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I thought I was just a regular lurker, but have been "upgraded" to Vicarious Vacation Voyeur :grin2:. Whatever, thanks for posting. GREAT travelogues.
 

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Great reading indeed, had all sorts of expressions on my face while reading, made my wife wonder what website I was on :)
Yeah, Europe is a b***h to be on the highways, we're a brutal bunch of roadwarriors sometimes, especially in the 'compagny car' sorry for that.
Do I understand correctly that you live in Texas and have an Alfa stored in Belgium on a dutch license plate ?

Frans
 

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Discussion Starter #43 (Edited)
I thought I was just a regular lurker, but have been "upgraded" to Vicarious Vacation Voyeur <img src="https://www.alfabb.com/bb/forums/images/AlfaBB_2015/smilies/tango_face_grin.png" border="0" alt="" title="Big Grin" class="inlineimg" />. Whatever, thanks for posting. GREAT travelogues.
That comes with the Gold Subscriber package. With Platinum you get more offline snarky comments
 

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Discussion Starter #44 (Edited)
Made it to Porto. A bit hot and horrible city traffic but really beautiful. Drive mostly on freeways was not memorable. More to follow maybe after a liter of beer. But probably not
 

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Discussion Starter #45 (Edited)
Do I understand correctly that you live in Texas and have an Alfa stored in Belgium on a dutch license plate ?

Frans
Glad you are enjoying it. Yes, Texas/Austin resident, car stored with a good friend in Belgium, and reg'd in NL. Used it in the 2017 trip. See other trip blogs linked in signature block. Cheers,. B

PS: for the most part European drivers are very good and well trained, and there is both a known and hidden set of conventionis and rules here that Americans slowly - or maybe don't - grasp. Normal friendly people can become absolute schizophrenic maniacs behind the wheel, their socialistic suppressed over-regulated controlled alter-ego Mad Max emerges in a car. And everyone is an F1 or rally driver in a car or on a moto or scooter in Italy. Once in Bordeaux I was struggling to make the destination even with GPS having made several rounds on one-way and blocked streets. So on the 3rd round, I slowed down to really study it. The French guy behind me went mad honking his horn. I stopped the car, turned it off, got out and went back to have a discussion about civility. In the southern US you do not behave like that, and my "red- neck" came out. In some areas you could be legally shot*. He immediately realized he had made a grave mistake as he was easily a foot shorter and 40 kg less. From an American POV he was lucky he did not get dragged through the window and stomped to beef jerkey. From a Euro POV I gather that leaning on your horn for some like a petulant 2 year-old is just fine. Viva la difference.

* only slightly SARC
 

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Discussion Starter #46 (Edited)
Been in Porto for 2 nights, 1 day now. Very busy and LOTS of traffic on weekdays but not so bad this Saturday AM. Lots and LOTS of tourists; it's only early May, where are they from? Do people still work and then vacate in July and August any more? Anyway, a pretty and spirited city. We are in the Riberia neighborhood, which has steep narow passageways on the side of the hill river right just next to the Luis 1st "Eiffel" style bridge. The waterfront walk stretches for 200 m with a plethora of packed restaurants and bars and vendors hawking stuff, and boat ride vendors. Getting up from here, or from the waterfront, is steep and there is a Euro 2.50 finucular or a semi-consistent elevator that goes partway. We parked on a very narrow "local's" parking street wrapping behind a big church (Rue Victor Hugo) and we walk down 112 steep rock stairs to get here, with luggage and provisions. Better than walking up from below through the Albicinian labyrinth (stayed there in Granada and Seville), which is not accessible anyway by car below. Parking in a public lot about 1 km away is Euro 20/dy so we take our chances in the locals area. Had a great lunch at a renowned locals place yesterday up a side street - Taverna Mercadores. It seated 16 people and we hit it during the late afternoon lull when most restaurants are closed. Our schedule is much different from the vibe here or in Spain. We eat a good breakfast, snack around noon (beer and tapas yesterday), and eat a big "Linner" between 2-5 pm. Then snack a bit later. We sleep better on an empty stomach. After olives and a pot of baby clams and grilled linquica, I had authentic bacalau. A dried and salted codfish resurrected form the dead, with roasted potatoes. I can say I had it now. Most Def not in my top 10 but a huge meal like the shredded duck with seasoned rice in Lisbon the other day.

