Lisbon: Tomorrow I start cycling, and my Euro challenge begins with a 15-km detour. While Istanbul is my ultimate destination, on this departure eve, Turkey is far from mind. My concerns are much more immediate and my goal of Santarem, a town about 80-km away, modest.
Exiting Lisbon is my biggest concern. I’ve spent the past three days getting to know this city and my strong impression is, it’s not very bike friend. (That says alot since my reference point is Hong Kong). To ease my exit I plan a detour to the Praca de Commercio, a large and emotive square in Portugal’s history, in the heart of downtown Lisbon. From the square I will follow the Tejo river out-of-town. Plus I figure starting from a monumental location like the Praca has more cachet than embarking from the Novotel. I plan to leave the Novotel around 6:30am tomorrow (Sunday), which my hope is the quietest time in Lisbon’s week. To get to the Praca I will ride down broad, stately avenues made of stone, past various monuments to Portugal’s history.
How I get from the heart of downtown Lisbon to Santarem is up to the imagination and my ability to find the N10 secondary road — that’s the road with the fine yellow line on my huge map of the country. In short, I am winging it. I don’t even know where I will sleep tomorrow night, but I have about 14 hours of daylight to figure that out.
My time in Lisbon has been a mix of getting acclimated and organized, and playing tourist. My bike is assembled, and my GPS sometimes works, like many things in this country.
On the tourist front I have walked all over the city, visiting cathedrals and castles, monasteries and towers. I’ve eaten very well — seafood for every meal except breakfast — and sampled the ubiquitous pasteis (custard pastries), espresso, and sangria. I’ve witnessed my first-ever bullfight (nauseating!), experienced Fado (soul music) in the Alfama district, and visited some amazing palaces and landscaped gardens in the pretty hilltop town of Sintra. I´ve also had time to sit in the outdoor cafes and watch the city pass by. I’ve “done” Lisbon. Now it’s time to pedal.
What I haven’t found is reliable internet connections. I knew I would be web-challenged on this trip, I just didn’t expect the challenge so early on.
The rubber hits the road, so to speak, in Portugal tomorrow too. It’s Presidential election day, and there’s uncertainty about whether any party can win decisively and implement the financial reforms as part of Portugal’s recent IMF bail-out package.
It’ll be a most interesting day all around.