Saturday, November 30, 2019

Cycling Europe 2019 Days 1-2: Olá Portugal!

                                     AhPek Biker - Riding Adventures                                   
Cycling Europe 2019 Days 1 & 2: Kuala Lumpur to Porto - Olá Portugal!
(Night view of Porto with Luis 1 Bridge in background. Photo is from poster at our apartment)
Portugal, Spain & France : Days 1 & 2 - Sunday & Monday, 27th & 28th October - Kuala Lumpur to Porto
This is part of a cycling tour of the Iberian Peninsula (Portugal & Spain), covering the leg from Kuala Lumpur to Porto:
Cycling Distance: N/A as we were walking around.     Level: N/A.
Cycling Time : N/A
Time Taken : N/A

This is page 1 of a 20-page blog, Click Here To Go To Title Page.
Go to Bikes On Planes       |      Go to Other Days            |           Go to D3 Porto 2 >

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. Bringing Bikes Onto Planes
    From and to Kuala Lumpur, we flew in to Porto via Emirates which allowed 25kg of luggage inclusive of our bicycles without additional charges. At Lisbon, it was onto their coach-sharing partner TAP (Transportes Aéreos Portugueses, i.e. Air Portugal) for the one-hour flight to Porto.
    We had packed our bikes into Dimpa bags and brought along a spare Dimpa too (this spare Dimpa came in handy to pack our shopping and clothing on the return flight). On checking in, we had to take our bagged bikes to the over-sized baggage section for at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport.
    A tip, simple but important. Ensure that you DO NOT carry your tool kits or any long/sharp metal objects in your hand luggage. Put your tool kit into your checked-in bike bags. I often seen friends forgetting about this, only to have their tools confiscated at the security checkpoints.

3. Route & Traffic Conditions  
    As we would be arriving almost close to midnight in Porto, to be on the safe side, we pre-booked a taxi online via the Porto Airport Transfers To website. There are many airport transfers web-sites, we chose this as it is a site that is just dedicated to Porto Airport. Bicycles (full-sized and folded) are allowed onto the Porto Metro for free; for regulations regarding bringing bikes onto the Porto Metro click here. Travelling light, our bikes were packed in IKEA Dimpa bags lined with Impra Boards. and our other luggage
    Day 2 was a rainy day and we walked around, hopped onto an Uber or the Porto Metro to get to further away places. For regulations regarding bringing bikes onto the Porto Metro click here.
4. Weather
28th October 2019
   At Porto day temperature averaged 21°C while evening temperature averaged at 18°C. A slight wind and intermittent showers made it feel cooler.
   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.

5. Places of Interest
    Along these 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).
  2. São João National Theater (GPS: 41.14467, -8.60742).
  3. Igreja de Santo Ildefonso (Saint Ildefonso Church) (GPS: ).
  4. Igreja da Santíssima Trindade (Trinity Church) (GPS: 41.15096, -8.61039).
  5. Câmara Municipal do Porto (Porto Town Hall) (GPS: 41.14991, -8.61068).
  6. Praça do Município, the town square (GPS: 41.14940, -8.61077).
  7. Hotel Aliados Building (GPS: 41.14778, -8.61150).
  8. Porto Sao Bento Train Station (GPS: 41.14566, -8.61053) (elaborate wall mosaic and architecture).
  9. Igreja de Santo António dos Congregados (St. Anthony's Church of the Congregates)(GPS: 41.14618, -8.61073) with its mosaic gable wall..
  10. Capela de Nossa Senhora da Silva (Chapel of Our Lady of Silva) (GPS: 41.14539, -8.61324).
  11. Igreja dos Clérigos (Clerics Church) (GPS: 41.14582, -8.61398).
6. Food
On Day 2:
   - Breakfast: in apartment.
   - Lunch: Restaurante Nova Luanda (GPS: 41.14541, -8.60433), 5€ pax that included bread, soup, mains, dessert, coffee, drinks (wine/beer/fruit juice).
   - Dinner: Cervejaria Brasão Aliados (GPS: 41.14919, -8.61173); Portuguese fare including Francesinha & Vegetable Francesinha, both with beer sauce.

