bicyclesWe are in the hip mega sports store at the one fabulous mall in Caldas da Rainha, we bought bicycles. Real bikes, 18 gears, off road, on road, soft seats, baskets, lights, tool kits, bottle holders, locks, lights for the front and the back, a rack to carry stuff on the back and helmets, have to have helmets.

My bike was standing there, gleaming, just waiting for freedom. I knew she was mine when I set my eyes on her, both of us wanted that one, but they only had a “girls” model. Once our “very happy he is getting a big sale guy” got it road ready, we found out we couldn’t get the other bike until next week…bummer. Everything paid for, receipts in hand, I hopped on my new baby and rode through the mall.

I haven’t been on one of these for a while. While I am confessing here, I am also very clumsy and large. Imagine if you will, this not very petite woman crying out with a big smile, “boa tarde” as she tries to run you over her new bicicleta in a crowded mall. E pá!

The citizen was not pleased I rode through the mall and and let me know it when he caught up with me at the exit. We planned to meet up at the train station; we were going to catch the 6:50pm to the village, bike and all. We don’t have a car so we couldn’t just put the bike in it like normal people would do. As I gleefully wobbled off, knowing cars will see me because I look absolutely ridiculous; I didn’t worry about getting hit by one. I rode into the now empty Praça da Fruta and played around where usually there are stalls of fresh fruit and veggies, riding in circles, then crossed over to the Rua de Mannequins (a no car promenade street of shops and cafes).

I literally almost ran into my friend Rita, she loved the bike, in particular the basket that can be taken off for shopping, then put back on to carry home. At the train, the citizen and I loaded our new transportation on the special place for bikes and set off for Salir do Porto. The citizen rode the bike back to the casa after we left the train (it is up a hill, I wasn’t ready for hills yet). By the time I was home the bike was safe in our little “garage”, a storage room on the first floor by our stairway that is just the right size. We have great landlords.

After more than a year of walking everywhere, having new wheels has widened our range of travel. We can pedal to the Intermarche, the big market across the bay and do real grocery shopping. Check out the surrounding villages and travel down roads we have been wondering where they went. Found new forests with fields of wild lavender we can cut and take home in our baskets, the lavender burning pineconeis lovely in vases scattered around the casa.

Since we are now in the grips of winter, we can jump on our bicicletas to collect firewood we find for our improvised bonfires in the barbecue in the downstairs courtyard. Since we don’t have a real fireplace, we load up the barbecue with our wood; add a few pinecones for special effects. We can spend hours in the cold evenings warmed by the fire and brandy, it works just as well as the real thing. Without our new transportation, just getting the wood to our casa would be impossible.

Our pledge to live a “green” lifestyle here in Portugal is still intact. As much as I would love to zip around in a Smart Car (ragtop of course), the citizen is keeping me honest. So I am practicing to get up those torturous hills, building up for the day I can ride all the way to Caldas and not need the autocarro’s (bus) schedule, by summer I won’t even want a car.

Right now I’m still working on not wobbling and keeping in the bike lane so I don’t get killed by these crazy drivers, wish me luck.


Constance left the U.S. not for spiritual enlightment (Eat, Love, Pray), or to run away from anything, but to challenge herself in a new culture, living a simple life. Portugal seemed to be the best fit, and so far it is just the right size. Read lots more at her blog Con-Toons.

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