Camino Portugués – 18th to 24th June

Saturday 18th June


Lisbon to Santarem


Distance 108.16 km

Max Speed 47.1 kmph

Average Speed 15.4 kmph

Total Distance 4079.33 km


Our intention from Lisbon is to follow the Camino Portugués to Santiago, approximately 614 km.  We’re going to use ‘A Practical & Mystical Manual for the Modern Day Pilgrim’ by John Brierley.  It’s the guidebook we were given by John Gallegos in Faro.  Since this is a pilgrimage designed for walkers we will mention the suggested walking schedule.

Today we head out of Lisbon, which is surprisingly easy.  We head into town to the Commercial Square and then turn left at the river.  We have a great view of the Tejo and the 25th April suspension bridge.  

P1100865 P1100866 P1100869 P1100870 After the docks area there’s another beautiful area, the Parque das Nações and the expo site.  We can see the cable car and the boardwalks over the estuary to the Torre Vasco de Gama.  

P1100871 P1100873 P1100875 P1100876 P1100877 P1100878 P1100879 P1100880 P1100881 P1100883We follow the Tejo and enjoy views of the magnificent 17km long Ponte Vasco da Gama.  

P1100884 P1100885 P1100886 P1100887 P1100888 P1100889We soon turn away from the Tejo, along a tributary Foz del Río Trancão. We have to choose the N10 over the pilgrim route which looks like a very narrow, overgrown footpath.  At Alhandra we detour off the main road to the Marina.  We’re looking for the sailing club, and a pilgrim stamp.  We find the club but they can’t stamp our card: it’s the weekend and the Secretary’s office is closed.  

P1100890 P1100891 P1100892They point us to another building.  We’re not hopefully but yippeee, we’re successful.  From here we follow a dedicated cycle path along the river, it’s very beautiful.  

P1100893 P1100894 P1100895 P1100896 P1100897 P1100898 P1100900 P1100901 P1100902Later we pass by, Vilafranca de Xira, on the edge of Portugal’s main wetland reserve, home to large numbers of migrating wildfowl.  It’s also an area known for the breeding of fighting bulls.  Near Carregado we make 2 mistakes.  Firstly I choose the pilgrim path that initially looks good but degenerates into a really rough track.  Fortunately it’s only for a short distance.  From here I know we need to cross the railway line on our left.  We see a road bridge but this time Daz chooses to follow the pilgrim arrows.

P1100903 P1100904 P1100906 P1100907 P1100908 P1100909  It brings us into a train station and we need to cross over 2 platforms.  There’s a lift but the bike doesn’t fit in it.  So I do lift and bags, Daz does stairs and bike; ain’t equality great.  It’s about 2.30 pm and we’re nearly at the end of day 2 of the pilgrimage.  We’ve decided to stop at a fish restaurant recommended in the guidebook and it’s been the only thing in our minds for miles.  We see it, it’s open, we go in, the waiter comes over and suggests that this restaurant is too expensive for us and suggests we move on to somewhere more budget up the road.  I’m offended but it’s true, the menu items are expensive.  So grudgingly we move on; this is tough when we were planning this break.  Fortunately it’s not long and we’re on the outskirts of Azambuja, the walkers’ target for day 2 and we spot a restaurant that has a fabulous 3 course lunch for 7€.  Ideal!

From here we head to Santarem.  There are some beautiful villages that are on the Tejo and we’re traversing the flood plains – lezíria – the bountiful market garden of Portugal, growing fruit, vegetables and vines.  We’re tiring now and make frequent stops.  

P1100910 P1100911 P1100913 P1100914 P1100915 P1100916 P1100917 P1100918 P1100920We have to detour away from the footpath and stay on the road.  Finally we climb into Santarem, 101km complete.  We visit several churches but everywhere is shut – no Santarem stamp for us.  Instead we walk out to the the Miradouro at Porta do Sol. Incredible.

P1100921 P1100922 P1100923 P1100924 P1100925 P1100926 P1100927 P1100928 P1100929 P1100930 P1100931 P1100932 P1100933 P1100934Views out over the Tejo.  We’re going to head out of town now but I insist on one last attempt to get a stamp, a visit to Santarem hostel.  We arrive at the same time as another cyclist, a Welsh girl who’s an English teacher in Cordoba.  She actually needs a bed for the night whilst we just want a stamp.  We ring the bell over and over but no-one answers. There’s a phone number on the door bell and the Welsh girl makes a call. We leave her to it.  We head out of Santarem, down a steep hill that actually had a ‘road closed’ sign.  There is a concrete barrier across the road about half way down but we walk round it.  At the bottom we’re back into agricultural land, vines and vegetables line the small country lane.  It’s nearly 9pm and we need to find somewhere to pitch our tent.  

P1100935 P1100936 P1100937 P1100938Daz wants to go behind a derelict building, of which there are many but these ruins give me the creeps.  Everyone knows this is where tramps, weirdos and ghosts reside, there’s no way i’m camping near one.  Finally we agree on a site; in a vinefield between 2 rows and actually it’s the tidiest wild camp site we’ve chosen to date.


Sunday 19th June


Santarem to Tojal


Distance 81.47 km

Max Speed 54.7 kmph

Average Speed 14.4 kmph

Total Distance 4160.8 km


The downside of camping is the tendency to wake up early and this morning we’re awake at 0630am. Initially we attempt denial but there’s no way we’re going to get any more sleep.  

P1100939 P1100940 P1100941By 0730hrs we’re on the road and it’s delightful, quiet country lanes, a cool breeze, fields of crops everywhere we look with sprinklers spraying a fine mist in the early morning sunshine.  

P1100957 P1100958 P1100959A short ride and we’re in our first village, and a cafe.  Breakfast time.  

P1100942 P1100943 P1100944We enjoy a very leisurely breakfast; I insist it’s because we need a stamp from the church next door but again no luck.  We’re just about to leave and an Irish couple come in.  They’re on Day 4 of the walk and left Santarem at 0630hrs this morning.  They tell us we’ve just missed some unicyclists on the pilgrim.  We hope we can catch them up but never do. They also suggest that the Cafe owner might stamp our passport and she does.   Golegã is the target for Day 4.  It’s a lively town and we visit the main square and church hoping to get a stamp, we do but in the cafe next door.  We also visit the Largo do Marquês de Pombal, the equestrian arena, after all this is the ‘horse capital of Portugal’ famous for its horsefair.

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Next stop Tomar, day 5, of the walk.  In the guide book each day describes the day’s terrain, gives a ‘ thought for the day’ (although the book calls it – Mystical Path) and Personal reflections.  Then there’s a more detailed breakdown of the day’s journey, it’s rather good actually and makes travelling more interesting, we feel we’re more in touch with the area.  Just outside Golegã there’s Quinta Cardiga, originally a castle then a royal palace, then home to religious orders, hospital for pilgrims and now just a fading shadow of bygone opulence, with a beautiful treelined avenue.  

P1100962 P1100963 P1100964 P1100965 P1100966 P1100969 P1100970 P1100972 P1100973 P1100974 P1100977It’s strategic position on the river Tegu means it’s an opportunity to check out the water temperature – so that’s what we do.  A quick dip to cool down and feel a bit cleaner.  The water is beautiful but chilly.  Whilst we’re sitting on the bank I see a kingfisher but it’s so fast, like a heat seeking missile, that there’s no time to share.  Then we watch a bird of prey circling above our heads, looking for lunch.  And finally, just before we leave, I see a bird nesting on the bridge wall. I think it’s a grey wagtail, long wagging tail and just a hint of yellow.

After the swim, the next few hours are mostly uneventful.  We can’t follow the pilgrims because they’ve gone off road so we remain on the N110, getting hot and very sweaty.  Finally we make Tomar, the target for Day 5.  It’s the quintessential medieval pilgrim tower and apparently the most perfect example of Templar layout and architecture to survive to this day ( so says the guidebook but we wouldn’t recognise a perfect Templar layout if it hit us in the face!).

P1100978 P1100979 P1100980 P1100981 P1100983 P1100984 P1100985 P1100986 P1100989 P1100990 P1100991 P1100992 P1100993 P1100994 P1100995 P1100996 P1100999 P1110001 P1110002 P1110003 P1110004 P1110005 But we do walk up to the castle to admire the views and get a stamp then we cycle of the historic centre and then to the Ponte Velho, a stone bridge over the river Nabão.  Finally we sit in the park, next to the river and have a rest.  We get the tent out so it can dry out – yup we’ve been suffering from condensation in the tent and now separate the pod from the fly sheet to keep it dry.  

After a nice break we head out of town.  We’re going to head towards Alvaiázere, day 6 of the pilgrimage.  We’re just packing up after a last minute carbo load of crepes covered in ice cream, chocolate and strawberries when we pump into the Welsh girl from yesterday.  She’s staying in Tomar tonight but at least now we exchange details – Hi Francesca!

