Posted by on 26, Apr 2017 in 2017 - Rock to ???, Portugal, Tilly the Tandem


As with all our travels, combining vegetarianism with Jon’s interpretation of it (vegetarianism without the vegetables) is always a challenge.

The Portugese though like their Tosti’s, and on our previous visit we loved them too. The bread is always what posh people call Artisnal and so we tucked into our first one eagerly in a village cafe. Well, I have to say I really don’t think that what they call cheese is cheese, it’s the Artisnal bread equivalent of Hovis white loaf – pap. It has no flavour and is basically a way of clogging your arteries without any of the pleasure of Cheddar. Proper cheese needs to strip the roof of your mouth of at least five layers of skin, have chalky bits the size of dice and leave your mouth feeling zingy afterwards, not like you’ve just eaten a tube of Mastik. So we’ve had to give up on the local cheese Tosti’s.

But ever since we arrived in Portugal we’ve seen advertised on Menu’s "Choco Frittos" and been thinking – that sounds nice, maybe it’s like chocolate churros, well it’s not. It’s fried cuttlefish! Glad we found that out before ordering it with a coffee for our mid morning stop!

But fear not, they sell proper zingy Cheddar in the supermarkets anyway! And diced tofu, which is definitely the best advert for meat eating ever designed, it has to be one of the most disgusting things I’ve ever eaten, in fact I cut out the middle man and tipped most of it down the loo it was sooooo bad!

Of course ordering anything here is quite fun. If you hear a local speaking you’d think they were Polish to start with and our pronunciation of words is hopeless our understanding almost non existent but fortunately the Portugese are very patient and understanding and many speak English well enough for us to communicate. And in these days of Microsoft translator we can even let them speak into our phones for a translation, or photo the menu and it all gets translated for us. Very handy.

But food aside the cycling has continued, slowly. We’ve given up on the marked (at least marked on the map anyway) route and now plan routes each night, avoiding busy roads, tracks and hills where possible. It’s made the whole journey much better as we no longer end up sinking in 6 inches of sand when cycling, nor having to take our life in our hands on busy roads.

We’ve also reached Lisbon! 1000km since we’ve left home and only 3000km to go.

Lisbon is a wonderful city with the most slippery pavements in the world (they don’t boast about that bit). They’ve used the same small white flat cobbles to make pavements all over the city, sometimes Inlaying them with black patterns. They look fabulous, but when worn they become polished and given that Lisbon is a really hilly city you can slide down some hills whether you want to or not. We both nearly went over quite a few times, and that was before happy hour too.

But it is gorgeous. The centre is a magnificent example of a grid plan city with all the buildings being the same height, colours and dimensions and the streets running down to the square in front of the river Tagus. It’s like stepping back in time (if you can ignore the TukTuks and tour buses) and was the very first modern city plan. Further out of the centre it’s different (though the pavements are still the same slippery stuff) and much much poorer but still littered with fantastic Victorian buildings falling to bits. It’s a few stops past shabby chic on the way to derelict.

But the authorities seem to have a sensible plan. They recognise the future lies in tourism and the city seems to being transformed into a tourists dream city. New squares, passenger terminals and roads are being built, there’s much renovation going on and the centres is well maintained. We loved it, but it’s time to move on and abandon the coastal route and head inland toward Spain and the central mountains, proper mountains, not the micky mouse hills we’ve done so far….

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