Day 6: Montreal to Porto II - Grampies Iberian Inquisition Spring 2023 - CycleBlaze

March 7, 2023

Day 6: Montreal to Porto II

Our experience with CATSA, the airport security people, was quite reasonable this time. Especially when it came to inspecting the bike boxes, they did not question any extras they found in there, including our used pizza boxes. They did take out everything that could come out and put it through their scanner. But then they helped to repack, and sealed it all with official CATSA packing tape. I was quite tickled to have this, but cautioned them not to bankrupt the federal government by using too much costly tape on us.

I was proud of our CATSA tape
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Similarly TAP Portugal Airline, who were in our doghouse for overcharging to carry bicycles, came up with a sparkling new A320 plane with good seats and a great entertainment system. They also provided a very nice hot meal and later a sandwich, plus a pillow and a blanket, and ear buds. 

Another random bonus was that the third person in our row of seats was "Gabrielle",  a pretty and significantly, petite, young traveler from Québec City. As the one in our couple that always is landed with the centre seat, I have to deal with that third person. So often, I draw a large male, prone to "manspreading", and usually have to also wage a losing battle for space on the common arm rest. Gabrielle was therefore a delight. She also said her mom was interested in cycle touring, and so she bookmarked CycleBlaze

The only crazy part with TAP was that at Lisbon they made a big deal of boarding by letter code printed on the boarding pass, or with special attention to first class or disabled passengers. After all that and no matter what order people had passed through the final passport check, all were herded onto busses and driven a long way to the plane, where they all piled on. Perversely, those who were passed through the gate first  boarded last, because they were deepest into the busses. To compound the whole thing, they loaded the plane randomly from the tail and the  front, setting passengers on collision courses as they tried to make their way to their seats in the middle. None of this was a big deal, but it made you hope they put more thought into other aspects of their service, like maintenance schedules.

At Lisbon there were dozens of A320's belonging to TAP. They are bigger and more of a player than we had imagined,
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Lisbon airport was 100% modern and efficient, with lots of shops and food courts. Porto airport, though smaller, was also right up to scratch.
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At Lisbon airport I bought my first European coffee of the trip. Even with a lot of "bitter" past experience, I was surprised at just how small  the serving was. I bought the coffee to help down the TAP sandwich, which we had taken off the plane in its box. But there really was not enough liquid in the coffee to qualify it as a beverage. It was more like a "dose" of caffeine. I guess that aligns with the industry term of a "shot".

Take me to McDonald's? I have not sipped this yet, that's all there was.
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The plane from Lisbon to Porto flew straight up the coast - exactly the way we would follow to come back down. What we saw looked great - beach all the way, with surf, and green land with scattered buildings inland.

It looks like sand beach all the way.
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The plane flew by Porto and turned around to line up for the landing. This gave us a view of the land north of Porto, and it seemed covered with an amazing number of greenhouses.
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Patrick O'HaraGlad you explained the orientation of the shot, and the fact that you were headed south in this picture. I was scratching my head for a moment.
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Overall, this part of Portugal looked green and pleasant - almost exactly like our own southern Vancouver Island.
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Not so pleasant was the sight of our beloved bike boxes, when they hit the oversize baggage belt in Porto. "Hit" is a good term, as I watched one of them get tossed, as I peeked through the plastic  curtain strips over the belt. But the boxes did protect the bikes, and nothing was broken this time. Where the boxes really suffered was at the hand grips that came with them as punched out holes. Grabbed at one of these, they just ripped open. It was lucky that nothing - like water bottles - fell out of the holes.

Our poor boxes! We have stoppered up the side grip holes on one box, so the monkeys can not get their hands in there. We need more tape to attempt to completely foil them.
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The taxi ride that the hostel had arranged was quite costly, at 45 euros for 8 km. We have no idea whether this is a normal charge for here or not. But Cancun, for example, is known for costly taxi services, and there this would have been the equivalent of 25 euros. On the other hand the driver was very friendly and spoke English well, and did a lot of texting back and forth with us to help us connect effectively at Arrivals. Now that we have been texting him, we will make contact  again when its time to get to the airport and fly out.

