Minas de São Domingos, something different, Portugal

Minas de São Domingos, something different, Portugal

Minas de São Domingos is a village located in the south of Alentejo, close to Spain’s border, perhaps in one of the least densely populated areas in the country.

It is one of those kinds of places I try to find when I travel, wherever I go.

It has a fascinating history, and the landscape is unusual.

It allows excellent walks or bike rides, delicious food, and, as if everything else was not enough, the weather is very favorable. That is, it rains little, and the sun shines frequently.

I started going to Minas de São Domingos more than thirty years ago with a friend I met during compulsory military service. His parents are from there, and I was always invited to spend some weekends or vacation days.

Since that time, I have seen some changes, I did not like them all, but in general, it has remained more or less the same, a unique and extraordinary place.

The place’s history is closely linked to the mining of cupric pyrites, the base from which copper, sulfur, and some other elements can be extracted.

Very briefly, the history of mining in this village can be told as follows:

    • During the Roman occupation, there were mining activities between 14 BC and 395 AD
    • In 1854, a Spanish mining engineer carried out ore prospecting work and found what he was looking for. The group of French engineers for whom he worked opened a company in Spain and obtained authorization from the Portuguese government for mining there.
    • This company’s potential activity was leased to an English company, Mason & Barry Ltd, which started mining the ore in 1859.
    • During the last mining period, Mason & Barry built a set of infrastructure that left indelible marks:
    • Dams and tanks
    • Railway between Minas de São Domingos and Pomarão
    • Housing for workers
    • Hospital, kindergartens, soccer field, and other social infrastructures
    • In 1965, after a long slow death, the ore extraction was stopped.
    • 1968, Mason & Barry goes bankrupt, and the last worker was fired.

Of course, there are many other exciting elements to understand Minas de São Domingos‘s life in the above summary, but this is not the appropriate place to detail them.

The history of mining in Minas de São Domingos is, among the village’s attractions, the most immediate. However, it is not the only one.

The River Beach of Minas de São Domingos, which many years ago was identified simply by the name of “a Tapada” is also a mandatory stopping point, attracting many bathers as soon as the summer heat begins.

Contrary to the cold waters we can usually find on river beaches, this beach has warm waters. The water is heated by the frequent high air temperatures.

For those who like active tourism, another point of interest is the walk that connects this village to Pomarão, always following the old train line route.

For more details on this walk, I ask you to wait for a detailed article.

Notwithstanding the more detailed information you can find in the specific article on the hike, I can say that the landscape is different from the usual, both because of the ruins of the old mine structures and the strong colors of terrain you can find along the way.

Finally, one of the main reasons for the place’s attraction you will feel it, but you can’t see it. It is a peaceful environment that we will find here, an ambiance that contaminates us.

For reasons too extensive to be exposed here, life in the village follows such a slow pace that I cannot identify such slowness anywhere else. Ignoring time is contagious and fills us with peace.

Hope you like it.

Minas de São Domingos
Minas de São Domingos
Minas de São Domingos

Bike path connecting Monção to Vila Nova de Cerveira, Minho, Portugal

Bike path connecting Monção to Vila Nova de Cerveira, Minho, Portugal

This bike path connects Monção to Vila Nova de Cerveira, passing through Valença, in the Minho region.

I know there are plans to extend this bike path:

In this article, I only refer to the section between Monção and 3.5 km to the west of Vila Nova de Cerveira.

This bikeway has a total of 39.5 km in length and with 200m of descents/ascents.

It is always parallel to the river, without relevant changes in quota. That makes it accessible to most people who have some cycling habits, even if they are not great athletes.

As you get closer to Valença, you will need to go higher so that you can pass close to the Valença railroad bridge, but even so, none of the slopes are long or too difficult.

The bike path is widely used by different sportspeople and by people walking along the river.

To the west of the Valença’s road bridge, there is the Senhora da Cabeça Picnic Park. There, you can find a leisure area and also a restaurant with a terrace, an ideal spot for a light meal.

When we reach Vila Nova de Cerveira, the bike path continues for another 3.5 km, ending in a very odd area. I can only understand this end, hoping that one day this cycle path will continue west.

Suppose you choose to end up at the Leisure Park of Castelinho, on the riverside area of Vila Nova de Cerveira. In that case, you will not lose anything by not going the extra 3.5 km until the end of the cycle path.

