Bikes, Wind, Wine, and Friends. This is how I would summarize the ride we did outside of Lisbon.
We arrived in Lisbon, the Portuguese capital, full of expectations for the amazing one-day ride tour with 2RidePortugal.
We were hoping for a shining sun, unfortunately we got off with grey clouds.
We were promised a winery tour with wine tasting, and we had the best guide and some of the most delicious wine.
We were promised the coast and mountain views, and we arrived at breathtaking lookout points.
But most of all, we were promised a fantastic ride, and – hell yeah, we had one!
212.7 km in a day, three motorbikes, 148 km/h of maximum speed reached, great paved roads, and the characteristic ocean wind.
This was our one day ride out of Lisbon.
9:00 AM, Meet up, Central Lisbon
After a not-so-early rise, I made my way to the center of Lisbon to meet up with Sérgio Lopes (the tour guide from 2rideportugal), Haig Conolly (from rambling.cafe), and my two friends, Isa and Marco.
Greetings, happy smiles, need of coffee.
We could not begin our day ride without breakfast. So we went for a traditional Portuguese breakfast: pasteis de nata and tosta mista; to drink, a galão.
After friendly chats and full bellies, we were ready to go and collect our bikes. We arrived at LX Rent, did the rental paperwork, got the hamlet, and jumped on the bikes.
Ready, set, go – in no time, we were on the busy streets of Lisbon to make our way out of the city.
10:00 AM, Lisbon outskirts and Palmela
The Avenida Marechal Craveiro Lopes/2a Circular led us right away to one of Lisbon iconic landsmarks: the Vasco da Gama Bridge.
The Vasco da Gama is the longest bridge in Europe, with its 12.3 kilometers. Built for the 1998 World’s Fair, the bridge construction took 3,300 workers who worked for 18 months.
This bridge is so long that you cannot see the other end when it’s foggy!
While riding the Vasco da Gama Bridge, we met for the first time the 6th companion of our trip: the wind! It was so strong that it was difficult to keep the videocamera straight…!
But hey – there’s nothing better than a good challenge to make the trip even more fun.
The Vasco da Gama Bridge made us cross the Tago River, the longest river of the Peninsula Iberica. The river bathes Lisbon. And it is so wide and deep that it looks like a sea. You can be easily mistaken if you don’t know that you are actually looking at a river.
Once on the other side of the bridge, we continued on the A33 and then on the EN379-2 to leave Lisbon behind us for good. After 36.6 km, we arrived at the little town of Palmela, where we made a quick stop. Here, we saw hectares of burnt landscape. Sérgio told us that a big wildfire had recently burnt the trees to the ground. The shades of ochre, deep brown, and black of what survived the fire create an impressive sight.
We jumped back on our bikes and kept going.
11:00 AM, Setúbal and Parque Natural da Arrábida
The countryside roads progressively transformed into town streets. This is how we knew we arrived in Setúbal. We did not stop in the town, only rode through it.
We continued the EN10-4, which goes through the Parque Natural da Arrábida. The first kilometers are particularly busy: many cars and bikes are parked on the side of the road while their owners are on the stretches of sand enjoying the ocean.
The further we went, the fewer people we saw.
The road began to show pleasant soft hairpin bends, the vegetation became lusher on the mountainside, and the ocean view was right there for us.
We turned off the bikes for a round of taking pics and shooting videos while we dove into some exploring of the area.
Steep stairs conducted us to a cement platform right on top of the sea: Sérgio explained to us that we were standing on the floor of what was once a pretty famous nightclub!
I was there, imagining how amazing it would be to dance the night away in that place… when I was called back to reality.
We were running short of time: the next part of the experience awaited us at 12 o’clock on the nose. A wine experience!
But the Parque Natural da Arrábida is so beautiful that Sérgio promised we could de-tour after lunch to come back here to enjoy the stunning views a little longer.
12:00 PM, José Maria Da Fonseca Winery
We road the EN 379-1 for 10.4 km to arrive at Azeitão. This little town is known for hosting the oldest producer of table wine and Setúbal Moscatel in Portugal: the José Maria Da Fonseca Winery.
