Friday, December 13, 2019

Cycling Europe 2019 Day 5: Ovar To Mira - Ferry to Granny's

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Cycling Europe 2019 Day  5: Ovar To Mira - The Ferry to Granny's
Portugal, Spain & France : Day 5 Thursday, 31st October - Ovar to Mira
This is part of a cycling tour of the Iberian Peninsula (Portugal & Spain), covering the cycling leg from Ovar to Mira:
Cycling Distance: 53 km.     Level: Medium.
Time : 9:00am to 5:00pm
Time Taken : 8 hrs. (including stops for morning tea, lunch, tea, waiting for ferry, ferry ride, rest, regrouping & lots of photo opps.)

This is page 4 of a 16-page blog, Click Here To Go To Title Page.
Go to D4 Ovar               |              Go to Other Days            |          Go to D6 Figuera >

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  
    From Ovar, the route went along cycling paths on the North-Western shores of the Aveiro Lagoon to reach São Jacinto for a ferry crossing over to Forte da Barra; it's a fifteen minutes ride at a fare of €2-10 per pax and no charges for bicycles. From there it veers away from the lagoon to go along central roads of the Grafanha, Ílhavo and Vagos locality (like Rua Prof. Francisco CarujoR. da Boa Hora, etc. and Rua Osso da Baleia) passing through small local towns like Ganfanha da Encarnação, Gafanha do Carmo, Gafanha da Boa Hora to reach Mira. It is a relative flate route, with some shade along the way. An alternate route that goes on cycling lanes along Av. Jose Estevao passing through the resort areas on the South-Western Coast of the Aveiro Lagoon.

3. Weather
    At Ovar day temperature ranged from 12-17°C with rain almost the whole day which made it feel colder. At Mira, evening temperature averaged at 14°C with a light drizzle.
   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. Aveiro Lagoon wetlands waterfowl reserve.
  2. Cycling path along the banks of the Aveiro Lagoon.
  3. The Murtosa NaturRia Project of Aveiro Lagoon, "a project that combines the conservation of heritage and its recreational use by the people in an environmentally balanced and sustainable manner".
  4. Colourful Molicieros boats at Marina da Torreira (GPS: 40.76053, -8.70012).
  5. Colourful Molicieros boats at Cais da Torreira (GPS: 40.75817, -8.70159).
  6. Aveiro Bus ferry ride from São Jacinto (GPS: 40.66094, -8.72970) to Forte da Barra (GPS: 40.65006, -8.73076). Click here for the São Jacinto ferry time-table.
  7. Ponte de Praia da Barra (GPS: 40.62995, -8.7381).
  8. Forest reserve at ICFN Reserva Natural das Dunas de São Jacinto (GPS: 40.68646, -8.72939) in São Jacinto. Click here for ICFN Website.
  9. Ponte do Canal da Barrinha de Mira (GPS: 40.45526, -8.80029) in Mira.
5. Meals
a. Breakfast: self-made in apartment.
b. Morning Tea: Coffee & pastry (including Portuguese Egg Tarts (Pastéis de Nata) at Cafe Pastelaria Esplanada da Ria (GPS: 40.76082, -8.70042) at the Aveiro Lagoon.
c. Light Lunch: Pastry and hot drinks at Padaria Pastelaria Progresso (GPS: 40.66149, -8.72906) near the São Jacinto ferry terminal
d. Afternoon Tea: Take-away hard boiled eggs, banana with ice cream at Caravela O Nosso Cafe (GPS: 40.54637, -8.75900) in Boa Hora Town.
e. Dinner at Restaurante Salgáboca (GPS: 40.45236, -8.80349) in Mira:
    - Bread with tuna pate
    - Fish soup and vegetable soup
    - Starter platter with 6 regional food inclg. pickled sardine, two type of soft cheeses, oils pickled sole, smoked ham, smoked salmon.
    - Entree: Caldeirada fish stew (with scaled fish, bony fish, and potatos).
    - Grilled pork, grilled prawns, and grilled vegetables.
    - Grilled Brazilian Picanha beef.
    - Total 143 for the eight of us.
(Note: Restaurants in Mira only open at 7:30pm) 

6. Accommodations
    At Granny's House (GPS: 40.45553, -8.79880) in Mira ( which we had pre-booked online a house with one twin bed-room and three Double-rooms at €125 per night inclusive of breakfast (or €15:60 per pax per night). Floors feel wet due to condensation arising from cold, damp air.
    Address: Tv. dos Cucos, nº 3 3070-761 Praia de Mira, Portugal.
    Phone: +351 964 442 099 / +351 966 130 310
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.


Yesterday, after a few days as tourists in Porto, we kicked off our cycling tour with a wet rainy ride from Porto to Ovar that took us down the Douro River and along the windy Atlantic coast. The rain coupled with the cold weather had taxed us, and the short 45km. ride had taken us a longer time than expected. But we persevered and were happy that we had done it!
Today is forecasted to be another rainy day's ride as we head to Mira! But after the previous day's experience, we should be more prepared physically and mentally to face the cold, wet weather again.... WE SHOULD BE, SHOULDN'T WE.... we shall see.....


