arrived at Vila de Rei, where the geodesic center of Portugal is located. The landmark, at Picoto da Milriça, is 600m high and offers, on auspicious days, a 360º view over an astonishing stretch, reaching up to Serra da Estrela, the highest hill in Portugal continental.

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    Entering Ribatejo area, more precisely in the district of Santarém, we stopped just to drink coffee and to eat a traditional sweet bowl of that region.
    Continuing south through the city of Ponte de Sor, where we find the largest mosaic of cork in the world, in the Center of Arts and Culture. Soon after, we passed by the Montargil reservoir where we came upon another sad reality: the drought. We have passed through this place countless times and never before have we seen the water level so low...
    Crossing again districts, from Portalegre to Évora, we crossed the city of Mora, where we also passed several times, without ever visiting the public aquarium dedicated to freshwater ecosystems, one of the largest in the world. It extends for about 2300 meters, on the banks of the Ribeira do Raia, housing 500 specimens of 72 different species. We will have to go back there because it has not been this...
    Just before our destination of the day, we stopped at Km500 sign of the EN2, in Ciborro village. It was interesting, in this small town, near the sign, that we found the only poster with more detailed information about the EN2 route.

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    With the sun descending vertiginously and already in the region of Alentejo, we were about to complete the second stage of this trip. Montemor-o-Novo city, appeared on the horizon and with it our rest. This time we stayed in a comfortable bungalow in Burriscas, a quiet rural camping, a few kilometers from the city. The night had fallen fast, enveloping us once more in her icy embrace. Were it not for the temperature and we would have stayed outside, absorbing the stillness of the field, looking at the countless stars that shone in the sky...

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    See also the video of this day at:

    #11
  12. twowings

    twowings Comfortably Numb...

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    What a gorgeous country! Thank you so much for the tour...:beer
    #12
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  13. TheBritAbroad

    TheBritAbroad Just ride.

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    Hey @Tigerswift, nice report and great pics. I'm based right next to the EN2 (almost at the end in Sao Bras de Alportel), if you need anything on the way through send me a PM. :thumb
    #13
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  14. dondesmo

    dondesmo Senior Squid

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    Thanks for posting a great report. I don't see many posts that part of your country and your videos do a good job of showing it off. I noticed very little traffic. How nice :)
    #14
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  15. Tigerswift

    Tigerswift Adventurer

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    Here's the 3rd and last part of the EN2 trip!

    The sun was rising in the Alentejo region and it was time to get on the road for the last day of the EN2 route!
    In spite of the sun, the frost still covered the fields, reflecting the wet and icy night it was. Before we left the city of Montemor, we could not miss visiting the castle, the main atraction of the city, which stands on the highest hill in the region. Originally, the settlement was sheltered within its walls, and then expanded around it. Pray the history that was in this place that were finalized by Vasco da Gama (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vasco_da_Gama), the preparations for the trip to discover India. Despite keeping part of the original buildings, the castle, could be in better shape of conservation. Still, worth the visit and the superb view over the city and the region.

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    Still in the Évora district, the route crosses the city of Alcáçovas, the land of cowbells, also distinguished by Unesco, as intangible cultural heritage and also at risk of disappearance due to the lack of artisans. In the middle of the Alentejo and after the kms of curves and rugged relief of the previous days, we now faced the long and straight roads of this region, flanked by its vast plains. Despite the adrenaline that the curves can trigger, the calm and deserted landscape of the Alentejo can transport us to a very special state of soul... and it was in this state, sometimes almost hypnotic, that we followed and entered the lower Alentejo, in the district of Beja.

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    We were in the city of Ferreira do Alentejo, the capital of olive oil, this nectar so precious and characteristic of our Mediterranean gastronomy. We were, however, caught up in the negative side of the production of the same, the intense smell in the air and the smoke that came from the chimneys of the industrial mills.
    We stopped to drink coffee and once again we were surprised by the ignorance about the EN2 route, even among those who live next to it. In the cafe, we were questioned by the lady who attend us, about why so many motorcyclists pass by this road. It was then that we explained that this was an emblematic route, being the longest road in the country. Mystery explained and we got back on the road.
    We still had about 100 kms to go before we entered the Algarve region, passing through the counties of Aljustrel, Castro Verde and Almodôvar.

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    We quickly returned to the asphalt, embracing now one of the most inhospitable and at the same time pleasant sections of the route: the curves of the Serra of Caldeirão! This route of almost 60km, between Almodôvar and São Brás de Alportel, is offered with around 365 curves and has the status of "Patrimony Road".
    Of signalling the good work of recovery of the old houses of cantoneiros (men that work on the road preservation and repair, in the past days) that are along the road. Nevertheless, they remain underused, since they are not inhabited, being restricted to a merely aesthetic function.
    With the belly complaining, we decided to stop for lunch in the middle of the Serra do Caldeirão. It's good that we did it. We were presented with a magnificent repast and a lot of sympathy in the "House of the Hams", in the Cortelha village. Algarve region at its best, away from the massification and superficiality of beach tourism, which sells so much, but does not warm the hearts of those who seek authenticity.

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    The afternoon was coming and our finishing line was approaching... we arrived in Faro city, the 3rd largest city in Portugal, again immersed in the city traffic. With a butterfly's in the stomach and joy in the soul, we came across the final mark of 738km: the end of the road and of another adventure!
    After celebrating the arrival to precept, with the right to sparkling wine and many photographs, we still managed to go to Faro Beach, to watch its magnificent sunset, which despite accompanied by low temperatures and much wind, filled us with heat.

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    See also the video of this day at:


    I really hope you guys enjoyed it: rock:
    #15
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  16. glenn2926

    glenn2926 Been here awhile

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    Brilliant write up. Portugal really is a beautiful country. I have only explored the South coast so far. After reading this I will definitely be back to explore more of your country. Thanks again for taking the time to do this.
    #16
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  17. NORTH RIDER

    NORTH RIDER Been here awhile

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    Thank you for posting . I grew up in northern Portugal ( Miranda do Douro) . Haven’t been back since 83 . Maybe it is time to go visit family and do some riding .

    North rider.
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  18. Bitte ein Bit

    Bitte ein Bit Been here awhile

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    Great job and thanks for taking the time to post.

    I might follow the same route on my way through this spring due to your ride report...again, great job!

    Erik
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  19. Tigerswift

    Tigerswift Adventurer

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    Thank you guys! :)
    you are always welcome!
    Cheers
    #19
  20. Advoose

    Advoose n00b

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    Take plenty of pictures when you get to Coimbra, Thats where I was last summer! Figerou dos vinhos to be exact!
    #20
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