Thursday, January 2, 2020

Cycling Europe 2019 Day 7: Figueira da Foz To Óbidos - Of Trains & Castles

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Cycling Europe 2019 Day 7: Figueira da Foz To Obidos - Of Trains & Castles
Portugal, Spain & France: Day 7 Saturday, 2nd November - Figueira da Foz to Óbidos
This is part of a cycling tour of the Iberian Peninsula (Portugal & Spain), covering the leg from Figueira da Foz (FdF) to Óbidos:
Cycling Distance: 3 km.     Level: Easy (cycling was to & from train stations).
Time : 8:30am to 12:30pm
Time Taken : 4 hrs. (including waiting for train, train rides, & lots of photo opps.)

This is page 6 of a 16-page blog, Click Here To Go To Title Page.
Go to D6 Figuera              |           Go to Other Days         |          Go to D8 Lisbon 1 >

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  
   This is a multi-mode route that included three train rides using the Comboios De Portugal Trains (CP) from Figueira da Foz (FdF) to Verride to Caldas da Rainha to Óbidos. It was a quick 20 minutes ride on the urban train from FdF to Verride with a crazy 1 minute change of trains, and then a 1 hr. 35 min. ride on the inter-city (CP) train to Caldas da Rainha for another train change to Óbidos. The all-in fare was €11-50 per pax, there was no charges for our bicycles. There was no need to fold or bag our bikes, but we did fold them just to save space.
    The cycling was easy with only short climbs within the town of Óbidos. From Obidos Station, there was a short stretch of off-road track leading to Óbidos medeival town.
    
3. Weather
    AFigueira da Foz morning temperature was around 14°with a short spell of shower. Afternoon and evening temperatures at Óbidos average 18°C and 15°respectively.
   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. Bringing Bikes Onto European Trains, Buses & Trams
    Both in Portugal & Spain, full size bikes and folding bikes (there is no necessity to fold them) can bet taken into inter-city trains, metros and trams for free and without bagging. Do note that bikes may not be allowed during peak hours.
    Full size bikes are allowed onto all Portuguese Comboios de Portugal trains, click here for more info.
        Folded bikes are allowed onto the local buses. For inter-city buses, our bikes were folded, bagged and put into the cargo holds at the bottom of the buses. For the respective train, metro & bus fares, refer to the respective daily blogs.

5. 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. Elaborate Portuguese azujelo blue tiles wall murals at Caldas da Rainha Station (GPS: 39.40654, -9.13999) & at Obidos Station (GPS: 39.36498, -9.15913).
  2. The Douro Historical Train, a touristic old locomotive train that runs along the Douro River.
    Óbidos Castle (Castelo de Óbidos) (GPS: 39.36341, -9.15685). and the following within the castle:
  1. Aqueduto de Óbidos (Óbidos Aquaduct) (GPS: 39.35756, -9.15705), the Roman aquaduct near the entrance
  2. Porta da Vila (GPS: 39.35954, -9.15782), the castle's main entrance archway.
  3. Igreja de São Pedro (St. Peter's Church) (GPS: 39.36086, -9.15722).
  4. Capela de São Martinho (St. Martin Chapel) (GPS: 39.36086, -9.15737).
  5. Praça de Santa Maria (St. Mary's Square(GPS: 39.36195, -9.15719).
  6. Câmara Municipal de Óbidos (Óbidos Town Hall) (GPS: 39.36062, -9.15724).
  7. Igreja De Santa Maria (St. Mary's Church) (GPS: 39.36191, -9.15697).
  8. Museu Municipal de Óbidos (Óbidos Municipal Museum) (GPS: 39.36173, -9.15736).
  9. COMUR - Conserveira de Portugal (GPS: 39.36268, -9.15738), sardine shop/musuem.
  10. Igreja de São Tiago (St. James's Church) (GPS: 39.36045, -9.15814).
  11. Casa de S. Thiago do Castelo (S. Thiago do Castelo Hotel) (GPS: 39.36282, -9.15715).
6. Meals
a. Breakfast: a good inclusive breakfast at Marina Charming House (GPS: 40.14827, -8.86411) in Figueira da Foz.
b. Lunch: Beef steak, pork steak, Crepe, Prawn omelette with pear juice, carrot juice, fruit cocktail at Infusion Óbidos Cafe (GPS: 39.35376, -9.16281).
c. Tea: Ginjinha d' Obidos, local cherry wine at Macaron de Óbidos (GPS: 39.35900, -9.15778).
d. Dinner: Crepe and prawn cocktail with fruit juice, port and red wine at Infusion Óbidos (GPS: 39.35376, -9.16281)
    
7. Accommodations
    One night aCapitão Polvo Residence (GPS: 39.35392, -9.16296) in Óbidos which we had pre-booked online a Four-Bedroom House at €185 per night inclusive of breakfast (or €23 per pax per night). Our bikes were allowed to be brought into the house.
    Address: Largo Nazaré Fortunato nº15 - Quinta da pegada , Óbidos, 2510-171, Portugal.
    Phone: +351 924 269 498
    
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
     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.

