Day 1: Charlotte NC to Lisbon, Portugal

Riding into Lisbon

I arrived at the Charlotte Airport about 1:30 PM on Saturday. Getting my stuff into the airport while my wife waits with the car to make sure everything is OK has become difficult since 9/11, and this time I had to wait too long to check in and the security folks made her leave before I was sure things were OK with the bike.

As it turned out, things were OK and the USAir folks were very helpful. I did have to buy a box ($20) and box my bike in order to take it, or more properly, in order to take it with anything attached to it. They will ship a bare bike, but it can't even have a handlebar bag. If I took all that stuff off my bike that went in the box with my bike, off my bike, I would have had to pay for at least one extra piece of luggage. The box was cheaper!

I flew, overnight - it is an eight hour flight that leaves at 4:20 PM and get in about 7 AM with a + 6 hour time difference - from Charlotte to Frankfurt. Then, after a three hour lay over, I flew for another two and half hours getting from Frankfurt to Lisbon. I picked that flight combination because it was the best I could do in terms of stops (one) and timing (overnight). I figured that my bicycle would be treated well in Frankfurt.

The flights were on time and pleasant. I went through officially entering the EU in Germany, so all I had to deal with in Lisbon was getting my checked luggage and putting my bike back together. My luggage arrived, but the bike box was beat up, torn and partially soaked in some kind of slippery liquid!

The liquid appeared to be a Lisbon problem, since it hadn't had time to soak through the box. I don't know where the physical abuse occurred, but, once again, the durability of my, Cannondale framed, touring bike meant that there was very little real damage. It took about an hour to get it all functional again, load everything, and to roll it through customs. The lady in customs, who asked other travelers where they were from and inspected their luggage, just waved me through with my loaded bike.

Back together again in a new country

and here is what is left of the box

When I left the airport, I rode to the Centro or Old Town of Lisbon. This ride, on bikeacess.net, doesn't sound like much fun. It starts with the 'Roundabout from Hell,' but it was Sunday and that roundabout has traffic lights! Anyway, it was no big deal, except for the guy that ran a red light. Then there was the five mile ride into town. It was downhill with a tailwind for the first few miles, which I really appreciated, and Sunday traffic wasn't too bad, so that part was OK too. I don't think it would be a good ride on a weekday, especially at rush hour.

Then the road climbs a hill, curving a bit to the west and, at the top of the hill there is another roundabout. This time you want to go down the other side of the hill, taking the road that exits slightly to the left on the other side of the roundabout.

I found myself riding another long downhill, and this time the road was rough - it eventually becomes cobblestones and it has tram tracks in the right most lane which means you have to stay near the left edge of that lane. The pavement I had to ride on was often quite rough.

Portugese driving habit, like very excessive speed, running red lights (they aren't any worse than US drivers at that), stopping in the traffic lanes to park and/or talk (?), and opening the driver's door into a stream of traffic, made this part of the ride exciting, but I never felt that I was in danger.

When the pavement became cobblestones, I followed the main flow of traffic which turned to the right and then entered a plaza with a tall monument. It think the date was 1577. and then into a major street with another monument and gardens. By this time I was heading back north, so I decided to stop in the gardens and check my map. I was on Ave da Liberdade and had just ridden by the monument to the Restauradores.

I was (am ) tired and ready to find a place to stay, so, when I spotted a fellow going into a place that rented rooms, I asked about places to stay. He recommended a hotel about a block from where I had stopped in the garden. That hotel didn't have any rooms ( or didn't want to deal with my bike), so I asked them for another recommendation and got one for the place I'm staying. My room at Residencial Florescente (at Rue Portas de Santa Antao, 99) is 32 Euro a night for B+B. It is just off the main drag on a cobblestone street full of theaters, shops and restaurants. The proprietor and lots of the guests speak English, so it a good place to for me to find out about Lisbon and points south.

The Penzion where I am staying

The Restauradores monument

The cool and cooling garden where I stopped to figure out where I was

After fighting to stay awake all day, I treated myself to a nice dinner at one of the restaurants on this street (Cervejaria Raiana, Rua das Portas de Santo Antao, 6). It was great; good seafood, excellent service and a real treat watch the neat people walking on this, cobblestone, street. There were two groups of locals eating snails and lots of other folks passing by and interacting with both the folks eating and the folks serving them. It sounded, and felt, like some kind of Italian restaurant, only in Portugese, which sounds more like French than Spanish. Very alive!

Anyway, it was great fun and a great way to finish my first day in Portugal. Tomorrow is a rest/let's see Lisbon day.

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