Porto, on the taxi ride in, struck us as looking and feeling very close to our own Victoria BC. The roads and buildings were clean and well organized, and the pace relaxed. It's difficult to compare the two places from population figures, because there is always a boundary question for core and "greater" regions. Greater Porto is admittedly much bigger than Greater Victoria.

The Gallery Hostel  is on a narrowish street, that seems to be quite in the Porto  downtown. We'll assess tomorrow just how central it is. What was clear right away was the helpfulness and friendliness of the staff. They grabbed our bike boxes and stashed  them inside, which of course is much bigger than it would appear from the street entrance. Later they helped carry them to a garage where we could assemble the bikes, and then stash the empty boxes.  Especially Paulo was interested in our bikes and trip and was particularly  helpful. 

Our room here is of a reasonable size and has a good desk and lamp, plus plugs in the places where we need them. It's not at all fancy, but it will work well. 

Simple but functional.
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Help carrying the bikes to the garage.
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The garage is a bit down the street from the hostel. Across that street I spotted a small fruit store, where we bought a selection of plums, oranges, pears, and strawberries. Each one had the kind of flavour you expect from in season fruit, not bland and under ripe as we get it back home at this time of year. We can clearly anticipate a lot of great fruit as we cycle along.

Google lens suggests the egg shaped red fruit is Tamarillo. We were too stunned just then to give it a try.
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Paulo has been a great help.
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We used up all our tape repairing the bike boxes, and will need to find more. Paulo wrote us out the name of a likely store that could carry what we need. And we mostly assembled the bikes, without too much drama. We had taken off one derailleur, and I forgot how a tricky bushing on that goes back on. In the low light of the garage it was becoming a bit of a puzzle. But I brought the bike under a window and by rolling on the floor was able to identify how it is meant to fit. Tomorrow we will finish with details on the bikes and check out Porto a little. After that, it's (hopefully) zooming down the coast toward Lisbon!

Oh, one fly in that ointment, about zooming down the coast. In England one of our twin e-bike battery chargers totally gave up. We suspected that it was the 220V power that is supplied there, but the charger label specifically allowed 220-240 volts. This loss caused us to limp along, charging two bikes with one charger. Often this meant waking up  in the middle of the night to switch over. We carried the deadweight corpse of that charger back with us to Victoria, just to be able to complain to Fairfield Cycle that sold it, and Grin Technologies that supplied them. But the universal answer was "tough, buy another one". 

OK, we did that, carefully choosing exactly the same one from the Grin web site, and putting out another dollop of our own money. What eventually came in the mail had the correct connectors but a different, smaller body. We assumed that this was just a routine change of supplier for the same functionality, and the thing certainly worked as expected when we tested it at home. 

That's the background to our just having plugged the new charger in here in Porto. It lasted exactly five seconds and died. The post mortem showed one slight, previously missed, feature compared to the others we have been sold. This one gives its input voltage as 120 volts only. In short, it fried, and we're screwed again, unless Portugal somehow has an acceptable substitute. Thanks Grin. Should we carry it this time the 3000 km just to be able to throw it through their window? If we do, the message that will be taped to the "brick" is that the charger was sold specifically for batteries whose raison d'etre is travel to places reached by planes. Like, "Portugal"?

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Brent IrvineGreat to hear you got to Porto. it is a great city.
Yes, the coast to Lisbon is amazing - from vast sandy beached to soaring cliffs overlooking the crashing waves and blue seas.
There is a very efficient and cost-effective metro system from downtown with a line right to the airport. With one transfer, I can quickly get from the airport to the Sao Bento train station.
I was concerned about your ripping boxes. I have two ideas that have helped me. 1. Get hold of nylon strapping (like you see on pallets to hold stuff down) with the nylon clips. I use three of these light straps on the bike box. They are indestructible, light yet easy to remove and replace. 2. Buy one package of Saran Wrap per bike box, then go crazy and just wrap it around and around and over, and around - it will cover everything and work incredibly well despite my initial concerns that it would easily shear or unravel... not at all. Last year my SW made it from Lisbon to Toronto to Timmins on two planes, then on a bus from Timmins to Cochrane. It was in perfect shape.
Happy cycling!
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