Goodbye Portugal and Hello Spain

The Atlantic Coast of Portugal can be a bit crowded so a route east of Porto along the Duoro River into the Mountains then north to the spa city of Chaves was the best option

It was a great choice; clear windy roads and wonderful scenery.

It was a short ride to Chaves less than 150km but storms ahead dictated the length of the ride.

And the storm came casting an grey pall over the old centre of Chaves.

While Chaves is a Spa town the waters are used primarily for therapeutic use rather than leisure so lolling in a hot spa wasn’t an option. But drinking warm mineralised spa water straight from the spring was.

Cups are filled straight from the Spring.

The rain cleared over night and it was a clear run over the mountains into Spain

So it was goodbye Portugal

And hello Spain,

Confirmation I was in Spain came at Astorga and its Gaudi designed building.

The route headed around Leon and into the Picos de Europa.

I had travelled to the Picos in 2018 and it was a great opportunity to revisit.

The road to Riano to Potes is just beautiful.

From Potes in the town plaza there is a magnificent view of the central Massif of the Picos de Europa

Just 23km on from Potes is Fuene De in the heart of the Picos and one of the most beautiful camp grounds I have stayed at in all my travels

From Fuente De there is a Cable Car that ascents 753 Metres to a high plateau at about 1600 metres. There are number of walks in the mountains. One is an 11km return walk the ascends 770 metres to a refuge.

It’s a hard walk but the views spectacular.

Being up with the eagles.

Fuente De is a short ride back to the ferry port city of Santander. It was such very different circumstances arriving in Santander than it was in 2020.

Porto

It’s hard to know what to write about Porto I’m sure many many words have written about: the wine, the amazing River Douro gorge that the city is built around, the buildings and the churches.

Agh the churches. I think I’ve had enough of them. Another catholic evangelistic warlord going off and subduing and plunderingzx happy and peaceful first nations people all in god’s name.

But I did visit some churches. But I think too many European cities I am suffering Church Fatique. (Unreported visits to Barceona and Madrid laid the grounds for church fatigue!)

Luckily to conteract the Church Fatique there was a Banksy exhibition.

But as a boy born and bred in Melbourne, Australia. A city famous for its trams. A tram ride along the Douro River to the beach was a must.

The mouth of the river is quaint with a smallish beach and the Atlantic Ocean is still cold!

The tram ride is a scenic tour in itself along the river…

I have an observation developed over time. If you want to have something to eat with the view don’t expect anything to exciting food wise. The best food is most often without a view. This rule played out in Porto. The resturaunts with tables along the river offered the same blend of ‘traditional’ Portugese cuisine. But on the riverside in the in amongst the wine caves there is the little municipal market building. Here there are stalls of fresh produce and traditional and modern Porttugese food. But no view!

The best resturaunts are up the steep hills away from the river. The food fresh and fantastic.

But book if you want to go to a great place like Maria Rita or you will be queueing with locals and tourists alike waiting for a table to become free. Inside there is not a rush and a great selection of wines from.the Douro region and local produce.

So what is the must do thing to do in Porto?

Get your photo taken with the city as a backdrop. Lol

UPDATE

Thanks to a a follower an update. I should mention the Railway Station and its murals. They are impressive.

Some beautiful scenes of rural and river life.

But even in the railway station you can’t escape the glorification of the conquering and enslavement of peace loving native people in god’s name!

Setubal and Coimbra – Smaller cities in Portugal worth a visit

Setubal is a small waterside city just south of Lisbon where the Rio Sado meets the Ocean

Across the estuary is the is the holiday area of Troia. Coming up from the south it’s a beautiful ride along the Peninsula with a car ferry trip to Setubal.

The estuary is a major sanctuary for birdlife as well as contributing to Portugal’s self sufficiency in rice.

It’s was a beautiful dawn to watch birds in the morning.

And go for a ride along the coast in the afternoon.

Have a bit of a swim and a beer at the MotoCultureClub bar.

It’s a picturesque ride through the mountains from Setubal to Coimbra. Especially once you get free of the traffic around Lisbon.

Coimbra is a university one of the oldest in the world. Perched in the mountains inland between Lisbon and Porto.

The university sits up on the high point of the city being seen and seeing!

Climbing the steep steps and alley ways is good training for the steep cliffs of Porto or an Alpine hike depending on what your plans are!

Every night Fado plays in a little Bar at the base of the old town.

Hear the Fado as you walk the alley ways of Coimbra.

The old historic buildings of the university reflect the opulence of the time. Especially the old library.

These are two contrasting small cities in Portugal I’d recommend.

What a difference a Cape makes. The Atlantic Coast of Algave

Cape St Vincent (Cabo de São Vicente) is the most Southwesterly point of the European Continent. It’s juts out into the Atlantic at the bottom tip of Portugal. It’s funny to think that only few weeks back I was at the North West tip of Africa.

East of the Cape the coast gently curves toward the Gulf of Cadiz with its generally warm calm waters. (As seen in the previous blog)

To the west and north the Atlantic up to its reputation of icy cold waves and wild beaches.

The beach at Carrapateira a wild wahing machine of a place.

Arrafina is a lot less wild. sheltered by a headland with a little fishing port giving some shelter from the wind and a better set of waves.

Is the water icy? Well at under 18c it’s chilly but not as cold as the Southern Ocean off the Victorian, Australia coast where I have swum for many years.

But not intolerable!

The cliff top provides amazing views up and down the coastline.

And of course facing west the clifftop provides a great sunset viewing platform.

Riding through the Algave Region of Portugal

The Rio Guadiana forms the southern border between Spain and Portugal. These days there is a major bridge at the southern end of the river linking the two countries but for centuries travel by boat crossing the river between villages such as Alcoutim in Portugal and Sanlúcar de Guadiana in Spain.

My friend Stephane has a house near the Rio Guadiana and has been a wonderful guide of the area. An area favoured by motocyclists and walkers alike.

For many years both Portugal and Spain were Authoritarian Countries with Dictators. Salazar in Portugal and Franco in Spain. In such an environment border smuggling flourished.

The movement of contraband across the border is celebrated along the Guadiana.

The beaches near Cacela Velha are wide, and sandy with clean cool water.

In land the rolling hills provide spectacular views. The cork trees covering them harvester every 8 years. Cork is truly a renewable resource. No tree is felled or damaged in its production. The oldest known cork tree is over 230 years old and still produces.

The small towns and villages along the coast and in the hills offer great sightseeing and wonderful little restaurants serving a variety of local Portuguese cuisine. Be adventurous cause there is more to Portuguese food than cataplana.