7. Accommodations
    We stayed three nights at the House above Douro River (GPS: 41.14330, -8.58683) which we had pre-booked online an apartment with four 2-pax bed-rooms at €148.95 per night inclusive of city tax (€18.60 per pax per night).
    Address: Rua de Sabrosa, n 33, 2 left, Porto, Porto 4300, Portugal.

8. 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!

9. 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.

10. Navigation
    As we were in the city, we used Google Maps to navigate to various places of interests.
At the towns and cities, we used Google Maps to navigate to various places of interests that were not shown on our GPS units. Do note that Google Maps does not work in Cycling Mode in Portugal so use Walking Mode but do be aware that sometimes recommend routes are against traffic.


Yup, that's us - the missus and me at Kuala Lumpur International Airport. Mrs. AhPek will be joining us for this cycling tour, the previous time she had joined us was for our Korea Jeju Island cycling tour. And I think she'll enjoy this tour very much as both of us had not been to Portugal and Spain before. It will be our debut visit to the countries and better still we will be cycling there.
Other members of our team had already left earlier. Mel & Kevin had flown in from London; while Sin, Jo, Anne & Fenn had taken an earlier 2am Emirates flight to Porto with a transit in Dubai. Lynne & me couldn't join them on that flight as we had a wedding dinner to attend to, and we took an 10:30am Emirates-TAP flight to Porto with transit stops at Dubai and Lisbon.
At Lisbon, it was onto the TAP (Transportes Aéreos Portugueses, i.e. Air Portugal) coach-sharing one-hour flight to Porto. By the time we arrive at Porto Francisco Sá Carneiro Airport it was 11:00pm. Our friends has arrived at 1pm and had the chance to do a bit of cycling in the town, click here to read their 1/2-day cycling adventure in Porto.

Instead of being titled "Hello Portugal", this blog could have been titled "A Tale of Two Cities", i.e. KualaLumpur and Porto. But more likely it would have been titled "A Tale of Two Phones".
Why? See the night before, after the dinner we dropped of some relatives..... and er..... we also dropped Lynne's phone onto the hard driveway, and the screen cracked with some blue liquid slowly spreading across it.
After we checked, in the blueness had spread half across the screen, making it hard to see anything on that half. Fortunately at one of the phone shops at the airport we managed to get a cheap Oppo phone for her to use. It had a touch screen and all the basics except a good camera, so it would do. Phone #1 was relegated into the luggage bag, but it had a good battery that could last long and a daily alarm had previously been set. The thing is, a mid-morning alarm for KualaLumpur would mean an alarm that would go off in the wee morning hours in Porto. And at 2:00 am, it promptly did that: started ringing and ringing and ringing. Without being able to see anything on the screen there was now way to turn the damn thing off!!! So it was further relegated out to the balcony for it to enjoy a view of the Douro River and the sliding door closed firmly!

Knowing that we would be arriving at Porto close to midnight, to be on the safe side, we had pre-booked a taxi online via the Porto Airport Transfers To website. There are many airport transfers web-sites, with some having very bad reviews. We chose this as it is one that is just dedicated to Porto Airport. and we had no regrets.
Upon clearing immigration and customs, out at the arrival hall we saw this tall, burly man with a sign stating "AhPek Biker", yup... that's for me. His name was Alex and he took us to a huge van. Er.... we had booked a comfort-sized sedan..... is this right? Are we going to be charged for this large van, just for the two of us? No worries, he assured us. He has a pick-up for a large group the following morning and was just killing two birds with one stone. Alex did better than kill birds, he was very proud of his hometown and gave us much needed advice on what to see, do, and eat!

When we arrived at our pre-booked apartment, were we glad to have Sin waiting for us; the rest after a long flight and a good ride, had gone back to sleep.
We bathed and tucked ourselves in too.....
..... AND somewhere at the balcony with a good view of the Douro River, Phone #1 was ringing out it's alarm continuously!

"Boa noite!"
(That's Goodnight in Portuguese .....
Dang! I can still hear the phone!)


Day's route: Porto>Uber>DHL Global Forwarding>Botica Sta.>Porto Metro>Trindade Sta.>Porto City Centre>Porto Riberia.
Cycling Distance: N/A     Level: N/A
Time (Day 2) : 10:15am to 9;30 pm
Time Taken (Day 2) : 11 hrs. 15 mins. (inclusive of lunch, visiting places of interest, shopping, rest, and many photo opps).
This is a walking route to explore the old centre of Porto, we did some travelling by Porto Metro trains and Uber taxis.