On another note, I don't know if my allergy meds will outlast their allergen season here. Down to the last few hits. We get a double whammy: allergy season back home from November to April starting with cedar fever then a procession of trees and then we come here and get hit with EVERYTHING blooming all at once here: trees, grasses, weeds. And I'm recovering from septum, turbinate and sinus surgery since November and was on a succession of 4 antibiotics afterwards to knock down pre-and-post-op infection. Yes, life goes on on vacation.

This is one of those places (the first we've hit so far) with inconsistent and usually intolerably slow WiFi. So I might just have to wait for a better connection to posts photos. Downloading is impossible also.
 

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Been in Porto for 2 nights, 1 day now. Very busy and LOTS of traffic on weekdays but not so bad this Saturday AM. Lots and LOTS of tourists; it's only early May, where are they from? Do peopthen le work and vacate in July and August any more? ANyway, a pretty and spirited city. We are in the Riberia neighborhood, which has steep narow passagesays on the side of the hill rive droight just next to the Louis 1st "Eiffel" style bridge. The waterfront walk stretches for 200 m with a plethora of packed restaurants and bars and vendors hawking stuff, and boat ride vendors. Getting up from there is steep and there is a Euro 1.50 finucular or a semi-consistent elevator that goes partway. We parked on a very narrow "local's" parking street wrepping behind a big church (Rue Victor Hugo) and we walk down 150 steep rock stairs to get here, with luggage and provisions. Better than walking up from below through the Albicinian labyrinth (stayed there in Granada and Seville). which is not accessible anyway by car below. Parking in a public lot about 1 km away is Euro 20/dy so we take our chances in the locals area. Had a great lunch at a renowned locals place yesterday up a side street - Taverna Mercadores. It seated 16 people and we hit it during the late afternoon lull when most restaurants are closed. Our schedule is much different from the vibe here or in Spain. We eat a good breakfast, snack around noon (beer and tapas yesterday), and eat a big "Linner" between 2-5 pm. Then snack a bit later. We sleep better on an empty stomach. After baby clams and grilled linquica, I had authentic bacalau. A dried and salted codfish resurrected form the dead, with potatoes. I can say I had it now. Most Def not in my top 10 but a huge meal like the shredded duck with seasoned rice in Lisbon the other day.

On another note, I don't know if my allergy meds will outlast their allergen season here. Down to the last few hits. We get a double whammy: allergy season back home from November to April starting with cedar fever then a procession of trees and then we come here and get hit with EVERYTHING blooming all at once here: trees, grasses, weeds. And I'm recovering from septum, turbinate and sinus surgery since November and was on a succession of 4 antibiotics afterwards to knock down pre-and-post-op infection. Yes, life goes on on vacation.

This is one of those places (the first we've hit so far) with inconsistent and usually intolerably slow WiFi. So I might just have to wait for a better connection to posts photos. Downloading is impossible also.
We have been driving non Alfa in the Swartzwald these last few days on great alpine roads. Drivers are excellent and courteous, even on the Autobahn and only got the horn once from a local in a black something when I was slow to figure out what to do at a stoplight in a Small town that was imediately followed by a big stop sign at a T intersection. I got the message and drove on and turned.

Everthing is spring time green here but today in the high lands the light snow covering made everthing differently beautiful.

Enjoying your travel log

Ken
 

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Discussion Starter #49 (Edited)
Slow wifi, how that is still a thing in 2019 is beyond me...
. So I contacted the AirBNB host and they contacted the provider who pinged it and said yes there is an external (to the home) problem. May be fixed tomorrow. So no pics for a while.

Ken, we did the Furka pass in 2017 headed west in mid-May and it had just been opened a few days.
 

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Discussion Starter #50 (Edited)
Did a couple fo rounds on one of these red buses but this one was gray. It was a good introduciton to Porto, I'd recommend it here. Start early as traffic on weekdays all day and later on weekends is a beyoch. This month is some kind of festival and there is music all over, kinda like Austin's SXSW but dispersed. and informal. Several times now we've heard a drum line. I love those. Pics when we get faster internet. I've been up loading a small video for an hour and it is 4%. Talks about choked.
 

