2015 European Adventure travel blog

Animal bells at the markey

Local mushrooms

Roman glassware

Watching other do the final climb

Ammaia, the south gate remains

Bruce and Jack at our first break

Sunset from the castle at Marvao

Garden inside the castle walls

Cistern in the castle could supply water for 6 months during a...

Guess who?

View from the top

Today's shortish, fifty-four kilometre ride started under overcast skies. Rain was not forecast but the weather didn't look to be as nice as yesterday. We left our monastery and headed north east towards the Spanish border. The riding was easy and Maree had little need of the electric motor except when an upward undulation became a bit bigger than expected.

About an hour into our ride we stopped at a cemetery just to have a look and found that there was a WC just inside the gate. This got much use as people had thought that they might have to use a 'green door' which the women were not too keen about. A few kilometres further on, at our first scheduled stop, we met a guy selling huge mushrooms from the boot of his car. He goes out collecting mushrooms and then brings them to the village square to sell. We also noticed an even more elaborate communal laundry in this place.

Lunch was in a small town where there was a market in the main square. After eating Maree and I took a walk through the is only to find that they were mostly selling cheap clothing and even cheaper shoes. The only interesting stall was one selling bells and straps for cows, sheep and other domestic animals. I bought an old style bell for Maree to hang in the garden. As I had no bag I put it in the back pocket of my jersey and from then on everyone knew where I was. Especially when we rode over cobbled roads.

Our next stop for the day was an archaeological museum and dig at the site of an extensive Roman town. The town was established in the first century AD and thrived for about 800 years until the moors invaded this part of Portugal and the town was abandoned. So far the archaeologists have only uncovered four areas, the place where the museum is, the Southern gate, the baths and the forum/temple region. They have recovered in that area some remarkable pieces including jewellery, coins, pottery, some delicately engraved stones from rings and, most amazingly of all, large quantities of glass bottles, plates and cups. I didn't know that Romans made objects from glass.

The last five kilometres to our hotel in Marvao were all uphill. There was a relatively constant 6% gradient for the whole way. We started the climb in last position on the road but soon enough the other riders slowed down to an uncomfortably low pace. Jose was well in the lead as there was no need for him to show the way as our hotel was at the end of the road. Within a few minutes Maree overtook all but Jose and I followed. As we continued up the hill Maree increased her assistance level and was soon going too fast for me to keep up so I settled into a comfortable cadence. About 3 km from the top Gina came past but when I looked back there was no sign of Bruce. Sometime later, as the gradient eased momentarily, I looked up to see Maree passing Jose and that was the last I saw of her until the top. The road was well surfaced and the views became progressively more spectacular. Finally I reached the top just after Gina to find no Maree. It seems that she mistakenly pulled off at the nearby convent thinking that this was our hotel. Pity about that because it meant that she came in fourth instead of first. But it's not a race so ......

Our hotel, El-Rej Dom Manuel, has been in existence since 1999 and is kind of quaint. Steps and corridors lead in all directions. It only has about 20 rooms of varying sizes. Ours is very palatial with a single bed as well as our double and a sofa as well as space to play a game of cricket (almost). Bruce & Gina are quite envious and think that we must have some special 'pull' in order to get these big rooms.

Before dinner we took a walk to the Castelo de Marvao which has stood on the top of the hill, in one form or other, for a thousand years. It has defended this part of Portugal from many invaders, most recently, the Spanish in the 19th century as well as featuring in many local insurrections and rebellions. The views from the fortress are truly spectacular as it is the highest point around in the vicinity. Dinner was at 7:30 as usual and this time we were treated to a tomato soup with bread and egg followed by a Cataplana of pork and seafood which was very tasty. Cataplana actually refers to the covered metal bowl in which the meal is cooked on a stove. Tomorrow is our longest day, 117km, so we need all the rest we can get. At least the first 5 km will be down hill.

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