Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Cycling Europe 2019 Day 4: Porto To Ovar - River to the Ocean

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Cycling Europe 2019 Day  4: Porto To Ovar - From the River to the Ocean
Portugal, Spain & France : Day 4 Wednesday,  30th October - From Porto to Ovar
This is part of cycling tour of Iberian Peninsula (Portugal & Spain), covering the cycling leg from Porto to Ovar:
Cycling Distance: 44.55 km.     Level: Hard (would have been Medium but for the cold weather & rain).
Time : 9:45am to 5:30pm
Time Taken : 7 hrs. 45 mins. (including stops for lunch, shelter from rain, rest & lots of photo opps.)

This is page 3 of a 16-page blog, Click Here To Go To Title Page.
Go to D3 Porto 2             |           Go to Other Days               |             Go to D5 Mira >

Route Recommendations :
1. Traffic Directions!
     On the Continental Europe, vehicles are left-hand drive, so cycle on the right. And do remember the traffic directions at road crossing. Also note that often cycling lanes run next to pedestrian lanes at town and city areas, at crossings there are separate lanes for pedestrians and bicycles, so stick to the correct lane.

2. Route & Traffic Conditions  
    The route went along the the lower deck of the Ponte de Dom Luís I and continued on cycling paths along  the Duouro River until it met the Atlantic Ocean at the Douro Estuary. It continued along the ocean coastal cycling route, going onto board-walk paths that ran through the beaches at Passadiço Espinho and Praia de Paramos, and later on boardwalks paths cutting through the wetlands at Barrinha de Esmoriz / Lagoa de Paramos. Nearer Ovar the route went through beautiful pine forest paths.
    The route was mostly flat. The seaside route did not have much shade but it was okay as it was a rainy day. Enroute, a couple of us got wet and cold, and hailed a Uber car to get to Ovar.

3. Weather
    At Porto day temperature averaged 19°C with rain the whole morning. At Ovar, evening temperature averaged at 18°C, slight wind and intermittent showers made it feel colder.
    It is always prudent to check the weather for the next day so as to know what to expect and be prepared for it. Useful weather forecast sites are BBC WeatherAccuWeather, and for more detailed weather, including cloud cover and wind speed, use Weatherspark and Ventusky.

4. Places of Interest
    Along this route were several places of interests, some of which we visited and others we did not for lack of time:
  1. Ponte de Dom Luís I (Dom Luís I Bridge) (GPS: 41.13995, -8.60944) spanning over the Douro River and connecting Porto to Vila Nova de Gaia on the other side of the river.
  2. Riverside cycling path along the Douro River at Vila Nova de Gaia.
  3. Douro Estuary (Estuário Do Rio Douro) (GPS: 41.13636, -8.66823), where the Douro River meets the Atlantic Ocean.
  4. Aqua - Restaurante & Bar (GPS: 41.12102, -8.66524), start of beach boardwalk cycling paths; read more of this path at Ecovia Litoral de Espinho (Coastal Ecovia at Espinho).
  5. Tall breaker waves and the hexagon church in the sea at Capela Do Senhor Da Pedra (Lord Of The Stone Chapel) (GPS: 41.06875, -8.65859).
  6. Espinho Beach boardwalk cycling paths at Praia Da Granja Espadanedo. (GPS: 41.03912, -8.6500).
  7. Tall Espinho Signboard at Praia Marbelo. (GPS: 41.01483, -8.64454).
  8. Palm trees esplanade at Baia Beach (GPS: 41.00879, -8.64685) in Espinho.
  9. Paramos Beach boardwalk cycling paths at Praia de Paramos. (GPS: 40.98222, -8.64916).
  10. Capela de Nossa Senhora da Aparecida (Chapel of Our Lady of Aparecida) (GPS: 40.9783, -8.64955)
  11. Colourful Portuguese Muleta fishing boats at the beaches.
  12. For list of beaches at Vila Nova de Gaia click here.
  13. Boardwalk cycling paths cutting through Barrinha de Esmoriz / Lagoa de Paramos (GPS: 40.96588, -8.64783) wetlands reserve (Be sure to ride through the timber arch bridge). See the Barrinha de Esmoriz Facebook Page.
  14. Beach at Praia de Esmoriz (GPS: 40.95182, -8.65518).
  15. Cycling paths cutting through pine forest paths (GPS: 40.90367, -8.65741) near Ovar.
5. Meals
a. Breakfast: self-made in apartment.
b. Lunch: at O Rei des Croissants (GPS: 41.0847, -8.65537) in Valadares.
     (Pumpkin soup, ham & cheese omelet, Burgers, coffee, tea, & chocolate).
c. Dinner: at Cantinho do Valente (GPS: 40.86962, -8.67718) at Furadouro
     (Bread with pate de atum & sardine pate, Portuguese soft chease, Claypot speciality of Monkfish , clams, crayfish and rice, grilled squids, grilled salmon, and grilled pork). (Note: Restaurants in Furadouro only open at 7:30pm) 

