The Whole Point of a Bike Tour Anyway

“what really draws me is the prospect of stepping out of the daylight of everything I know, into the shadows of what I don’t know, and may never know.”

Pico Iyer, Sun After Dark.

(Beautiful blues of Sesimbra)

The hardest part of the day was behind us as the bikes rolled down down down the steep hill of Sesimbra. My GF wiped sweat from her brow, cracked a smile and blew a triumphant kiss my way. 

The brand new tour bikes, literally ridden out of the sports mega-store the day before, looked legit. Packed heavy with all our belongings, the panniers saddled to the sides bulged, another full bag sat precariously on the front, holding all our worldly possessions that we were willing to carry. A passing pedestrian would think us cyclists were old hands at touring, unless they bothered to look closely at my nervous face cringing in concentration with the task at hand. No complaints. Confronting new challenges being the whole point of a bike tour anyway.

This was the first day on a bike for me in over a decade and I was trying hard to control the machine, all the excess weight willing gravity on and causing the wheels to spin too fast. ‘Irony’ sprung to mind, as up to this point the day spent in the saddle was mostly labourious. Tendons and muscles rarely used had been stretched and torn, a reminder of how a luxurious lifestyle under utilised the human body.  No complaints. Improving personal fitness being the whole point of a bike tour anyway.

It was nearly seven hours since the day started, crossing the Tagus on the wrong ferry, to arrive at the wrong port, to get instantaneously and incredibly lost. The 40 kilometre stretch south somehow turned into an 80km tour of the peninsula. No complaints. Travelling to places otherwise not seen nor imagined being the whole point of a bike tour anyway. 

But the final hill down down down into Sesimbra was also a great test, and not only for the new brakes. This was a test of fate. I tried to suppress a niggling fear of the unknown, for we had no idea what was to be found in town, no accommodation organised. Our only expectations being the heavenly plates of salt grilled makeral, teasingly advertised on regular billboards during the last 15 km stretch into port. These billboards acted like giant carrots, perfect motivators for the legs to push the pedals, as a well earned hunger grew. No complaints. Expecting the unexpected being the whole point of a bike tour anyway.

Finally reaching sea level we quickly acknowledged that the town was in fact built to facilitate thousands more tourists than were scattered on the promenade that afternoon. The hotels were fanned around the hill in a huge arc, highlighting the strip of beach below, illuminated like a golden centre stage of a huge amphitheater. There was a relaxed holiday atmosphere. A couple walked their dog on the boardwalk, flip flopping along in bikinis and board-shorts. A man, seemingly forgotten, was half buried in sand on the beach. A boy kicked a big inflatable ball along the sea lapping at the shore. What a treat! The weather perfect, the sun still shining after 8pm at night, the sea admittedly chilly but good for a splash, and the full choice of restaurants, bars and beds. It was all working out the way a bike tour should anyway. 

 

(Above the beach, Sesimbra)



All photos nickisalwaysonholidays 

Day Trip from Lisbon


Lisbon: always a good idea!

following the locals south is an adventurous way to spend a day or two exploring the other side of the Tagus. 

Lisbon is on everybody’s ‘to do’ list this year, but what if you are lucky enough to have a couple of extra days up your travelling sleeves whilst you are in the area? Drag yourself out of the bustling bars of Alfama, away from the fantastic Fado and head south!  Go west to Cascais is a popular option, but following the locals south is an adventurous way to spend a day or two exploring the other side of the Tagus

Add one night?

This loop of the south is suitable for a day trip in a car, or add an overnight stay in either Troia, a ferry trip from Setubal, or the port town of Sesimbra for both have plenty of accommodation options. This trip would take 2 moderate/difficult days on bikes, a beautiful and rewarding way to enjoy the coast. Saying that, if you packed the Lycra you may be able to pedal the whole route in a long day!

The Trip

From Lisbon by car cross the Tagus over the historic ’25th of April’ Bridge. This should remind you of the famous San Francisco bridge seeing as it was built by the same company and painted the same colour red. If you are on bikes catch the ferry to Almada, and look towards the Atlantic to see the bridge in its full glory.

Now that you have crossed the Tagus, head westward to the ocean. Follow the N377-1 and you will find yourselves with a beautiful stretch of beach with national parks and small seaside towns. Stop in at Costa da Caparica for breakfast at one of the many restaurants on the dunes. You can follow the N377-2 parallel to the beach and take a walk through the Arriba Fossil National Park. On a mountain bike, at low tide the beach makes a great track all the way to the cape. A quick heads up, you may catch an eye full as this part of the coast is for nudists! 

Beautiful blues of Sesimbra

Continuing along the N377 which turns inland, take the right (south) on the N778 to the fishing port town of Sesimbra. There are plenty of places for lunch along the promenade here. The beachside restaurant Portofinos is always popular. For a real seafood treat, head a kilometre around the harbour and eat at one of the seafood shacks – packed with local tourists for lunch. The town is famous for its Carapau, a grilled mackerel dish (plate of 4 for 8euro), some of the freshest fish in Portugal. 

Views from the road whete James Bond’s ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’ was shot

The real adventure starts as you leave the port town and head into the Arrabida National Park, a magical area with the micro-climate of the Mediterranean. Pass along the vineyards on the N379 and turn directly into the national park following the N379-1. From here there is a steep climb over the range with breath taking views of the Sado River. Expect to see golden beaches, aquamarine blue waters and schools of fish swimming close to shore. The area is a breeding zone for many birds that float high with the rising air currents up the hills and over the park. Stop at any one of the beaches here where you can re-fuel at one of the restaurants perched on the small sandstone cliffs. 

Outside the Arrabida National Park is Setubal, from here you can take the N252 north back towards Lisbon

Any thing to add to this trip? Please let everybody know in the comments.

All photos nickisalwaysonholidays