Saturday, December 28, 2019

Cycling Europe 2019 Day 6: Mira To Figueira da Foz - El Comandante

                                     AhPek Biker - Riding Adventures                                   
Cycling Europe 2019 Day 6: Mira To Figueira da Foz - El Comandante
Portugal, Spain & France: Day 6 Friday, 1st November - Mira to Figueira da Foz
This is part of a cycling tour of the Iberian Peninsula (Portugal & Spain), from Mira to Figueira da Foz (FdF):
Cycling Distance: 38 km.     Level: Medium (a Hard and misty stretch on the approach to FdF).
Time : 9:50am to 5:00pm
Time Taken : 7 hrs. 10 mins. (including stops for morning tea, lunch, tea & dancing, rest, regrouping & lots of photo opps.)

This is page 5 of a 20-page blog, Click Here To Go To Title Page.
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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  
   Starting at Mira, the route goes on a short along Barrinha Lagoon with a short stretch along cycling lanes passing throught woods. From there it runs along the Avenida da Barrinha to meet and continue on the Portugal national trunk road N109 until just after Brenha where it takes a right to go along suburban roads cutting through suburbs of Figueira da Foz (FdF)  such as Saltadouro and Abadias before arriving at the seaside resort town of Figueira da Foz.
    The route is flat until after Cafe 109, form where it goes along fairly steep roads until Brenha. From there it slopes down towards FdF via residential roads..
    Our original route was suppose to run through just after Mira until Quiaios and then head towards the hills at Cape Mondego, (Cabo Mondego) from where is a very scenic view of the coast and beach of FdF.

3. Weather
    At Mira, morning and afternoon temperatures ranged from 14°C to 18°C. Afternoon and evening temperatures at Figueira da Foz averaged at 17°C and 14°C  repectively. In ther morning, there were short intermittent showers as we left Mira but the weather cleared in the late morning. The hilly roads were foggy as we approached FdF in the late afternoon.
   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. Monument to the Fisherman (Monumento ao Pescador) (GPS: 40.45570, -8.80318) at Mira.
  2. Pista Ciclo-Pedonal bike paths along the Barrinha Lagoon (GPS: 40.45053, -8.79631) at Mira.
  3. Burnt forest along route just outside Mira (from forest fire in 2017).
  4. Monument to the Defender of the Pine Forest (GPS: 40.35048, -8.74861) at CaniceiraCoimbra.
  5. All Soul's Day flowers and prayers at Igreja Cemitério do Bom Sucesso (GPS: 40.26575, -8.77866), in Bom Sucesso, Coimbra.
  6. Truck stop at Cafe 109 (GPS: 40.20291, -8.82798) run by Cuban Comandante Eduardo.
  7. Cape Mondego Lighthouse (GPS: 40.19089, -8.90505)
  8. Cape Mondego viewpoint (GPS: 40.17929, -8.90459) at Cape Modego.
  9. Figueira da Foz Marina (Marina da Figueira da Foz) (GPS: 40.14739, -8.86211).
5. Meals
a. Breakfast: a very good inclusive breakfast at Granny's House (GPS: 40.45553, -8.79880) in Mira.
b. Morning Tea: Coffee & pastry at Restaurante O Pinhal (GPS: 40.37195, -8.74595) at the Tocha.
c. Light Lunch: Take-away pastry at road-side stop at Restaurante Curioso (GPS: 40.2762, -8.77424) at the Tocha.
d. Afternoon Tea: Fruit juices, music & dance at Cafe 109 (GPS: 40.20291, -8.82798) on the outskirts of Quiaios.
e. Late Tea: Drinks & pizza in Skipper Bar (GPS: 40.14796, -8.86171) at Figueira da Foz Marina.
e. Dinner at Taverna Ti João (GPS: 40.45236, -8.80349) in Figueira da Foz:
    - Bread set with herb butter.
    - Savoury grilled prawns.
    - Portuguese Grilled squids.
    - Sword Fish rolled in baby spinach.
    - Portuguese Avocado Steak with garlic sauce.
    - Red Duoro wine.
    - Sangria.
6. Accommodations
    One night aMarina Charming House (GPS: 40.14827, -8.86411) in Figueira da Foz ( which we had pre-booked online a two junior suites for 4-pax each at a total of €160 per night inclusive of breakfast (or €20 per pax per night). The rooms are on the upper floors but lifts are available and they allowed our folded bicycles to be brought into the room.
    Address: Rua Eng. Silva 82, Figueira da Foz, 3080-150, Portugal.
    Phone: +351 967 307 454
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. Do note that Google Maps does not work in Cycling Mode in Portugal so use Walking Mode but do be aware that sometimes recommened routes are against traffic. In Spain, Google Maps does work in Cycling Mode.

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.