11. 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

Yesterday was our last city to city ride in Portugal, from Mira to Figueira da Foz. From today onwards, we will be taking buses and trains in between cities and only cycle to explore the towns and cities. Today we take the Comboios De Portugal (CP) trains from Figueira da Foz to Óbidos with transit at the Verride and Caldas da Rainha stations. From Obidos Station we took a short ride on off-track rural roads to the old town centre. Later we took a walk around Óbidos Castle.
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THE RIDE


Cycling Distance: 3 km.     Level: Easy (cycling was to & from train stations).
(Zoom in to see Obidos attractions)
This is a multi-mode route that included three train rides using the Comboios De Portugal Trains (CP) from Figueira da Foz (FdF) to Verride to Caldas da Rainha to Óbidos. It was a quick 20 minutes ride on the urban train from FdF to Verride with a crazy 1 minute change of trains, and then a 1 hr. 35 min. ride on the inter-city (CP) train to Caldas da Rainha for another train change to Óbidos. The all-in fare was €11-50 per pax, there was no charges for our bicycles. There was no need to fold or bag our bikes, but we did fold them just to save space.
    From Obidos Station, there was a short stretch of off-road track leading to Óbidos medieval town centre. The cycling was easy with only short stretch of climbs approaching the town of Óbidos.

We had another great buffet breakfast at the hotel before braving the rain for a short ride to FdF Station. From here we would be taking three trains with two transit stops to reach Óbidos. At the station, we folded and bagged our bikes but later found out that Portuguese Comboios de Portugal trains allow bicycles to be brought on board without folding and bagging.
Here are our bikes folded and parked at one corner of the train; we folded them so as not to take up too much space.

The train from Figueira da Foz to Verride took just twenty minutes, but the next connecting train to Caldas da Rainha would leave ONE minute after we arrived at Verride. It was a mad scramble to disembark, quickly roll our bikes across the tracks and board waiting train. Hah! we should have left our bikes unfolded, they would have been easier to push then. Fortunately Verride was a small station, and we made it just in the nick of time, with the local station staff smiling at us amusingly. Although they were smirking away, I think they would have waited for us if we took a little more than the one minute.

On board the train we met David, a Englishman resident to Portugal with his lovely Porutguese wife. He was most intrigued to see us touring with our Brompton bicycles as he is a Brompton owner too!

The train to Caldas da Rainha took 1-1/2 hoursm afterwhich we changed to another train for Óbidos; no CRAZY rush this time as there was a comfortable transit time.
But when we arrived at the Obidos Station, we were surprised to find that we were the only ones disembarking there AND the whole station seems to be deserted; there was no one around, no ticketing counter; it was like a ghost station.... brrrrr.....

With no other people around was a good thing too - we were able to take nice photos of us and our bikes without any interruption from others.

From the station, Google Maps took us along a route that went on gravel roads cutting through brushland and farmland. Óbidos Castle (Castelo de Óbidos) could be seen up on a hill nearby.
I am not sure why Google Maps took us on this route, but it was a nice quiet route with only a short climb (push) near the end.

After about a kilometre, the gravel road ended and we were onto tarred road. Just after crossing a bridge at Pinhal, we stopped to ask these old farmers for directions, just to ensure that we were on the right track. With smiling faces they confirmed that we were.

Entering Óbidos and the start of rows and rows of the unique white-washed houses.

I don't have good photos of Óbidos that give it the medieval feel, so here's an extract from their tourist brochure that shows how quaint this place looks.

The brochure also show several attractions of Obidos, a town that seems to be frozen in its medieval past

1:15pm - Having checked into our home-stay, the Capitão Polvo Residence, we headed out for lunch at Infusion Óbidos Cafe, which was operated by the home-stay and was just round the corner.
The home-stay is operated by brothers Bruno and Thomas. Bruno runs the accommodation section, while Thomas (who had some experience in Lisbon) ran the kitchen. His cooking was simple yet delicious. Above are photos of our lunch - beef steak, pork steak, crêpe, prawn omelette, all served together with their home-made pear juice, pineapple juice carrot juice, and fruit cocktail.

The young brothers have a good concept of involving the local society; on the walls of the restaurant were paintings drawn by their young local friends. I quite like the one above, a simple oil painting of a dancing girl with her swirling polka-dot skirt.

