Figuera Da Foz was another town we visted when sailing down to the Algarve but on that occasion we were stormbound for two weeks with rain every day, high winds and mountainous seas so it was different to see it in the sunshine. The Hotel Costa Da Prata supplied a fabulous view from our 5th floor balcony giving us an uninterrupted sight of the harbour entrance which was somewhat calmer than the last time we encountered it.
On Friday I had planned a 40 mile ride to Praia Da Tocha and after a hearty breakfast we set off heading north on the N109 before turning west off the main road to the small village of Quiaios. From here we would head north for 10 miles on back roads but barely had we begun than the tarmac road was broken up with potholes and ruts. We decide to push on but after another mile we reluctantly turned back. We followed a secondary route back to Figuera and it gave us some stunning views of the coastline although again the road surface was unrideable in places.
Figuera seems to be a town that was modern 25 years ago and since then not a penny has been spent on any infrastructure and certainly not secondary roads, no doubt this is in probably as a result of the state of the Portuguese economy. Given our disappointing cycling attempt I thought some local knowledge may be of benefit so I visited the two bike shops I knew in Figuera in the hope of getting some routing advice. The first shop summed it up with the advice of stick to the main roads and chance the traffic, the second shop was a shining beacon of customer service telling me that if I did not want to buy anything he could not help, so knowing when to call it a day we enjoyed an afternoon in the sun on the balcony.
Our next stop was Peniche and given the previous days disappointment on the bike I decided to cycle the 140km and Kaye would follow in the car. I set off following the N341 before rejoining the N109 and was joined by a Potuguese rider for about 5 miles, its amazing how two people with a common interest can converse without speaking the same language. I pushed on through Guia and Monte Redondo before the major town on route that is Leiria. Up until this point the Garmin had been faultless following the preplanned route but faced with road works and diversions I must confess it leaves a lot to be desired and at this point I was wishing for a paper map to see the bigger picture that is sadly lacking from the Garmin Edge. I was rerouted up a very long steep climb and at top soon realised I was heading in the wrong direction to a very circuitous diversion. After a very fast descent back down the same hill I thought I would chance following the intended route on the hope I could at least get through on the bike and after a few hundred metres of road works we were back in the game.
Once through Leira I followed the N242 to Albergaria, at this point the sky darkened and I could see lightening flashes and light rain started but as lady luck smiles I stayed dry all the way to Nazare for a rendezvous and lunch with Kaye at the harbour. From a position of relative isolation on the promenade we were joined by in excess of 100 Mini-Coopers as the national club turned up for a gathering and photo shoot which was my cue to push on for the last leg to Peniche.
One thing I noticed along the route was that several of the Bombeiros stations I passed also contained a snack bar which seemed a good idea for a revenue source for a voluntary organisation and would certainly get my support by way of a coffee stop. Continuing south on the N242 through Caldas da Rainha the next town was the fortified city of Obidos and the height alone told me the roads would be steep. I was certainly not disappointed as the Garmin routed me up and down some very steep cobbles and I was rather pleased to eventually leave Obidos for the smoother N114. I had covered about another 5 miles when I came across a GNR roadblock, a car had hit a lorry head on a sharp bend that formed an entrance to a bridge, The GNR officer said the road would be closed for many hours but he kindly walked me across the footpath. The car was totally destroyed, unrecognisable and I feared for the occupants within as the Bombeiros and Medics were in frantic attendance working on the casualties.
I quickly phoned Kaye to reroute her to Peniche and thankfully for me the final run was downhill. I met up with Kaye in Peniche with 89 miles completed, we soon found our hotel that from the outside did not look great, but looks can be deceptive and the Hotel Maciel was a gem, spotlessly clean with Wi-fi and a cracking view. A hundred metres from the hotel was as far as we needed to walk for a nice steak on Saturday evening which was just as well as we enjoyed a good thunderstorm to complete the day.
On Sunday we awoke to blue skies and a very warm day, a short ride around the town and after coffee we walked around the old fortified castle to learn that it was in fact converted to a prison in the 1930s and held political prisoners until 1974 when Portugal became a democratic state and the prison was eventually closed. The prison history has been well documented and it is strange to see the photographs of the inmates being freed to a heroes reception such a relatively short while ago.