If you're touring in Spain and have just managed to cobble enough words together to get by, why not pop over the border into Portugal and start again with a language that looks like Spanish but sounds nothing like it. It can also be a very beautiful country.
25th - 30th August 2011
Portugal has got it all: beautiful mountains, sugarcube villages on high hillsides and some right dumps.
Variable. Main roads, if beginning with 'IP', sometimes morph into dangerously fast race tracks that you won't want to be on (and, possibly, aren't actually allowed on). As these form the backbone of the road network it can mean some long detours.
In Lisbon you have the combination of potholes, cobbles and roads steeper than a wall. You're better off exploring on foot. Getting in and out can be a challenge too. You are not allowed on the only bridge over the River Tagus if you want to head south. You'll have to catch a ferry.
Although I was unaware of this at the time, Portugal has many campsites, including many municipal ones. I didn't notice any on my route and so I have no prices for camping.
A price for a room in a hotel can be pricier than you might expect - I paid €40, €47 and €65 - but if you hunt around you can find a much cheaper room in the backstreets or above a shop. I found two of these for €10 and €15. All of these prices are away from the coast, by the way, where it will certainly be much more expensive.
Away from the coast, restaurant prices are very reasonable.
Outside of Lisbon I found no one who spoke English although I found a lady who spoke a curious combination of French and Spanish. Everyone else spoke Portuguese and only Portuguese. Once again, Michel Thomas does a course if you're interested.
Attractive scenery, reasonably priced if you're careful, to eat the truly orgasmic custard tart known as pasteis de nata.
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There is some lovely cycling in Portugal, especially in the east and north.
iviehoff (Sep 2011)
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