A day earlier, we had continued our wet, cold ride from Ovar to Mira. This time we were better physically and mentally prepared to take on the rain and the cold wind, and all of us successfully completed the ride without any on hopping onto an Uber. Today we head for the coastal resort city of Figueira da Foz, it should be an easy 40 kilometres ride; but as usual things didn't proceed as planned. We were suppose to take a scenic route through the forest and coast but through some miscommunication went on a shorter, direct route which had a nice surprise in store for us!


Cycling route: Mira>Mira Lodge Park>Caniceira>Tocha>Bom Sucesso>Quiaios(Café 109)>Saltadouro>Tavarade>Figueira da Foz.
Cycling Distance: 38 km.     Level: Medium (would have been easy except for the cold and misty weather and hilly stretch approaching FdF).
The route is fairly flat running mostly along national trunk road N109, until about 10 kilometres before FdF where it went through steep hills of the Serra da Boa Viagem. From there it continued downhill through suburban roads to arrive at Figueira da Foz.
 Our original route is along a quite road that cuts through pine forest to arrive at the hills of Serra da Boa Viagem for a good panoramic view from the Miradouro da Vela where there is not an ariel view ot the city and the salt-pans of the River Mondego, but on clear days the coastline is also visible as far as the Berlengas islands. This route than goes down to the Cape Mondego Lighthouse. Do note that this forest route is rather isolated without much houses/shops along the way, so do stock up with more water and some food.

We woke up to a nice surprise - a wonderful breakfast prepared by Luis of Granny's House. He was the perfect host making sure that we had enough hot coffee and food, frequently topping up the buns, cheese and ham. His breakfast included some home-made strawberry jam and the renown Portuguese orange marmalade jam. We also found out that our Malay word for butter, i.e. "mentega", comes from the Portuguese word "manteiga". This probably came about during the Portuguese colonization of Malacca.

Time to say our goodbyes to Granny's House; in this cold morning, we and our bags had don our raincoats but the warm send off by Luis and his father did make us feel less cold.

In the rain we rode off towards Praia de Mira (Mira Beach), in this misty morning we could hardly make out the ccolourful Portuguese Muleta fishing boats moored at the beach. I am showing a blur photo of the Monument to the Fisherman (Monumento ao Pescador) that we passed by, just to illustrate the conditions that we were cycling in. Click here for a better view of the monument.

At Salgáboca (the place where we had a lovely dinner the previous night), we made a left and were soon riding on cycling path that ran through woodlands that skirted the edge of Barrinha Lagoon. Although it was still drizzling, the mist had cleared and our photos came out better, but still a bit blurry.

Locally these paths are called the Pista Ciclo-Pedonal, which means "Pedestrian Cycle Track" as they are shared tracks for used by cyclists and pedestrians. We only cycled on a short section as this track is about 11km. long and starts Cais de Aredo and stretches on, passing through wooded forest to end at Calvela Park (Parque de calvela). Some stretches ran along boardwalks too, like the one above.

We left the bike path and were soon riding along Avenida da Barinnha that cuts through young pine forests. Ahead, we reached a large round-a-bout. That was when our miscommunication came in. As we were had started late and were in a rush to reach FdF early so that we could get train tickets for the following day's onward journey from FdF to Óbidos. Sin and me were leading and we took the fastest route. We had forgotten about the scenic route that Kevin had indicated earlier, this original route cuts through the forest and led to a beautiful coastal area as it approached FdF where from the Cape Mondego Lighthouse Cape Mondego viewpoint were great bird's eye perspective views of FdF and the surrounding coastal beaches. Our apologies, Kevin.

At that round-a-bout, instead of the right exit, we took the left on a road that led to National Route N109. And instead of a green forest, this road led through a desolate area of a burnt forest, one of black, charred, leafless trees!

We were not the only ones on this road, two Portuguese men were taking a pilgrimage walk. Their destination the holy city of Fátima, a hundred kilometres away. It is at Fátima that apparitions of the Virgin Mary appeared to three little shepherds – LúciaFrancisco and Jacinta in 1917. A small chapel, now known as the Chapel of the Apparitions, was built at the site of the sighting, and a precious statue of Our Lady of Fátima installed. Later a larger Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fátima a Marian shrine complex containing two minor basilicas was built and the city now receives between 6 to 8 million pilgrims by year.

The charred blackened area continued for many kilometres and further along, a camp had been set out to cut down the burnt trees and harvest their timber. 
Apparently, Portugal’s famed green countryside is ravaged each year by forest fires, and the problem has worsened markedly in the last decade. Matters aren’t helped by the country’s timber industry, which has replaced native tree species with the highly lucrative and highly flammable eucalyptus and pine. Extraordinarily, the firefighting service that has the unenviable task of dealing with these fires is almost entirely voluntary. The country’s twenty thousand or so Bombeiros Voluntários make up over ninety percent of Portugal’s firefighting forces.

11:15am - We swung into the , happy to get away from the cold for a while, and were having these crispy biscuits when we received a call from Luis of Granny's saying that he was coming over. Seems like one of the girls had left behind a strategic piece of wardrobe and he was coming to return it.