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Discussion Starter #51 (Edited)
So there is enough bandwidth to do basic web stuff and text only but not enough to efficiently upload/download pics. So for now just more boring and snarky commentary. Sorry. Sometimes you never catch up from a tech setback like this with things backlogged and the circus moving on to the next town . . .

Spent the whole time here, 3 full days, just exploring and eating and drinking. Did the Grayline tourist bus which was worth it but you could rent a Tut-Tut if you could find an English speaking guide and want to put your life into someone else's hands in a glorified scooter. Lots of walking on very hilly terrain, calves are aching. Our 3 Br/ 2Ba AirBNB is in the middle of the Riberia hill. There is no parking below on the river-front commercial access road and only a small semi-private hidden locals road with parking above behind the Basicila. It is 112 steep uneven worn stone stairs down/up (with luggage, backpacks and provisions) from the upper parking area. It is well over 200 steps down to the bustling riverfront. We had planned to take a day trip drive up the Douro River valley but getting into and outta town is a hassle and finding parking at a premium so we just stayed put. We did take a short scenic river cruise this monning before it got insanely busy. With ample advance notice you could book a day tour up the Douro with breakfast and lunch and a return train or bus in the evening. For next time.

The people are amazingly friendly and helpful and often greet everyone in English, it is the universal language here for Danes, Germans and French, etc. And even us Americans. The weather started a bit warm, in the low 80's but cooled off to the 70's. In the 50's at night so sleeping well but on a hard bed. All but one place so far has had stone hard beds like a box spring and they forgot the mattress. I did upload a video overnight of some street musicians. We hear constant street music of all variety: an organ grinder, drummers, Afro-Cuban Brazilian combo, flutist, sax, a small girls-chorus, a couple of drum lines marching around. All you need is a 40 oz Super Bock and move from venue to venue for entertainment with occasional tappas.


PS: while composing I uploaded 3 photos it took 21 minutes. And the connection was lost with the last two. Discouraging. They are of a surfers hallowed ground at Nazare. This is one of my life loves and I still surf at 67. One of the best and biggest and. yes, gnarliest breaks in the world. It makes Hawaiian nearshore breaks like like childs play. Look up some vids on YouTube. It was on my 2nd tier bucket list to touch the lighthouse.


 

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Ref Bandwidth in Portugal

Born in UK, I´ve lived in Spain a long time and visit Portugal occasionally. I like the way they do things there.....The two countries are very different and my impression is that Portugal tries very hard to keep it that way. It may be a natural reaction to a much bigger neighbour to the east, and Altantic Ocean to the west.

I do not have enough experience of Portugal to know why this is, but my observations are as follows. There is huge respect for the past and a need to preserve in Portugal. There doesn´t seem to be the same need to be modern, which may explain lack of bandwidth. Telecoms has never been cutting edge in Portugal. Spain is desperate to modernise, so buys indiscriminately into all kinds of infrastructure, for better or for worse. Spain is not about detail, Portugal seems to be about detail.

Every place I´ve been to in Portugal has had a lot of neglected buildings, but they look to be in waiting, more than abandoned. One day, someone will do something. In the meantime, things are preserved and not negelected. In Spain abandonment is part of daily life, houses, villages, entire areas just get left to nature and always have.

Back to cars, car culture is much more established in Portugal than Spain. The Portuguese look after their cars like good shepherds and most Spanish people don´t. Ref driving, even Spanish people tell me that the Portuguese drive crazy (I remember being told the same about LA. It was a kindergarten after 5 years in Mexico City, things are relative). It seems to me that, like Italians, the Portuguese seem to know what they are doing, whereas most Spanish drivers seem not to understand the basic physics of driving, the need for concentration, etc.

On the other hand, roads are amazing in Spain. I drove Alicante to El Escorial, north of Madrid in a Fiat Panda diesel (will not do 100mph, but holds 94mph all day long) in 4 hours yesterday. Google says 5.5 hours.....
 

