Day 1 was much better than I was anticipating. There was a lot of the urban sprawl you would expect around a capital city: the mix of new development and the dereliction associated with property waiting to be built; but there was also lots of quiet cycling through wide open countryside.
Day 1, starting at the bike hire shop and finishing at Vila Franca de Xira, involved 45 Kms of cycling with just 150m of climb and descent. According to Strava our average moving speed was just under 12km per hour, which makes sense give how much of the route was off-road. There was only one hill but it was a horrible one, just on the other side of an underpass south of Vialonga, and too steep to cycle with fully laden unpowered bikes. Christine and Robina sailed up it. The weather by way has been warm, verging on hot, we're experiencing at heat wave in April.
There was only one section of sustained mixed traffic cycling, a nasty busy road just to the east of Sobralinho, and apart from that the route sharing was with people including some pilgrims. There was a surprising amount of rough trail which would have been treacherous if things weren't so dry.
Some important lessons from the first day.
The decision, forced on me by majority rule, to go to Vila Franca de Xira rather than on to Santarém was the right one. Vila Franca de Xira has nothing to commend it but trying to get all the way to Santarém would have been a big mistake. If you're hiring bikes they take a bit of getting used to and there's always some fiddling about at the bike hire shop. All of this takes time so not being too ambitious on the first day was the right thing to do.
Secondly, ignore the Camino when you're cycling out of Lisbon. Lisbon is getting more cycle friendly but it's still an intimidating place to start a trip from. Finding your way out from the cathedral, where the Camino starts, involves lots of hills and a complex one-way system. The simpler way out is the harbour side cycle way which joins the Camino about 5km to the east of the town.
Thirdly it's important to remember that the Camino was designed for walkers not cyclists. It's OK for the route to take walkers the wrong way down a one way street but that's not always so good when you're on a bike. My route already missed the worst of the offending sections but ignoring the waymarks is sometimes necessary.
Highlights of today were the beautiful wild flowers, hedge high, all purples and yellows on the stretch between Bobadela and Vialonga. Also, for Christine and the other 2 carnivores, the unexpectedly good lunch in a simple village cafe: oxtail stew with proper home made chips and a bit of salad. €10 with fizzy water and coffee. I made do with a cheesy omelette and the same chips, but so far Portugal isn't great for vegetarians.
The biggest challenge of the day was getting the bikes through the station at Alverca do Ribatejo, to get from one side of the railway line to other. Getting massive electric MTBs in the lifts was tough to say the least.
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