Cycling today, hooray!!! After breakfast, which was a bit tricky because a bus tour of Asians had just been in the dining room before us like a swarm of locusts, we brought our bags down and collected our bikes. Jose gave some more advice about how to stay safe, Ricardo adjusted bikes and Cristina got the luggage van ready. It was a bit of a game of Tetris to get all the bags inside but they managed.
Jose insisted that we all ride together while in town and this was a good idea because we had to negotiate many roundabouts, the wrong way around, while riding on cobbled streets. The cobbled streets lasted for about three kilometres, luckily my fillings survived but it was a close call. Once on the smooth asphalt the group spread out and it wasn't long before the e-bike mounted ladies surged to the front. Initially the road was a bit busy but we soon got used to it and it didn't seem odd to be cycling on the right. At about 20 km Jose called a halt at an intersection to make sure we all went the right way. While we were waiting we found that Todd had had a small 'off' and had a bloody knee. Jose had all the right dressings and quickly patched him up.
One main difference between this countryside and Italy is that the houses are almost always whitewashed instead of grey rocks. Most houses have edges and windows/doors outlined in either yellow or blue. In addition we see eucalypts and wattles in a landscape not too dissimilar to Australia. A few kilometres further on at 25 km we had our first official stop where Cristina had fruit, energy bars and nuts available to sustain us. We probably needed this because there was a steady head wind of about 20 kmh for most of the ride so far.
A little further on we came to our first organised visit. This was to a Portugese traditional pottery which makes, not surprisingly, traditional ceramic products. We watched a guy spin up some bowls from clay, admired a couple of women who were engraving and painting the plates and bowls and felt the heat from the kiln. A few of the riders bought some items which Cristina put on the van so that didn't have to carry them on their bikes. Nearby was a cafe where we stopped to have lunch. Maree and I both had a small chicken pie followed by a Portuguese tart washed down with a cappuccino.
There were only 9 kilometres left to go and Jose warned that it was very steep and that we would all be begging for a 'gear zero'. As we left the cafe Jose pulled the whole group to a stop to point out the Convento on the side of the hill. The only problem was that we stopped on the middle of the road and blocked traffic. Unfortunately for him there was a motorcycle policeman just up the road and he was soon whizzing down to get us to stop being idiots and move on. When we were about 2 kilometres from our venue the road indeed started to go uphill and Maree called 'passing' and shot off uphill. Jose was by the side of the road instructing us where to go as Maree went past. I was trailing in her wake when Jose passed me and set off in pursuit but there was no stopping the intrepid e-bike and its rider. Maree was the second rider in after Rob, a mid 30's bike racer, so she did very well. I came in fourth after Jose .....but it's not a race so who cares.
The Convent, even though it had monks and not nuns, is vast with fabulous tiled corridors leading to rooms with small doors opening into quite adequate rooms. The convent was started here because the mountain on which it is situated was considered holy due to the large number of Christian hermits who lived here. Maree and I have lucked it by getting a suite which has a separate lounge room as well as a nice bedroom. WiFi does not work in our room but there is a recreation room nearby with a super strong signal. After showering and washing our cycling gear. Maree took me for a walk outside where we found the cork forest surrounding the monastery. There were many trees all around which have had their cork harvested and they are slowly growing a new layer. It takes many years between harvests.
We were given a guided tour by the manager of the Convento who told us that it wjas founded in the 12th C but that most of the building as we see it was in the 18th C. The monks abandoned the convent in the 19th C and the buildings fell into ruin. The land was purchased by some wealthy people who, at first, didn't realise that there was a building there. Once it was realised they decided to restore it and turn it into a hotel. The full story is too long for this report but they were lucky that the fabulous tiles on the first floor were protected by the monks who built walls to prevent entry to the upper levels. We had dinner in what used to be a meeting room for the monks breakfast will be in the original dining room which has fountains outside for washing of hands.l