Here we are, our first group photo of our cycling tour excluding yours truly. But for today we wouldn't be cycling as our main business was to get our hard-case bags and Dimpa-Impraboards bike-packing couriered over to the some penultimate destinations so that we would not have to lug them around while cycling from city to city.

We hailed two Uber cars, loaded up the bicycle bags and headed for the courier shop. Enroute we espied several bridges spanning over the Douro River, the most impressive one was the Dom Luis 1 Bridge. On the right is Porto and on the left is Vila Nova de Gias; both these towns sit high on hills and as such the bridge is a tall one. It is a double-decked bridge with a top deck serving the Porto Metro and pedestrians, and a bottom deck (running at the bottom of the arch) serving motor vehicles. It was completed in 1887 and was designed by Gustave Eiffel and has a similar steel lattice frame look. It has been confused with the nearby Maria Pia Bridge, a railway bridge that was built 9 years earlier (and located 1 kilometre (0.62 mi) to the east), that is similar in aspect to the Luis 1 Bridge, except that it does not have a lower deck.

The Ubers dropped us of at the DHL Service Point at Busílis, these service points are usually third-party shops (often stationery shops or florists) that have been contracted to accept and collect parcels on behalf of DHL. These parcels are then forwarded to the main local DHL centre. Unfortunately the DHL Busílis operator advised that he only accepts small parcels and our bike bags were definitely to big for him to handle. He directed us to go to another shop about a kilometre away.
But for the girls, it was no loss..... soon they were happily shopping in that shop.... no loss for the operator too 🤣! One thing I noticed was that batteries here cost 30% cheaper than in Malaysia.... and I had packed along several spare batteries, Dang!

The shopping itched soothed, we were soon pushing our bike bags to the other shop. It is now that I realized what a tough time my buddies must have had the previous day when they were cycling here; old Porto town sits on a hill and many of the roads were superbly steep!

We took this in stride, and Lynne & me took advantage of this brisk walk to have a first proper look of the town - admiring that many buildings display blue tiles on their facade walls, these tiles often depict life in Porto, boats on the river e.g.

The streets are narrow but many of the buildings manage to include intricate French balconies.

Passed by the grand São João National Theater .....

..... and then the Igreja de Santo Ildefonso (Saint Ildefonso Church) with its blue tiled frontage. Two things we noted, the beautiful tiles in rich indigo blue and that the Portuguese word for church is "igreja". Our Bahasa Malaysia word for church is "gereja" which was probably inherited from the period of Portuguese colonization of the Malacca. In fact several Bahasa Malaysia words bear similarity with Portuguese words. See a video here that shows their similarity!

The Igreja da Santíssima Trindade.

A cute colourful sight-seeing tour train.

And colourful tuk-tuks taking tourists around.
Note the little shop behind, Restaurante Nova Luanda - that's our lunch place.

We arrived at the other DHL service point at  Tabacaria Branca de Neve. Bad news here also, they can't accept big bags too.
But stopping here was a blessing in disguise, for next to this service point, at the Restaurante Nova Luanda next door, a sign shouted out a set lunch deal at 5€ pax. It's too good a deal not to be missed and we took up the offer while we figure out what next to do with our bike bags.

It was lunch time and the place was packed with locals, mostly workmen (no other tourists accept here except us), and they laid out tables for us to eat el-fresco. After a night of rain, it was a cold morning and a breeze blowing to make it even colder. BUT the deal was just to good to reject despite sitting out in the cold!
Above is a collage of our five Euro, 5-course meal that included: potato soup; a main course (either pork rolls or pork chop with red bean/rice, or pork and sausage pasta, or roast chicken with on of the best potato fries), drinks (Super Bock beer or red wine or orange juice), dessert & coffee. It's a good deal, Yah? And on that cold morning, a simple potato soup just tasted so, so GOOD!
Papa Luanda was a bit skeptical of us tourists, but the son Alex spoke good English, hosted us very well and soon Papa warmed up to us with his passable English.