So we cycle out of Tomar and it’s just a tough slog.  Alvaiázere is at 310m so we just climb and climb.  Finally, about 7km short of Alvaiázere we can rejoin the pilgrim route and soon find another perfect site for our tent.  We each have our own areas of responsibility and have everything set up in no time.  Another excellent day on the Camino Portugués.

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Monday 20th June


Tojal to Coimbra


Distance 69.84 km

Max Speed 52.7 kmph

Average Speed 13.5 kmph

Total Distance 4230.64 km


First task today is to get to Alvaiázere, which is the finish of day 6 and have breakfast.  We’re packed and on the road by 0745am and it’s so beautiful up in these hills.  In Alvaiázere we find food and a stamp.  

P1110014 P1110015So far so good.  Then we set out on Day 7 and we climb and climb and climb.  470m.  It takes us 45mins to do 5km – pushing or cycling in granny gear.  

P1110030 P1110031Once we’ve made the peak it’s mostly downhill to Ansião but the road is narrow and windy so we need to keep our speed down.  At Ansião it’s time for another break and a stamp before we head to Rabaçal, target of Day 7 and our lunch stop.  It’s been a tough morning and the hills are taking their toll on our stamina and our speed.  

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After a long lunch we finally summon the energy and courage to attempt Day 8. Rabaçal to Coimbra but we decide to take the direct route.  It’s a bit of a cop out and almost ends in tears when the last 10km is on a really busy dual carriageway, IC2, with barely any hard shoulder and articulated lorries thundering past.  

P1110027 P1110028 P1110029I’m so tired, demoralised by the hills and so edgy because of the traffic that I’d like to throw the towel in but finally we cycle down the steepest hill into Coimbra. It looks beautiful and we cross over the river into the town.  This was the capital of Portugal  from 1145 until 1255 but is better known for its famous university founded in 1290 which crowns the hill.  We’ve decided to try our luck with the Bombeiros Voluntários, the fire station,  who often supply a free bed space and it’s where Francesca stayed last night.  But the firemen say ‘no’ and send us to the Red Cross. They also say no but suggest the Convent but we’re so tired that when we find a cheap hostel for only 20€ we’re in like Flynn.  Fabulous – our first shower in 3 days.  Clothes into the launderette and a walk into town to get a stamp and enjoy the sights.  

P1110033 P1110034 P1110035 P1110036 P1110037 P1110038 P1110040 P1110041 P1110042 P1110043 P1110044 P1110045 P1110046 P1110047 P1110048 P1110049 P1110050We  enjoy a lovely Portuguese meal that we last had in the Algarve, chipsticks and fried fish.  Back at the laundrette we see our clothes are now out of the washing machine and in a linen basket. Daz notices his t-shirt (Marino wool no less) is missing and asks a couple of dodgy Portuguese types if they have mixed it in with theirs, but the language barrier is no good.  Back at the hotel it dawns on us that not only is the t-shirt missing but also his shorts, socks and underpants… but nothing of mine! Then I see a light click on in Daz’ head as he realises what had happened and picks up the ‘other’ laundry bag with all his kit in!!  Fortunately he runs back round the corner and although the manager is locking up lets him put a wash on and waits for it to finish with him!    


Tuesday 21st June


Coimbra to Lamas do Vouga


Distance 62. 24 km

Max Speed 51. 0 kmph

Average Speed 13. 1 kmph

Total Distance 4292. 88 km


We’ve both had a really good night’s sleep and feel refreshed and after breakfast we head out of Coimbra.  Initially we follow a steam and it’s pleasant but then the hills start and the temperature rises.  

P1110051 P1110052In Mealhada we stop at Lidl’s for a enjoyable snack break then it’s into the town to try and find a stamp.  

P1110053 P1110054 P1110055We can’t find anyone who’ll stamp it and we’re just doing a circuit of the town square when we spot the Municipal building but it’s closed for lunch.  But a guy just leaving takes pity on us and walks around the outside of the building knocking on windows until he gets us a stamp.

P1110056 P1110057 P1110058 From here it’s a tough ride to Agueda. A couple of times we come across drinking water fountains and we down tools before having a good head dunk to cool off.  Daz even drenches his clothes in the hope they will cool him down. Temperatures today reach 38 degrees and the old saying ‘mad dogs and Englishmen’ is definitely correct!  

P1110059 P1110060 P1110065 P1110067 P1110068As we approach Agueda through a park we see people swimming in the River, cooling down in the mid afternoon heat, but we need to eat first. It’s nearly 4 but a bar restaurant takes pity on us and offers some leftover chicken, potatoes and rice with a side salad.  

P1110062 P1110063We are tired from the day’s efforts so take a walk to the park in the centre of town.   An hour later we get up from the park benches we were snoozing on and grab a quick ice cream before leaving. Our plan is to cycle about another 10km and find a spot by a river we need to cross for camping.  OMG the hill out of Agueda is steep, we can’t ride it and it’s hard enough pushing it!  But we persevere and are soon at the top.  We drop down the valley side and just before a big viaduct that takes the traffic to the other side we take an old road down to the river and the old bridge to look for our camping site.  Arghhh, the bridge is out!! A whole section in the middle is missing!

P1110070 P1110071 P1110072 P1110073 P1110074 P1110096  That means we will have to climb back up to the viaduct!!  But we decide to leave that until tomorrow and wheel our bike down a narrow track to the river. We find a great spot and once the tent is up we are both into the river to cool off and wash, what fab fun!!  

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Wednesday 22nd June


Lamas do Vouga to Serra De Canelas  


Distance 64.35 km

Max Speed 57.6 kmph

Average Speed 11.4 kmph

Total Distance 4357.53 km


We wake up later than usual and realise it’s because it’s foggy and damp outside which has kept the temperature in the tent tolerable.  

P1110093 P1110094Our first stop is on the outskirts of Albergaria A-Velha for breakfast. We don’t bother going into town but stop at a petrol station that also has a little cafe inside. Although there is a slight mixup with my brekkie (no ham or cheese on my toasted roll!) it’s cheap and cheerful.

A chap asks us about our bike and tells us he’s just completed the Camino de Santiago de Compostela.  He was on a mountain bike and kept to the Pilgrim’s route and said that it was very hard but very beautiful – something to look forward to.  Our next stop is Oliveira de Azemeis for lunch and a stamp.  We were supposed to detour around this town as it’s on a hill, but due to technical difficulties (Darren’s route choice) by the time we realise, it’s too late to double back.  So we end up climbing into town, and get the lunch and stamp!  Today we have had an argument, we don’t have many, but this was particularly big.  I had discussed the day’s route with my Captain (Darren), we’d agreed and in the village Albergaria a Nova I tell him we need a left.  However the Camino arrows point right.  I insist it’s a left.  We stop and bizarrely a car stops next to us.  It’s a chap from the Albergaria a Nova.  He wants to take pictures and put us on his Fb site ( we think) and whilst he’s taking photos another guy walks over, Filipe Abrantes from Auto Alba.  He also wants pictures and to give us his business card.  Daz then asks them the way and of course they point right.  I say no we need a left but Daz doesn’t listen and continues asking these guys the way.  I’m completely hacked off that Daz is ignoring my input so for the rest of the day (because he needs to know where he is at all times!), I let him take complete control.  He does all the map reading and route choices.   Most of the day is spent in silence or monosyllabic responses.  It doesn’t help that today the way of the Camino is particularly tough as it snakes back and forth over the main road into towns either side. All these diversions are also hilly, but the other option is the busy road, and really, we are sort of sticking as close to the ‘way’ as possible.  

P1110097 P1110100As close as you can be lugging a great big fully loaded tandem around!  At times today we find ourselves pushing it along the side of disused train tracks and cobbles as big as Daz’s head (told you we had had an argument!).  We also cycle down a ‘closed road’, this is not the first time we’ve done this but this time failure.  There’s brand new tarmac, still nice and new, and soft enough for us to make our mark, literally, a nice clean rut from our bike and nice divots from the bike stand when we stop.  We round a corner and see the road crew and then they see us!  Of course our Portuguese is non existent but I’m pretty sure they weren’t pleased to see us!!!  We retreat rapidly. After a peace negotiation we’re allowed to tread upon their new tarmac (more ruts, now include those from our cleats) and take a side road. Another lengthy diversion.    Finally about 3 in the afternoon we reach São Joao da Madeira and walk into the centre.  

P1110107There are TV screens all over the circular central zone and kids blow up bouncy castles and footie pitches as everyone will be cheering on Portugal later in their Euro 2016 last group game… come on Hungary!! We rest here for an hour or so, on separate benches of course, before heading to Lidl’s for our evening camping supplies.  