And here we are, most happy to see him and have a cuppa with him.
No guessing who left what behind, okay?

At the Rua Ninho do Corvo junction in Caniceira, posing at the Monument to the Defenders of the Pine Forest. These heroes were people from the ordinary walk of life, some volunteers of the Bombeiros Voluntários that make 90% of the country's fire-fighting force. Others were champions of replanting those burnt forests.

Along the roadside we often saw orange bushes. These Portuguese oranges or marmalade oranges, were smaller than the usual ones and were more yellowish in colour. They have a bitter underlying taste and as such are not suitable for direct consumption; they are often made into Portuguese orange jam (Marmalade jam, Marmelada de Laranja).

12:20pm - Just after Povoeiras, Jocelyn's rear tire developed a leak. Sin, her knight in shining armour came to her rescue. While repairing the leak, he asked us not to waid and to proceed.
By this time Kevin, Mel and Fenn had already pushed much further ahead, seems like they are more adept to the cold weather than us. Anne, Lynne and me went ahead and promised to stay in touch by phone.

As we pedalled on, Anne pushed further ahead. Lynne & me decided to take a short coffee and ice-cream break at this Repsol petrol station. Having ice-cream in this cold weather, isn't that crazy? Well, one of our buddies has this theory that taking ice-cream keeps one warm as it agitates the body system.... true or not, we did enjoy the break.

1:30pm - We caught up with Mel, Kevin, Anne & Fenn at a deserted strip of shops. There in front of a closed shop curiously called Restaurante Curioso, we sat down and had our take-away buns and sandwiches compliments of Granny's House!

It had stopped raining but we had kept our raincoats on to help keep ourselves warm, and at this area strong cross-winds came billowing into our raincoats, puffing them up and making us look like the Michelin Man.

Taking a short break opposite the ? Cemetery, we noticed that all the graves had flowers on them! Then only did we recall that today was All Saint's Day, a day that Catholics pray to all they saints. The following day is All Soul's Day, that's when they visit the cemeteries and pray at the graves of their relatives. But here in Portugal, they seem to celebrate both days together on November 1st.

3:00pm: The cold gets to one, and worst still it gets to one's bladders even more often. It's time for a pee-break, and we saw this place called Truck Stop 109 and made a beeline for it!

Feeling thankful for the use of their restrooms, we reciprocated our thanks by buying some fruit juices from them. That's when we met the owner, El Comandante Eduardo. He's a Cuban and had migrated to Portugal, although he couldn't speak much English he warmly welcomed us and showed us his place, explaining to us in Chicken and Duck talk!

He sort of liked Anne from the first look and was soon serenading her while playing on his keyboard. We just could not get enough of his singing and requested for "Bésame Mucho"; he obliged and his strong baritone voice must have melted Anne's heart and soon she was playing the bongos along to El Comandante's crooning!
By the way, Anne; "Bésame Mucho" meand "Lots of Kisses" ..... whoopsie!

Ahead, we hit the hills of the Serra da Boa Viagem and the cold air made the area foggy. We pedalled on as best as we could but soon it became too steep and we had to humbly come down and push. Fortunately it was only a short 2 km. push and then the road started sloping downhill.

The fog became thicker and thicker, soon we could not see more than a hundred metres ahead. Playing it safe, we decided to get off from the busy highway just after Brenha and use the quieter, local rural roads. It was certainly a quiet road, with hardly any houses around.

Much further one.... houses and even high-rise buildings appeared. Yahoooo! We must be near FdF! Also the fog had cleared sufficiently for us to confidently go zooming down the slopes.

Just on the outskirts of town, narrow streets with houses right to their edges. The place was awfully quiet, probably most of them have gone to prayer at the cemeteries on this All Saint's Day.

5:00pm - We arrive at our stay for the day in FdF, the Marina Charming House. They allowed our fully folded bikes into their hotel and fortunately there was also a small lift to take our bikes up to our rooms on the upper floors.
No, the owner is not named Marina; it's called the Marina Charming House as it's located just opposite Figueira da Foz Marina!

We just plonked our bikes and luggage into our rooms and were quickly out to explore the marina before the day got dark.

A very late tea at Skipper Bar to make up for our light lunch. This place is a small stand alone outlet at the marina and although it was getting colder, we bravely sat outside sipping cold beer and juices. The locals must have thought us mad, sitting there in our thick jackets 😎.

Couldn't resist a photos with the boats at the marina 😉.

Dinner at the nearby Taverna Ti João :
    - Bread set with herb butter.
    - Savoury grilled prawns.
    - Sword Fish rolled in baby spinach.
    - Portuguese Avocado Steak with garlic sauce.
    - Red Duoro wine.
    - Sangria.

(with "Lots of Kisses!"..... Good Night!)

(For more photos of the Day 6, Click Here)

This is page 5 of a 20-page blog, Click Here To Go To Title Page.
Go to D5 Mira                |             Go to Other Days           |            Go to D7 Obidos > 

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