Sagres (night 14)

We arrived at our destination, the ‘Pousada’, Sagres in good time, which allowed for a relaxing hour or so at the pool, which after 12 days of cycling, some relaxation is now needed!  The Pousada is in a great location with good views over the bay, albeit the hotel is in need of modernisation as it is tired in parts – that said, it has charm and character and the service from the staff was excellent. And there us a great lock up to store your bikes (with separate lock up for your surfboard!)

We ventured out for a drink into Sagres before our evening meal at ‘Babugem‘. This fish restaurant is probably the best we’ve eaten at – the food was excellent as was the service. We were so glad we picked here to eat. Of particular note was the pickled veg which came with the couvert (this is amazing); with the best tasing red snapper (note: we had one each which also came with fries and salad – we could have shared one the portions were so big).  With wine as well this meal was not expensive for what we had. We will definitely go back and would highly recommend. Another highlight for us.

Breakfast at the Pousada, before we left to do our last day’s cycle was really good quality and plentiful. 

Aljezur (night 13)

Our stay was at a wonderful Herdade ‘Monte do Sol‘, in Aljezur, recommended by hubby after he stayed there in May on a boys cycling trip. He did well – the villa we had which included an open plan kitchen, living area was its own patio was just lovely.  And the land that surrounds the property is also lovely as the owners have a number of different animals (as pets) – hens, goats, peacocks, horses and dogs. 

So, having had a tough day’s cycle we decided to take a 40 minute walk to Arrifana beach – to have an early dinner at the beachfront ‘Restaurant da Praia‘ (such a chilled and relaxed vibe; with a great view of this surfers beach – oh, and the food and wine we had was pretty good as well). 

Breakfast was provided by Sofia and her husband who were not only great hosts but lovely people. Breakfast was good and plentiful with fresh hen’s eggs.  All in all a great relaxing (but too short) stay.

Zambujeira do Mar (night 12)

Our stay was at a country house, ‘Monte Soalheiro‘, in Zambujeira do Mar. 

It is quite difficult to get to the property, particularly by bicycle (not helped by inclement weather and taking what we thought to have been a short-cut).  The house is basically in a wooded eucalyptus area, and really off-road. However, the property itself is lovely and suits the surroundings well. We had an upstairs room with balcony which had great views. 

The pool area is also very nice as are the landscaped gardens; it’s just a pity the weather wasn’t quite good enough to sit and relax at the pool area, although the sun did come out a bit later on so we managed to have a cerveja as we watched the sunset. 

What was of note however was the evening meal that was cooked for us (having communicated in advance and requested an evening meal).  We had a delicious couvert to start (with bread, olives, melon & Parma ham), followed by homemade carrot and pumpkin soup, then salad, followed by a main meal of pork with a mushroom sauce served with two types of potato and vegetables. And then we had a lemon syllabub. The quality of the food was first class as was the service; and we appreciated the effort put in to cook just for the two of us. 

After the quality evening meal we had high hopes for breakfast. Once again we were not disappointed. The freshly cooked scrambled eggs and bacon, after a lovely prepared plate of fresh fruit with breads and home made jams was by far the best breakfast. And again, the staff serving were very accommodating and attentive. 

We would definitely return to Monte Soalheiro (but by car next time) – it was another highlight of our stay.

Santiago do Cacem (night 11)

Our stay was at a recently opened hotel, the ‘Santiago Cooking & Nature’. The layout of the hotel and the decor is modern and quite beautiful, with an open plan (see into kitchen) lounge area and dining area. The bedrooms and bathroom are luxurious with a fabulously comfy big bed.  And the pool area is lovely with loungers and canopied day beds to share – very romantic.  This place looks good; and they have a great storage room to put your bikes.

However, the rest of our stay was disappointing in terms of the food but particularly the service – which was very poor, both for the evening meal & also at breakfast. This was a real shame as the concept and the place as somewhere to eat and stay has real potential – our thought was that it has “style over substance”.  For example, having been seated for our evening meal there we asked for a bottle of water & bottle of wine. When neither had arrived after 10 minutes we had to ask for this again, as did the couple on the next table who when they arrived were shouted at for having sat down at a table without giving their room number first.  The restaurant was not busy and only half-full, and it seemed to us that the two staff who were waiting on were quite inexperienced. 

At breakfast, again not too busy, yet the serving member of staff didn’t check the hot food pan on a hot stove which if he had, he would have seen that there was no scrambled egg left.  It was only when a guest mentioned this and asked for the pot to be replenished that the server asked the chef, who wasn’t busy, to cook more eggs. 

With the open plan kitchen area and the food concept that the hotel has (i.e. “where gastronomy and culinary are the main attractions”), it seemed to us that they should maximise the open view kitchen and have guests ask the chef to cook you ‘fresh’ eggs / omelette.  For us, the bedroom/bathrooms, and the lounge/dining areas are this hotel’s main attractions.  (The picture from our bedroom of Santiago do Cacem as the sun was rising was beautiful).

We wouldn’t return to this hotel, unless they got much better with the service and the food.

Faro – old Town (night 15)

So having spent 12 days and cycled 400 miles from Porto we arrived at Faro (from Lagos, by train) – our final city destination before we head to the Eastern Algarve for a week of rest and relaxation (perhaps with some local cycling and running – so not to undo all of our hard work!)

