After a comfy night’s sleep in Setubal, we headed upstairs in the hotel to our all-inclusive breakfast and ate our fill of fruit, muesli, tea and for Steve, hot chocolate and croissants. We headed out for a short roam around the city, up and down some of those familiar looking and gorgeous little back alleys and streets and a walk around another old, historic cathedral. Then back to the hotel to load up the bikes before setting off. We’d stocked up our groceries the day before at our go-to supermarket chain Pingo Doce, which is always a fun little outing. The good thing about stocking up our groceries is we have supplies for when we’re in between towns, the bad thing about stocking up on groceries is the grocery pannier is on my bike. Man-oh-man did I feel the weight today, with those extra provisions in the bulging bag. So, fully loaded, off we went to the ferry to chug across the water to Troia and onward south we went.
After getting off the ferry, we had a destination in mind today. We decided to head to Comporta, a town a mere 15km from the ferry terminal and Steve had checked there were hotels to be found. It’s funny, that when it comes to accommodation, I’m the one who’s always on the lookout for campsites and saying we need to pitch the tent and avoid hotels, because I figure stretching our budget is more important than comfort, but Steve, who is the seasoned camper, is not opposed to a hotel stay or two. Riding from the ferry to the town was oh so…flat! Not a hill to be seen! What a welcome bit of respite after our day of climbing yesterday. We pedalled merrily along a fairly quiet and isolated road bordered by homely gum trees and wattles until the little town of Comporta came into view.
It looked lovely with a sea of white houses and terracotta tiled roofs and dead quiet streets. We decided to stop for lunch before seeking out our hotel, so found a little park across the road from a parking area where a few grey nomads and their camper vans were going about their waste dumping business. As we sat down to dine, we were greeted by our first friendly dog. Needing something to greet our canine companion with, I duly named him Jack, as I felt that suited this robust looking labrador crossed with something. Now I think about it, Jack wasn’t so much friendly as inquisitive and apathetic. He came and sniffed around a bit but wasn’t too fussed about our company and wandered off before too long.
Lunch complete, we set off for a slow tour around the town and came to the main hotel. Hmmm, it was looking very dark, the windows were shuttered and no one seemed to be about. Not to worry, Steve looked on the map and discovered some villas a mere 400m down the road. Off we went and found them without problem, only to see another reception area looking very dark and unoccupied. There were cars parked about though, so maybe they’d just closed for lunch. We did a slow circumnavigation of the complex before returning to the reception door and there a nice man walked out to greet us.
“Sorry, no Portuguese,” said Steve.
“No problem,” smiled the man.
“We were wondering if you’d have a room for the night?”
“No, I have nothing, you could try the town of Carvalhal, about 8km down the road.”
“Nothing in the town?” I asked while making a hopeful, sweeping hand gesture to take in our current surroundings.
“No, nothing,” the nice man said, “the hotel’s closed and I have nothing for you.”
Hmmm, I thought, it’s already 2:30 and I’m sensing a familiar pattern here, we are beginning another desperation accommodation safari again!
With nothing else to do, we pedalled off, with the now grey sky bearing down on us and the chill wind blowing at our backs. On we rode and it began to rain. On we rode and the cross-winds rocked the small bike. On we rode and the lovely flat terrain threw in the odd uphill slope to conquer. Finally we arrived at Carvalhal (a little further than 8km) and pulled over at a road side servo and cafe to ask about a hotel. The lady running the place didn’t speak English, so went to a group of women sitting outside drinking coffee to ask if any of them spoke English and could help us.
“Yes,” said one of the women, “Hotel Sublime is about 5km up the road, you will see a sign for it.”
Things were starting to look up, which was good since it was getting later than we would have liked to be on the road and the rain and chill weather were dulling the enjoyment factor somewhat. Right, I thought, a hotel in the middle of nowhere, on the side of a two lane highway, in between towns, it’s bound to be cheap and cheerful, just what we need. Plus, with a name like Sublime, it’s bound to be pretty ordinary and they’re making up for a lack of prestige by at least choosing an inviting name. So off we set.
Eventually we came across Sublime, not a sign but a large, rendered stone wall, with the name emblazoned on the front in sweeping curves of brass, two large, arched wooden medieval looking doors and an intercom.
Steve fronted up to the speaker in the intercom and delivered the opening line that we use so well, “Sorry, no Portuguese. We were wondering if you had a room for the night.”
“Welcome,” came the crackling voice through the machine.
Bzzzz went the buzzer and just like that, those large wooden doors opened forth towards us, as if to envelope two wet and weary travellers into a welcoming embrace. We slowly road through and into the parkland beyond. We pedalled up the sweeping gravel driveway, to be confronted by Sublime. A beautiful boutique hotel set in its own acres and acres of parkland. While I waited outside with the bikes, Steve went inside to enquire about the chances of a room. He was promptly given a tour and invited to inspect the rooms to see if they were to our liking. Knowing it was about another 20km ride to the next town, we had been rained on, blown about and it was now getting on for 4:00, we weren’t really in a position to say no thanks.
So it was we found ourselves here for the night at Sublime and oh boy, is it sublime! It’s described as a “premium country retreat” and it’s just wonderful. The only problem is it’s very very VERY expensive and we’ve blown 3 days of our allotted budget on one night’s accommodation.
“It’s OK,” said Steve, “we’re allowed a treat.”
“A treat!” I laughed, “we’ve only been going for a few days, we’re not supposed to get a treat yet!”
The lovely girl who showed us to our room, then showed us to the garage, moved some crates to make a little nook for our bikes, just out of the way enough for housekeeping to still be able to reverse their golf cart out, and there our faithful steeds were bedded down. She then told us she had turned on the steam room and spa just for us. So, not wanting to be ungrateful, we took our bags to our room and then headed off to be steamed. Words cannot describe how great this place is! The spa is actually a 5 metre pool in a beautiful room overlooking the parkland. We steamed and then topped that off with a sauna. Then laying down on the lounges beside the spa, trying not to fall asleep, we rested our weary muscles.
“Let’s just stay here,” said Steve, “forever. Right in this spot.” The camping side of him quickly suppressed by the allure of our plush surroundings. Then he followed that up with, “You know what I’d like right now if it’s OK?”
“What?” I asked.
“A beer,” said he.
“Well,” I said, “the way we’re going the beer is probably 20.00 but in for a penny, in for a pound.”
So we made our way back to our gorgeous white room and proceeded to lower the tone of the place by firing up the Trangia on our little private deck and cooking up some campers’ food, which we ate heartily sitting on the supremely comfy bed, with Steve accompanying his packet soup with a Portuese beer. We have also discovered that we’re the only ones here, so we have the complete run of the place!
So that was how we ended our day! In boutique, premium surroundings that has left a crater sized hole in our budget, but we were in desperation land again, so took what we could. So for the next few weeks we’ll be living on stale bread and peanut butter and plain pasta dolloped with sachets of tomato sauce that Steve liberated from McDonalds, to make up the budget deficit, but for this one night we will enjoy pure comfort and luxury!
“Peel me a grape Mr. Trump. Oh, and while you’re about it, do something about that hair, it’s ruining the view.”