Cycling route: Ovar (Furadouro)>Quintas do Norte>Aveiro Lagoon Bike Path>Marina da Torreira>Estaleiro da Praia do Monte Branco>São Jacinto>Boa Hora>Mira.
Cycling Distance: 53 km.     Level: Medium (would have been Easy but for the cold weather & rain).
The route starts from Furadouro and then goes along the cycling paths on the North-Western shore of the Aveiro Lagoon to reach São Jacinto for a ferry crossing over to Forte da Barra. From there it veers away from the lagoon to go along central roads of the local residential Grafanha, Ílhavo and Vagos area to reach Mira. It is a relative flat route, with some shade along the way.
(Note: Due to limitations, the plotted route is on roads; to see the cycling lanes at the 
Aveiro Lagoon Bike Path, click the top-left box then on the extended menu scroll down to the bottom, click the satellite view square and zoom in accordingly.)

9:00am - Waving our goodbyes to the Cool & Sea Beach House , Furadouro, and Ovar. The "lawn" is artificial grass, probably to avoid muddy puddling in these low-lying area. We also took advantage of the garden tap to hose down our bikes of accumulated grime from yesterday's wet ride.

It was a cold 12°C morning, and felt even colder as a chilly wind was blowing in from the nearby lakes. Lynne is now much more prepared; anticipating rain, she had already "rain-coated" her C Bag, and had worn her raincoat on standby. She had mentally prepared herself to complete today's cycling without having to take a Uber! Will she be able to make it despite a cold front had that had made weather colder than usual! It's not raining yet, but she is wearing the raincoat to retain her body heat to keep herself warm; so, yes, I think she will.

10:00am - The rain finally came, and a quick road-side stop at ? for the rest to wear the raincoats.

At a round-a-bout near Torreira, we exited the local roads onto National Route N327. At a round-a-bout (GPS: 40.78796, -8.68009), we crossed over the busy highway to ride contra-traffic, but it's okay as there were dedicated cycling lanes running on the banks of the Aveiro Lagoon to ride on.

It's a pleasure to ride on these lanes as the Aveiro Lagoon is forms the key component of  the Murtosa NaturRia Project. On account of the cold weather we just saw a few birds flying around, the rest were probably roosting somewhere away from the cold wind. But we did notice many posters highlighting the Murtosa NaturRia Project, "a project that combines the conservation of heritage and its recreational use by the people in an environmentally balanced and sustainable manner".

10:45pm - Close to two hours after starting, our first major stop at Cafe Pastelaria Esplanada da RiaIt was supposed to be a quick a pee-stop but we got comfortable in the indoor warmth and lingered on for more than half an hour while sipping coffee and having some pastries including the renown Portuguese Egg Tarts (Pastéis de Nata).

The tarts here were so-so only. But the crêpes were rather good, shall we order more? Why not, after all it will burn away fast in this cold weather!

A bit of shopping talk among the girls while admiring their "Crocs" shoes, bought the previous night from a shoe shop at Furadouro.

A peek out the window at the red cycling lanes that goes along this part of the Aveiro Lagoon. The plotted route in the route map at the top show us going on the road, but in actuality at this stretch it was along nice cycling lanes like these.

Over here and also at Marina da Torreira and Cais da Torreira were these Molicieros boats seen at the marinas. These are for taking tourists around the lake, but now it's an off-peak and most of them are moored down.
The Molicieros are painted with bright colors, with unique decorative panels and popular local motif that capture the attention of tourists. They reminds us of the sampans, similar colourful fishing boats that we see at Terengganu on the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia.

After about four kilometers, the lagoon-side cycling paths ended at Estaleiro da Praia do Monte Branco and we were back onto National Route N327, which will take us all the way to São Jacinto. Although a main throughway, it is just a dual lane carriageway with light traffic.

 Another quick pee-stop at the headquarters of the ICFN Reserva Natural das Dunas de São Jacinto. This reserve is a protected area with freshwater ponds that provide a shelter for the anatidae of the Ria de Aveiro and to help the herons to become established in the region. The Centre does organise guided visits to follow their special Nature Discovery Trail. At the reserve´s headquarters, are an interesting collection of miniature moliceiro of the Ria, made by local artisans from São Jacinto. Part of the reserve´s heritage includes the brightly-coloured barco moliceiro, which takes part in the lively Moliceiros Regatta, held every summer. We lingered on a while, perhaps a bit too long as we were to later find out.

12:30pm - We reach the São Jacinto ferry terminal and had just missed the 12:25pm ferry that take us across over to Forte da Barra. Dang, should have peed faster at the forest reserve! Now we will have a long wait for the next ferry, which will come after lunch break at 2:15pm!
Well no point grumbling, we might as well have our lunch here. The odd thing is that hardly any food shops were opened, in fact most of the many shops here were closed. The only respectable place was the Padaria Pastelaria Progresso, and they only sell pastries! Okay, beggars can't be choosers, so it was another round of pastry meal... sigh.