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Discussion Starter #53 (Edited)
My first trip to Portugal but that seems to hit the nail on the head. A great respect for the past and their history indeed, perhaps too much like the Greeks, and a great love for family. The Cascais AirBNB host virtually insisted we had to go to Lisbon and see all the history. It really meant something. I really like the place. Ask a server's name and they just beam when you work to pronounce it. Smiles, please and thank you and a bit of banter goes a long way here. The main roads are pretty good, nearly up to Spanish standards but not France. But different. Spain has those roadside service areas with restaurant road house Inns versus the French-like Arche cafes. Portugal seems to have little of either and a bit ramshackle but we got a good road meal in one. But rural America is a lot like this. A bit run down and shabby in many places. (Except you have to watch out for the really run down crack/meth enclaves.) It puts some off. Some Areas passed-by like on Route 66. Country areas. It actually reminds me of Portugal. Kindness and civility and smiles go a long way. That's why I struggle a bit to understand the F1 driver mentality. And yes, I do get more appreciation for the old Alfa here' really rubbernecking and smiles. Thanks for that!! B
 

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Thanks for this. It really is worth trying to understand the context of why we travel and where we travel to. I´m sure your various hosts appreciate that´s what you do and like you for it!

"That's why I struggle a bit to understand the F1 driver mentality."

See my last paragraph! I´m sometimes more Latin than English but always felt that driving meant driving fast. Like coffee is expresso. We lived in USA in the double nickel era, and I could not understand why fellow travellers would get so pissed because I overtook at 70 mph on the highway between LA and SD. It´s similar in UK. You have to do something really bad to get much reaction in Latin countries.

The horn-blowing is often a different etiquette, you´re not supposed to show you care..... On the other hand , accidents happen in the UK because drivers can be too reluctant to use the horn in moments of real danger. UK is a much angrier place to drive than Spain, way more road rage despite all the politeness!
 

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Discussion Starter #55 (Edited)
So waiting in front of the Se de Porto Basicilla for our AirBNB host to show up (40 min late) to show us how to park in the labyrinth and get checked-in, after getting the grand tour de traffic by Google in the heat, I parked in a 5 min loading area just but half inside the tourist bus parking thatched area. Several buses passed with some care and parked but one decided to lean on his horn for me for several minutes, I did not even look. He actually pulled alongside and opened the door to cuss me out. I just looked and pointed to the bus in front and pointed out that had been parked there 30 minutes and said if he had a problem he'd better go talk to him. Little Latin people should not eff with Vikings or rednecks; they just don't know (not modern NW European Scandanavians mind you, defanged). CBD oil with a tall porto chaser works wonders for blood pressure. Each country has it's unique driving etiquette but clearing out of the left lane is universal everywhere but Italy. They seem to love to stay hovering in both lanes to keep their options open. And the scooters in a town/city in Italy would drive any American mad within 5 miinutes. We don't have stuff like that. If you have not travelled widely and a bit, you just don't know this. Oh the stories . . . . .
 

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Discussion Starter #56 (Edited)
Left Porto to make the trip-ending drive. The first half time-wise was slowly and curvy and scenic up the Douro River valley. Started low but the valley got pretty steep. And more if their famous vineyards as we went in. It was four hours to lunch at the larger city of Peso da Regua. A good small locals place, the plat de dia was €8 and a half L of good local red €4.

Remind me to discuss a navigation tech issue that arose that noobs should be prepared for, twice today.

We then hit highways at 75 mph avg to Burgos. Ran over a couple of small mountain passes, one at 4400 ft.

A 10 hour road day with a bit over 7 moving. The stats compliments of GeoTracker. A 5 hour drive on highways turned into over 7 with the scenic bits.
 

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Discussion Starter #57 (Edited)
Navigation Woes

I said I'd recount issues with navigation. I did a shout out to Fred above for sharing his methods and tools with me. It's been invaluable . . . . BUT . . . . technology fails from time-to-time and usually when it hurts the most. You especially need it leaving bigger cities, or at the end of the day arriving in bigger cities, and on planned route day drives (complicated routes).