The video in this article serves to show a little of the landscape and also the kind of terrain you can find on the bike path.

As can be seen, the terrain is made of dirt to no small extent, which, in my opinion, makes it necessary to use bicycles with tires that are not pure road tires.

I hope you have fun.

David Monteiro

Cycling in Montemor-o-Novo, Portugal

Cycling in Montemor-o-Novo, Portugal

Cycling is one of my favorite activities and in Montemor-o-Novo this activity is queen.

I visit Montemor-o-Novo sometimes, more quietly with friends, enjoying the countryside at other times, in a sportier way, so more intensively, but equally pleasant.

Montemor-o-Novo, in addition to being a fantastic city where you can eat very tasty chicken pies and bifanas to cry for more, is also the starting point for a web of bicycle trails.

The region has few slopes and that is why we can ride more accessible routes, for those who are not athletes or simply want to stroll and enjoy the Alentejo landscape.

But what makes us like to ride these tracks?

I believe the answer is simple and unpretentious, it is the typical Alentejo landscape with its photographic simplicity, the countryside odors amplified by the heat that surrounds us, and all this together while walking or biking.

There is also our imagination of what the Alentejo region is, which in this region of Montemor-o-Novo, our imagination coincides with reality.

Near the old train bridge, you can find the start of the bikeway.

The cycle path crosses the restored bridge and continues to Torre da Gadanha. This bike path uses the structure of the old train line and therefore you almost can’t feel the slope.

For those who are less daring, making the 12 km from the beginning of the bike path to Torre da Gadanha and returning the same way will be a very well spent morning.

For the more athletic, after completing the above-mentioned stretch, I invite you to discover the way to São Sebastião da Geesteira passing through São Mateus, return directly to Montemor-o-Novo and you have done 56 Km if you don’t get a little lost.

Please check the below map for some information:

Red line – 12,1 Km (Montemor-o-Novo to Torre da Gadanha)

Greenline – 13,4 Km

Blueline – 10,8 Km

Yellow line – 19,5 Km

Exit A – in case you feel tired of not wanting to continue, for whatever reason, from Exit A you can get the road directly to Montemor-o-Novo.

One way or another, it will have been a well-spent morning and then it will be time for lunch.

Suggestions for lunch?

In Montemor-o-Novo and the surrounding area, there is no shortage of suggestions for lunch, but that will be the subject of another post.

Have fun.

David Monteiro

Bike ride from Montijo to Barreiro, near Lisbon

Bike ride from Montijo to Barreiro, near Lisbon

A beautiful bicycle ride, always looking at Lisbon from the other side of the river Tejo (the Tagus).

Lisbon is crossed by the river Tagus. One can’t imagine the city without thinking about the river Tagus as well.

But, like being part of the city, the river also acts as a barrier. Not very often we think about the other side, except those who live there and have to commute to Lisbon, crossing the river, to work.

For those who live in Lisbon, we look at the river, and what do we see? “The other side”
In fact, for most of us, we just don’t think much about it.

But … I started to wonder what if I design a bike trail connecting two of the several ferries that cross the river to the “other side”?

One of the ferries goes to a place called Montijo, and another ferry connects Lisbon to Barreiro.

So I did it.

I started to investigate single dirt trails, way from the roads as much as possible and closer to the river banks.

The result was a 38 Km trail. Pretty flat, many points of interest, and with frequent unusual and unexpected lovely views over Lisbon.

Having it done alone, I tested it with customers.

After compiling the footage of a couple of days, I did a small video.

Enjoy the ride.

David Monteiro

Bike ride from Montijo to Barreiro
A beautiful bicycle ride, always looking at Lisbon from the other side of the river Tejo (the Tagus).
Bike ride from Montijo to Barreiro
A beautiful bicycle ride, always looking at Lisbon from the other side of the river Tejo (the Tagus).
Bike ride from Montijo to Barreiro
A beautiful bicycle ride, always looking at Lisbon from the other side of the river Tejo (the Tagus).

Cycling around the Óbidos Lagoon, Portugal

Cycling around the Óbidos Lagoon, Portugal

I traced a bicycle route around the Obidos Lagoon to be done on the several sections of bikeways there and also using less known bicycle trails.

