Portugal Archive

Due to a problem on the previous blog site… i.e. it suddenly developing a virus, I have moved the entire blog here to blogger, so that is why the previous posts appear here all in one ‘archive’.  Cheers Px

Day 5 – Spring has sprung – Aeiros to Lisbon and beyond…

Stayed up late last night finding details for the replacement spring.  I got the numbers for 3 different HD dealers, one in Pombal, one in Lisbon and one in Setubal about 50kms south of Lisbon in the morning I’ll ask the reception to call them and see if they have it in stock so I won’t be wasting my time going to each one.
I got downstairs at about 8.30 this morning and the woman on reception was most helpful, she did try to call Pombal, (the nearest one), but of course it was too early so she told me to go and have breakfast and she would call at 9am.  I went out at 9.15 but still it was on ansaphone, Lisbon too so she thought it may be they do not open until 9.30 so I went and had another coffee.  I went back to reception about 9.40 and she tried again but still no answer so she called Setubal who thankfully answered the phone.  After a few minutes she tells me they have the part.. whew what a relief.. then she finishes the conversation with them and explains to me that the other dealers are closed as it is a holiday in Lisbon.  It means I will have to go beyond Lisbon so will be quite some way for me to go without being able to get off, but I will just have to manage.  She gives me the address, to which I tell her I have already got it in my gps so I won’t need it but thanks anyway.
So, I gather all my gear and one of the Latvians helps me with tying up the side stand and I am on my way by 10.30ish.  I did stop long enough to take some photos before I left…  here are some views from my balcony
As you  can see its a very pretty street… actually the town is very smart and uber clean, very lovely.  I am so impressed with the hotel, its quite oldy worldy but it has monogrammed sheets and towels which does lend it a certain je ne sais quoi and I have stayed in some very expensive hotels for work from time to time but have never had monograms before.
I also stopped to snap the gondolas on the canal that runs through the town… 
So, I’m back on the road again and after about 20 minutes I realise that I am going to need to get petrol so it would be better for fuel consumption of I avoid motorways,which means it is going to take even longer… and how am I going to fill the tank up without getting off the bike to pay??  Oh well I’ll have to cross that bridge later.. The gps tells me I am going to arrive at about 3pm so thats 4 1/2 hours in the saddle.. great.
So I manage to stop for fuel and luckily there is someone serving so I just let her fill it up while I am on the bike and pay cash so no problem.  Pretty soon I am in the outskirts of Lisbon and then I am routed onto a fast road, which is great because I have been playing tag with a whole stream of lorries for the last few hours and the ride has been really boring because it seemed like a never ending industrial park all a the way down.  Then suddenly I am faced with the most amazing bridge I have ever seen.. it goes on forever.. I wish I could stop to take a photo but it is too dangerous, but here is one I downloaded this evening
I have since discovered it is the Vasco De Gama Bridge and it is 17.2kms long.. apparently there is exactly the same bridge between Sweden and Denmark but its slightly shorter… by about 2kms.  It was a real experience riding on it… it made me think of the Florida Keys, which I have always wanted to ride and hope to do so one day.
At last I arrived in Setubal and made my way to the HD dealer following the gps… when I arrived… no HD dealer!!!  I couldn’t believe it.  My gps was bought from Harley and has all the dealerships in Europe pre loaded, (sad I know), but this is getting ridiculous because I know this one still exists, the receptionist spoke to them this morning.  Then I remembered turning down the address.. what a plonker… but maybe I put it in my pocket… hurrah, yes here it is.  What a nightmare that would have been.  So its another 15 minutes to the address and that means I have been on the bike for almost 5 hours.. gosh my bums sore!!
I wait outside to see if someone will come out, but no one does, then I spot a guy in the back of the shop so I wave frantically at him until he comes out.  His name is Joao and he really is very helpful and speaks perfect English.  For those of you who know him, he is the spitting image of Marco Nardi, glasses and everything and he’s really short too.  Anyway, as soon as I can get off the bike I rush to the loo… when I come out Joao and his mate have already sorted the bike out.  I have time for a quick browse, buy a tee shirt and find out that Portuguese people don’t drink milk in their coffee and if I want to ask for milk I need to say Galon.  I tell Joao about how amazing their bridge is… he says ‘which one the red or the white’ ‘oh there are two’ says I, ‘yes, and the red one is the same as the golden gate bridge in San Francisco’ so theres another tidbit of information for you all.
They’re not actually a HD dealership anymore, they’re independent…. says it all don’t you think!
The temperature now is 80 degrees plus so its really lovely.  It takes me another hour to get to Cascais, the end of my journey, where the HOG rally is being held.  I arrive at my guest house and it is just beautiful.. I know I have said this before about the accommodation so far, I have been so lucky and this does not disappoint, its marvellous.  Anyway more about that tomorrow.
Went to the rally site and had a look around.  Bumped into some of the Latvians so took a pic
The guy on the right helped me out yesterday and gave me the cable ties.  They are so friendly and helpful, but its strange how we never exchanged names… don’t know why really.
Booked myself onto a guided ride/tour; thought it was on Saturday  but its tomorrow so I have to be up early… and the bike needs a wash!   I’m knackered.

