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Fasten your seatbelts it's going to be a fun ride

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Portugal here we come!

Got an early start and again rode an excellent, mostly deserted tiny, windy road through Southern France on our way to Andorra which we've heard many good things about.
Dan has been filming a lot of these great routes with his GoPro (which I'm mostly convinced to buy now). Our first stop, Carcassonne. A hilltop fortress mid-evil city in Southern France.

Last time I came here, I was 19 on a $10 a day budget and roamed the tourist packed streets alone. 20 years I am again.

 Neat Gargoyle

But I jump ahead....there were police involved!

This time I put my internal GPS to good use and got us a decent city walking tour complete with police escort right to the front motorcycle parking where I almost dropped the bike on a tiny gravelly ramp (so embarrassing). Even Dan had to guffaw at that one.

View of surrounding city from inside

We hunted for a crepe and finally found one made by a lovely lady who sold me mine for only 1 Euro because I asked to take her photo before I did it.

The rest of this day was terrible. Hot, long, boring. Around 100 degrees all day.
You people in your air conditioned cars, just be grateful for the comfort, even if you are stuck in traffic.
As the sun started to set, we turned to head up into the mountains and found a very fancy campsite with cabins and a pool on a mountainside.
Tonight, we busted out the mac n cheese. Between a long hot day, a cheap washing machine (I almost passed out from the stench of our clothes), extremely hot showers (the cold water here comes out of the tap hot) and my tripping over one of the securing lines to Dan's tent and skinning my knee like I was a 5 year old again, it was time for some comfort food but halfway through the process of cooking the pasta Dan was quite vocal about it interfering with his beer drinking.

I slept fitfully and we headed off the next morning early for Pamplona. The last time I was here, I was 25, and finally experienced what I've heard before from my elders about how much a city can change in a decade or two. I barely recognized it. A modern, apt crowded city sprung up around the old town so that it made it hard to find but no worries....a friendly local followed us honking until we stopped and asked if he could help and brought us to the Plaza del Toros where the horns on my helmet fit right in.

We enjoyed the Torta de Patatas that I so loved when I was here last. A friendly local who spoke excellent French helped me order and probably get the local's price.

We took off in somewhat cool weather hopeful that it would hold all day, which it almost did. We didn't go over 100 degrees and only went into 95+ for about an hour. The time difference between Portugal and Spain played a nasty trick on us. We thought we were an hour away from the border only to find it was 2, never the less we made it. 

Our first stop in Portugal was Almeida. A fortified city in the shape of a 10 sided star with a town inside. Cobblestone streets. Beautiful gardens. And grumpy locals motioning us to slow down or perhaps that we should not have been there at all.

While we were riding during a long hot stretch, we passed many sunflower fields and their faces were turned away from the sun. When I was growing up, we had sunflower fields in my home town and we loved to watch them face the sun in the morning and slowly turn following the sun all day to sunset. So I told Dan and Danny how they behave, but this field was facing away from the sun and Dan commented on it. Adding to that how smart they were to look away from the sun....because he sure as hell would look away if he could (we were riding West all day). I have giggled a couple of days now in my helmet remembering that. It’s so important to make fun of our daily struggles, which are numerous to be sure, in order to keep having fun. This is fun right?

Anyway, Wiki cleared the confusion. When mature and ready for harvest they stop following the sun.

Our 2nd day in Portugal brought us through a natural forest des Estrellas to an old hillside town called Piodao. We took the back way in, twisty, single lane roads with sheer cliff drop offs and the tops of the ridge lined with gigantic windmills. Very few cars and long sweeping, smooth turns. We were in heaven and the weather was actually cold, in the 50's.

We stopped at a roadside gas station that also said cafeteria. It looked abandoned from the outside but Dan busted out some broken Spanish and the local assured him there was food to be had around back of the building. None of us were too convinced but we couldn't find food all morning and it was already 2 and thought well, let's check it out.
I went first to find a door with no sign, no menu, no nothing but was pleasantly surprised once I opened it. It was a beautiful dining room with tablecloths, wine glasses and a spectacular view of the forest valley below busy with many people eating with smiling faces. The food was excellent and cheap. 20 Euro fed all of us including a decadent dessert for Danny and coke in glass bottles. I'm still burping lunch....these people love grilled meat as much as I do!

 We then pressed on to Tomar for the Knights Templar fortress and all I can say is that one place was worth it all. I've never seen architecture like this ever. I was quite awestruck at every turn and each new view. Stunning. No photos from my camera, they catastrophically deleted. 

Our 3rd stop today was the walled fortress city of Obidos...but we skipped it to find a camping site to pitch out tents in the daylight and we'll go back and walk it tomorrow morning early. I sit here in my tent, with my glass (er, stainless steel) cup of Porto listening to fireworks and cannon shots and marching band music in the distance as there is a festival going on nearby. The sun is setting and coloring the fluffy clouds in orange, purple and yellow, with a light cool breeze and a few bothersome ants to keep me company. This is what it's all for.

Port in important as fuel!