6. Accommodations
    At Cool & Sea Beach House (GPS: 40.87011, -8.67558) in Furadouro (on the outskirt of Ovarwhich we had pre-booked online a house with one 2-pax bed-room and two 3-pax rooms at €93.60 per night inclusive of city tax. Floors feel wet due to condensation arising from cold, damp air.
    Address: Rua dos Arrais 7, 3880-375 Ovar, Portugal.
    Phone: +351-914-805-897

7. Communicating with Each Other
    When travelling in a group it's important to be able to communicate with each other, especially if one got lost.
    We bought pre-paid SIM cards from UK mobile provider Three on-line through Lazada. As some of us stayed for a shorter period, we got two plans with cost ranging from RM30 to RM70 for a 20 days 4G and a 30 days 10G plans respectively. These plans include their "Feel At Home" package which allow the phone's data, call and messaging allowance to be used in sixty countries (mostly European and also Singapore) without any extra charges!

8. Communicating with Locals
    In Portugal, except in rural areas, many locals can speak some basic English and communicating with them shouldn't be a problem. This is especially the case in hotels & restaurants.
        When communicating with locals is a problem, this could be partly overcome by using translation apps like Google Translate. Do install this app into your phone and before you leave on your tour, do some basic translation as it will be saved onto a list of recent translations.
    Look out for the tourist information booths at airports, railway stations or bus stations, the guides manning the booths speak very good English and do give good tips on where to visit, directions, train and bus schedule.

9. Navigation
     Unless he or she is very familiar with the locals routes, the tour leader should carry a GPS units. It will also be good if another member of the team carry another GPS unit should the leader's one go faulty.
    Kevin was using a Beeline navigation unit that synchronized with pre-planned routes on his phone app. Sin & me were using the Garmin GPS units and had pre-plotted our daily routes into respective GPX maps usable in these units. We had pre-loaded the PortugalSpain & France Maps together with GPS coordinates of our destinations. Do ZOOM out to look for turning points further ahead; and ZOOM in at complicated junctions, otherwise one may make a wrong turn (it did happen to us sometimes).
    Alternatively, download the MAPS.ME app together with the relevant country maps. This app can be used offline.
    At the towns and cities, we used Google Maps to navigate to various places of interests that were not shown on our GPS units.

10. Service Your Bicycles & Carry Tools and Spares
    Before leaving on your tour, it will be good to service your bike and bring along some spares like tubes, puncture patches, brake pads and the relevant tools.

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PRELUDE

A day earlier, we had joined an educational walking tour of Porto and had learn more of the city from the local guide. We had also walked across the Ponte de Dom Luís I to get over to Vila Nova de Gaia, at the other side of the Douro River.
The past few days we had been tourists, today our excitement is peaking as we are going to start some real cycling to head for Ovar, more than 40km away. Will we be kicking off with a bang?
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THE RIDE


Cycling route: Porto>Ponte de Dom Luís I>Vila Nova de Gaia>Afurada>Estuário do Douro>Valadares>Capela do Senhor da Pedra>Espinho>Barrinha de Esmoriz>Ovar PIne Forest>Ovar (Furadouro).
Cycling Distance: 44.55 km.     Level: Medium (would have been Easy but for the cold weather & rain).
The route went along the the lower deck of the Ponte de Dom Luís I and continued on cycling paths along  the Duouro River until it met the Atlantic Ocean at the Douro Estuary. It continued along the ocean coastal cycling route, going onto board-walk paths that ran through the beaches at Passadiço Espinho and Praia de Paramos, and later on boardwalks paths cutting through the wetlands at Barrinha de Esmoriz / Lagoa de Paramos. Nearer Ovar the route went through beautiful pine forest paths.
    The route was mostly flat, without much shade except at the pine forest, but it was okay as it was a rainy day.

Usually we would kick off our ride-tour at around 7:30am; but the rain really dampened our plans. It had rained the whole night and we were hoping that it would stop in the morning. But no, it continued on and on. We got ourselves ready after a very satisfactory self-made breakfast that included avocados (in lieu of butter) with toasted bread.

