i awoke to the sound of heavy rain, fortunately today was spent in a minibus with trailer driving the 140 miles to the Voronino country estate.
A leisurely start at 12.17 due to Finnair deciding the Norwegian guys luggage was needed in Helsinki rather than Moscow! But gave me time to part assemble the bike so I could leave the box in Moscow.
The ride was mostly on motorways, very smooth, apart from the torrential downpours. Interesting to see they use the hard shoulder for undertaking (pun intended). Halfway we had a cafe stop where I was introduced to the delights of sweet pancakes filled with quark and a thick yogurt topping with a black tea, very yummy.
The others seem a very interesting bunch of people so perhaps the tour won’t be as bad as I anticipated.
Tonight we are staying on an old nobles country estate which was recently re-purchased by an ancestor of the pre-revolution owners as we learnt from a tour of the place. Also discovering the huge significance of the St Gotthard pass in Switzerland for the Russians. The estate Is now called Hôtel Usad’ ba
Tonight’s meal was excellent apart from the small portion size.Tomorrow is the first riding day :-)Some pictures of the day are here
The dining scene is an upmarket first-floor restaurant in downtown Lisbon with tablecloths linen napkins unpretentious and really pleasant. My first visit was 2 nights ago when it was totally packed and they squeezed me in on a bar stool.
Tonight it was just a few of us I sat down in a central location facing the bar but quickly rotated around to view the other diners.
On my left, in the window bay, where a couple, clearly both English he an educated ageing hippie with long hair which must be a nightmare to look after she a young attractive lady. He clearly was wanting to show his catch as whenever their hands met he turned around. Initially, I thought he was an academic but later I thought perhaps an author with her as his publicist or maybe researcher, she was clearly in awe of him and went beetroot red when he mentioned the word bed to the waitress who are all really pleasant .
Just in front to my left where two youngish women from their demeanour I would say Portuguese very quiet and rather sad. A lovers tiff maybe?
The second bay window was occupied by two young guys who I also thought were in a relationship maybe this is a bit of a gay restaurant? Also very quiet and reserved.
To my right a middle aged German couple. on arrival with him on his handy chatting away obviously regarding someone coming to join them. As they sat down the waitress cleared away the fourth place setting. Eventually another German guy joined them clearly long lost friends with lots of the irritating German laughter the poor lady was left in silence.
The final couple arrived later quite young and sat alongside each other! How strange, maybe a first date? He awkwardly tried talking to her but after a while realised it’s much easier if you sit opposite each other!!
A fascinating evening with excellent food including my first port in Portugal. Many thanks to the fine staff, Ana, Morilia, Ricardo, Miguel, Mohammed, J. Niguez and Maziak for the excellent food & service that kept me coming back night after night and also thanks for my little present
Following a previous comment on this blog from my friend and former wealth creator Pete. I decided to visit Coimbra the site of Portugals oldest university founded in 1290, Not Europes which is Bologna in Italy founded in 1088, btw Cambridge is 1209.
I decided, thankfully, to leave the bike in the hotel and take the train and walk around Coimbra. My Old man’s fare was €22 return. The train was an InterCity and interestingly had space to hang two conventional bikes at the end of each carriage we smoothly went along at 200kph so the trip only took just over 2 hours.
The university sits atop the hill so a fair climb up cobbled streets initially I wandered about the geological part of the museum looking at what I guess is their first geological map some 90 years younger than Smiths UK one.
I eventually found a formal tour around the science bits of the museum. It’s like a museum of a museum, everything is as it was labelled probably 100 odd years ago! Interesting in itself but no life in the exhibits at all. I just hope when the New New Cavendish gets built we will get a decent Physics Museum in Cambridge. Wouldn’t it be incredible to convert the original Cavendish back as it was with working replicas of the original stuff, pity they demolished the original DNA lab to make hideous bike racks.
The science then moved into Zoology with there collection of stuffed animals seemingly a focus on animals with two heads!
Later I did a little tour of the ornate Baroque Library I wonder when the last time a book left its shelves.
The town itself is a retail museum with shops out of the 1950’s full of counters with drawers and boxes with I thought way to much formal garb but incredible fruitcake in the cafe.
An interesting day out especially meeting Vasco on the train home who let me share his taxi from the station in the rainstorm back to the hotel.
The main reason for staying at the stupidly expensive Bentota Beach Hotel was so I could use their river cruise through the mangrove swamps. I opted for the one hour one as experience tells me I rapidly get bored sitting in a boat 🙂
It was just me and the guide, a young chap who spoke good English and had sharp eyes. So we quickly saw a lot of wildlife: herons, lizards, crocodiles come to mind. A nice tourist touch was pulling in and a guy with a baby crocodile stepping aboard so you could have a picture taken with it, me somewhat nervous of all those teeth.
In the afternoon after a decent swim in their 35 metre pool, the best feature of the hotel, I took myself of for a walk. The touts soon leave you after 50 metres of walking and I was soon on my own. On maps.me I spotted the Siri Sumansrama Temple (interesting that Apple use the name Siri for their digital assistant) so I headed over their. The place was deserted, its quite a modest temple but soon a monk came over and invited me in 🙂 He showed me around explaining why the Buddha is surrounded by Hindu figures and also the new Buddha statue they are making under the Serpents head. All very symbolic and interesting.
I was then invited into his house for a cuppa and cake, well I am a cyclist 🙂 Where he told me his story of becoming a monk when he was 9 and staying at this temple all the time and how he learnt such good English.
The subject soon turned to architecture the next thing I know we are in a Tuk Tuk to see the totally stunning former summer home of architect Geoffrey Bawa at Lunuganga. Wow totally amazing, he was obviously a keen arboriculturist as well the selection of trees was stunning! A gorgeous tall Teak at the entrance and then planted & trained trees inside like Balsa, Ebony, Temple trees (Plumeria) and a lot more. The whole estate is cleverly designed to maximise the elevated position in a dog leg of the huge river. I just loved it and reminded me of Chris & I visit to Henry Moore’s old studio near Cambridge. Totally incredible and many thanks to my new monk friend 🙂