So what should we do with our huge bike bags? No way will we be able to lug them along during our tour! Fortunately, I had noted that there was a DHL Global Forwarding main centre near the airport, Kevin, Sin & me promptly took an Uber over. Sin had his, Jo and Fenn's bags (packed into on bag) sent over to Barcelona for €47. While Kevin, Mel, Lynne, Anne's and mine were sent to Granada for €76. Some spare clothes, packets of 3-in-1 Vietnamese coffee (I love those and always bring the along), etc. were also packed into the forwarded bags, AND .........
you guessed right, so was the dang ringing phone!
Comparatively to our Korea experience of forwarding our bike bags, the cost here seems to be very much higher. Perhaps we were hasty and did not check similar services provided by other logistic companies such as Eurosender (an i-platform that provide comparable rates from several logistic companies), etc. Do check the reliability of such other services before using them.

That done, we walked over to the nearby Botica Station and took the Porto Metro Purple Line down to the Trinad Station. The fare per pax was €2-00 plus €0-60 for the Andante ticket-pass.

Back in town it was raining, the others were visiting some other places. So the three of us walked around saw this statue next ot a familiar red-post box. It looked familiar because it was similar to those seen in Britain. In fact arising from British influence, other than this red post-box, there are also red telephone booths around.

Pavements tiled in an impressive pattern.

Dropped into the Porto Sao Bento Train Station; it's iconic clock reminded me of the one seen at Musée d'Orsay in Paris.

But it's not the clock that attracts people; in the main hall of the station the renown walls murals made with the distinct Portuguese azujelo blue tiles.
The station was built on the site of a 16th century Benedictine monastery, the Convent of São Bento da Avé Maria, after which it was named (São Bento is the Portuguese for Saint Benedict). 
The ghost of that last nun is said to haunt the hallways of the train station to this day, and her gentle prayers can sometimes be heard by those who walk through the station.

The azujelo blue tiles line all four walls of the main hall and depicts event of the city's medieval past, such as the Conquest of Ceuta and the Battle of Arcos de Valdevez.

Right at the top, almost at ceiling level, are tiles that are more colourful. These depicts the history of transportation in Portugal, from horse drawn carraiges to today's railway carraiges.

Nearby is the Igreja de Santo António dos Congregados (St. Anthony's Church of the Congregates) its gable wall azujelo blue tiles standing out conspicously in contrast to the surrounding grey walls.

Meeting up with the rest of the gang at the Tourist Information Centre; we took a slow walk along the quiet side and back alleys to head of our dinner destination.

Passed by another church - Igreja dos Clérigos (Clerics Church); in the dark its tall tower was not easily visible.

The Capela de Nossa Senhora da Silva (Chapel of Our Lady of Silva), a unique shrine located on the first floor of a small building.

The bright and colourful shop window of a souvenir shop (note: many of these shops are manned by Bangladeshis who speak passable English); fish and cats seems to be favourite souvenir items.

Oops... we better hurry, Sin seems to be getting thirsty, his open mouth waiting for some drink to fall down from a giant tap above!

At the nearby Barbearia Garrett, Sin candidly went in for a hair-cut .... er, he's bald, that's why it was a bit comical and the current owner/barber, 73-year old Mr. Acácio Branco was stumped 😂. This shop was opened in 1958 by a Mr. Mr. Fernando Lopes de Almeida; it's as old as Sin, who was equally stumped! (Photo credit: Anne Cheong/Sin)

And here's our dinner at Cervejaria Brasão Aliados: (from to left)
1. Crispy pastry sticks, 2. Meat crochet with mayonnaise, 3. Mushroom roll in truffle, 4. Vegetable Francesinha with beer sauce, 5. Fried Onion, 6. Black mayonnaise that goes with the fried onion, 7. Mushroom-truffle roll cut opened, 8. Francesinha with beer sauce, 9. Chocolate dessert; and drinks of red Sangria and beer.

It had been a long, fruitful day for us and as we headed back to our apartment to tuck ourselves in, Porto's nightlife just seem to have started!

Boa noite!
(That's Goodnight in Portuguese)

Click here for a Relive bird's eye view Discovering Porto.
(For more photos of the Days 1 & 2, Click Here)

This is page 1 of a 20-page blog, Click Here To Go To Title Page.
Go to Bikes On Planes       |      Go to Other Days           |           Go to D3 Porto 2 > 

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