Problem #1: leaving Porto was that the GPS device (a tablet using the TomTom Go app) would not connect with satellites. I charged and checked it the night before but no go for an hour into the trip. And that was leaving a bigger city at AM rush hour and on a proscribed route and day trip up the Douro River valley. Earlier I'd said that one of Fred's rules was to always have a backup and he has several: a 2nd device, printed route maps and generic maps. So I used my phone with data and input sequentially point-to-point stops along the route I had pre-planned. In about an hour the tablet woke up and connected with satellites and I used that from that point. Why point-to-point every 15 minutes or so of drive??? If I had put in the furthest point of the morning's scenic drive, Ragua, it would have routed us inland on a bigger faster road rather than on the small riverside roads. That is just how Google Maps works. On Google+ MyMaps you can plot custom routes. So, have a backup. We have actually taken to Kristy having Google Maps up on her phone form a hotspot from my phone for a 3rd backup with eyes closely on the route as with car noise you cannot always hear the instructions. She is also looking for traffic bottlenecks and alternate routes and landmarks while I watch traffic. Our French cousin says he uses Waze for real-time issues like accidents, jams and speed traps - but neither Fred or I have found that well-used here.

Problem #2: about an hour before arriving outside of Burgos, the tablet went blank. It was dead. It actually consumes energy faster than it charges and it was on charge all day. Looking at the battery graph confirms this. On a long day's drive, you may go dead JUST when you need it getting off some freeway and having to navigate your way on surface streets in traffic. On that day since we were on highway much of the day after the Douro River valley, we could have switched it off and just used the phone with Google Maps or our noses, or done some adjustments to the tablet to conserve energy. As it was we turned it off, charging it and turned in on just before the dicey bit to provide navigation. It might pay on a day's journey to check your battery charge/graph before getting to a rough patch. We usually have our backup device running also just in case one fails for some reason just when you need it.

Problem #3: Leaving Bordeaux, Google Maps on the phone lost comms and/or satellites a few times for no apparent reason. We had 550 km on the A10 so that was not a particular problem but can be elsewhere if it is critical. It also loses it in a longer tunnel and if there is a critical change just after a tunnel it will not re-connect quickly enough to advise you to make the move. Sometimes SatNav it is a bit slow giving instructions and you may miss a complicated dual off-ramp or exit form a traffic circle (roundabout). Slow down and locals crawl up your A$$. Both have happened. On a traffic circle - unless I took the wrong prong - I just circle around for a 2nd pass. On city or freeway turns, it's not so easy and all too often you get to do a "Tour de city Traffic". It can go a long ways on freeways to get off and circle back, the "Tour de Freeway".

Fred's Nav Basics (there is a LOT more to this):
0. Read, study and plan, plan plan routes and Poionts of Interest (added)
1. Do custom routes in Google+ My Maps setting Waypoints or dragging the little dot handles,
2. Save segments/days as KML files. G+MM has map and layer Point limits (requires a gmail/Google account)
3. Use a free converter to save as GPX files
4. Use TomTom My Drive to import the GPX preplanned routes (requires the App and ID)
5. Synch MyDrive with TomTom Go MyRoutes on your tablet or a TomTom Sat Nav (requires base maps be loaded).
6. Navigate off the TomTom Go device but have backup (see above).
7. Track progrss and drive stats with GeoTracker, it runs in the background.

PS: we have a big power port with 6 USB connectors.
 

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Discussion Starter #58 (Edited)
Been a few days. Arrived in Bordeaux from Burgos 3 nights ago for a visit with some family and arrived outside Paris yesterday to visit more family here (Kristy's). We've had great WiFI but lots of partying and talking and whatnot so . . . like I said once you get behinid with bad WiFi in the Porto AirBNB, it's a beyoch to catch up.

So I will rapid fire some pics of Porto now and some of the drives.

I liked Porto more than Lisbon. It was more compact.

112 steep high stone steps on twisty path from parking down and up to the apartment . . . with luggage, rucksacks and provision bags. Not fun. Toaster.
 

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Discussion Starter #59 (Edited)
Porto.
 

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Discussion Starter #60 (Edited)
Porto. Tourist sights and tourists.
 

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