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Portugal Trip from July 16 to 28, 2008

With only limited time available and no research we zig-zagged Portugal from bottom to top in search for beautiful scenery, culture and heritage. We have broken Portugal into three (3) sections. Portugal Photo Page 1 covers the Algarve coast line and Evora. Portugal Photo Page 2 is central Portugal including Lisbon, Alcobaca, Batatha and Tomar.  Whereas Portugal Photo Page 3 outlines our visit to the Serra da Estrela, Oporto, Douro Wine Country and Parque Natural de Montesinho. To read more proceed to Portugal Journal.

July 24, 2009. After finishing our (3) hour tour of the Convento de Cristo in Tomar we take the best biking road N238 to Serta.

At Serta we turn north onto the IC8 until it forks off into the N350.

The N350 is a beautiful drive, especially on the motorcycle.

Traffic is sparse, the road good tarmac, lots of twisty roads and elevation changes and to top it all killer views of the Rio Zezere.

The N350 joins up with the N238 again at Oleiros.

It is a perfect day, blue skies and the motorcycles are getting their workout, as we lean from one corner into another.

Our Campground is purged on the side of a mountain at an elevation of 1050m overlooking the town below of Covilha.

July 25, 2008. We enter the SERRA DA ESTRELA.

We stop for a picture, the wind is cold and the clouds are starting to bellow over the peeks. Not a good sign.

The Serra Estrela Mountain Range includes the highest mountain range on mainland Portugal.

The road heaven for motorcycles.

The road ahead looks promising.

Continuing upwards, the scenery is breathtaking, but the temperature is dropping and we gear up in our rain suits.

How the look of blue sky can be deceiving.

The fog starts to engulf us just as we reach an area that displays weird eroded granite sculptures.

To the right of us we can make out a sculpture carved into the rock.

A closer look through the fog unveils a religious figure.

At the turn off to the highest point (Torre) at 1,993m the sky opens up & we ride all day to Oporto in the rain.

July 26, 2008. We always said we would visit the port houses in OPORTO and we had hoped it would be on this trip.

We both enjoy a good glass of Port. The GPS let us directly to the Taylor Port house.

Our first view of Oporto from the Terrace of the port house.

Normally the port houses are not open on Saturday, but we lucked out.

Not only did we have an excellent tour guide, but also their was no tourists.

Late Bottled Vintage Ports dating back to the 18th Century are on display.

Each harvest is logged in these ancient books. The year clearly marked on the spine of the leather bindings.

We try a Chip Dry Port first, followed by the 10 Year Tawny Port

Then it was into the storage vaults.

Ports aged in large vats maintain their youthful fruitiness and vigor.

Our guide had relayed some good information to us that 2003 would be a LBV Port. Meaning it would be realized late 2008.

LBV port remains 4 to 6 years in a cask while it matures and then is bottled.

This massive vat holds 100,000 litres.

Port that ages in small casks has greater contact with the wood and air.

This results in the wine taking on the characteristic tawny color.

In more then one way were we lucky to see the port house on this trip, as it was the last year Taylor was going to use the premsis as their storage facility.

We park the motorcycle directly beside the Ponte de Dom Luis I.

Barcos rabelos moor beside the quary at Vila Nova de Gaia.

We start our exploration of Oporto along the Ribeira, the riverside quarter.

The streets are narrow and twisty. The facades of the houses are brightly tiled.

A typical sight of laundry dangling outside the windows. It makes for colorful scenes.

The Praca da Ribeira, busy with cafe's and restaurants.

The Praca Infante D. Henrique located opposite from the Palacio da Bolsa.

The facade of the Igreja S. Nicolau.

The Igreja de S. Francisco.

With a ticket at hand...

... we start our tour in the catacombs.

It used to be custom to bury below the church.

Most tombs have the name of year of the deceased.

Below the vault are the less unfortunate which are part of a mass grave.

We wander through the rooms above the catacomb...

...and visit the Gothic Church with its over 200kg of gold encrusted high altar, columns and pillars.

... each richly decorated ...

Balconies cling to each other...