P1110109 P1110110 P1110113Still following the little yellow arrows of the ‘way’ we soon get hacked off with more climbs and excursions around the main road… enough is enough and we finally admit defeat (although I would have declared the way of the Camino ‘shit’ and unmanageable hours ago but Daz is in charge and refuses to acknowledge that this route does not suit our loaded tandem!) and spend the next 16 km going down hill for the majority.  We finally pull off the main road and head up into the Serra De Canelas, a large wood on a hill just outside Porto.  There is an old medieval pilgrim route that runs straight through this wood, remember those giant cobblestones I mentioned? These are them, huge mofo’s and all up hill pushing.  But we finally reach somewhere near the top and find a camping spot just off the trail.  One final chore before we can put the tent up… Daz forgot to dry the tent out in the middle of the day so we end up hanging it across the track and wafting it!!

P1110114 P1110115 P1110116 P1110117 P1110118 P1110119 P1110122 P1110125Anyhow, tent is up now and tomorrow is another day, we will be heading down into Porto, and I might treat myself to a glass of Port, or a bottle!! Nite nite.  


Thursday 23rd June


Serra De Canelas to Porto  


Distance 10. 76 km

Max Speed 42. 6 kmph

Average Speed 9 kmph

Total Distance 4 367. 99 km

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Camping in the woods has kept the tent cooler so again this morning we sleep a bit later.  After packing up we have to push the bike along the cobbled path uphill and out of the woods, a tough start to the day.

P1110132 P1110133 P1110134 From here we join the N1 and it’s pretty much downhill into Porto.   Our first stop the Camara de Gaia for a stamp and then into the Jardin do Morro still on the Gaia side overlooking the River Douro – the river of gold, the port and Porto on the north side of the river.  

P1110135 P1110136 P1110137 P1110138 P1110139 P1110140 P1110141 P1110142 P1110143 P1110144 P1110145 P1110147We walk over the 2 tier iconic metal bridge and up to the cathedral, stopping for brekkie en route.  

P1110148 P1110150 P1110151 P1110152 P1110153 P1110154 P1110155 P1110156 P1110157We abandon ‘the pig’ outside the cathedral and even leave our cycling shoes on the seats.  We admire the cathedral and then the train station with its tile mosaics.  We then walk up to the Almeida Garrett memorial and the Fonte dos Aliados.  

P1110158 P1110159 P1110160 P1110161 P1110162 P1110163 P1110164 P1110165 P1110166 P1110167 P1110168 P1110169 P1110170 P1110171 P1110172 P1110173 P1110174 P1110175 P1110176 P1110177 P1110178 P1110179 P1110180 P1110181 P1110182 P1110183 P1110184 P1110185 P1110186Then Daz spots North Face uh-oh! and I know he’s going to want to go inside and buy something and of course he doesn’t disappoint, he wants a new jacket – a North Face down jacket to replace the orange coat he bought in Bagneres de Bigorre for skiing and has probably only worn twice since but it makes a great pillow!  And the new jacket only 190€.  Surprisingly he decides he can manage with his 3 existing jackets in these days exceeding 30 degrees.

Then we head to the river and we finally twig that something’s afoot.  Music is blaring out, there are barbecues everywhere and most people have a plastic hammer and keep banging them onto other people’s heads.  It’s the festival of São Joao. We can see the barges on the river loaded with fireworks.  We need a new plan as we had intended to go to Braga this evening, to a DZ for Daz to do some skydiving.  He needs to jump at least every 3 months to avoid costly retraining.  

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So we head over to the banks of the River Duora on the Gaia side to examine their port wine caves but first a WiFi stop.  Surprisingly we find a cheapish hostel with rooms still available so we’re staying the night.  Then we check out the Sandeman port cave.  We were going to do a tour but we’ve just seen the last group go in and it’s huge and the next tour isn’t for another 45minutes.  So instead we go out onto their terrace and try a port cocktail – very nice.  Then we realise we can buy a bottle of Tawny for the price of 2 cocktails, so that’s what we do and enjoy the party atmosphere, some people watching and the river traffic.

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Port finished we head back to the cathedral and of course the pig is still there although in a slightly different location – it must’ve been in the way of the party preparations and the police have moved it, shoes and all.  We head to the hostel – lovely to have a really hot shower after wild camping.  We’re soon ready to hit the town and Francesca is in town so we plan to meet up!     

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What is Porto?
Mix monuments by leading world architects from the past and the present, and some fantastic baroque carvings.
Add a world-famous sweet wine and a certain British flavor.
Place it all by a grand river, and you have “O Porto,” the port, Porto — Portugal’s second largest metropolis, and one of Europe’s most charismatic cities.

Oporto is one of the last undiscovered European metropolises,
But this is not a new city. It is an ancient port steeped in history and tradition. It is a highly atmospheric place that has become known for its monuments by renowned architects (Gustave Eiffel’s Dona Maria Bridge, Nicolau Nasoni’s Clerigos Tower, Rem Koolhaas’ Casa da Musica, or Siza Vieira’s Serralves Museum), but just when you think you don’t know much about this city, think again.
This is the city that originated and named Port Wine, and gave birth to one of world history’s legendary figures, Prince Henry the Navigator (you’ll also see in new guidebooks that it is also the birthplace of that world-famous fictional character, Harry Potter — author J. K. Rowling was living in Oporto as an English teacher when she started writing her first book).

Portugal’s Own Love Fest – The Festa de São João

While not as ribald as Rio Carnival, the Festival of John the Baptist is Portugal’s very own love-themed holiday that has evolved into an excuse for lavish feasts and dancing in the streets. It’s one of the most underrated street parties in Europe and, while it’s not well known outside of Portugal, that shouldn’t stop you from enjoying the revelry.

Hammer Time

For six centuries, the night of June 23rd (and well into the next morning) has been dedicated to this celebration of love, a nod to St. John and a re-creation of an ancient pagan courting ritual. The elements of sun and fire worship were likely appropriated from various pagan rites, paying tribute to the summer solstice. The origin of the tradition of beating the one you love with plastic hammers, leeks, and cloves of garlic, however, is apparently unknown. The Festa de São João is recognized in Brazil, Quebec and Newfoundland, but it’s Porto that takes it to the next level.

Nearly every Portuguese town and village adopts one of the popular saints — António (Anthony), João (John) or Pedro (Peter) — whose feast days all fall in June. There remains a strong religious element to the festivals, but in an increasingly secular country, the church services and religious processions are often overshadowed by the party vibe.

Prepping Picturesque Porto

Preparations begin several days in advance, with each neighborhood displaying ornate models designed to represent religious figures, whole townscapes, and other local iconography. Porto’s old city center, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a picturesque grouping of tiered houses and churches clinging to the Douro River Valley. It’s said that there’s no Porto without (the river) Douro, and when you see it you’ll know why; it’s the perfect backdrop for a party. This gorgeous city is said to be the capital of fun in Portugal: while Lisbon works, Porto plays.

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The scenery reaches a feverish peak on June 23rd, when every home in sight is draped with bunting. Although all ages are welcome, the predominant activity is the flirtatious attacking of crushes and other targets of affection with either limp leeks or plastic hammers. Since this “attack” is done out of love (or at least lust), the strike is usually gentle – but some still put some force into it.
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This charming yet Neanderthal-esque courting ritual is woven into an evening of revelry that includes barbecues, all-night dances, the guzzling of copious amounts of wine and the release of numerous flame-propelled illuminated lanterns into the night sky. The tide of celebration flows downhill from São Bento station to the riverfront Cais da Ribeira, where Porto’s best bars and restaurants are to be found. Throughout this neighborhood and all others nearby, you’ll find myriads of makeshift food and beer stalls, live stages and other impromptu modes of celebration.

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The predominant activity is the flirtatious attacking of crushes and other objects of affection with either limp leeks or plastic hammers.
On the opposite side of the Douro, fireworks explode across the night sky amidst illuminated balloons and the neon lights of wine lodges. Fireworks reach a peak at midnight, but the night rages on for the youth as party people head west during the early hours to the beach of Praia dos Ingleses at the Douro Estuary.
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At the beach, several bonfires are lit in the name of São João, while a few brave souls dare each other to jump over the largest flames. The whole area transforms into one large beach party with dancing until the sun comes up. Revelers traditionally bathe in the ocean the next morning, nursing hangovers with a chill day roasting in the sunshine and daydreaming of lights and love. There is mass for the saint the next morning, and most spend a relaxing day watching the famous wooden boat competition, the barcos rebelos, on the Douro River.


Unfortunately we didn’t make the beach party but we had a lovely evening and managed to climb onto a rocky perch to see the fireworks, before we enjoyed some dancing and stolen sardines.  A fabulous impromptu party – thank you Francesca for your great company. Unfortunately Francesca lost her phone – we all go back to search for it but no luck and sadly when we get back to our hotel the ‘pig’ isn’t in the lobby where we abandoned it so many hours ago, but it’s two in the morning and we are in no state to worry about it now.  


Friday 24th June


Porto to Braga  


Distance 5. 25 km

Max Speed 25. 9 kmph

Average Speed 6. 4 kmph

Total Distance 4373. 24 km   


The ‘pig’ – it was locked away in reception by our incredibly kind and thoughtful hotelier who saw it had no lock so carried it upstairs, and a staircase with 6 right-angled turns.

