We are in Lisbon! It had been a hectic last few weeks refining our itinerary, getting our bikes serviced and ready for the trip, final trips to the icebreaker store, Wanderlust, West Point Cycles and On the Rivet, sending out posters to promote Parkinson’s fundraising to our favourite businesses (thank you, Terra Breads Cafe for posting!), readying our condo for rental (lease to be signed imminently) and having a final Parkinson’s planning meeting with Marg and Allan. We said goodbye to family and friends, including a trip to Prince George to see Lois’ 96-year old mom and a fun weekend getaway to Harrison Hot Springs with our daughter, son-in-law and 3 grandchildren. For those we did not get to see, we will be in touch, virtually. As always, it is difficult to say goodbye to our children and grandchildren, who we will miss dearly, but whose support for these adventures we appreciate enormously.
We left Vancouver for Paris on the morning of February 24, 2017, to visit our son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter in Meudon-la-Forêt, while awaiting the birth of our fifth grandchild. A beautiful boy (our second grandson) arrived March 2. We are still over the moon!
Finally, it was time to get on the road. It was an easy cycle from Meudon to Montparnasse, picking up a cycle trail from Châtillon into the city. We soon got used to riding our bikes “fully loaded” again and it felt good to be on them. We are both carrying even less weight than on previous trips, with Lois having replaced her 40 litre panniers with 30 litre ones. One way we have achieved this is by choosing clothes that can double as both cycle and casual wear. Lois is not convinced, however, that she will be able to cycle through Europe without acquiring a pair of frivolous shoes!
On the recommendation of our son, Chris, we had a delicious meal at a Breton crêperie near our hotel. Our hunt for the ultimate espresso began again the following morning at Caffé Juno (7/10). We must learn that to truly assess a roast – no milk.
We left Paris in a small 2nd class TGV carriage with our bikes strapped next to us. A great arrangement.
We were concerned about catching our connection in Irun 6 hours later (20 minutes to change trains) and became even more anxious when we read the small print in Spanish on our ticket. Two bikes are allowed in a sleeper on the Trenhotel, but they must be dismantled and boxed. Arriving in Irun, we had given up the idea of confronting the policy, but on the platform by the train with a few minutes to spare, we were waved on and into our compartment. We weren’t sure what we were being asked to do by the train attendant, who kept shouting “Montez”?, but we managed to close the door and put down the beds by removing the wheels and taking off the handlebars, which seemed acceptable.
Dinner was next, but sitting at the bar soon after departure, we were informed by the same attendant that the fish dish was “finished”, as were all the other main courses, despite the fact that we understood the train began in Irun, so soup, cheese, Spanish wine and slices of pineapple sufficed! We had a pleasant conversation in French with an older couple who seemed to be dividing their time between France and Portugal.
Arriving at Lisboa Santa Apolónia station at 7:30 am, after a rather interrupted night, we assembled our bikes on the platform and walked them through Alfama, given the level of construction activity. An espresso stop helped get us up the very steep cobbled sidewalks of the city. At the bottom of a very long set of steps, a restauranteur came out to direct us up a more bike-friendly route, and at the top of a another particularly steep hill, Lois was aided by an armed officer on duty outside of the HQ of the national guard!
Our apartment is a great find (Lonely Planet) and close to the Copenhagen Coffee Lab (espresso 9/10), which also serves (cold) oatmeal and full cream yoghurt with homemade granola for breakfast. Later, while Lois was having a massage, Paul visited the Museu da Água where an aqueductal system built in the 18C provided water from outside the city. After a late lunch, we purchased bread, cheese, wine and pastries for an al fresco meal on the terrace behind our apartment.
After the chilly, windy and rainy weather in Vancouver and Paris, we were looking forward to warmer weather in Lisbon, but the high of 25C even took the locals by surprise.
We will spend the weekend seeing some of the sights of this charming city, before heading off on our bikes on Monday.