9:45 am - The rain had tapered off to a drizzle; it's time to roll off. On that chilly morning we donned our raincoats and covered our luggage bags with rain-proof covers. The forecast is rain the whole day! Let's hope we will fare well.

Just after we rolled off, the rain came back again, not as strong as the torrential thunderstorms that we get in our tropical Malaysian. The rain here would have been considered a drizzle; but in the cold weather a drizzle is worst off than a tropical thunderstorm.
We continued on shivering, but the sight of the Ponte de Dom Luís I ahead did lift up our spirits a bit. From here, we could see both upper and lower decks. The upper deck is for trams and pedestrians; we will be riding across the lower deck, the one used by motorized vehicular traffic.

The rain did not just slow us down, it had caused a long traffic jam with traffic slowly crawling across the bridge. We played it safe and decided not to clash with the cars but instead pushed our bikes along the narrow pedestrian walkway.

Across on the Vila Nova de Gaia side of the river, it was very pleasant to cycle along the riverside with cycling lanes that ran along wide pavements. But the rain came down stronger with a vengeance and we noticed that water was seeping through the Brompton Bag rain cover! Noticing some shops nearby we quickly stopped to buy some rain coats, not for ourselves but more for our bags - it wouldn't be good is all our clothes got wet! We covered our bags with the raincoats and wrapped the Brompton rain cover over them to keep them in place.

Sort of getting into a rhythm, we happily rode on board walks running right at the river's edge and with a great view of old Oporto on the other side. But bear in mind these boardwalks are pedestrian walkways and not meant for cycling.... soon some irate walkers pointed this out to us!

11:15am - One and a half hour later, we just made 8.5 kilometres. We had not made much progress on account of stopping to buy raincoats and slowly trying our best to "rain-proof" our bags. But we are in high spirits here, for this is the Douro Estuary - the point where the river meets the sea; we have arrived at the mighty Atlantic Ocean!
We stopped for a longer while to take in the moment. And also to take some memorable photos, our bright raincoats adding much needed colour to the moody weather.

Mr. Atlantic showed us no mercy, and lashed us with strong headwinds; fortunately there are cycling lanes here and we could ride safely without having to go onto the roads.

Nearer the towns, more dense housing blocked the strong sea winds. Passed by this house with statues of a football team. I had though that this represent the FC Porto, but the green and white are the colours of Sporting Clube de Portugal, (SCP) a football club based in Lisbon. Along with FC Porto, the SCP is one of the teams of the Primeira Liga, the Portugal Football League.

At a junction near Cafe Silva at the outskirts of Valadares, a quick stop to double check our route. Do we proceed straight? We went straight but should have turned right, that would have led us to the beach boardwalk cycling paths (more on that later). In fact the beach boardwalk cycling paths starts much earlier near to the Aqua - Restaurante & Bar (GPS: 41.12102, -8.66524). These cycling paths are not plotted out in Google Maps, one will have to turn to satellite view and zoom-in in order to be able to see them.

Here too we checked our luggage. My Brompton rain coverr was totally drenched, water had seeped through despite me having re-coated it with a coating of spayed on silicon. Luckily we had bought raincoats and had put them underneath, now the function of the rain-cover was just to hold the rain-coat in place. We will have to look for some other alternative rain-cover for our bags when we get back!

12:30pm - Time for lunch and were we glad to have found O Rei des Croissants, a cafe located just along the road. It had a suitably large compound where we could park and lock our bikes and an outdoor siting area where we hung our raincoats.
The first thing we ordered was soup, nothing is as heavenly as a hot bowl of soup after a cold morning of cycling😅.

Our lunch: pumpkin soup (seen in previous photo), ham & cheese omelet, burgers, coffee, tea, & hot chocolate.
Lynne had got herself damp, somehow the rain had penetrated through the zipper of her raincoat and got the front of her T-shirt damp. Not wanting her to fall sick at this early stage of our cycling tour, we hailed a Uber car to take her all the way to our Ovar home-stay (about 30 km. away). Jocelyn was quick to volunteer to accompany her 😂.

It was a good thing that they did too, for ahead the weather turned foggy and we were really thankful that there were dedicated red cycling lanes for us to ride on, keeping us separated and safely away from vehicular traffic. Although the rain had abated, the mist continuously wetted our faces - we were to later joke that our ride was one continuous wet facial!