P1110304 P1110305We have found the Portuguese very thoughtful when it comes to our ‘pig’ and we are sure you wouldn’t get this sort of care in the UK.  Daz is very much worse for wear this morning and did have to be guided home last night!  But finally we’re on our way and cycle (probably not our best plan) down to the train station and head to Braga.

P1110307 P1110308 P1110309 P1110310 P1110311 P1110312 P1110313 P1110314 P1110315 P1110316 P1110317 P1110318 Skydiving will have to wait for tomorrow – today it’s a recovery day and we pitch our tent in Braga campsite.

P1110319 P1110320 P1110321 There’s festivities here too but we’ll probably be opting out!!!   Later in the evening we summon the energy to walk into Braga and experience the party atmosphere.  It’s really busy with stalls everywhere, a funfair, music and so many people.

P1110322 P1110323 P1110324 P1110325 P1110326 P1110327 P1110328 P1110329 P1110330 P1110331 P1110332 P1110333 P1110334 P1110335 P1110336 P1110337 P1110338 P1110339 P1110340 P1110341 P1110342 P1110343 P1110344 P1110345 P1110346 P1110347 P1110348  There’s one food stall that has attracted so many people, the queue is huge but whilst we’d like to taste their wares we’ll be queuing for over an hour.  Eventually we head home and sadly even the fireworks are  insufficient temptation to get us out of bed.  


A collage of Portuguese houses which they like to tile. Very unusual!    

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3 days of Lisbon

Wednesday 15th June

Our first full day in Lisbon and today we plan to visit a bike shop that is listed as an Azub dealer (a Czech recumbent bike specialist) to check out their bikes and seats.  So off we cycle.  A truly shit decision.  We soon realise that it’s very hilly and the roads are horrendous but we persevere and en route visit the Eduardo VII Park, Lisbon’s largest central park. The park is named after Britain’s Edward VII who visited the city in 1903 to reaffirm the Anglo-Portuguese alliance, this is the largest park in central Lisbon. With neatly clipped box hedging flanked by mosaic patterned walkways, it stretches uphill from Marquês de Pombal Square to a belvedere at the top with fine views. The views are stunning from here.  

P1100617 P1100621 P1100626 P1100627 P1100629 P1100631 P1100632 P1100634 P1100635 P1100637 P1100636 P1100638 P1100640 P1100643The big attractions within the park are the two estufas, the hothouse (with the more exotic plants) and the greenhouse (“Estufa Fria”) filled with tropical plants, ponds, and endless varieties of palms and cacti. We manage to get in here for free, as the receptionist seems to have disappeared and the grumpy security guard (he wouldn’t let us park the bike too close to the entrance!) just let us wander in!

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Opposite the estufas on the eastern side of the park, sits an ornately tiled sports pavillion dedicated to Carlos Lopes, the Portuguese athlete who won the marathon at the Los Angeles Olympic Games, and that doubles as a venue for occasional concerts and cultural events. and then Jardin Amalia. Rodrigues.  

From here we continue to the shop.  But where is it?  We look everywhere, check the Azub website, check the map, ask a few people – yup the shop has moved.  Great.  One helpful passerby shows us where the shop is now so off we go again.  More hills, more cobbles, more potholes and more tramlines to get caught by. This is how Lonely Planets describes Lisbon: ‘Seven cinematic hillsides overlooking the Rio Tejo cradle Lisbon’s postcard-perfect panorama of cobbled alleyways, ancient ruins and white-domed cathedrals – a captivating recipe crafted over centuries’.

But we think ‘ruttiest, cobblediest, tramliniest, potholiest, hilliest, shittiest streets of a European capital that we’ve ever had the misery to cycle through’.  Yup it’s our worst nightmare on the bike.

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 However, a brief distraction is the discovery of the Mercado da Ribeira which has had many guises – its roots can be traced back to the 13th century, and it was once one of the most famous fish markets in Europe. Many of its traders have been selling fruit, vegetables, meat, fish and flowers there for decades – the place is part of the fabric of Lisbon. When Time Out learned in 2010 that the city council was seeking bids for the chance to manage a large part of the iconic attraction, it couldn’t pass up the opportunity. The Time Out Mercado da Ribeira now brings together some of the city’s most loved names in food and drink.  We stop to investigate and enjoy a spot of lunch.  

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We also check on the bikeshop – yup it’s nowhere near here. In fact it’s a long way away and it appears to open only one day a week.  There’s no way we’re attempting a visit until we’re positive they can help so we phone (no answer) and email.  Now we’re not visiting the bike shop we just want to get rid of the bike so we find the most direct route back to the hotel and off we go!  More bad roads; this time the tramlines are the problem.  In order to stay away from these little ‘death-trap’ shiny ruts we have to cycle in the middle of our lane and because traffic is heavy, cars can’t get passed and get impatient because they think we’re hogging the road.   We arrive at the Commercial Square which has been called the ‘reception room of Lisbon’. Built on the edge of the Tagus river, the square became a warm sunlit welcome to visitors. With the port lying at one end and grand buildings surrounding it, Praça Comércio provided a regal and proud gateway into Lisbon.  At this point I refuse to cycle any further; it’s so fraught for us and actually there’s no rush.  In the square there’s a huge TV screen showing the Euro ‘16 games and a fan zone, beer tent and great big Green carpet for everyone to sit on.  

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Crossing into Commercial Square you walk under the Arco do Triunfo or Triumph Arch. This colossal piece of architecture was only completed in 1875 and designed by Veríssimo da Costa. Take a moment to look up and you will see representations of Portugal’s glorious history carved upon it. The Marquis has a place here, as does the famous pioneer of the seas; Vasco de Gama. On either side of the Arch are figures representing the two main rivers of Portugal, namely the Douro and the Tagus and crowning the Archway is a statue to Glory, Ingenuity and Valour, three attributes of the spirit of Lisbon. The Archway above all captures the strength of Lisbon in it how it rose from the rubble of the earthquake to be rebuilt.


 From here we find a route back to the hotel, pushing the bike.

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Last night we parked our bike on the street outside our hotel, padlocked to a lamppost.  However everyone (especially our guesthouse owner) seems to have extremely strong opinions about its safety and is convinced it’ll be stolen.  They suggest it should be parked a couple of blocks away, outside a bank.  Apparently the police regularly patrol outside the bank and it must be considered a ‘safe area’ because there are loads of motorcycles and bikes outside.  

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Thursday 16th June

First we head off to find a geocache, which is pleasingly ingenious but only ruined by the shopkeeper that ran outside within our first 10 seconds of search and pretty much showed us exactly where it was.  Good cache though.

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From here we head into the centre for our Go Car and Segway tour.  We thought we were going to be driven out in a car with a tour guide but actually we’re in a 3 wheeled Go- Cart for 2, with motorbike controls.  It has a GPS guidance and tour guide system, so we drive the route and it tells us the pertinent points.

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 Daz doesn’t enjoy the drive; it’s uncomfortable with the vibrations running up through his arms and the heavy traffic and dreadful roads stress him out.  Surprisingly we’re late back – whoops.

Whilst on the tour we visited the Jeronimos Monastery which is the most impressive symbol of Portugal’s power and wealth during the Age of Discovery. King Manuel I built it in 1502 on the site of a hermitage founded by Prince Henry the Navigator, where Vasco da Gama and his crew spent their last night in Portugal in prayer before leaving for India. It was built to commemorate Vasco Da Gama’s voyage and to give thanks to the Virgin Mary for its success. Vasco da Gama’s tomb was placed inside by the entrance, as was the tomb of poet Luis de Camões, author of the epic The Lusiads in which he glorifies the triumphs of Da Gama and his compatriots. Other great figures in Portuguese history are also entombed here, like King Manuel and King Sebastião, and poets Fernando Pessoa and Alexandre Herculano.

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We visit the Park: Belem is home to many green spaces including gardens, squares, and large parks. The Garden of the Empire Square is across from Jeronimos Monastery and hosts an impressive fountain and manicured gardens. The neighboring Afonso de Albuquerque Square, named for the second governor of Portugese India, is spacious and well-kept, with views of Belem Palace.

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Drop by Pasteis de Belem for one of their renowned custard cakes and enjoy them in the park on one of its many benches. There are also unexpected statues and figures to admire in the park, like a Thai-style pagoda at the edge of the park.

We visit the famous bakery: In 1837 we began making the original Pastéis de Belém, following an ancient recipe from the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos. That secret recipe is recreated every day in our bakery, by hand, using only traditional methods. Even today, the Pastéis de Belém offer the unique flavour of time-honoured Portuguese sweet making.  It’s just like an egg custard tart – what’s the big deal???

And for much of the tour we can see the bridge.  The 25 de Abril Bridge, Golden Gate’s twin sister.  Completed in 1966 and originally named after dictator Salazar, this suspension bridge across the Tagus River changed its name after the revolution of April 25, 1974. It is a spectacular sight from any direction, with an overall length of 2278m (approx. 1.5 miles), and the longest central span in Europe (1013m/3323ft), longer than San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, which it resembles. Its foundations also hold the world record by going 80m (262ft) below the riverbed to stand on basalt rock.