Day 4 – Santiago De Campostela to Aveiro Portugal via Vigo, Braga, Porto, Espinho etc etc

Slept in a bit so did not get on the road until 10 this morning.  Its a lovely day and very sunny although a little bit chilly on the bike in the morning.  First stop Vigo HD then on into Portugal.  Followed the GPS on quite a convoluted route, but managed to find it ok… except… its not a dealership, its only for servicing.  I was so disappointed that I did not even take a photo.  I did however take some photos on the route from Vigo to Porto; I also tried to shoot a short film of the ride but it didn’t work out… awwww
So this was supposed to be the start of the film… It was going to show the winding road through the trees and reminded me of a ride in Epping… hard to believe this is Spain.
Riding through the Barrios… all the houses had their own vines growing in their gardens… this is the real Spain for me, in fact the whole of this region is just lovely and such a contrast to the eastern ‘tourista’ resorts.
Who says C&A have closed down… they just moved it to Barrio O Castro, (obviously named after that famous Irish spaniard infidel).
I had to turn around and go back to capture that one.  Anyway, after the disappointment in Vigo i decided to go to the next one on the route south, so onward to Braga HD, which is actually slightly out of the way, but never mind at least it’s in Portugal.
Here we are at last.
Just over the border I am delighted to find my answer to HD dealerships preprepared for me on a local wall…
Nuff said.
So, just to validate my ratty remark, Braga HD doesn’t exist anymore… sigh!!  I give up, oh well there is definately one at least in Porto so let’s get on with it.
I dial in the Porto HD and we are on our way when the GPS keeps wanting to direct me back into Spain…. I just don’t get it.. so have to wing it for a while and end up on a couple of toll roads, sigh – €14 worth.  Manage to get off and get the gps working again so find my way to the dealership in the end.  It’s right in the middle of Porto so no parking.  Have to try and squeeze the bike between a couple of cars and just as I have finished parking this little old lady comes over to me and starts talking away… now I don’t know one word of portugese at all so I just nod at her… I assume she is telling me off for parking there so I gesture to her that I will only be 10 minutes, to which she smiles rather benignly and says some more stuff, gives me a big wave and wanders off… I have no idea!!
Into the dealership, there are a couple of people serving, two male customers and 2 female customers who seem to be from Belgium… no one speaks, no one serves me or enquires if I want anything.. nada.. so I have a look around and there is absolutely nothing that I want, they don’t even have any Tee shirts… just weird.  Less than 10 minutes and I am back on the bike on my way to the Atlantic coast, there is a great road all along the coast and I am sure I will be able to find a decent hotel there somewhere.
What a beautiful beach.  I ride along for miles and miles… not a sniff of a hotel or motel.. lots of restaurants, cafe bars etc but no hotels, it’s all houses and apartment blocks.  After a while I enter Espinho which is meant to be a resort… no hotels… I keep going but find myself in the rough end of town and decide thats enough seaside for one day and make my way a little bit further inland onto the N101 to Aveiro.  It’s now 6pm and I’m getting a bit chilly so what am I going to do for a hotel???  Then I remember I’ve got an app on my iphone for booking.com a hotel booking site I have used many times before, but I have never used the app so now would be a good time to start methinks.  Excellent, have found a suitable hotel in Aveiro, the Imperial, and booked a room – it only took 10 minutes and its 45 minutes away from my present position so should be there by 7pm at the latest, fab.  What on earth did we do before iphones??
And indeed I am there at 5 to 7, fantastic!  There is a group of hoggies here from Latvia; how does she know that I hear you ask… well.  They have a car park at the rear and one of the staff comes round with me to open up the electric gates.  There is a steep metal ramp to negotiate so I decide to give it a good go… unfortunately my bike is very low and the side stand catches the metal ramp and breaks off the spring that holds it in place when its not in use, so the stand is now trailing on the ground.  This is a major problem, I can’t ride it like that and although the bike will stand on it, its not really very safe.  The staff member tells me he will ask someone and we walk round to the front of the hotel where he talks to one of the guys from Latvia who comes back to look at my bike.  He gives me some cable ties and says they will be leaving about 9am and will help me get the bike off the stand and tie it up so that I can ride it to… you guessed it… a HD dealers to get a new spring.  The only other problem is the dealers is in Lisbon so 200km away, I better make sure I empty everything before I go (TMI) and not drink too much tea or coffee otherwise I will have to hold it all the way as I can’t get off the bike until I get there and someone can cut the sidestand cable ties to let the stand down.  What a bloody palaver!!
Finally… here is a photo of the bike this trip.. as you can see I have been very restrained in the packing department this year…
Again I have been lucky with the choice of hotel… very friendly and helpful staff, the room is large and clean although a bit old fashioned but who cares.  Lovely atmosphere and great location, next to plenty of eateries and apparently the best burgers in all of Portugal are just a few minutes walk away although the bar next door to it is owned by the local Hells Angel chapter, not exactly a good selling point.
Nite nite.

