Valenca to Tavira - Day 4 - Lisbon
In the morning we took the Metro down to the Placa de Commercial to find the Turismo. On the way we spotted a bike shop called "Without Stress" so Steve called in to buy some new cycling glasses having broken his a few days before. Whilst there we took the opportunity to talk with shop staff about the best way out of Lisbon for our departure and built up a good rapport with the guy running the shop, Bruno.
However, the prospect of our house sitting assignment in Spain was paramount and we spent all day Tuesday finding out how we would get us, our luggage and our bikes to Almeria. The main problem that we had was trying to find free internet access in Lisbon. The local WiFi provider seemed to have tied up all of the hotels and cafes etc with a third party, paid for service and when we tried to buy time on it we couldn't get into the system.
After a fruitless foot aching search we stopped at a café for a coffee. The coffee was awful and we were both in bad moods. When the bill arrived at 6.80 euros Steve was livid and complained to the waiter, ultimately raising it to the manager's attention. Despite Steve pointing out that the coffee was "sh**" and way over priced the owner would have none of it and gave us nothing.
Anger vented, we had to resort to using Western Union for internet access. We were amazed at the large number of Africans that live in Lisbon, using the Western Union to send money or simply to call home.
We spent a lot of shoe leather and got full value from our Metro day pass going to train and bus stations, only to find that neither would provide what we needed to get us and our bikes to Spain. We even looked at shipping the bikes, but that was also prohibitively expensive and would have required boxing the bikes. Eventually we reserved two hire cars from Europcar: one to travel to Vila Real on the Portugal / Spain border and then, having crossed the river with bikes on the ferry into Spain, a second car to travel from Ayamonte to Almeria.
Everything sorted, we arrived back at the hostel exhausted and sent an email to the property owner to tell him everything was in place. Within minutes he called back to tell us that the plan was off. The people currently managing the place wanted to stay on so we were not needed any more.
To drown our sorrows we found an Indian restaurant and had the first curry since leaving the UK. It was so good.
The following day, as we had no jobs to do we put our Valenca to Tavira ride on hold and took the day to go sightseeing. We bought the Lisbon all day Viva pass, which gives unlimited travel on bus, Metro, tram and local ferries.
We started with the Cathedral, the Castle and assorted churches...
...and then took the tram down to the Belem area on the river front where we saw the monument to Henry the Navigator, the Belem tower and the stunning monastery.
On the way back to catch the tram we stumbled across the amazing and famous Belem pastelaria, a traditional Portuguese tea shop. This place is a must. It spreads over several rooms of blue tiled walls, waiters in black and white and the most delicious cakes and pastries. It also serves Port wine. Considering that it is such a tourist attraction, we were surprised that the prices were reasonable.
After all of this we were bushed, and we headed back to the hotel for dinner at a nice little restaurant almost next door, that served a menu which was more cosmopolitan and a change from the usual traditional Portuguese fare. We were the only customers so we could chat to the waiter and the owner who both spoke good English and were very interested in our Valenca to Tavira ride.
The next day, we woke early to continue our Valenca to Tavira ride, excited that we were back on the bikes again. We packed quickly and headed off to follow a part of our Valenca to Tavira route that we had researched the day before, taking us down back roads to avoid the major traffic routes. The Valenca to Tavira route was easy and downhill all the way. However, fate was due to strike again.
Steve had been concerned about a "pulsing" feeling on his back brake for a while, but it seemed to be getting worse. He stopped to investigate further and found that the wheel rim had a split in it and was very dangerous. We couldn't continue on our journey without getting it fixed.
Fortunately we had to go right passed the same bike shop that we had been in the day before to get to the ferry, so we continued into the town and stopped for a coffee while we waited for the shop to open.
Bruno was very helpful and whilst we waited for advice from the MD at Thorn bikes, he was looking into new wheel rims. Robin rang us from Thorn and suggested that we swop the front wheel rim to the back and then just buy a new wheel for the front.
We had to get Steve's bike up to their other shop in the North of Lisbon. This meant going back to the pension with all of our gear, checking in for another night and then getting the bike onto the Metro to go to the shop. Bikes aren't actually allowed on the Metro until after 8-00pm, but the official relented and let us on. However, we did get told off at the other end as we left the station.
The technician at the shop was also called Bruno and he "pulled out all the stops" rebuilding Steve's wheel as well as cleaning and polishing the whole bike. We collected it at 7-00pm , went back to the hotel and to the same restaurant that we had eaten in last night, to their great surprise as they thought we had left already.
So I would just like to say "Thanks Bruno and all your staff for helping us out of a hole. You did a great job!" www.biclas.com
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