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Back at base, having massively over run on time, we move onto the segway tour of Alfama.   Last time we did a Segway tour was with Jac and Jane in Granada and it was a great laugh.   I’m afraid Lisbon wasn’t such a hoot although negotiating the narrow streets of the Alfama is fun.

Alfama is Lisbon’s most emblematic quarter and one of the most rewarding for walkers and photographers thanks to its medieval alleys and outstanding views.

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Because its foundation is dense bedrock, it survived the 1755 earthquake, and a walk through this old-fashioned residential neighborhood is now a step back in time. It is a village within a city still made up of narrow streets, tiny squares, churches, and whitewashed houses with tile panels and wrought-iron balconies adorned with pots of flowers, drying laundry, and caged birds.


Since we vetoed the bike yesterday, today we use the trams.  Lisbon has a network of quaint, old-fashioned trams that lurch and screech around the narrow streets of the capital. No visit to Lisbon is complete without taking a ride on one of these classic, pre-war, Remodelado trams. OMG what an experience.  They have such ‘olde world charm’ but they’re crowded, hot and so slow.

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We head to the Chiado district, because we need to visit Basilica St Martines and pick up a Credencial del Peregrino for the Camino Portugués.  

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We also check out the shops and buy ‘The Little Princess’ in Portuguese for Ana,our couchsurfing host, from Barcelona ( She’s collecting this book in different languages).   Another tram ride would’ve completed our day, but it’s so painfully slow, that we end up getting out and walking.  


Friday 17th June

A launderette visit, followed by the post office, followed by a tandem check (yup it’s still there and in tact) and then geocaching.  One cache takes us to the Elevador de Santa Justa. One of the city’s best-loved landmarks and also known as the “Elevator of Carmo,” this extraordinary structure was built at the turn of the century by the Portugal-born French architect Raoul de Mesnier du Ponsard (an apprentice of Gustave Eiffel, explaining the structure’s similarities to Paris’ Eiffel Tower), to connect downtown to Bairro Alto (the lowest and highest points of the city).

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Originally powered by steam, it is 45 meters (147ft) high, and remains an interesting example of post-Eiffel iron architecture. The top of the Neo-Gothic tower, reached via a spiral staircase, has a cafe with splendid views of the city, including over Rossio Square, the castle and the river.

Another cache takes us to a Miradouro.  

Lisbon’s topography, with its many steep hills, allows for many great look out points with magnificent views over the city. Many of these so-called miradouros are in the form of public terraces or plazas, where pedestrians can let their weary feet rest while admiring the views.
The miradouro most popular with tourists is undoubtedly the Miradouro de Santa Luzia, a relatively small but romantic looking terrace embellished with plants and azulejo panels (ceramic tiles) with a beautiful view over the old Alfama district and the river Tagus. .

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Another cache takes us to the castle. Saint George’s Castle can be seen from almost everywhere in the city. Its oldest parts date from the 6th century, when it was fortified by the Romans, Visigoths, and eventually the Moors. It served as a Moorish royal residence until Portugal’s first king Afonso Henriques captured it in 1147 with the help of northern European crusaders on their way to the Holy Land. It was then dedicated to St. George, the patron saint of England, commemorating the Anglo-Portuguese pact dating from 1371, and became the royal palace until another one (that was destroyed in the Great Earthquake) was built in today’s Comercio Square.

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Our final cache is at the cathedral. We also stop for another stamp in our Credencial del Peregrino.  Lisbon’s ancient cathedral was built by Portugal’s first king on the site of an old mosque in 1150 for the city’s first bishop, the English crusader Gilbert of Hastings.

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From outside (with two bell towers and a splendid rose window) it resembles a medieval fortress, while inside it appears predominantly Romanesque, with a Gothic choir and ambulatory.

Whilst geocaching we also remember to sample the cherry liqueur, famous in Lisbon, and served in a chocolate cup.

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After a quick snack and refreshment stop we are back to the guest house for an early night!


Workaway in Portugal comes to an end; cycling to Lisbon – 4 to 14th June

Saturday 4th June

We have a lovely lie-in this morning and then a lovely relaxed breakfast before we head to the nearest town, São Teotonio, by bike.  We stop at the nearest local bar for a beer before finishing our journey.  In town we find the central square and pick a cafe.  

P1100381 P1100382No Internet.  We check the bar opposite;  they have WiFi so we move but the signal keeps dropping out.  Damn!  We came to town so we could publish the blog because the signal at the farm is also intermittent and it would take forever to download all the photos.   So it’ll have to wait for another day.  Instead we sit in the bar, eat and drink a few beers before cycling home.


Sunday 5th June

We all have breakfast on the terrace.   Then Daz does an oil change on the Rohloff speed hub, checks the spokes and shortens our chain, which has stretched and as a result often jumps off the chain ring, normally when going over bumps, of which there are lots on the Portuguese roads.  We were hoping for a beach day but only Gregor and his family are going so there’s not enough room for us.  We could cycle but it’d take us about 2 hours to get there.  So in the end after Gina finishes work we go for a walk with the dogs.  

P1100384 P1100385 P1100386 P1100388 P1100389 P1100390 P1100396It’s beautiful out in the hilly countryside,  with houses dotted here and there, all with large amounts of land attached.  After about 2 hours of walking we are nearly back home, but detour and pop in on some neighbours who Gina knows.  They are Spanish and are living in a large wooden hut with views over the hills.  They also have a “workawayer”, another Englishman, who is helping them construct some holiday accommodation from timber. We chat for a while then say goodbye and return home.  After being out for over 2 and a half hours we are tired and decide to retire early.


Monday 6th June

Another work day after the weekend’s relaxation.  We finish off the manure heap, entailing 11 runs up and down the “mountain” for me and Daz!

P1100400 P1100402 P1100403 P1100404 Then at about 11 Gina asks if we want to go to the monthly market with her and Jan… any excuse to get away!  So we go with them and mooch around the market.  It’s huge, from hardware, clothes and food to chickens, budgies and seedlings.  

P1100408 P1100409 P1100410 P1100411 P1100412 P1100413 P1100414 P1100415 P1100416 P1100417 P1100418 P1100419 P1100420 P1100422Every time someone has mentioned the market in the past 2 weeks the word ‘Frango’ has been mentioned.  We soon find out that this is Chicken and relates to the huge covered pop up restaurant that serves Grilled chicken and chips… what are we waiting for??!  4 portions later we are all very satisfied and understand why everyone goes on about ‘Frango”!!!  When we get back we return to the job of strimming… deep joy!  In the evening it’s another poker night and a few drinks. Then many more drinks.  Gina is very liberal with the schnapps shots and never takes ‘no’ for an answer. Gina is a real live wire and it’s been fun for us to have the company and she insists people speak English in our company which we know is hard for them but makes us feel so much more Involved.  Neither I nor Daz win the poker, a first.  But Daz does beat Nils and Gregor (need I remind you they are ze Germans) at cricket darts… a true English game!!


Tuesday 7th June

Wow what a scorcher, somewhere in the 30’s today with just a touch of breeze, so guess what job we do… yep, strimming!!!   5 hours later we are parched and knackered. Even with a break and drinking water all day long it’s hard work under the beating sun.  Gregor and family take Gina, who is on a day off, to the beach… jealous us?? Yes!!  This is Gregor’s last night but he’s so hungover from last night that he retires early.

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P1100397 P1100399Wednesday 8th June

It’s up early today to go surfing.  Sadly it’s not good conditions and we really struggle to get on the boards.  We give up after 45 minutes or so.  There’s no one in the water except Nils so we know  conditions aren’t great.  However we do stop for some delicious cake and coffee in Rogil. Back at the farm more strimming and raking for us.  Today Gregor and family leave and the place is much quieter without them around, they were great party people!  


Thursday 9th June

More strimming today.  In the evening it’s Barbecue night.  Everyone is invited; all the clients, workers and some neighbours.  Nils soon has everyone gorging on sausage, steak and fish, yum yum.

P1100439 P1100440Then there was some more darts and table football, an early indicator for the Euro 2016 championships maybe!!


Friday 10th June

Nils and Esta are off to Tavira with the kids for a short holiday.  Daz and I give Sergio a hand with door frames in the new build but apart from that, it’s a lazy day.  

P1100434 P1100435 P1100436 P1100437 P1100438 P1100441 P1100442 P1100443In the evening we meet Hannah who lives just down the road and we have dinner together; me and Daz and Hannah and Gina.   Very pleasant.  Saturday is another rest day, hanging out with Gina and the dogs and checking out the teepee ‘completed article’.

P1100405 P1100406 P1100407 P1100425 P1100426 P1100427 P1100428 P1100429 P1100430 P1100431 P1100432 P1100433 P1100444  We’re catching up on our sleep after a tough week.  Tomorrow we hit the road again.


