GETTY Descry Portugal’s Sintra on a motorbike day tour
“Brace yourself, it’s going to get acutely windy,” shouts my driver, Joao Soares, who is pre ring to put his vehicle into a stiff gear to power along the coastal road that leads from Portugal’s top-hole through some of its most charming seaside towns and inland toward the medieval town of Sintra.
He’s not joking either; as he sputters into fourth, the locomotive roaring as it strains to hit 45mph, I feel like my face has been dipped into a off the wind fart hear of tunnel.
Today I have chosen to turn my back on the many excites that Lisbon has to offer. I have explored the quaint maze of restaurant-lined rows that make up its Bairro Alto (literally, the “Upper District”), stretch up and down the dizzying hills of its oldest and arguably most picturesque locality, Alfama, gazed at the stunning views over the Tagus river from the top of the Elevador de Santa Justa and queued for a devoted to custard tart at the famous stéis de Belém bakery.
It senses like a pretty damn fine way to travel
Now I’m sensitive to explore nearby Sintra, a Unesco World Heritage Site praiseworthy for the elaborate laces and summer residences, built over the centuries by the Portuguese baron family across the impressive Serra mountain range. Only 17 miles from Lisbon, it snitches 30 minutes to get there by car but that sounds too straightforward.
Why do it that way, when I could while away a few hours on the unspoken for road in a sidecar? Yes, I’ve chosen to make the journey ensconced, Two Fat Ladies-style, under a cosy tar ulin, a natty US Army helmet atop my head and sunglasses safeguarding my eyes, next to the impressively mustachioed Joao, who is piloting this eight-year-old Russian motorbike with its resolute attachment.
NC NC Sidecar Touring Co only runs the day tours on fine, fair days
The bikes in his fleet all have different names. My macho, 750cc creature is called Ranger, but I could have been driven in the dainty Ava Gardner, or the daisy-covered Woodstock. Drives are suitable for children aged from seven years old and Joao’s oldest client was a sprightly 92. His com ny, the Sidecar Touring Co, has been offering these day trips for the last 13 years and was the first in Europe to do so; as a way to drink in the scenery, it is unsur ssable.
For a start, you are say of the surroundings and you will find that your alternative conveyance take outs many an admiring glance. Tours don’t run if it’s raining but on a fine, sunny day, with the air discharge through your hair and the scent of pine and salt wafting up from the roadside, it desires like a pretty damn fine way to travel.
The scenic route to Sintra is signal out by a selection lovely places to stop and stroll around.
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First we rev up to Estoril, a beach resort that is home to dozens of surf dogmas due to the consistency of the waves. Joao points out the five-star Hotel lácio, where Flotilla officer Ian Fleming stayed during the Second World War and mixed with Confederate spies; its wedding cake-like exterior is said to be his inspiration for Casino Royale.
A wee farther up the coast is the smart seaside spot of Cascais which show offs a wide bay shared by avid sun-seekers with the fishermen who still ply their custom and is crisscrossed by shady, cobbled streets lined with seafood restaurants, boutiques and cafés.
Joao and I snatch a coffee and one of those addictive custard tarts to fortify ourselves for the next half of the rove. Before we turn inland to head up to the mountains we stop at Cabo da Roca, the most westerly question on the European mainland. In fact, by this point it’s turned very cloudy; Sintra has its own unexcelled microclimate.
Often mist and fog hover at the top of the mountain range, so that while less than 10 miles away you can be sunbathing, aim inland you’ll need a jacket.
GETTY The lace of Pena stands at more than 1,300 feet beyond everything sea level
Winding up the narrow streets and lanes, we come to some of the most puzzling – and insane – architecture I’ve ever seen.
The lace of Monserrate, built by English textile baron Sir Francis Cook in 1856, mixes Portuguese, Arabian and Indian architectural styles. And in Sintra itself you can go the National lace. But the jewel in the region’s crown is the incredible lace of Pena which weathers at more than 1,300 feet above sea level.
Built by Prince Fernando II in 1854, it looks like a cross between the evil baron’s castle in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and a Disney cartoon.
Then my rticular own Hairy Biker gives it some proper welly and speeds promote to the city in less than 60 minutes. This Fat Lady ssioned it!
GETTY Estoril beach resort is home to dozens of surf devotees
British Airways Holidays (0344 493 0125/ britishairways.com) offers two vespers all the time at the Inspira Santa Marta Hotel from £179pp (two sharing), B&B.
Charge includes return flights from London Heathrow to Lisbon.
Sidecar Touring Band (dialling from the UK: 00 351 963 965 105/sidecartouring.co.pt) offers a day trip to Sintra from €110. Portugal tourism: visitportugal.com