First Weeks in Portugal
Updated: Feb 6, 2019
Our first days in Lagos..
After 20 hours on the plane and an extended layover in Lisbon where Karen fell fast asleep in the airport lounge we arrive in Faro. We had a nice walk around Faro in the morning before boarding a train to Lagos.
Only 16 stops later, schlepping the incredibly heavy bags a hilly kilometer got us into the apt. We did some shopping, some eating, bottles of wine, and then we collapse. Travel days are really long.
After a day of rest we walk from town to local attraction of the Farol da Ponta da Piedade. There are beautiful arches and beaches and grottos. It is disorienting to be in sunshine on a lovely day after the cold and dark of a Sandpoint November. It is also unusual for us to walk 10 km. Time to put together the bikes.
We are finally getting the place stocked up after only 4 or 5 trips to the grocery store. We acquire Portuguese phone numbers, bikes are put together and we ride a 45 K loop ride from Lagos. Getting a feel for the hills and beaches and finding our way in and out of town.
Days 5-6 are spent wandering all over town to the PO, thrift stores and more groceries. I turns out that there is no functional Post Restante (General Delivery) in Portugal. The problem is explained to us and there appears to be no work around or solution. So much for getting any mail. We talked with Emma and Ryan on Whatsapp as they begin to ride through Morocco.
They are doing great and are headed for the coast. We make plans to meet them for Christmas.
We venture off on another 45k bike ride today to the local reservoir. The terrain is rolling hills- not too bad. The best part was the coffee stop in a small town café in S. Jao. It is 70 degrees American and we can barely cope. We meet some expats who just moved to the Algarve a week ago. They are newbies like us and also happy and high on the sunshine. A highlight of the day was finding the English bookstore and chatting with the owners.
After this week we felt ready to head out on a 6 day tour of the Algarve- over the hills and down the coast to Sagres. The nights are long so we leave the camping gear here and set up the pattern of using Booking.com to book one or two days ahead. Sometimes it works great; other times not so much.
The first two days are hard; lots of climbing and descending in 75 k from Lagos to Silves. The country side is nice but not that inspiring. We have lunch at a mountain cafe and descend to a great seafood dinner in Silves.
It is a long, hot climb on 20 percent grades from Silves to Monchique. Only 39 k, but distance doesn't really matter when it is that steep. On a lonely road we hear the song "Staying Alive" echoing across the valley. We hear a lot of American pop music all over in Portugal and it always brings a smile.... like when a car went by our apartment blaring Simon & Garfunkel's Sounds of Silence. We have some great views of the ocean marred by fire scars as much of the area burned in a huge fire last summer. We crash in Monchique after another seafood meal.
Monchique to Zambujeira (54K) is supposed to be downhill, but there is one killer climb. It turns out there is no easy way to go between the coast and the interior (the Alentejo). Every route has lots of climbing and descending. Zambujeira is a lovely small beach town with mist rising from the pounding surf. Unfortunately, this is our first encounter with all the restaurants being closed and no place to eat but a bar with sandwiches. Unlike France, a sandwich here is just bread, grayish meat and cheese. No mayo, no veggies, no sauce. It is enough to make you miss Subway. We are very cranky and hungry.
Zambujeira to Aljezur is a much easier 56k- we take side trips to great beaches and headlands. We see the cliff fishermen throwing lines into the crashing surf. After trying to go to 4 closed restaurants we wind up with a great seafood meal on the 5th try. Sometimes the magic works and we are in a better mood all around with food in us all day.
From Aljezur to Sagres is an enjoyable 70 kilometers. We finally started bringing our own lunch and not counting on finding food on the way. We had a great picnic on the beach and ended the day visiting the end of Europe at kilometer zero in Europe at Cape de St Vincente. Our day ends at a lovely hotel in Sagres. It is so great that we spend another day relaxing and watching the surfers. We have some grilled squid and make plans to return and maybe ride the waves with the kids. The cafe next door chimes in with Bruce singing Born in the USA as waves crash on the beach.
Sagres back to Lagos- 45K of nice rolling hills- 20% descents have worn out my brake pads.
We are back in Lagos for a week and organizing the next few weeks. We make plans for Riley to come to Portugal in a few weeks and make arrangements to meet Emma and Ryan in Spain after they make the crossing from Africa. After some rest and recovery, we do some local rides to Luz and various train stations between here and Faro. We get new tires on the bikes thanks to our local shop and start exploring some dirt as well as a 65 kilometer 900 meter day ride out of Boliquieme. The restaurants are closing for the holidays and there are less and less options but we splurge and find a great Portugese fish dinner.