Late dinners; twisty roads

So, still in Spain and we have been dealing with dinner being served after 9pm everywhere. I mean, what are they thinking about? Even the Spanish think it’s daft. We have carried out a bit of a poll along the way! We want to be fed and tucked up in our beds by 10, not trying to find somewhere that’s actually serving food or using Google for translating a menu when we’re so tired we canny read any more! Look, Spain, get a grip. Serve dinner at a sensible time. Us Scots are lightweights!

Accommodation has been good. In general comfy beds and a good price. So far, £33 has been the cheapest room and £58 has been splashing out. Not bad really. One thing I have noticed though is Spain are better at gluten free food. Portugal still have a bit of catching up to do. I’m not starving though, which is good. For everything else, there’s always wine and chocolate! One of the cheapest places we stayed was Laracha. The ABC hotel as it was called, was as simple as that, and boasted a pizzeria. Uh, ok. It didn’t look like a restaurant, more like a canteen and for sure there was nowhere else in the town for us to eat. After establishing that they didn’t serve gluten free pizza, the owner’s face lit up and said “steak?” Holy cow. He came out with a side of beef on a chopping board. We literally got to choose how big a slab we wanted. Served on a sizzling hot stone and served with a huge platter of chips and salad. Memorable for all the right reasons!

On the roads. It’s not anything that I’ve not experienced before, however, there are some observations about road signs. It seems in the north west of Spain and in Portugal, it seems a bit odd; when you’re barrelling along at 100 kph to have a speed reduction sign to 70 …. and then 5m later, one for 50. Eh? What’s the point? It’s like they had an excess of road signs or something.

Then there’s the BRILLIANT system in Portugal to get people to slow down in the villages. Velocidade controlada signs give you the clue to slow down. If you don’t, it’s quite simple, the traffic lights stop you. I’ve spent the last while playing a game with them. Sometimes there’s no logic in the slightest; you know you’re doing 50 clicks (30 mph in old money) and yet the fecking lights still manage to change. I’m sure Ed speeds up just as he’s going through them so I get caught….. but no, he doesn’t. He’s playing the traffic light game too!

6D359760-DBD3-47D6-9F42-BE9D7F96014DThen there’s poo. There’s coo poo, horse poo, goat poo and by all accounts, I had every variety firmly attached to Smoggy. In some areas the livestock wander around all over the place. Then I saw the warning sign for bears. Bears?Now, why I was surprised I have no idea. I have a bloody t-shirt from the Picos and it has a bear on it. It was seeing the road sign. I was intrigued. I couldn’t help but wonder if bears shit on the roads too or only in the woods? And did I have Bear poo stuck on Smoggy too? Probably.

So, we crossed over into Portugal. It took me a couple of days to zone into the language again. I used to have a good (ok, average) vocabulary, however, I realised VERY quickly that I’d forgotten most of it, with the exception of the really shocking swear words that I was taught!!

Our first coffee stop in Portugal we smoked the last of our tobacco.

So, Minho first and then the Douro Valley. What a sight. It was stunning. I had another play with my GoPro, and hope that there was a bit of it that will show just how stunning the area is and just how twisty the roads are. One thing that’s guaranteed during a day’s riding is Fanny the sat nav screwing up. Turning around had its moments, the roads were really narrow in places, that’s for sure! Ed was trying really hard to find somewhere to stop however, they were few and far between. Had we been on the other side of the river, I am sure there would have been more choices. I was happy though, it was just lovely. The temperature was about 25° at that point. Finding a shady road was going to be tough!

Next on the agenda was Serra da Estrela. Now, if you are going to venture into Portugal on your trusty steed, do not, I repeat, do not under any circumstances miss out on this mountain range. It’s so much fun and there are all sorts of surprises in store if you have a talented Map Man. Allow at least a couple of days or more to cover the roads which are stunning.Top of the Hill

Now before we arrived, there have been wild fires in Portugal. By all accounts they have had minimum rainfall all year. Into the bargain, our olfactory senses were totally overloaded with the stink of singed grass, trees, rocks, road signs (really) tarmac (yes), pretty much everything that you could see. Now, what was really odd, was where the fire had obviously been diverted by the wind. In the middle of this black, stark, charcoal environment were little bits of green that had been missed by the fire. Nature and the power of fire is an astonishingly thing. The loss of life was over 40 people. Apparently a lot of folk lost everything. In our journey, we only saw 4 burnt out houses.

Now, one of the hotels we stayed at, had a waitress that split her time between hotel work and the bombeiros – the fire brigade. By all accounts they have the same system as the rural communities at home, making use of volunteers. She was telling me that on the day the wild fires kicked off, their local crew had 508 call outs in a 24 hour period. Wow. They get paid €4 an hour for their efforts! She was obviously passionate about her fire brigade work and loved the team atmosphere amongst the fire fighters. I shook her hand. I was impressed.

Now, back to the crispy mountains. We were having a ball and there were even moments that we were back in a town called Manteigas twice. By different routes. When Ed showed me the map, I nearly died. It was stunning, the road twisty as hell, technical, and narrow. Not for a novice! Just plan it in if you ride a motorcycle in Portugal. Just watch out for random big dogs wandering across the road. Like Cujo.

Now. Let’s talk bonkers conkers. Why, oh why, do those trees grow on corners and drop their seed right on our line? This is where target fixation has its benefits, focusing in on the gap between those spiky little lumps. I wasn’t taking any chances. They’re much more prickly than our ones at home and hell, I have been avoiding them! If you’ve played conkers you’ll understand why! Piles of them in the middle of the road and never on a straight bit either!

So, we stayed at Abrantes at a Luna Hotel after our fun in the mountains. Very comfy and good food. After that, we literally hoofed it down to the Algarve for a week of rest. No motorways, just following the N2 for most of the way. Take care in Portugal, the motorways have tolls and depending what route you take into the country, you have to hand over your credit card. That’s the only time though, as the gantries on the motorways clock your number plate and charge you each time. Or, choose a route that doesn’t have the stop for paying….. as we did! Cunning, huh!

I was looking forward to putting my feet up.

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