Sunday 12th June

Casa Nova de Palmeira to Porto Covo


Distance 77.83 km

Max Speed 52.2kmph

Average Speed 18.0 kmph

Total Distance 3813.98 km


After cleaning our caravan and packing up we head up to breakfast.  After a couple of mugs of coffee it’s time to leave.  We say goodbye to Gina and Jan.  We’ve totally loved hanging out with Gina, she has a great sense of humour, so it’s sad to say goodbye.  But go we must.  It’s a hot day but we make good progress despite another very wobbly beginning (Daz blames the quality of the dirt/gravel track!).  

We bypass Saõ Teotonio and head towards the coast and Vila Nova de Milfontes.  We can see the ocean in the distance and the rolling hills inland.  In Vila Nova de Milfontes we walk down to the beach.  There’s some sort of festival going on and the street is lined with stalls.  

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P1100453 P1100454 P1100455 P1100456We mooch along and check out the beach (or thongs in Daz’s case!), then head back to the town centre via the historical centre (all we found was a castle).  

P1100457 P1100458Then it’s lunch and we have WiFi at last!  It’s weeks since we’ve managed to publish the blog and I get quite a bit done over lunch.  At 4pm we head off to Porto Covo.  We’re now cycling into a fairly robust headwind, so our progress slows but we’re having a good day.  We see our first snake and I stop for a closer look.  It’s absolutely massive but I’m not sure how much this is down to the number of cars running over it – yes it is dead!  I wouldn’t be checking it out it it was alive.  I’m convinced it’s a rattler! Daz says ‘No’.

In Porto Covo we admire the rugged coastline – the Atlantic is so beautiful!   

P1100460 P1100461A supermarket stop for supplies and then another cafe for the internet.  Finally part 1 of the blog is done.  We head off out of town and find a spot to wild camp.  It’s been a lovely relaxed day and we’ve done a pleasing distance.

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Today Carl and Trish (Daz’s brother and g/f) completed the Hadrian’s Wall, coast to coast walk.  110miles over 4 days – we’ve been watching them and know they’ve had some tough moments but whilst they might be knackered they’re jubilant and now….. Probably pissed!  Well done guys.


Monday 13th June

Porto Covo to Tróia


Distance 91.37 km

Max Speed 43.9 kmph

Average Speed 15.4 kmph

Total Distance 3905.35 km


I had a really rough night last night – another outbreak of stuffy nose and sneezing – hay fever I’m assuming; something I never suffered from until all the strimming / raking at Casa Nova de Palmeira. We’ve both been taking anti histamines on a regular basis.  When I wasn’t sneezing I just felt too hot and itchy, as if the tent was infested with midges, to get much sleep.  

P1100464 P1100465 P1100466 P1100467Anyway the sun is up and after some stale foccacia and chocolate milk we’re on our way.  We cycle along the coast watching the surf and the lone surfer who’s out and eventually arrive in Sines.  It looks like today is going to be a day of head winds and already we’re finding it tough.  Sines is the major Portuguese Atlantic port, yet despite this it appears closed; alien invaders perhaps?  Unfortunately we can see that the town centre is well above our coast road but we find a lift that’s actually big enough for all of us, the bike and our gear; and out we pop on top of the world, well Sines, anyway.

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We take a walk to the castle, which is Sines No.1 attraction. If the castle is No 1, I wouldn’t bother getting out of bed for No2……3,4 or 5. After the castle we walk to the central market which has got to be the worst market we’ve visited in the last 8 months.  We are completely underwhelmed.

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From here it’s time for a decent breakfast.  After a tasty brekkie we head off.  The road out of Sines is horrendous; it’s the A26-1 but it’s got motorway markings that have been hidden by black plastic bags and duck tape.  In addition it’s 2 laned but one lane has been closed off, we have no idea why it’s a motorway masquerading as a normal A- road.  It’s dull, hot and the traffic is fast moving so we don’t enjoy it but there aren’t any alternative routes.  Finally after about 2 hours we’re on to a more minor road and the scenery with all the cork trees is more pleasing.   We stop for lunch and once we’ve eaten we both feel so pooped we plan to find a spot for a little lie down.  But we potter along looking for somewhere and nothing takes our fancy and then a lady touring cyclist passes us.  Then at the next junction she’s stood on the side of the road.  We continue and stop at a flea market and as we’re looking around we realise the lady cyclist has a partner.

P1100492 P1100493 P1100494 So they are now both ahead of us and we can’t help ourselves, we give chase.  Finally we catch them, but they’re on the side of the road on their phone.  Then she passes us again.  

P1100495 P1100496 P1100497This continues for miles.  She never cycles with her partner but instead races ahead and then waits on the side of the road.  Bizarre.  Even worse the head wind is pretty exhausting and she could be ‘drafting’ her man.  great.’d she’s so far ahead that it’d be a nightmare if he had a puncture / mechanical / accident.  The last time we see them is at the car ferry at the top of Tróia.  They go for the ferry and we cycle the last few kilometers to the tip of the peninsula.  Finally we arrive in Tróia.  There’s a smaller foot ferry down here and we plan to use this to get to Setúbal.  We’re shattered.  We buy some supplies from the supermarket and then check out the ferry timings. There’s an hour until the next ferry.  

P1100498 P1100499We have a beer on the Marina and debate our options.  Stay in Tróia for the night or go across to Setúbal and find accommodation.  Finally we settle on wild camping in Tróia.  We cycle back out of town and look for a private spot for supper overlooking the  Sado estuary.  Actually it doesn’t take too long to find a nice spot and we have our supper but tent construction isn’t permitted (by me) until it’s getting dark.  Finally we’re settled for the night and we spot a fox just metres away.

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Tuesday 14th June

Tróia to Lisbon


Distance 51.12 km

Max Speed 54. 6 kmph

Average Speed 12. 5 kmph

Total Distance 3956. 47 km


We’ve both had a good night but the sun has us up by 7.20.  It’s just too hot in the tent.

P1100511 P1100512 P1100513 P1100515 P1100516 P1100518 P1100519 P1100520 P1100521 Breakfast and packing takes no time at all and we’re back at the ferry terminal for the 8.40am ferry.  

P1100522 P1100523 P1100524 P1100525 P1100526The ferry docks and we’re waiting on the jetty when the ferryman explains ‘no bikes’. I’m gobsmacked.  I can see that there’s plenty of room and wait for him to take pity on us and say ‘ok then, just this once!’.  The alternative is to cycle back up (yup it’s a hill) the 5km to the car ferry.  ‘Fuck, fuckity, Fuck!’.  So we’re just standing on the jetty amongst the disembarking passengers, when a guy who’s been chatting to the ferryman comes over and says, ‘ you can have a lift on my boat if you like?’.  We say ‘yes, that’d be great’. ( because this is an entirely normal offer to 2 stinking cycling tourists with the biggest bike in the world !)’ and we follow these guys through onto the Marina, to a fabulous Catamaran owned by Ventigem Azul, a dolphin watching tour boat skippered by Pedro Vieira.  We’re just blown away.  We stand on the Marina, gobsmacked, whilst Pedro and his first mate prepare the boat.  There are so many mullet swimming around the Marina apparently it’s their kindergarten – a safe place to grow up!  Once the cat is ready Daz and one of the guys carries the bike aboard.  I follow with the baggage.

P1100527 P1100528 P1100529 P1100530 P1100531 P1100532 P1100533 P1100534 P1100535 P1100536 P1100537 Then we cross over to Setúbal. There are 27 bottle nose Dolphins living in the Sado estuary including one born last June.  The cat is incredible and I’m sorely tempted to go out on a cruise to see the Dolphins but we decide against it and instead, having managed to get our bike and gear alongside, we take the firstmate for a spin on the tandem.  

P1100539 P1100540 P1100541 P1100542 P1100543 P1100544 P1100545 P1100546 P1100547 P1100548 P1100550 P1100551 P1100552 P1100553 P1100554 P1100555 P1100556 P1100557 P1100558Not only have these guys given us a lift, they’ve also recommended a cycle route out of Setúbal.  We are truly in their debt – their generosity of spirit was incredible.  

P1100538We apologise for not asking your names, we googled the company, found the skipper but not the first mate!

Of course this is a hard act to follow but after a couple of coffees

P1100559 P1100560 P1100561we head out of town and enjoy the beautiful seafront of Setúbal – and it’s gorgeous and there’s the pod of Sado Dolphins immortalised in an art display.

P1100567P1100568P1100569P1100562 P1100563 P1100565 P1100564 P1100566 From Setúbal it’s uphill into the nature park.  It’s tough cycling but with beautiful views.

P1100570 P1100571 P1100572 P1100574 P1100575 P1100576 P1100578 Loads of cyclists wave as do many motorists.  In Vila Nogueira de Azeitão I spot a Lidl’s so we pop in for some snacks, cheapest lunch yet, only €3.18.  We sit outside on some lovely soft grass in a park and savour our picnic in the sun.  

