July 29, 2004 GMT
PORTUGAL-July 2004

Our new European mobile number is +34 618 183 038, you can sms or call, but remember there is a big time difference!!

We are getting lots of emails from people asking us where to go in different countries, so now we will put more details in our site, so people can look it up for themselves. We really loved Portugal, such a small country packed with so many treasures, we would reccommend it to anyone.

Similar in cost to Spain, we spent max €35/day on accommodation in bed and breakfast type private homes, €25/day on food. Fuel in Spain is €.90/litre, in Portugal €1.05. July hasnt been extremely busy with tourists, the locals are complaining that since the €uro came into Portugal, tourism has become expensive and therefore decreased. The Portuguese are extremely friendly, but shy, compared to the Spanish.

Here are our highlights of Portugal, but we dont want to sound like a guidebook!!

We entered via the south through Tavira and onto Lagos which had great beaches and rocky outcrops, similar to sections of the Great Ocean Road in Australia. The beauty and the weather of this area are a real drawcard for the English and they were there in the droves- we cant blame them, it was beauiful.

We then headed north and inland to a beautiful walled town called Monsaraz, high above the plains with a wonderful medieval atmosphere. This mountainous area is dotted with fortresses, walled cities with cobbled streets, clean air and good panoramas. All castles seem to be within eyesight of each other, perhaps for protection and communication many centuries ago.

Next town was Evora, a UNESCO World Heritage Town with narrow streets and well preserved inner area, wonderful cathedral and museums. There was a Church there that was lined with bones and skulls of five thousand exhumed skeletons!! Who really knows why they did such a morbid thing- it was really creepy in there.

Marvao was our favourite mountaintop medieval walled village with a population of only 190 people. From our bedroom window we had grand views across Spain and Portugal. This castle was Portugals first line of defence against Spanish invasion, you could really see how impregnable it was with steep cliffs all around. There was a great walkway on the wall around the perimeter of the entire fortress, great views from every angle.

Off towards Lisbon and the coast, we lunched at Setubal in a great seafood sidewalk restaurant- the atmosphere was fantastic. Fourteen km down the coast road we stumbled upon an isolated, quaint beachside hamlet and stayed in a fully renovated beachfront bed and breakfast with all the mod cons!

In Lisbon we rondevoused for lunch with Gonçalo Pais, the HU Community member. Staying at the campground cabins was €60, more than we expected because of the mass of Vespa motorcycle members there for the major European rally. Some members rode their 50cc Vespas from as far as Greece and everyone had decorated their bikes to a different theme, some to imitate Harleys and other nostalgic bikes with sidecars, continental tyres and various accessories.

Another highlight was Sintra, north of Lisbon, which featured Palacio de Pena built in 1839 and was used as a design theme for the castles in Disneys fantasyland. The whole town was designed and built by the rich, elite Portuguese royalty with stunning ancient architecture set in thick rainforest with cobblestone streets- we loved it.

Further north Tomar is home of the UNESCO listed Convento de Cristo- former headquarters of the Knights Templar. These Knights became extremely wealthy by acting as escorts and security for the Church and rich, elite through the dangerous times of the crusades. While we were there we saw huge fires raging through the countryside with waterbombers, helicopters and firetrucks all frantic to put out the fires.

Serra da Esterela is Portugals highest mountain range (1993m). The town of Gouveia is positioned high on the mountainside with great views and wonderful narrow old streets for us to explore. The Romans built roads over these mountains and created many dams and bridges near the top of the mountain.

Porto is the second largest town in Portugal where we met Antonio and Paula Caldeira, HU community members. With them we indulged in 20 year old port and many late nights. They brought us to the Moto Club De Porto meeting and we met lots of interesting members.

Geres is a lovely wilderness park nestled in mountain valleys in north east Portugal. We drove around the park and through the sleepy villages of the area- fantastic.

Through the Super Tenere Club we met up with Jose Santos and his friend Vega in Viana do Castello. They have identical 1996 Super Teneres to ours and we were considering purchasing Joses bike as a compliment to ours, but he decided he loved it too much to sell it. It was amazing for us to see 3 identical bikes together.

The motorbike behaved perfectly, except we replaced the chain and sprockets, which has been our only replacement since we left Australia. A big thank you to Wendy for all of her hints and tips, it really bought Portugal alive for us.

We are now in Northern Spain, working our way towards Southern France and then Northern Italy. It is now August, which is peak season, so we will be trying to avoid the expensive and crowded tourist traps!

Posted by Patrick Peck at July 29, 2004 12:25 PM GMT
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