We had a 5-minute walk from the train station to our hotel ‘Eva’, perfectly located overlooking the marina! There ended what had been great up to that point. Firstly, having entered the lobby area wheeling our bicycles (no other hotel had batted an eyelid with us doing this), we were quickly met by concierge in the stark white and uber clean foyer, who immediately ushered us out of the hotel foyer, advising that we could store our bicycles elsewhere! We didn’t have so much as a hello and welcome to the hotel ! 

Walking a few minutes around the corner the said concierge took us to a large ‘unlocked and open’ warehouse type space – but which, essentially anybody off the street could walk into; and is regularly used by staff and suppliers to gain access into/out of the hotel. The said concierge expected us to leave our bikes there!  

We had stayed in 12 different hotels up to this point with no issue, up to now! Having flown our bikes from the UK to then cycled them 400 miles, we were not just going to leave them in an unsecured area.  Instead, and it took a raised voice or two, the hotel management agreed to put our bikes in a better ‘secured’ area of the hotel. Our impression of the hotel so far was not good  (and certainly not what we were expecting to end our journey!)

It then didn’t end there, as having paid Euros 130 for a double superior ‘city view’ room we found ourselves in the oldest of rooms, and which clearly hadn’t been modernised since the 1960s/70s.  What we were presented with was not the same as the Hotel’s website pictures.  Four unanswered telephone calls to reception, it was down to reception to complain about said ‘superior’ room. [Note: there was no-one on reception and it wasn’t busy – but clearly no-one had wanted to answer the ‘phone!]  A very surly receptionist was adamant that what we had booked was a superior room – eventually, and after asking, “why were the pictures of the rooms not like the room we’ve been given”, did she offer an alternative (twin) bedroom overlooking the Marina (the view was good if nothing else). We accepted. The new room had been largely refurbished (clearly only half the hotel has been updated and modernised), however it’s been done on the cheap. For example, a very old wooden cupboard had been left in situ behind the new wardrobe; there is nowhere to hang wet towels; and it hadn’t been well cleaned.  

Breakfast the next morning was just average – it reminded us of a busy and noisy canteen. This is not a 4* hotel!! We will not be returning to Hotel Eva, and we would not recommend it.

On going out in thr evening to eat, we stumbled across an excellent restaurant, which served both tapas and regular Portuguese food, called ‘Petisqueira 3 Em Pipa‘.  The quality of the food and wine here is superb; and the young man who served us was very attentive, knowledgeable, polite and professional. It is also a very popular place, so for us, we were lucky enough to have got a table having arrived a bit earlier.  We will definitively go back to the restaurant and would highly recommend.

Lisbon (nights 8 and 9)

Our 2-night stay in the old town of Lisbon was good.  Our hotel ‘Ribeira Tejo by Shiadu‘ boutique hotel is in a great location to eat, drink and get about (Bairro Alto district). The hotel is in need of a bit of love and care, but the staff are very helpful.  It’s also very convenient for the next leg of our journey, which will start from the ferry terminal at Cais do Sodre and go to Seixal, at the northern tip of Setubal. And it’s really convenient for a great little bike shop (Lisbon Bike Rentals) a few minutes walk from our hotel, who kindly pumped our bike tyres up for us.

Night 1: Whilst in Lisbon we went to the Time Out Market (Mercado Ribeira) – its worth a visit and its interesting but it’s also very very busy, very touristy, very over priced; and what seems to be no more than a giant food hall/canteen [you get a plastic tray at the food stand and then go and find a space to sit]! 

We were really disappointed with the Market, and it had been something we’d really looked forward to. However, we had a few drinks and a few starters (at the Asian Lab) – the food was good, but for 2 small beers and two small starters it cost Euros 17 – not cheap. And these prices were similar to the other food stalls. 

When we saw the plastic trays and how busy it was, we decided to eat elsewhere – we were so glad we did as we stumbled upon a fish restaurant ‘Aqui Ha Peixe‘. This was an excellent restaurant, albeit a bit pricey but we’d highly recommend. I particularly liked the seafood pasta with scallops and prawns. You also need to make a reservation for here. We were lucky to get a table, but those who turned up after us weren’t so lucky. 

Day/Night 2: Next door to our hotel, ‘Cafe Tati‘ was a great cafe/bar – we had a lovely tosta mista, tea and coffee.  It is a great bar for evening tapas, drinks and live music.  In the evening we started our night at ‘Giv Lowe‘ a really boho chic kind of bar with banksy (the artist) as the theme, which also has hanging lights made from bike wheels, super cool! We then stumbled upon a really good restaurant in the Bairro Alto district called ‘Vicente‘. The menu is really good and for a city restaurant the prices are really reasonable – both dishes were excellent: lamb chops with sweet potato and vegetables; and calves cheeks with mashed potato with cabbage.  The wine is also priced reasonably well. 

Conclusion: Lisbon is a cool City, with lots to do and see. It also doesn’t seem to sleep much which we found when the music was just finishing at 4am(ish), as the market started, and not long after which we got up, packed (again) and left ! 

Day 6: Cycle from Turcifal to Lisbon

This was a 30-mile cycle day, so relatively short but it was a tough day – lots of fairly big hills, up and down, particularly around Sao Juliao do Tojal to Santa Iris de Azoia (big ascent!)

And getting into Lisbon and navigating our way from the new town to the old town (where our hotel was) is tough – with complicated directions; lots of one-way streets (one of which we went up, the wrong way!); lots of very busy traffic and lots of people. It took a long time to arrive at our hotel…..a cerveja (or three) was much needed after the day !