Santarem to Fátima – 60km (aka the hilly pilgrimage)
Given Lois’ Catholic upbringing, a ride through Portugal without visiting Fatima seemed, well…sacrilegious. By the third long hill, we were feeling significantly less devoted.
Fuelled with an espresso and cappuccino at Pascoalini Geladaria near the hotel, we left Santarem cycling back down the very steep Rua Alexandre Herculano (N3). Winds continued to be a problem throughout the day, but the sunshine provided some compensation..
Cycling through Pernes, we detoured to do a ride/walk through the farmers’ market, which was busy, with lots of stalls selling fresh fruit and vegetables, cheese, olives, salted cod, bedding plants and fruit trees. One stall was smelling large round sausage-like donuts called Farturas, which we shall have to try.
After the first very long climb, we stopped for lunch of grilled perch and onions, fries and salad in a small restaurant where a midday meal, with beer/wine and coffee seemed to be the norm., at least for the men! We then debated the route (longer, flatter option against the wind or shorter steeper option with less wind) and got advice from the proprietor, which we were not sure was informed. We chose the shorter route. The next two hills were really steep (9% at times), but at least the wind had dropped or was behind us. We were grateful for the relative flat final kms into Fátima . Our hotel is near the Sanctuary which we will visit in the morning.