Almost opposite Lidl’s is this vineyard – what a beautiful display.  If only I’d known it existed, I wouldn’t have bothered with Lidl’s!   

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               here it’s a tough ride to Almada, where we hope to catch a ferry to Lisbon.  It’s only 21km but it seems more like 50km and the number of times we’re cut up by cars, lorries and buses is so frequent that I’m really anxious and start to dread all passing traffic.  Almada seems a bit of a dump ( well the bits we saw) but ain’t the street art fab.  Lurving it!

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Finally we get to the ferry terminal and get across to Lisbon and after a short ride along the seafront we head inland, into the city, to find our hotel.      

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Travels continue in Southern Portugal

Thursday 19th May

A quiet day today.  We’re just waiting for Des and Chris to return.  They return around 7 pm and it’s hectic whilst we catch up on our news.  Then they discover the blackbird that’s nested in their hot water heater flue.   We’d heard the ruckus from the chicks but left the nest undisturbed but of course Chris and Des will want hot water so a nest in the flue is going to prove problematic.  They are going to have to move the nest.  All the animals are so happy to see Chris and Des, even the ‘loner’ Eddy who’s been giving us the runaround for the last 5 weeks.

Friday 20th May

We get up having heard a commotion outside; it seems Chris and Des are trying to relocate the blackbird nest.  The question is will the parents still minister to their fledglings’ needs and how long before Eddy and Izzy discover the nest.  

We clean up and pack and say our farewells.  It’s a painful drive – over 5 hours back to Olhão and the traffic in Seville is very heavy.   We’re a bit shocked; this is the first traffic we’ve had to deal with in 8 months.  We stop near Olhão at Fuzeta to see the beach.

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 It’s so warm here and there are loads of people on the beach.  Finally we head back to Paula and Marc’s.  They have been really busy since we left but there is so much work to be done in the orchards and vegetable plots.  It seems Peter, the ‘interesting’ workawayer who objected so strongly to his photo being in our blog, has left.  He was due to stay 7 months but it seems none of the work was to his liking.  Despite being fully booked Marc and Paula find us a bed in one of their spare rooms.


Saturday 21st May

We drive to Faro to return our hire car.  Then we go into town.  We planned to do some sightseeing but we end up chatting to a Brit guy in a bar, Keri and then a hiker stops at the bar and joins the group.  He’s John from Knoxville and has been walking the Camino de Portugese.  It’s a pleasant afternoon and very interesting.  John tells us about the various pilgrimages in Europe, gives us the guidebook so we can follow the route through Portugal and then northern Spain.  

P1100143 P1100142 P1100140 P1100037 P1100038 P1100041 P1100042 P1100043 P1100046 P1100045 P1100049 P1100050 P1100052 P1100051 P1100053 P1100057Keri is doing an urban forestry masters and he tells us about his studies.  Finally, after spending all afternoon in a bar we finally get the bus back to Olhão.  We can’t help ourselves and return to our favourite Indian restaurant before finally heading home.  


Sunday 22nd May

Our last day in Olhão and we’re all going fishing.  So we’re up early and by 10am we’re getting on our fishing boat.  There’s Marc and Paula, Innis, Paula’s mum and us.  We spend the next 3-4 hours fishing.  

P1100065 P1100064 P1100071 P1100068 P1100073 P1100076 P1100075 P1100078 P1100079 P1100081 P1100082Daz is top fisherman and catches 7 fish including a seabass which are hard to hook.  I catch 2, Paula 1 and Marc 1. But of course it’s not a competition (really!). Back at the house, Paula’s mum prepares the fish and Marc barbecues them.  

P1100088 P1100090 P1100091Tomorrow we will be back on the bike.  The last time we rode it fully loaded was on the 29th of March, time has certainly flown. Let’s hope the next few days aren’t too hard.


Monday 23rd May – Quelfres to Portimao


Distance 91.91 km

Max Speed 60 kmph

Average Speed 16.4 kmph

Total Distance 3550.82 km


Today it’s Innis’ 9th birthday so when we get downstairs for breakfast the table is laid out beautifully, ready for everyone to have breakfast and sing ‘Happy Birthday’.  

P1100092 P1100094 P1100096 P1100099 P1100101 P1100102 P1100103After brekkie we say our farewells and head off.  We haven’t ridden the bike laden for about 7 weeks and we end up zigzagging down the gravel track as Daz keeps oversteering.  This isn’t the best road surface to reaquaint ourselves with the joys of tandem riding but we escape unscathed and soon Daz has regained his ‘mojo’ and we’re flying.  We get to Faro in really good time and stop for a drink.


Faro sits on the Río Formosa lagoon and is the capital of the region.  It was settled as early as the 4th century BC and has seen many names and contollers including the Moors for over 500 years.  It is surrounded on 3 sides by a nature park and many migratory birds can be seen throughout the year.


After coffee we decide to try and avoid the N125 (because of the horror stories we’ve heard; fast, heavy traffic and lots of road works).  So instead we end up on a cycle path that soon degenerates into a rough gravel surface.  We can cycle these surfaces fairly confidently but it massively reduces our speed over the ground and takes so much effort for even short distances.   Fortunately we decide to bail early and we’re soon back on the N125.  Unfortunately it’s true, it’s a terrible road to cycle; many drivers give us barely any room and at one point I turn my head left and there’s a coach practically in my face.  It’s also a route lacking in scenery although we see a lot of potteries and nurseries (for plants).  But at least our progress picks up significantly but it’s bloody hot and we’re starting to fade.  We stop again in Ferreiras for lunch (and what a revolting lunch it is) and then push on.  We’re both suffering from the heat but I want to push on, worried that if we stop we’ll never get going again.  Finally we cycle over the bridge to Portimao, stop at a WiFi bar and find accommodation.  


P1100111 P1100112We find ourselves in a huge apartment with a double bedroom, sitting room with a kitchenette and a balcony overlooking the river.

P1100125 P1100126 It’s been a tough day and when we realise we’ve done 91km, we understand why we’re so pooped.  

After a little lie down we head to the promenade at Praia da Rocha (Rock beach).  Here the well groomed beach stretches for miles with beautiful rock outcrops and sea carved arches in the rock.

P1100113 P1100114 P1100115 u P1100118 P1100119 P1100120 P1100121 P1100122 P1100124 It’s gorgeous but the place is packed with Brits and ‘Happy hours’ everywhere and all the tacky seaside shops you’d typically find in Great Yarmouth or Bognor.  After a stroll and dinner, we head home, and fall asleep almost instantly.


Tuesday 24th May – Portimao to Sagres


Distance 74.66 km

Max Speed 48.2 kmph

Average Speed 15.2 kmph

Total Distance 3625.48 km


We pack up and head to the river front in Portimao for breakfast.  It’s disappointing but we sit at a cafe only to discover the waiter clearly failed charm school.  

P1100128 P1100129 P1100130 P1100131The day is overcast, the complete opposite of yesterday.  Portimao along with Faro, are the 2 largest cities on the Algarve.  It is historically known for its fishing and ship building industries. Having had breakfast we head out of Portimao and it starts to rain, just the occasional raindrop but it’s still rain, but at least it’s cooler.  We’re again on the N125 and suddenly I notice the field on our left is like ‘a stork field’.  Storks are really common around the Algarve and we have seen their nests on church towers or tall chimney stacks or radio masts.  We have watched them standing in their nests guarding their young, and clattering their long beaks when their partner comes in to land.  But in this small meadow around the edge there are about 13 trees and in each is a stork’s nest.

P1100132 P1100133 P1100134 P1100135 P1100136 P1100137 They are like something out of prehistoric times and always make us think of pterodactyls.  

We continue on our way and arrive in Lagos, making really good time. We stop to look round and I manage another cheap waxing session, only €38.  Bargain.

P1100139 P1100140 P1100141 P1100142 P1100143 Lagos has quite a bohemian feel to it with quite a few ‘hippy’ types about selling craft goods or performing or busking.  We have lunch and watch the world go by then head off.  But our excellent progress is soon hampered by a strong head wind and a hilly terrain.  We make it to Vila da Bolas and I want Lidl’s and something to eat and drink.  We’ve seen this Lidl’s advertised for miles so we can’t believe when we find it, it’s a building site.  They are completely renovating the old store.  I’m so gutted I could cry but I’m too pooped to attempt finding another supermarket.  Instead we push on but the head wind has veered around and now we’re hurtling along the last 8 km and before we know it we’re in Sagres.  After a quick shopping trip to the Mercadona and a feeding frenzy we head to Cape of St Vincent, the most south westerly point in Europe.   This cape is the southwesternmost point in Portugal. It forms the southwestern end of the E9 European Coastal Path, which runs for 5,000 km (3,100 mi) to Narva-Jõesuu in Estonia. It’s a lovely six kilometer ride from the village of Sagres, and the cape is a landmark for ships traveling to or from the Mediterranean.