As soon as we entered the winery, we were immediately met by our friendly guide, Maria. She guided us through a complete tour of the museum’s house, the winery, and the long history that is behind the dedication the Soares Franco family put into the production of their wines. The José Maria Da Fonseca Winery was founded in 1834, and since then, it has become a leader in producing two particular wines: the Moscatel and the Periquita.
During the guided tour, Maria showed us different rooms where the wine barrels await to be open. The sensation when entering these rooms is peculiar since you can smell different scents depending on which wine is stored in the barrels.
Wine barrels inside the José Maria Da Fonseca Winery, Azeitão – Portugal
Unique was entering the Moscatel’s storage room: the place looks like and feels like a cathedral. I’m not joking!
The room is almost completely dark, except for a small rosary window on the top of the side wall from which the sun’s rays enter. It’s so dark that Maria warned us that bats live inside the room! The air is cold, exactly as if you are in a cell. The smell is incredible: brandy. Yes, to make Moscatel, they use brandy. And then, the music. It was incredible to hear this low but imposing church music. We were all astonished when Maria told us that the music was there to help the Moscatel aging process! In fact, the Moscatel needs swinging motion to age properly (so it must be done inside the barrels and not in the bottles) – and apparently the music’s vibrations do the trick! We burst into a laugh, but the solemnity of the place made us quiet again pretty fast.
We left the church (as I like calling it), and we went for the last part of the tour: the wine tasting. Maria offered us the winery’s two precious wines, the Moscatel and the Periquita. I mean, we had to try them after having learned about their productions!
Smiles, a toast – and there we drink.
We said goodbye to our fantastic guide Maria, who left us with a phrase that I’m gonna quote from now on: “Where’s wine, there’s happiness”.
It was now time to have lunch! We headed next door to the Wine Corner – José Maria da Fonseca, the company’s flagship restaurant and wine bar. The restaurant is integrated into the Fonseca Museum House, and the menu was designed to offer regional ingredients with a modern twist and always in dialogue with the wines.
We left the restaurant all smiles (and maybe – but just maybe – it was the wine’s fault), and we got back to our bikes. Direction: Parque Natural da Arrábida, again (what Sérgio promises, Sérgio delivers).
3:30 PM, Parque Natural da Arrábida and 25 de Abril Bridge
The Parque Natural da Arrábida is truly magnificent. Here, the blue of the ocean alternates with the bleached shades of the limestone cliffs and the green of the dense vegetation. We stopped several times on the road to take pics and videos, but mostly to admire the breathtaking panorama in front of our eyes.
A selfie, more smiles, the sunshine on the skin – the only moment of the day when the clouds dissipated for us.
Back on the road following the gentle mountain bends while riding with the ocean shining for the sun. Incredible.
But we had to leave nature for a moment to be back on the Autostrada Do Sul. Not to be back in Lisbon yet, not to cross the Vasco da Gama bridge again. This time we rode through the 25 de Abril bridge, famous for resembling the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco!
The 25 de Abril bridge is the longest suspension bridge in Europe, 2,277 meters long. It has two different heights, with an upper floor for cars and a lower for trains.
The 25 de Abril bridge was opened in 1966 under the name of Ponte Salazar, but it was renamed after the Carnation Revolution of April 25, 1974.
I must say that the comparison with the Golden Gate is fitting: although San Francisco’s iconic bridge is longer, the sensations I felt crossing both bridges are very similar! I remember that when I crossed the Golden Gate Bridge, I was fascinated by the metal structure painted in bright red. And now, while riding on the 25 de Abril bridge, my attention was caught again by the bold structure. Only three things were different: the strong wind, the motorbike, and the statue of Cristo Rei, who greets those who leave Lisbon from the top of his hill!
Statue of Cristo Rei, Almada – Portugal
We crossed the red bridge to continue our trip north – direction: Sintra.
Riding on the A2 and the A37 for 15 km, we arrived at Queluz, for a quick stop and some history telling.
We parked our bikes right in front of the Palacio Nacional de Queluz. This is an unmissable treasure if you are visiting Portugal. The Palacio Nacional was originally the summer residence of the Portuguese royal family. The palace was built in the mid-eighteenth century in sumptuous rococo style. It is one of the last European palaces built in this style, and it became famous for being the Portuguese Versailles!