A quick stop to admire the Capela Do Senhor Da Pedra (Lord Of The Stone Chapel). "While the church itself dates back to 1686, the rock upon which it sits has been a place of worship for more than two millennia. Originally, the giant boulder jutting into the sea was the site of ancient pagan worship where rituals were once performed, and today, neopagans continue to make an annual pilgrimage to the sacred site. The Capela Do Senhor Da Pedra, a hexagonal-shaped church, has managed to survive relatively unscathed on the Atlantic Ocean front despite the incessant battering of waves for more than three centuries.  The reason for its precarious position can only be understood by tracing back its more ancient history".
The chapel is usually approachable by land except during stormy weather, see photo of the chapel surrounded by strong waves.

Despite the wet weather, we counted our blessings - the lanes were almost devoid of other traffic and we had the whole place to ourselves, hahaha!

Another quick stop at Praia da Granja, just to view the strong breaker waves that came pounding strongly onto the beach.

Ahead, we reached an important milestone of our ride, the Ristorante Pizzeria S. Martino Granja. No, we are not stopping here to eat again.....

..... it's here that we started riding on the beach boardwalk cycling path. No fighting with pedestrians here (like earlier in Vila Nova de Gaia), these boardwalks along the Praia Da Granja Espadanedo were part of the dedicated cycling paths which form part of the Ecovia Litoral de Espinho (Coastal Ecovia at Espinho) cycling bike-ways. It ran most way near the beaches.....

..... but often swing inland a bit, to go behind sand dunes.

We reached the end of this stretch of the boardwalk path at , here a tall sign shouted out Espinho!
Ahead (to our rear in the above photo) was Baia Beach, a wide boulevard lined by palm trees; giving this place a tropical feel during summer.

Ahead we rode onto another beach boardwalk stretch along the Praia de Paramos. The concrete erosion protection had been painted brightly to form part of the landscape. Ahead the wind had formed dunes so that riding through them was like going through a desert-scape.

Along many of the beaches can be seen Muleta fishing boats, I tried to take photos of them, but the misty atmosphere made most of these dull and blurry.

Anyway, at a road leading to Praia de Paramos, was a large mural poster of a beach scene with a Muleta. Took some better photos here..... cheating a bit heh, heh!

We swing slightly away from the beaches and entered the Barrinha de Esmoriz located at the Lagoa de Paramos, This a beautiful stretch that running on boardwalks cutting through wetlands and should not be missed.
Small streams criss-crossed the area, and this is a place for bird-lovers, but today because of the rain we only saw a few birds.

In front was a timber arch bridge that spanned over one of the wider lagoons of this wetland; we like it so much that a few of us rode over it a couple of times, to and fro.
This bridge has a long history, it was built in 2017 on the ruins of a original bridge built in 1854, almost two centuries ago! A main reference to the bridge can be found in the book "The Song of the Mermaid" by Júlio Dinis (1839-1871) where he mentioned of "a bridge with with four arches that reflected the bottom greenish waters of the lagoon".

For those keen on the lagoon, here's a map of the Ecovia Litoral de Espinho (Coastal Ecovia at Espinho).

Surprise, surprise.... as we approached Ovar, one final treasure - cycling lanes that wended through pine wood forests. The mist lent a mysterious air to the place.

The lanes here are well planned, at the forest area were many dedicated timber cycling bridges spanning over streams that flowed through these woods.

5:30 pm - After a long, wet but enjoyable seven hours plus ride we arrive at our stay Cool & Sea Beach House, it's located at Furadouro, the sea-side outskirts of Ovar
Jocelyn and Lynne (now dried, comfortable and cozily settled in), were there to greet us with warm smiles.

We decided to forgo bathing and walked around the town to locate a good place for dinner. It was a mistake, most places here only open after 7:30pm. So while waiting, we just walked around the misty town and did some grocery shopping at a supermarket that opened. We were tempted to go into an opened burger joint but thought the better of it.

The town was quiet, but not all shops we closed. When they saw an opened shoe shop, the eyes of the ladies sparkled! We went in and bought a couple of of Crocs-like shoes, etc.

For dinner, Mel's "food radar" directed us to Cantinho do Valente where we had bread with pate de atum (tuna pate) & sardine pate, Portuguese soft cheese, grilled salmon, grilled squids and their specialty and their specialty of Claypot monkfish cooked with clams, crayfish and rice. The claypot dish was our favourite, with rice it had some similarity with Chinese style broth.... we are beginning to miss our home cooking 😳!

Boa noite e bons sonhos!
(That's "Goodnight & Sweet Dreams in Portuguese)

Click here for a Relive bird's eye view the ride from Porto to Ovar. (Note: only started tracking at the Douro Estuary)
(For more photos of the Day 4, Click Here)

This is page 3 of a 16-page blog, Click Here To Go To Title Page.
Go to D3 Porto 2              |            Go to Other Days             |            Go to D5 Mira > 
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