Day 3 – Gijon to Santiago De Campostela3 days ago

Unusually for me, I got up fairly early and was on the road before 9.  Likewise, no problems getting out of Gijon and it wasn’t raining… yet… so minor miracles to behold.  Of course it didn’t last.. stopped for petrol, coffee and a crossaint and it started chucking it down, so on with the big orange romper suit, googles and mask.
Just when you thought it couldn’t get any more scarey!!!
As I’m making my way I suddenly thought ‘it’s day 3 and I haven’t been to a Harley dealers yet… oops better see to that then’.   The nearest one in the right direction is in Coruna, only 1 1/2 hours out of my way… why not methinks.  On the way to Coruna the gps suddenly has a hissy fit and starts ‘recalculating’ like there’s no tomorrow, so I get lost of course, but only for a short while and then I’m back on track.  
Whilst off track I spot this unusual graveyard…
Which reminds me…  when I got off the ferry yesterday the gps routed me onto the C352 but it said California 352 which I thought was a bit odd.. I then thought maybe its Calle..something so its just the gps voice mis-pronoucing it.  Later in the day it suddenly routed me onto the AS264 but said American Samoa 264 so unless American Samoa invaded Spain and grabbed it’s roads it must be down to Garmin being an american product and labeling the road letters as american states or whatever… weird but strangely comforting.
Where was I… oh yes… so I have come across lots of strange place names in my time but this has got to be one of the best I have ever seen….
After finding the Poo I eventually got back onto the right road (N-VI) lots of rain and mountains, but very scenic..
The gps then routed me onto the E70.. just as I am approaching a bend there is a Harley rider at the side of the road waving at me to slow down.. so I do… then round the bend is another guy also telling me to slow down, then I see blue flashing lights.. then lots of debris in the road and I feel sick.  I hope they are ok and as I pick my way through the debris I see a group of hogs on the side of the road so I pull over and ask in sign language if everyone is ok.. they reply yes all fine and one guy comes over to speak to me.. there has been a car accident, no bikes involved.  They are a group of French riders on their way to Portugal but are going to Coruna HD and have stopped to help the emergency services keep the road open and safe.. wow BIG round of applause for French hoggies; I have to say, however, that is my experience of bikers generally, we do tend to stop and help each other out if we can.
Eventually got to Coruna and made my way straight to the HD shop… guess what?  Yep SHUT!!!  I couldn’t believe it, but here’s a piccy as proof.
I arrived at 2.30 but it shuts 1.30 to 4pm… mmm what to do, I’ve come all this way and my gloves are soaking so could do with another pair… no I’ll just have to manage.  So I start to make my way to Santiago when just up the road is a Burger King; now I’m no fan of Burger King but I’m starving and I could eat while waiting for HD to open…..  ok let’s do it.  Mmm not too bad.  Back to HD at 4pm and its still shut, shit don’t tell me I’ve wasted my time, but along comes Julio who is very helpful and speaks excellent english.  An altogether pleasant experience and would recommend Coruna HD but just don’t go between 1.30 and 4pm!!  Picked up some gloves and the obligatory Tee so back on the bike and no stopping now until Santiago and the Hotel Fornos.
Arrived Santiago at around 6pm.. the hotel is in the centre so traffic is heavy but not too bad.  Now parking thats another story.. I ride around the block a couple of times and eventually get parked just down the road from the hotel.. or where I think the hotel is…. get all my bags (no where near the usual mountain this year I might add).. and troop up the road.  I find its not hotel Fornos its a restaurant, so I look next door and there is a plaque on the wall that looks like accommodation and its says PR**  so I go in the door.. nothing there except a lift… what to do??  I have another look outside and it says 4th floor, ok so I cram myself and bags into this tiny lift up to the 4th floor expecting a reception desk but no it looks like an apartment door.  Being someone who is not always easily put off, I ring the bell… waiting waiting.. the door opens and a little spanish woman is standing there and I know immediately I have made a mistake but onward the brave… “Habla Inglese pro favor?”  I mumble apologetically a stern Non is the response… ah thats all my spanish used up… so I just say lamely “Hotel Fornos?” She responds with a stream of spanish and waves her hand in the roughly down the street direction… she looks not best pleased, I bet this happens a lot.. oh dear, desperately trying to think of a word in spanish that might mean sorry, I mumble something spanish sounding and head for the lift.
Whew out onto the street but which way did she mean???  Anyway I walk down towards the bike and spot a sign saying ‘Hotel’ oh maybe that’s it.  No another dead end, but the young woman is most helpful and speaks english.. she thinks its back up the road somewhere; suddenly an elderly man appears and she tells him what I am looking for and he takes me out into the street and points up towards the angry womans flat… meanwhile he is explaining the directions in probably beautiful spanish, but luckily the young woman repeats this for me in english… it’s past angry woman and on the other side of the road.. fantastic!  Gracias I say, da nada they say.. oh I remember that.. no problemo!!  So back up the road and find the hotel exactly where he said it would be.  It’s absolutely lovely, the woman on reception is very friendly, I know this because she speaks excellent english of course.. and the room is just perfect 10/10 Hotel Fornos in Santiago De Campostela and cheap too only €35, Gijon was €50 including the parking so this is a bargain.  Highly recommended and I also highly recommend northern Spain, it is really beautiful and would make a great holiday.
So whats the plan tomorrow.. have looked at the map and distances so onward into Portugal tomorrow via VIGO HD and hopefully stopping somewhere south of Porto… 