... the entire hillside is built up with tall red roofed houses.

After a guided tour of the Palacio da Bolsa, which includes the famous Arabian Room (no pictures allowed)...

... we poke our head into a Ingreja Misericordia ...

... and the Mosteiro de S. Bento.

A landmark that can not be missed is the Torre dos Clerigos.

The tower is 75m high and we climb all 240 steps to the top...

... for a panoramic view of the city.

Oporto is beautiful, our favourite city in Portugal.

A view of the coastline, ...

... of the Cathedral District ...

... of the Vila Nova de Gala and the Doura River.

Inside the Igreja e Torre dos Clerigos.

This church was designed by Nicolau Nasoni.

Two (2) adjacent churges, to the left Igreja das Carmelitas & to the right Igreja do Carmo.

These churches are a typical example of Portuguese Baroque architecture.

Livraria Lello (Lello Book Store), listed as a UNESCO Heritage Building.

Besides the excellent selection of books (in English)...

... the stairway made out of wood is a masterpiece.

How about a stairway like this in my house?

Praca de Liberdade.

Beautiful archeticture everywhere.

The Camara Municipal.

The aerial view of the Sao Bento Station...

... Oporto's central railway station. The walls are covered in large azulejos.

The busy Praca de Almeida Garrett.

Houses along the Avenida dom Afonso Henriques.

A water fountain with a azulejos in the background.

The Se, Oporto's Cathedral with the Manueline pillory in the foreground.

The interior of the central Nave.

The Altar.

The Gothic cloisters on the south side of the Se.

Beautiful azulejo panels between pillars.

The 14th century cloisters.

The Capela de Sao Vicente.

The cloister courtyard.

The upper level...

... has a huge bell on display...

... plus these incredilbe azulejo panels depicting the life of the Virgin and Ovids Metamorphoses.

Ceiling with amazing frescos.

A fountain below the Terreiro da Se.

The Church of St. Larence, which now houses the Museum of Sacred Art and Archaeology.

This how we will remember Oporto...

... steep alleyways, red roofs and ...

... colorful tiled facades.

The Ponte de Dom Luis I, which spans across the Douro River was designed by an assistant to Gustave Eifel.

One last look back and we say good-bye.

Back at the campsite we find (3) cans of beer with a note reading "...from the Belgium Girls", who camped beside us the previous night.

We of course could not resist buying a small bottle of 10 year Tawny Port. To drink it it has to be cold.

Inside our tent, with a chocolate cake, a bottle of 10 year Tawny Port, (2) plastic cups and a slide show on the computer we enjoy the better life.

July 27, 2008. From Oporto we decide to retrace our steps along the north shore of the Douro River on the N108 to Castelo de Paiva.

Our visit to the Taylor Port House the previous day had convinced us to venture deeper into the vineyards lined steep hillsides of the Douro River.

A deep blue sky greets us, a perfect day of riding lay ahead.

After Castelo de Paiva we wound our way along the south side of the Douro River on the N222.

The area between Peso Regua and Vila Nova De Foz Coa was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site.

This region is the oldest demarcated region in the world.

The climate, soil and grape variety is unique to this region...

... and can not be found anywhere else in the world.

We are in the midst of PORT COUNTRY.

The hillsides are terraced and massive vineyards displaying all the famous Port Houses dot the region.

We continue on the N222 to Pinhao.

This part of the world seems islolated from the rest of the world.

We find the Taylor Vineyard.

This is contour planting (Patamares).

Stone wall terraces.

The entire Douro Valley is lined by vineyards like this.

We cross over to the north side of the river and the road (N222-3) starts to climb up the mountain, the view breathtaking.

Turning onto the N212 we continue north toward Murca.

We detour onto the N212 to Vila Pouca de Aguiar (due to a road block) & pick up another best biking road starting at Chaves.

85km of perfect tarmac, no traffic and sweeping corners.

beautiful situated campsite approx. 10km from Braganca is our final destination. We set up camp at the Cepo Verde Camping.

Our last day in Portugal. On July 28, 2008 we enter Northern Spain through the Parque Natural de Montesinho.