P1100146 P1100147 P1100148 P1100149 P1100150 P1100151 P1100152 P1100153 P1100154 P1100155 P1100156 P1100157 P1100158 P1100161 P1100163 P1100164 P1100166 P1100167The cliffs rise nearly vertically from the Atlantic to a height of 75 meters. The cape is a site of exuberant marine life and a high concentration of birds nesting on the cliffs, such as the rare Bonelli’s eagle, peregrine falcons, kites, rock thrushes, rock pigeons, storks and herons. We have a walk around the lighthouse and fortress then head back to Sagres.  On the way we stop at a carpark on the cliffs and watch all the surfers, this place being a surfing mecca.

We finish the day at a beach bar, watching the waves roll in to shore and the sun setting.


Wednesday 25th May – Sagres to Casas Novas de Palmeira (workaway)


Distance 71.1 km

Max Speed 54.3 kmph

Average Speed 15.1 kmph

Total Distance 3697.15 km


Once again we have slept like the dead but we’re both still shattered.  But after breakfast in the hotel we head off back to Vila da Bolas.  Our first stop is in Carrapateira.   We’ve done really well, 21km in about 1 hour 20.  And the route has been extremely pleasant, a quiet, undulating country road with fields of wild flowers and the smell of pine trees.

P1100169 P1100170 P1100172After coffee we head off to Aljezur but there’s some tough hills before we make this town.  We’ve made really good progress but after a fish soup lunch I just need to lie on a bench and nap.  

P1100173 P1100175So that’s what I do.  After my pensioners we head off.  The first 10km are fairly painless but then it’s off the main roads onto tracks.  We can see the hills all around us and we know this is going to be tough.  And it is.  Rough gravelly descents followed by steep uphills.  

P1100176 P1100179 P1100181 P1100182 P1100183We’ve resorted to granny ring but we’re still struggling.  Finally we cross over the bridge and there’s only 2.8km to go, but it’s up one massive hill of 10%.  Yup we pushed the entire 2.8km and that nearly killed us!!!!

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Finally we arrive.  Our hosts  are Esta and Nils but there are also holiday guests here (there’s cottages and caravans here for holiday lets) and some friends of Nils (Gregor, Nadine and their 2 children)  staying and then Nils’ brother, Arne and his daughter Paulie are here from Frankfurt for a long weekend.  Esta and Nils are German but have lived in Portugal for 13 years and everyone else is German, so everyone is speaking in German.  

Nils shows us our home for the next 3 weeks.  It’s a caravan with an outside shower and a dry toilet.  But it’s in the most beautiful position looking out over the valley.  

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We’re soon showered and settled in and after dinner it’s time for an early night.  Tomorrow they’ll give us the grand tour and tell us what jobs they want us to do.


Thursday 26th May


Today Nils shows us round the farm.  They have nine hectares.  At present he’s just finishing a holiday cottage that he’s been building for the last year.  He has 2 caravans that he rents out and 2 cottages and a camping ground.  During the tour Nils points out some of the jobs earmarked for us.  We need to strim the campsite and the area around their manmade lake.  We also need to help move 2 eucalyptus tree trunks he has cut down

P1100197 P1100198 P1100199 and tidy up the branches and bark.  We also need to dig out the water pipe from the well that was covered in a recent earthslide.  We soon get to work and get a lot of the strimming done round the lake but there’s still plenty more to do.  

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Friday 27th, Saturday 28th and Sunday 29th

More raking and strimming until we’ve finished the area around the lake and then it’s on to the campsite.  

P1100210 P1100211 P1100219 P1100220 P1100221Daz also goes down into the valley to rake up on the terraces where Nils has been strimming.  We also take in all the horse fencing around the campsite.  On Saturday evening   everyone is off to a restaurant, we are invited but decide to have a quiet night after a late night of poker and wine yesterday. It’s rained a bit over the last two days so we hope Sunday will be nicer.  

Sunday we sleep late and have a lie in and by the time we walk up to the house breakfast is finishing so we help ourselves to bread, cheese and coffee.  Our hosts are off to the beach for a few hours with the kids so we tag along.  We are soon larking about in the sea. nils is a big surfer and has lots of boards, boogie boards and skimming boards.

P1100232 P1100233 P1100234 P1100235 P1100236 Hels and I are abysmal at the skimming boards but have fun in the surf on the boogie boards.  Fortunately it’s not too cold.  Later back at the house their huge brick woodfired pizza oven is lit and we all enjoy wood fired pizzas…  scrummy.  Daz and I get stuck in using all the dough balls (cold pizza for lunch tomorrow methinks!) and then the kids decide they need to help too!



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Monday 30th May to Friday 3rd May

More strimming of the campsite, and Daz starts some prep work on the teepee ready to get it erected as there’s a booking in about a week’s time.  Leftover pizza for lunch, these are the ones that Daz and I made in the pizza oven last night.  Good practice for when we have one!! For dinner we have a Swedish dish called “flying Jacob”!! Google it, it’s different!!

Tuesday – more strimming, raking, this place is huge and there’s still more to do.  We help Nils put up the teepee. One rickety ladder and a lot of pulling, swaying and voila…a new tent is born!!  

P1100271 P1100272 P1100273 P1100274 P1100275 P1100276 P1100277 P1100278 P1100279 P1100280 P1100281 P1100282 P1100283 P1100284 P1100285 P1100286 P1100287 P1100288 P1100289Then it’s down to the new house.  We need to get gravel laid around 3 sides of the house.  First we lay a membrane and top it off with gravel round the new house. This involves numerous barrows and me filling them then Daz wheeling them around the side of the house, over 2 makeshift wooden ramps and into place to then be raked level!

P1100290 P1100291 P1100292 P1100293 P1100294 P1100298 P1100299 P1100300 P1100301 P1100302We also do some household chores as Esta has gone to Lisbon and wants the animals fed and watered and the house cleaned. They have 4 horses, 3 pot belly pigs, numerous chickens and 2 white ducks, 3 dogs and a cat.  A full day again.  

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Wednesday we lay more gravel around the new house.  It’s very hot and it’s really hard work filling wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow with gravel.  Daz then pushes the barrow, empties it and then rakes out the gravel piles.  It’s Gina’s (she returned last night, but she’s a volunteer and has been here for months) birthday today.

P1100305 P1100306 P1100307 P1100308 P1100309 P1100310They all go down to the lake to celebrate jumping in off the jetty, in what is described by the Germans as an “ass bomben”!! – I sleep, too knackered to join in.

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Today we’re up for 7 am.  We go with Nils and Jörn to the beach near Aljezur and attempt surfing.  Daz gets it pretty quickly and is soon standing whilst it’s not until the end of the session that I actually manage to stand.  

P1100347 P1100348 P1100349 P1100350 P1100351 P1100352We’ve been messing around in the surf for about an hour and a half and we’re pooped so we head for the Cafe whilst Nils and Jörn carry on surfing.

But soon we’re back at the farm and back at work for lunchtime.  We finish gravelling the patios and then it’s back to strimming and raking.

P1100201 P1100270 P1100354 P1100355 P1100356 P1100357 P1100358 P1100359 P1100360 P1100361Daz does the strimming this time whilst I rake up the cuttings, not sure which is harder!! At dinner, Gregor has cooked some lovely goats cheese honey and nut parcels and a fab pumpkin risotto, a lovely meal!

P1100204 P1100205 P1100206 P1100212 P1100225It’s fab that he was a headchef at a top hotel in Berlin and now has his own culinary company.  It means for once no cooking for us. However he is a messy cook and we seem to be the resident washer-uppers.  The last thing we want to be doing after all these tough working days.  



This morning the alarm goes off at 6.45am.  We’re all supposed to be going surfing.  Thank God it’s cancelled;  it’s not surfing conditions this morning.  Today we have a truly ‘shit’ chore (you’ll see what I did there later!).   We are going to do the manure manoeuvre that we have been told about and know will be hard work.

P1100363 P1100364 P1100365 P1100369 P1100371 P1100372 P1100373 P1100375 Basically we have to fill the back of the combi van with horse manure and then drive it across the land and then down to a lower terrace (this involves a detour to a turning circle as the slopes are too steep). We then empty the van and repeat this process including a return trip up the steep gravelly slope and the turning circle again until we have a big pile on the lower terrace. But that’s not all, we then have to fill a wheelbarrow each and take it down a steep gravelly narrow track to an even lower terrace where we dump it on the cultivated garden… did I mention that we need to do this 16 times and that going up a steep hill with an empty ‘barrow is harder than coming down with a full one??  But not to worry as there are a further 2 terraces at an even lower than low level that only need 40 and 30 barrows each (respectively of course!!). Well today we manage to get 16 barrow loads down to the first terrace so that Nils can rotorvate it ready for planting on Monday after he has been to the gardeners market.  We also left a further 3 van loads of muck in a heap ready for someone (us!?) to move after the weekend to the lower terraces! Something to look forward to???????  I think not!

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