Up to my knowledge, there is no official bike path to circle the Lagoon fully.

Anyway, one can’t loop around the Lagoon because, in from of the ocean, it has an open exit to the sea.

If you circle the Obidos Lagoon coming from north to south, to the left, you will arrive at a specific place, and you will have to return because you won’t have ways to cross it, unless if your bike can swim.

I’m adding a Google Maps print screen so you can understand what I mean.

To participate in this adventure, I suggest you use a mountain or hybrid bicycle.

This lagoon is also a river estuary. The Obidos Lagoon has fresh water from small rivers but also receives some sea influence between tides.

The complete bicycle route is excellent, and I’m adding the trail marked on the map below.

Length: 44Km – Ascent/Descent: 300m

There are no dull moments, but a constant succession of different landscapes, kinds of terrain, and also some changes in difficulty levels at specific points.

I usually start my rides at Praia da Foz do Arelho. By the beach, taking the direction to the lagoon, you can find the start of the bike path.

After leaving the beach, you will pass in areas where few people go, from where you can almost see the entire length of the Lagoon.

Along this trail, we can see the habitat of the local birds. Because you will cross not frequently used paths, the birds do not fly away at the first noise.

Before you start, don’t forget to fill in your water bottle because it will take quite some time until you get to a place where you can refill it.

One of the things I like during this kind of adventure is to have a bar, a sort of a hidden place, where to stop for a drink. In this case, the bar is called Covão dos Musaranhos.

This pleasant bar is located in a more remote area of the Lagoon, which is a “for locals only” kind of place.

After a drink, or two, you can return to the trail again.

It will be straightforward to find the bike path. Just look along the lagoon in the direction of the sea, and you will find the cycleway.

It goes quite close to the water almost until the sea beach.

Whenever you get to the sea beach, you have done half of your route. The other half of the way is to return to the starting point.

Please don’t be disappointed about having to return on the same track. For sure, you see things differently only by having to look in a different direction.

The beach is called Praia do Bom Sucesso. Here you can find a nice restaurant called Rio Cortiço with an excellent view of the Atlantic.

During all this cycleway, there is almost no elevation gain because most of the route goes along the edges of the lagoon.

However, here and there, you can find some spots with technical challenges. For some people, it will be easy, but for some other people, it will be advisable to get off the bike for a few steps.

One way or the other it’s a beautiful bike trail, and I hope you will enjoy it.

David Monteiro

A bicycle loop ride at the Quiberon peninsula, France

A bicycle loop ride at the Quiberon peninsula, France

If you enjoy off the beaten path bike rides, this is probably for you.

The Quiberon Peninsula, located in the Britany region, is not widely known as a tourist destination. In fact, it is not known at all.

I was looking on France’s map to find a beautiful place for a short bicycle ride, between the Loire Valley and Brittany. The peninsula shape caught my eye.

In the past, the bay of Quiberon was the stage for several naval battles, of which, in 1759, the British naval forces won a decisive battle of the Seven Years War between France and the UK.

More recently, this peninsula was related to sardine fishing and canning.

To easy your search about where is this place, please access here 

This small peninsula does not have a pre-established bike path to follow, up to my knowledge, at least. So, I had to create my route.
It was not difficult to design a bike route here from scratch, due to the peninsula’s configuration and because it is a small area.

As you can expect, sea landscapes dominate the bike ride.

The peninsula is far from being completely flat, although the ups and downs are not too severe.

Being a peninsula, we started and ended at the connection point of the peninsula with the mainland.

The starting point was a beach area facing north.

Many kite surfers were at the beach enjoying the strong and constant winds. It’s beautiful to see the many kites flying over our heads.

Later I learned that most probably was a Kitesurf school practicing.

Our first stop for coffee was at Portivy, at the harbor. Lovely village with nice bars and restaurants.

The north coastal area, where we were, is naturally windier.

Porz Guen and Port Bara are two beaches facing west. Although not as windy as the ones facing north, where the kitesurfers were, due to the harsh weather, these beaches still require some courage to stay here for a bath or even to hang out.

The more extensive beach and the crowded one is the “La Grande Plage” at the town, facing south.
Here you can get the touristic side of the peninsula.

The eastern side of the peninsula is quieter but also with beautiful beaches.

