Lets Cycle Portugal Part 3

Day 1 of our cycle trip. Azeitao to Setabul 25km

Our transport and bikes arrived at our hotel bang on time and we set off on the short journey to Azeitao, the start of our self-guided cycle tour.  Azeitao was as we had hoped, a quiet village full of charm with a laid back feel to it.   We sat outside a cafe opposite a wine distillery which, along with a tour of a tile factory, had been on our initial itinerary but we just wanted to get cycling so we skipped these tours and cut straight to the bike setup and instructions.

Our instructions were straight forward enough. Here’s your GPS, here’s your information pack containing daily printed maps and directions, here’s a mobile phone with credit included ‘just in case’ and here’s a list of useful words & expressions.

Next was the process of transferring our belongings from our 40L backpacks into the 20L X 2 panniers. Would this part go to plan? Well, we were more than impressed and we had room to spare!

A final check before setting off with the first section of our cycle on our GPS, current paper copy and directions in view, located inside a waterproof carrier on our handlebars and a full bottle of water. We said our goodbyes to our tour rep and we were off.

As much as we are fully functioning mature adults, we felt like big kids going on an adventure. Finally, after all the preparation, we were taking our first pedals on a journey along the Portuguese coast which is described as stunning, quiet and perfect for cycling.

Day 1 – Azeitao to Setabul  25km

After our initial excitement passed, we quickly got into cycling mode. It took some time to get used to the heavy panniers and cycling on the ‘wrong’ side of the road but we were off and moving at a good pace. Until we hit our first steep climb. Let’s just say that Aileen was still trying to come to terms with the weight of her bike and the Portuguese traffic (we were on a busy main road at this point) so when we hit our first hill – as us Scots say – the dummy was out the pram! Aileen was a tad pissed off but she 9soldiered on and as the kilometers passed, she found her second wind and began to enjoy it.

At around 12km, we had a choice. Either cycle straight on to Setabul or take a detour down a steep 2km hill to a beach that was described as stunning and that’s just what we did. We didn’t have to pedal for what seemed like forever and there was always that thought in the back of your head ‘I’m going to have to cycle back up this again!’ but when we finally reached the beach at Portinho, we didn’t care. Not only was it the first beach of our trip, but it was also stunning.  This was one of those moments when you’re in the zone. Full of appreciation for life, it’s beauty and all it can offer if you take the chance.  This was going to be a great spot for lunch. We found a nice laid back beach restaurant, sat down and chilled.

Then we had to cycle back up that bloody hill!!

The remainder of our day continued to be a pleasant mixture of big smiles, a lot of puffing and taking in the beautiful scenery. Although we were curious about a landmark we would be passing. Described as ‘’So-ugly-it’s-fascinating cement factory’’ sure enough, it lived up to its description.  We were flanked on both sides as we cycled past huge concrete buildings. There was no style or finesse here, just enormous structures happy to show off their reason for existence. Created to perform an industrial job and proud of it!

We finally reached our hotel around 4 pm – Rio Art Hotel, Setubal. From the moment we stepped in through the door, we knew we were in a lovely hotel. The reception staff were very friendly and helped secure our bikes in a nearby room. The hotel had a fresh stylish feel to it and didn’t appear to fit the 3-star rating but we were informed that due to there being no lift access to a room, it was unable to achieve a 4-star rating.


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