No pain no gain

Posted by on 1, May 2023 in 2023 - Sicily and Italy, Europe, Portugal, Tilly the Tandem, Western Europe

No pain no gain

In Hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy Slartibartfast wins awards for designing the Norwegian coastline. He obviously did the Portugal one too, presumably after Norway as it’s even more spectacular than his original work. We spend most of the days either moaning about some silly incline or wowing some fabulous view, which actually makes the hill pushing worthwhile.

We headed further southwards through the lovely island village of Baleal which you can only access via the causeway and on to Peniche, another lovely walled town built on a promentory with an Indian restaurant ! Always happy to see Indian restaurants on our travels, though we’ve now had enough over the past few days to last us a while!

The coastline started to get more and more hilly and the inclines steeper and steeper and the views better and better. The route has been largely on small back lanes and gravel tracks and the Eco Camino route from Santa Cruz was a dirt road running right along the edge of the cliffs which we largely had all to ourselves.

I spend a while plotting our routes and avoiding the big hills if possible by sometimes deviating from the Eurevelo route but today we largely followed it properly and found it ran directly into the sea. No idea where the path went and we had a choice of cliff face with not even a goat track or rocks half submerged in water.

No problem, we turned around and then found the way around involved a hill that was so steep we almost couldn’t push Tilly up it at all. We had to stop every 10m for a rest and our poor Speedo didn’t even restart each time we started to push as we were going so slowly . It had reached a gradient of 18% before it gave up and it got much steeper after this so I’d guess we were around 22%. Fortunately it wasn’t long, but that was an exhausting push!

But as with all the obstacles and problems you get cycle touring you find a way to deal with them and carry on. The thought of a long cold drink is quite inspirational at times!

So we cruised into Ericeria, a world Surfing reservation (whatever that means) for a day off and to watch the surfers.

Now I have a theory about surfers, the number of surfers is in inverse proportion to the number of people who look like they are surfers. The town is full of young, mainly men, all with the surfer dude look, long hair, scruffy, raggedy beard and often surf board under the arm, but the number of people in the water is tiny. And then number who can actually surf is even smaller. Now there may be some good explanation for this, but so far our conversations with people who’ve come to learn to surf seems to suggest that the party / drinking side lures them away from their original goals.

But the people who can surf properly are amazing, dancing on the waves back and forth making it look effortless. I’d fall off the board on dry land so hats off to them.

Every town we’ve cycled though or stopped at in Portugal, has the same mosaic pavements and pedestrianised streets. 40mm X 40mm square white stone blocks are used with black edging and occasional images and patterns. It is gorgeous and really makes the towns look great. Theres no broken slabs and bits of tarmac interspersed with the streets, if work needs doing they lift some mosaic stones, do the work and relay. Environmentally friendly too – and quieter as there’s no diggers breaking up the road for work.

Many towns also have a wonderful traffic calming scheme. Traffic lights controlled by speed sensors. Go above the speed limit and the light turns red a few hundred meters ahead and you have to stop. Genius. Though as every 3rd car seems to trigger it I guess people never learn, but instead of the UK’s flashing speed signs and frowny faces the cars here have to stop, be inconvenienced and go slower than the speed limit. Towns often have a whole series of these through the town. Great fun cycling along watching some BMW ijit race away frome one light then trigger the next one and stop, then repeat the whole process, whilst we keep catching them up!

Leaving Ericeira, the coastal route then starts to head over the biggest hills and on the main road so we veered inland to head for the UNESCO town of Sintra, Portugal’s biggest tourists trap.

It’s main attraction is the palace on top of the huge hill you can see for miles around. Our cycle up was a gentle incline passing a modern Buddhist temple where we stopped for lunch. It was a short steady easy cycle until we got to the town, when the road just went straight up. I wouldn’t want to drive up the road and we again srruggled to push Tilly up, but, as always, got there in the end.

The town itself was heaving and lovely. We bought tickets for the palace gardens as people said the inside of the palace was disappointing. We couldn’t face another walk up the hill so got a tuktuk to the top. Fab fun! The walk through the extensive gardens was gorgeous and the views of the Disney like palace great but when we got to the top the queues for entry to the palace made us very relieved we hadn’t bought tickets.

From Sintra we had a lovely roll down to the coast where, it being a weekend and sunny, the promenade and beaches were chock a block. I’d hate to see it in August.

Our last cycle took us into Lisbon along the coast zig zaging through the people on the promenades in gorgeous weather. We made a pit stop at Leroy Merlin to pick up some bubble wrap and then passed a bike shop where I popped in and asked them if I could buy a bike box – they wouldn’t accept any money, even for beer so we arrived at the hotel with all our packing stuff in tow. Normally this is fine, but at a 5 star hotel we were ushered to the garage to pack Tilly up. Don’t want to upset the other cleintelle!

We don’t normally stay at 5 star hotels. We had booked a cheap hotel adjacent to this one and had asked to extend our stay by one day. The hotel said we had to stay for 3 days if we wanted to extend the booking, so Linda found the hotel next to it doing a 2 night offer and booked us in at a price almost the same as our original cheapy! She’s pretty good with deals!!

So our travels ended with a few days in Lisbon with Linda’s brother, nephew and partners to celebrate Marks 60th birthday. A great time was had by all with some memorial moments and it was a fab way to round off our trip.

Obviously departing Portugal and arriving back in the UK was very different. Baggage trolleys are free in Lisbon, there aren’t any tank traps we can’t get Tilly through in her box without taking her off the trolley and the lifts are enormous – designed for half a dozen tandems not one.

Our arrival in Luton was cold and wet, the escalator was broken, the trolleys cost £2 and the baggage was delayed for an hour, just what you need at 1am…

Welcome home.


  1. I just love reading your travel blogs. There’s a book in there Linda & Jon the Travels if Tilly the Tandem ????????

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