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Sofia

Sofia and Pedro´s Portugal trip, 2nd installment: The Center

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image.png.e0e1919cf41300c5ca4a0d55126c3284.pngDay 3 started a little cold and foggy, but dryish. Just next to the hotel a shop selling souvenirs had lots of toy sheep of many sizes for sale and seeing I had lost my fluffy friend in the Douro, it was the perfect opportunity to get a new travel companion.

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 Firmly attached to the luggage she got and off we went to ride one of the most spectacular roads in Portugal. I have fond memories of it, the N231, because many moons ago the Portuguese Triumph Owners Club to which I belonged used to gather around here once a year and I joined them a couple of times. It is my favourite type of road, not too small, not too big, good markings and many, many corners varying from relatively tight to swiping, fat bends easy to push a little more. 

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Having a look at a doggy while waiting for take away sandwiches. In these remote and isolated hamlets, with aging population, its many times hard to get a vet to come. Serendipity helped in this case!! 

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While I was looking at google maps and wondering where to go, Pedro went a few kms away to put fuel on my motorcycle, he came back half an hour later grinning from ear to ear, and you could hear the Speed Triple arrive half a minute before appearing, there must be something to riding a bike weighting less than a full cow´s weight!

 

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This road connects Serra da Estrela to Serra do Açor, a mountain smaller in size and height, but with as strong character and peppered with little historical villages where houses are entirely made of schist ( a kind of slate ), crisscrossed by little rivers creating enchanting spots with large overhanging trees and a quaint feeling all round. 

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Epic!!

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A little bit of Britain in the Portuguese moutains! 

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We were on our way to one of these little villages. Possibly the most famous, perched on the side of the mountain called Piodão and  reminiscent of a crib because of the harmonious way in which its houses are arranged in the form of an amphitheatre. At night, when the village´s lights are turned on, this picture is particularly magnificent. It is known as the Nativity of Portugal because it looks like, from a distance, as if someone was carefully placing the little houses as one does with a Nativity. 

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The distinctive feature of this mountain village with its narrow winding streets is schist, a stone found in great abundance in the region and used to build the houses and pavements, forming a large patch of uniform colour, interrupted by the vivid blue of the windows or doors of some houses. This note of dissonant colour owes its origin to a practical consideration, for it is said that the only shop in the village had nothing but blue paint to sell, and in view of the village´s isolation it was not easy for people to travel anywhere else. It has in fact been this isolation and the difficulties in travelling elsewhere that have helped to preserve many of the characteristics of this ancient village intact.

None of us had ever visited Piodão and Pedro was unaware of its existence, so it was a lovely journey of discovery for both of us. It is a special place indeed and we were fortunate to see it without the mass tourism that normally is found here. 

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It was time for lunch, so we had our daily pic-nic at the  monument dedicated to my favorite poet, the doctor that we had encountered in the Douro, remember? It was extraordinarily special to seat there, read his words and enjoy the absolute peace of that spot. And eat a great cheese sandwich!! 

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Onwards to the South!! Very moody weather stayed with us while we descended via nice roads, more adequate for Pedro´s proficient riding than my current state of affairs!! Specially distracting with all the beautiful scenery, it was hard to concentrate on the tarmac when the view, the smells, the feeling of adventure were all so enticing!! 

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A quick stop at a big dam´s view point, mesmerized us how it was  mirroring the sky with its heavy dark clouds. It was reminiscing of Scotland once again! 

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From there we followed Pedro´s route, planned specifically to avoid main roads and we entered the forest roads that had good tarmac and it was fun to surprise the loggers loading lorries, definitely not expecting motorbikes to appear round the corner! 

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It was time for coffee and we stopped at the most quirky of places that was a grocery store,  cafe/snack-bar and a hardware store! It was like the old Far West all you can sell place!! We were most amused. 

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On this window one can find from left to right: mirror, hair bush, nail clippers, horn, digital calculator, engine spark plugs, watches, electric tape, razor, stick-on hangers, cork screws and leather belt. 

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We were about to cross the Portuguese psychological border that divides North and South of the Country, going over the Tagus River. The place where this crossing is done is a geological marvel and is called “Doors of the Tagus”.

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On a previous trip by myself I found a tower and chapel at the top of one of the sides of the mini canyon  that squeezes the river before  it enlarges to become the biggest river in POrtugal. Pedro was keen to see it, albeit worried with my physical tiredness, but I insisted and we climbed again, yet another smooth and ribbon like road. He was most happy to get there and the mighty GS rode over all the steps to the derelict tower! One of these days I will write something about this tower and chapel, its very interesting History, but I know I am very boring!! 

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It was at this magical border we said goodbye to the stony landscape, the brutal rock faces, the harsh weather and difficult conditions that makes for tough people, harden by the environment. Now the land would go flat, undulating like a savanna, covered in cork tree oaks and large views ahead. Big, big skies awaited us and apart from the last 20 minutes of riding to the hotel, no more rain!! 

We stayed in one of Pedro´s favourite places, an old convent converted to be a hotel, full of charm and comfort. Like him, I think I fell in love with the place! 

Diner was at a typical local restaurant with a surprise for Pedro, that ate "brains" but it was actually just bread and kidney cooked in a way that looked like brain and came inside a whole  bread pretending to be the skull. He was very disappointed with all the pretense and really wanted an Anibal Lecter moment

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I just had soup. i say soup, but its much more then the combination of its parts! There was garlic, salted cod, egg and bread, but this list is worked with a sprinkle of mgic to become simply delish!! 

 

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Before bed a little extra! 

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That's finished reading the second part. Now to read part one, hope you make it to the beginning.

 

I think you should write the history of the tower and chapel.

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25 minutes ago, yen_powell said:

That's finished reading the second part. Now to read part one, hope you make it to the beginning.

 

I think you should write the history of the tower and chapel.

There is a certain  frisson from reading some of it backwards. After all Gorge Lucas has made a good living out out of that! 

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Some of the roads in this section surprised me, more fun than I thought, sadly the weather was a bit crap. I did like the little blast on the Speed Triple, though, feels tiny compared to the normal sized bike I ride.

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what a beautiful country!!  and, oh my!  those roads!!!!

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