While in Óbidoss, a visit to the Óbidos Castle (Castelo de Óbidos) is a must. We took a walk there; there is no way one can miss the castle, it sits conspicuously on a hill overlooking the whole town and valley. And if that is not enough, as one approaches, a tall aqueduct leads right to the entrance of the castle!
Many mistook this for ancient Roman aqueducts, it's called Aqueduto de Óbidos but is also known as the Aqueduto da Usseira. "It's not Roman, for two reasons. Firstly, Obidos is a medieval village, built about a thousand years after the Romans. Secondly, it was commissioned by Queen Catarina in the sixteenth century." - quoted by DerAlteBach in Trip Advisor.
Catherine of Austria, the queen of Portugal, ordered this aqueduct to be built in the 1570s, and it delivered water from a source about six kilometres to the south in Usseira. The aqueduct’s destination was the Chafariz Real (Royal Fountain) on Praça de Santa Maria, and for half of its length it travelled underground.

Approaching the old town, can be seen these horse-carriages that play on the medieval theme of the place.

Just before the entrance are some shop houses; in a small enclave one can try the Ginjinha d' Obidos, local cherry wine at Macaron de Óbidos. These are sold at €1 per cup, and are served in chocolate cuplets. They tasted sweet and just slightly sourish and with a good fruity aroma. They can also be bought by the bottles.

Through the Anglo-Portuguese AlliancePortugall have close links with the England in the past, and often the iconic red English telephone box in the major cities. There are a couple of these booths here too, but the ones here were blue-white in colour - almost like the blue booth from the Dr. Who TV series.

At the entrance to Óbidos Castle. The entrance is the archway on the left, below the rampart walls, it not the entrance to the castle proper, but into the old medieval town. The castle entrance itself is further in.

Pass through that archway and one steps into the past. Except for the few cars there, the old Obidos town still retained it's medieval feel of low white-washed houses with cute timber doors and windows. Every once a while a spatter of bright blue, yellow or red adds a bit of contrast to liven up the place.

Live here is at a slow, non-hectic place. Often the older locals just sit around and observe live passing by.

It's a Friday, and at some quieter corner of the town, the streets are still quiet. Stylized red rooster statues represent the “Galo de Barcelos” which are brightly coloured cockerels (roosters), items very often seen for sale in many souvenir shops in Portugal. These cockerels/roosters symbolizes honesty, integrity, trust and honour.

Okay, time to go visit some of the old attractions in town, starting with the Igreja de São Pedro (St. Peter's Church)). Like most of the buildings in the town, the church is white-washed with dark borders to highlight the corners and the belfry tower.

To brighten up the church, locals often line the archway of the main door with a large garland of flowers.
It was built in the 13th to 14th century, with a three-nave Gothic basilica and was headquarters of the Collegiate of São Pedro (St. Peter).
Next to this church is the Capela de São Martinho (St. Martin Chapel).

Further in is the Praça de Santa Maria (St. Mary's Square). In this square lie some of the most iconic monuments of the beautiful city of Óbidos, such as the Igreja De Santa Maria, and the Museu Municipal de Óbidos (Óbidos Municipal Museum).

This little entrance belies what lies behind; this is the Casa de S. Thiago do Castelo (St. Thiago do Castelo Hotel), though located within the old town, room rates are reasonable.

Time to explore the side streets, one of the busiest street is Rua Direita. Tourists throng to this place as it is lined with many souvenir shops and eateries.

At adjacent side alleys, tables have been laid out and covered with table cloth with unique design representing the patterns seen inside of church domes.

Peep into some of the opened windows and it shows a kitchen with smiling staff preparing the day's meals.

Or just go window shopping and admire the displays of items often placed on external shelves lining the walls of the shops.

Sardines play an important role in Portuguese cuisine, and one should not miss COMUR - Conserveira de Portugal, it's a small museum dedicate only to sardines!

It's not just a museum, it's also a shop that sells all types and brands of sardines available in Portugal!

Continuing on this road, and a short distance away is Igreja de São Tiago (St. James's Church), next to the church is a small archway that will lead to the Óbidos Castle proper.

It's not a large castle but has been rather well maintained and still look very majestic outlined against the sky.

Withing the castle steps lead up to the rampart walls; do be careful when climbing here as there are no railings to prevent one from falling down.

It's a worthwhile climb as from up there is a great panoramic view of the old town on one side .....

..... and a scenic green view of the country-side on the other side.

Back at Capitão Polvo Residence it was dinner at Infusion Óbidos Cafe; what can we say we just love the brothers' hospitality and cooking. Being warm host, they had us playing a 3-D jigsaw to reassemble a wooden wine bottle. Anne with her methodical lawyer's thinking solved the puzzle within minutes and won us a bottle of wine!

They also shared a bottle of Kraken with us; the Kraken is a dark Caribbean rum made with a secret blend of 13 spices.

The brothers also played on the maritime theme in their bedrooms, marine maps are painted on the walls, and the rooms were named after types of medieval Portuguese ships, like the Carevela and the Catequista, etc.

YO! HO! HO!
(and a bottle of rum ..... Good Night!)

(For more photos of the Day 7, Click Here)

This is page 6 of a 16-page blog, Click Here To Go To Title Page.
Go to D6 Figuera              |          Go to Other Days         |          Go to D8 Lisbon 1 > 
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