Probably because being quieter, it seemed to me that it was in the eastern area where I saw more expensive houses.

At last stop at the “Port Haliguen Quiberon” area, I saw what I was missing: the marina.

The marina is away bigger than what I imagined.

It’s also an excellent area for lunch with an ocean view and not as windy as the western coast.

Was a 35Km bicycle ride, with 350m of elevation gain and 300m of elevation loss, a nice bike ride to stretch your legs.

I get to be very happy when I design a tour, only based on research and everything goes very well, and fortunately usually happens like this.

Have fun.

David Monteiro

Biking on the canal from Nantes to Brest canal, France

Biking on the canal from Nates to Brest canal, France

Short historical and geographical background.

As I investigated, Napoleon had the idea of uniting Nantes to Brest with a canal.

For your information, if you use Google Maps to know how far these two cities are from each other, Google will tell that you will take 3h 4m by car to cover the 295km / 183 mi in between them.

The locations of:

After many historical episodes, as you can imagine, the canal was finalized in 1842.

These waterways have 365Km, including parts of 8 rivers, and holds 236 navigation locks.

About the tour

As part of a tour to bike in France, I suggested a two days ride along this canal.

Naturally, whenever I suggest a tour, I have to take into consideration many aspects such as the kind of group, what I perceive they want to see and to do, and also what are the conflicts in the group, among other aspects.

By conflicts, I mean situations such as more kilometers riding the bicycle versus more time visiting sites or resting.

I’m not expecting everyone in a group to have the same physical abilities, and in this group was no exception.

So, all in all, there were found some compromises for:

        • the bike ride lengths,
        • the number of monuments to visit,
        • and the time spent in each place. 

I’m not saying it was an easy task.

The Nantes to Bres two days bike riding was comfortable to agree on because of many reasons:

        • most of the rides are on almost flat trails, considering always going along the canal;
        • the landscape is gorgeous, also thanks to the weather that was a great help;
        • there are many lovely places where you can rest;
        • the path is accessible by the support vehicle on several strategic spots.

The two days rides:

        • 1st day – From Châteaulin to Châteauneuf-du-Faou – 47Km
        • 2nd day – From Châteauneuf-du-Faou to Étang du Coronc – 65Km, including a detour to visit Carhaix-Plouguer.

The elevation gain for both bike rides was irrelevant.

Having done this is June is to expect good weather.

However, as you know, the meteo is crazy nowadays, and Britany is an area where it rains frequently.

Does Nantes belong to the region of the Loire Valley or Brittany?

Apparently, there are some strong feelings about this issue, please read: “Nantes appartient à la Bretagne, que cela vous plaise ou non” 

One thing for sure, Brest is well into the Brittany region.

No one in the group knew the area. I was the only one with some references for the canal because I was the one asked to organize the tour, and I came up with the suggestion to cycle there.

Please let me take this moment to thank the group for their trust in me, and, by their words, in the end, I think they really enjoyed the rides.

No one else cycling but us.

The first day, when accessing the trail, I was first surprised because there was no one biking there.

By the photos I had seen before, the place looked phenomenal, so I was expecting to see people using the trail, as we saw in the Loire Valley, for example.

In the beginning, while having the place all for us, I thought our luck couldn’t be that great, something was happening.

I wondered if when we reached the next village all was going to change and we would see more bikes.

Definitely, it didn’t happen, there weren’t many people at all anywhere.

Most of the time, we were the only group biking, we had it all for us, and that is an impressive luxury.

Occasionally we saw other bikers, and that was great.

River locks

The first important stop we did was by one of the locks to help a couple to open it to continue on their journey of going upstream.

That was a curious situation.

The couple ended up saying they knew for a fact that they were the first boat going through the lock that year. Please consider it was July.

All the process of closing the lock behind the boat and then opening the exit gate in front was done manually.

Cranking up here, pulling a lever there, was quite fun, and by this couple smiles, it was also helpful for them.

The interpretation center.

There was also another unexpected spot.

Unfortunately, I didn’t record the name of the place, but it was like a small interpretation center of the canal.

You can’t miss it if you see it because there are not that many houses along the trail, and it stands out with information’s outside.

Anyway, we went in, and this lady was explaining the backgrounds of the canal.

Listening to the lady’s explanations opened my appetite to learn more about the canal and to ride it all one day.