Day 1/2 – London to Santander

Left home in a blaze of sunshine….. rain started in Hampshire and didn’t stop all the way to Plymouth.  Luckily I am used to this as it is fairly standard for the start of one of my trips.
Managed to arrive in plenty of time to board the ferry… me and about 500 other Harleys.. what a sight the whole deck full of Hogs… there’s more on the other side of the deck too…
The ship/ferry was fantastic.. like a cruise liner; it even has a swimming pool!  Everyone warned me about the crossing… oooh dear, the Bay of Biscay… people have been known to be ill for weeks after that crossing.  Well, it was very pleasant, just a gently rocking motion that really helped me to sleep, guess I finally got lucky.
As you can see from the photos, the sun came out to welcome us into Santander, hang on… not so fast… by the time we got off the ferry the clouds had come over the mountains and no sooner had I left the docks than the heavens opened!!
Oooolala… rain rain rain… why am I not surprised by this???  I took to the off piste roads and had a very enjoyable ride through the mountains and down by the coast, shame about the rain but still quite a ride, which I would recommend to anyone but it would be better in the sunshine I must admit.
Stopped for lunch in San Vincente de la Barquera.. heres some photies
Rode on to Gijon to find a hotel for the night.  Stayed in the Hotel Begona, nice hotel with clean rooms… mine has a small fully enclosed balcony, which is very reminiscent of traditional Maltese apartments.
So, had a look at the map and have not gone as far as I planned so better decide now where I am going tomorrow and book a hotel….  done… am going to Santiago De Campostela for no other reason than I think I have heard of it and its on the way to Portugal… Fabby.

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