There was a blessing in disguise, at this shop we met Alex, a young man who has made his way down from Germany touring the countries along the way just on a skateboard. Here he is sitting in front of a poster which showed the "old houses" that used to line the area near the ferry terminal. Most of these are not here anymore, being replaced by newer buildings.

On the ramp queueing up to board the Aveiro Bus Ferry. There is no ticket counter, and tickets are bought from an attendant of the ferry. It's a fifteen minutes ride at a fare of €2-10 per pax and no charges for bicycles.

It's a ferry boat but I wonder why it's called the Aveiro Bus Ferry. Wewill figure that out later.

Here we are on the ferry. It's fairly large, about 30-40 metres long and is an open ferry with some seats at one side, one will have to brave the cold and the rain! Hmmm... a bit odd though, where's Jocelyn and Lynne?

I was wrong. To one side of the ferry is a long narrow cabin, which can sit about ten people. It's for those people who want  to get away from the cold, and the two smart girls had quickly found the obscure door leading to this cabin and were sitting cozily, chatting away.

Goofy, my bike, was like an old salt of the sea - leaning onto a wall and taking the jarring movements of the ferry in stride!
(Watch a YouTube video of the 
Aveiro Ferry from São Jacinto to Forte da Barra)

We exited at Forte da Barra, pushed our bikes along the pedestrian crossings pass a small cabin waiting area... and Hey! In front was a bus!
Now I get it, the ferry is part of the overall bus route, it's a small ferry which can't take on the large buses. Bus passengers disembark a bus on one side, take the ferry and board another bus on the other side. I wonder whether the bus fare includes the ferry ride?

Just out of the terminal, we stopped to take photos and wave our goodbyes to Alex, he's a strong guy, and seem to go as fast as (or sometimes, even faster) us on our bikes! He's heading the same directions as us; let's hope we'll meet him again in the days to come!

Not far away, our GPS units went cuckoo, and were not able to locate any satellite signals. We roughly knew the way, but just to be safe stopped to ask this kind Senor Jose. Our planned route was to cross the Ponte de Praia da Barra to get to the roads running on the other side of the Aveiro LagoonBut Senor Jose said that it would be easier to ride straight on along the narrower local road that cut through small towns along the way, and that the other road just pass by "boring" resorts.
We chatted a bit and he was curious of where we come from, unfortunately he wasn't sure where Malaysia was. Our simplest explanation (with some explicit hand movements) was: it's north of Singapore and south of Thailand. After much "Obrigados" (that's "thank you" in Portuguese) we said adios and went our way.

The local route means going through the Grafanha locality and passing some older houses like this unique one above....

..... and houses lined with Portuguese azujelo blue tiles.

One last stop, before reaching Mira, the Caravela O Nosso Cafe for some ice-cream. Actually we had stopped to use their toilets, but out of courtesy bought ice-cream from them instead of having a long coffee break here. Further ahead, we made a quick road-side stop to eat hard-boiled eggs and fruits (which were left-over food of our breakfast).

The final run to Mira, veering away from the main roads and onto very quiet rustic roads (quiet meaning passing through brush land with hardly any houses around, and also keeping fingers crossed that we were not lost).

5:00 pm - We arrive Granny's House and were met by our hosts, cousins Luis & Bruno. Don't let them being men fool you, they were great hosts who welcomed us personally and ensured that all was well before they left. We inquired on the unique place of this place and the cousins elaborated that the house used to belong to their granny, and was once the family house to their extensive family. In fact Luis was born here, in one of the rooms at the top floor, and an auntie still stay at the house on the left. The place is now let out as a homestay, and we took almost all the rooms on the ground floor. Our bikes were parked at an annex garage.

Dinner was at Restaurante Salgáboca, a place recommended by the cousins. It was a good recommendation, the place was slightly upmarket but the food was excellent and they have a wide wine collection.
We started with a round of cheers, congratulating ourselves as all of us have completed the ride without having to hop onto an Uber 😁.

Here's our dinner at Restaurante Salgáboca:
  The starter platter (top left photo) with six food from the region (including pickled sardines, two type of soft cheeses, oil-pickled sole, smoked ham, smoked salmon) should not be missed, I loved the sardines and ham. The main course was Caldeirada fish stew (bottom left: a traditional Portuguese fish stew made with scaled fish, bony fish, and potatoes), it was a huge portion and by itself would have made a full meal. It's the first time many of us were savouring Brazilian Picanha beef, nicely grilled it was tender with just the right amount of fat to bring out the beef aroma. Although, an upmarket place, the bill just came to 143 for the eight of us, less than €18 each; very reasonably priced considering the amount of food we ordered; Portugal is such a lovely and affordable place to dine in!

 It's Halloween today, and we joined in the fun by emulating Chinese Jiangshi (僵尸) zombies, with hands outstretch in front and ready to hop away.


Click here for a Relive bird's eye view the ride from Ovar to Mira.
(For more photos of the Day 5, Click Here)

This is page 4 of a 16-page blog, Click Here To Go To Title Page.
Go to D4 Ovar               |              Go to Other Days           |          Go to D6 Figuera > 

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