Day 21: Memories

Community Highlights Europe Day 21: Memories

I woke up early and did my normal routine but I also took some time to oil my bike chain and put the tires up with this handle rechargeable pump my friend gave me as a Christmas gift a year ago I believe. First time taking it with me and I love it—thank you Matt! By the way I check out the seat and it looked pretty good this morning.


I still had som time before breakfast so I went out and walked the grounds and garden. Then went to breakfast and there was a women about my age cutting fruit—the table was already set and there were plates of cheese, meet, cakes, a basket of fruit, a cup of yogurt, jams (pumpkin, very common here, and plum). I see that she has fixed me coffee and through words and gestures indicate that I want tea. There is so much food. I never know if they put it out to look bountiful or if they really expect you to eat it all. Partly because I am cycling but mostly because I can just eat a lot, I consume everything but one roll and on piece of cake.


I believe it got down to 45 last night and by the time I leave the hotel it is barely 50. My first few miles are uphill so I am quickly warmed up. It was quite cold and windy near the stony top of the mountain—hence all of the windmills which have surrounded me this morning. My route today is varied and not too long.


In about an hour I have already reached my first stop, Sabuga. To get into town I have to cross a small bridge and see that there is a path next to the water so I take a devout to bike the path. From here it is uphill to the castle. As usual there is information around the walls and tower that give some history. It is interesting how high the walls are—with multiple long stairs going all the way to the top of the ramparts, which seem to be at least three stories tall. You can also take stone then wooden stairs all the way to the top, hunching over to make it through the short passageways.


The ride after Sabugal was a mixture of mountains and valleys—beautiful wooded roads with regular views of the mountains and countryside that were simply inspiring. One such spot was coming over and down a mountain and seeing a large reservoir which appeared as two lakes from a distance.


When not climbing to one of the ridges, I am cycling through rolling countryside with farms, groves of olives, a variety of animals, and an every increasing number of cork trees, marked with identifying numbers. I know that the country and farming has changed, but coming across a group of cows in the field looks like it could be from a painting from a couple hundred years ago. Although my contact with people is very limited while I am biking I love seeing people working in their gardens or on the farms. I also see stonemasons, carpenters, etc. just doing their jobs, and others just sitting and talking in a doorway or on a porch. An average day in Portugal.


After a few hours of fantastic biking, I catch a glimpse of Monsanto, my next stop, high above the surrounding countryside. I already knew it was going to be a steep climb on the bike, but now I see the evidence. I have done some serious climbs during my time in Portugal and know I can do it. It might not be easy, but it can be done. With some hard work (I had to stand up and bike a couple time, and I rarely do that) I did make it to the top. I am rewarded with amazing vistas and charming stone houses scattered on the hillside. To be honest, those that came by car are seeing the same thing, just let me go on believing it means more to me.


Although it is a tourist destination the town is pretty empty which makes me believe it isn’t really the time for many visitors. Like the cafe guy told me last night, they are busy on the weekends and later in the summer. I walk the streets, taking too may pictures, and a enjoy having to share the city with so few other people.

When leaving the city I think of what those that drive up and down don’t get. I also can enjoy and exhilarating descent twisting and turning my way down the mountain.

The ride to my hotel is only and hour and a half on rolling country roads with only a few longer and steeper climbs. The sun is out and it is in the 60s—perfect weather for biking.

I get to my hotel and get cleaned up before coming down to talk to the owner. He speaks very good English and is very helpful. One of my questions is about a restaurant as google tells me there is one nearby that is open tonight. He informs me that is not true so I show him the name on google of the one I am reading about. I would expect this man you lives here and runs a hotel would know, but he calls to double check. There is no answer. Of course, I believe him as this is not the first time google has not been accurate regarding. He offers to make me a sandwich, and I tell him that I saw a small market at the end of the street so I head there to see what I can find.

When I say small the market is the size of an average rectangular room You walk in a door on the side and there is a small meat and cheese cooler about 5 feet long with space behind for access. The wall straight ahead had shelves from one end to the other, it many of the products are detergent, soap, and other household products. Less than have that wall is food, and it is mostly canned. In the back is a small freezer with ice cream as well as frozen bread. The fourth wall, which the door was on contains canned sodas and juices, bread and baked goods, fruit and candy. No section is probably more than three feet. The last little bit of that wall is taken up with the checkout counter and register where there is a lady waiting to help.

And she does offer to help in Portuguese, and I apologize for not speaking the language and asks if she speaks English, and happily she does. I explain I just need something to eat tonight and ask about bread, meat, cheese and fruit. She apologizes that she has sold out of bread for the day but goes to the cooler to show me some meat and cheese. I select a small package of meat and she cuts a quarter of a cheese round for me, and I ask he to slice it into multiple pieces, which she kindly does.

While she is helping me an older Portuguese mana has come in and is picking out some lettuce, and I say she should go help him which she does. While he is checkin out I try to walk to the fruit and drinks which is at the back of the store, and I cannot easily get around him at the counter—that is how small and narrow this store is. I end of choosing a 1.5 liter orange soda—nothing here is in small bottles, a couple apples, a chocolate bar and a couple cookies. All the while I am asking her questions and explaining that I am biking around Portugal. All this may seem insignificant to you, but as I said I have so few opportunistic to interact with people, I am loving have a conversation and listening to the lovely lady.

I have had several meals at restaurants here in Portugal, and I have already forgotten some of them. It will be much easier remembering the kindness of the women who helped me select my supper.

I enjoyed my market feast while writing about todays’ events. Around 8:00 I decided to go for a walk before the sun set. I stated off in town going by the church and then noticing houses and gardens. I see more people out now—some walking, others just talking with neighbors or family, I hear animated voices over stone walls (of course I have no idea what they are saying. I did get some glances and stairs while out walking as I am sure that everyone who lives in this small town knows each other. I get on a road that takes me out of town, through olive and cork trees until I am in the country. The sun is setting, and I try and capture the images to remember my visit to an average Portuguese town that ended up bing so memorable.


This featured blog entry was written by guylch75 from the blog Pedaling Portugal.
Read comments or Subscribe

By guylch75

Posted Tue, May 14, 2024 | Comments