Food and water.

As on many other occasions, that day, during breakfast, I prepared one small sandwich, a piece of fruit, and filled in my water bottle.

Along the bike path, I realized although there were not many bars and restaurants – thank God for that – there was the right number of food places like they were strategically positioned.

In both days, more or less at lunchtime, we encounter some nice “sandwicherie”, “brasserie”, pizza place or bars.

IMPORTANT: I couldn’t find ways to refill my water bottle along the ride, and this I found quite odd.

At the end of the second day, at the Étang du Coronc, we celebrated by the pond (Étang) these two beautiful days cycling on Brittany.

This is one of the bike rides I would love to repeat and extend, and I might do it someday.

Who knows, you might join me on this.

Have fun.

David Monteiro

PS: Special thanks to my friend André Ataíde for helping me to tour this tour into a success.

Dão’s dedicated bikeway, Portugal

Dão's dedicated bikeway, Portugal

Dão’s dedicated bikeway is a success story in Portugal.

In September 1988 the Dão’s train line was definitely closed.

Linking Viseu to Santa Comba Dão, with about 49 km, this railroad was transformed into the Ecopista do Dão Ecopista, Dão’s bike lane or cycle lane,  inaugurated in 2011.

Some historical information:

The Dão railway, Linha do Dão in Portuguese, start operating in 1890.

I can imagine the joy and hope of the local population, having the train operating there. 

At those times, having a train line crossing their towns was a very strong sign of prosperity, of future improvement of their living conditions.

Nowadays, with the high quality of our roads, nice cars, and other vehicles, although important, it is less relevant for a town to be accessible by train.

During some years, after a systematic fall in importance of this railway, in September 1988 the Dão railroad was definitively closed, after a long period of drastic reduction of its use.

On the previous layout of this railway, was built the current Ecopista do Dão Ecopista, Dão’s cycleway, that was inaugurated in 2011.

How do I see it:

This dedicated bikeway must be the best known Portuguese bike lane, among does over 30km long.

It connects Viseu to Santa Comba Dão, descending smoothly, which makes it ideal for those who do not want to make much effort.

One of the features that most attracts me on this route is the idea of ​biking without having to do a relevant physical effort. This is the spirit with which I face this route: it is only an easy entertainment.

In other situations, I am a fervent supporter of sporting behavior but not here where it appeals to me to an easy ride.

The start of this cycle lane, considering the route to start in Viseu, is not easy to find if we rely only on public signs. Perhaps deficient signaling is a bad Portuguese habit.

However, if you are using a GPS device there will be no difficulty.

After entering the “Ecopista” then everything gets easier, the route is completely evident and well marked until the end.

In the initial area, still in the urban area of ​​Viseu, it is important to keep yourself alert to some car roads crossing the bike lane.

I was surprised by some drivers who did not pay much attention to the fact that they were crossing the bikeway where cyclists were circulating.

With good weather, which is when most of us ride our bikes more often, in and around Viseu, temperatures can get quite high.

Along this bikeway there are many shady areas, which is very nice on hot days and also allows you to shoot some dragging photos, thus giving a nice idea of ​​movement.

Along the “Esopista” there are some points that I would like to highlight:

        • 13Km – Torredeita, an old steam engine train is waiting for your photos.
        • 20Km – Parada de Gonta Bar at the old local train station – a good time to stop and have a coffee, or buy water.
        • 30Km – Tondela – A city is always a good place for any eventuality such as wanting to finish the route and find some kind of transport back to the starting point.
        • 45km – Treixedo bridge – perhaps the most iconic bridge of the entire route.

Note: During the route, there is a good number of old train stations, some tunnels and other points of potential interest not mentioned here.

As you can see from the pictures, the cycle lane tread is very good for hybrid, cross-country or mountain bikes. I do not consider it a good idea to do this route with road bikes but surely there are those who do it.

As we go along the bikeway on the direction selected here, for a while we will have the Dinha river on our left side. At about 38 km this river flows into the river Dão and it is this river that accompanies us until the end of the greenway.

In short, a simple and very pleasant route.

Have fun.

David Monteiro

Dão's dedicated bikeway, Portugal
Dão's dedicated bikeway, Portugal
Dão's dedicated bikeway, Portugal