We hadn’t had time to visit the Palacio Nacional, but its richly decorated rooms and its stunning gardens, with beautiful azulejos, statues, and symbolic fountains, must be a true spectacle!
Across the street from the Palacio Nacional, there is the equally impressive Torre do Relogio. This building was constructed during the last phases of the edification of the royal palace to house the royal guard, the administration house, and the stables.
5:00 PM, Sintra
Back on the bikes, back on the A37. In 16.5 km, we arrived in Sintra.
As we were getting closer to Sintra, the weather rapidly changed: dense and low clouds covered the street as if we were about to cross the portal for another dimension. And Sintra really looks to have come out of a book of fairy tales.
Located among the hills of the Serra, Sintra hides within its lush vegetation bizarre palaces, extravagant villas, and the ruins of an ancient Moorish castle.
We rode up Sintra’s hills, on a well-paved but tiny road lined by the gates and walls of the fantastic buildings. The area was packed with people and cars, which is common in August since Sintra has become a popular tourist destination.
However, as we moved away from the city and its beautiful buildings to enter the Sintra-Cascais Nature Park, the situation changed.
The air was wet and extremely cold, and nature was luxuriant. No people around. The deep green of the trees was the perfect frame for a fabulous road to ride on.
Eyes wide open to admire, deep inhales to grasp the distinct scent of sage, big smiles.
We were in a fairy tale, we were in Sintra.
But every tale must come to an end. It was time to leave Sintra behind, to hit the next stop for our trip: Cabo da Roca.
6:00 PM, Cabo da Roca
We rode through the N247, crossing the Sintra-Cascais Nature Park, for 16.9 km. And just like that, we arrived at the end of the continent.
Cabo da Roca is a cliff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. What’s so special about it? Well, it’s the westernmost point of the European continent!
Signboard in Cabo da Roca, Cascais – Portugal
If you were to trace a line from Cabo da Roca, all across the Ocean, you would land in Delaware, United States.
Pretty cool. But also pretty cold.
As I told you at the beginning, the 6th companion of our trip was the Portuguese wind. And, oh man – here it was super intense!
I think I’d never taken pics and videos so fast in my life! The place is truly stunning, but I wanted to be somewhere with considerably less wind (and the whole team was of the same advice).
So we jumped back on our bikes and speeded towards the ride’s last destination: Azenha do Mar.
6:40 PM, Azenha do Mar
We rode for 12.6 km on the N247, reunited with the Ocean, to arrive at Azenha do Mar.
The town is perched on top of a rocky spur overhanging the Atlantic waters.
This place is pure enchantment.
This area was historically rich in mills fed by the ocean that represented a typical element of Portuguese architecture, which is why the town is called Azenha do Mar (the Portuguese term ‘Azenha’ means ‘watermill’). Once an agricultural and fishing area, today Azenhas do Mar’s economy is all about tourism. It is indeed one of the most visited destinations in Portugal. And it’s not difficult to understand why.
Restaurante Azenhas do Mar, Colares – Portugal
So we got off our bikes, parked them, and dined at the Restaurante Azenhas do Mar. The restaurant is located right on the side of the cliff, and in front of it, only the Atlantic Ocean.
This spot is perfect for sunset watching, but we were not lucky with the weather. But the scene was incredibly suggestive nonetheless: the grey clouds in the sky, the waves crashing on the rocky cliff, the chant of the wind.
Only big smiles, no words. It was a scene impossible to comment on.
There, between land and ocean, we ended our ride.
This experience would not have been possible without the support of our partners.
We at REVnTRAVEL would like to give a special thanks to:
2RidePortugal – Moto Touring, and their guide and CEO, Sérgio Lopes.
José Maria Da Fonseca Winery
Phone: +351 212 198 940
Address: R. José Augusto Coelho, nº11/13 Vila Nogueira de Azeitão
Wine Corner – José Maria da Fonseca
Phone: (+351) 21 219 1366
Address: Rua José Augusto Coelho nº 1, 2925-542 Azeitão
Address: Rua da Sociedade Farmacêutica 40A, 1150-340, Lisboa
Restaurante Azenhas do Mar
Phone: +351 21 928 07 39
Address: Lugar das Azenhas do Mar, 2705-098 Colares – Sintra