Pre Spain day 1 & 2 in France (Our bonus country!) – St Malo to Libourne Coast Highway
A few days before the tour was to begin, we received a phone call at Magellan HQ to say that the scheduled ferry from Plymouth had been cancelled due to a fire and we had been moved to a crossing from Portsmouth to St Malo instead, with a catch! That it sailed a day earlier! Wowzers….

So it was all hands on deck at HQ and very quickly we arranged a new hotel in France, and made sure all our magellanites were prepared.

Who would have thought a tour of Spain and Portugal would start in France! But this didn’t deter any of us, in fact it meant we were going to get 3 countries for the price of 2! Albeit with another 1000 miles added to the tour, but in true biker style we all took it in our stride.

So it was onto the ferry at Portsmouth after a welcome from our guide.

An early arrival in St Malo saw us all disembark quickly and we met in the car park just outside of the port. Unbeknown to us there was a cycling competition passing through and some of the looks we got when spectators saw motorbikes instead of bicycles was funny!

to leave, although 2 bikes were reluctant to start. Presumably they wanted to stay in France rather than going to Spain! But after our guide sourced a set of jump leads from a friendly local camper, we were all set and were soon on open, empty French roads to make our way to our first stop in Libourne, just outside of Bordeaux.

Being a Sunday, France was quieter than usual, leaving most of the roads empty for us. We headed past Renes, Nantes and various others on our ride. And it was getting warmer too! Bright sunshine and warmth is always a bonus! But we couldn’t help feeling like criminals riding through France as we were on a tight timeline to arrive at our first Spanish hotel in 2 days!

So we arrived in Libourne, to our hotel which was situated right next to the river Dordogne which was so picturesque. With a bistro across the road, we all settled into our rooms and then made our way over to our pre booked meal…. The steak was amazing!

Libourne to Llanes
As we had quite a few miles to put under our belts to arrive in Llanes on time – our first scheduled Spanish hotel. So it was an early start for everyone, we all wanted to take the scenic route but it would have taken over 12 hours! So unfortunately there was little option other than to enjoy the Payage routes and whilst doing so admire the changing scenery as we headed to Spain.

It was a sight to behold, where we were all lined up and off! Throughout the day people stopped for fuel, coffee and water when they needed which meant that inevitably we broke off into smaller groups. The funny thing was, that as we headed through the countryside, there were Magellanites everywhere! With smiles on their faces and all enjoying the countryside, even though all we secretly yearned for was the twisty bends! Our guide though, knew this was coming!

As we got closer to Spain the scenery changed and the weather got even warmer. We started to glimpse the coastline and several people took a detour to enjoy a stop in San Sebastian!

It was a long day, but totally worth every minute, to think that we had actually arrived in Llanes at our first Spanish hotel on time, on the right day and could now start our Spain and Northern Portugal tour. The massive bonus was that now we could meet our 4 other tourers that had already been touring on their own and were due to meet us at the hotel.

Very quickly Simon, Kevin, Paul and Bernie introduced themselves and after we all freshened up, we all met in the bar to get to know them and to share our stories about the day.

It would be wrong to say we weren’t all tired from riding through France, as to get here in Spain, we had to ride ride ride, but we had finally made it! Our group all together for the first time and now we really could relax and start our adventure.

Over laughs and jokes everyone got to know each other and we were treated to a 3 course meal in the hotel restaurant. Our guide told us that the food and hotel was good, but boy was it lovely, especially after our 2 day dash!

Llanes to Tineo
Breakfast was upon us which meant it was time for a briefing from our guide about what was to be expected for the day, coffee stop locations and nuggets of information we might need. As we had expected, this was light hearted with a few jokes between us all before heading to our bikes to saddle up!

We headed off from our hotel and very quickly started to ascend the mountain which follows the Camino de Santiago route. A few intricate bends on our way up and as we got to the top we could see for miles! Small groups of riders formed and we were soon heading down through twisty roads.

Our coffee stop was situated in a small village with lots of parking outside. A welcomed coffee was in order and a chance to reflect on the beautiful twisties, views and forests on the way.

So it was on from coffee and up and over more mountains. It was funny that we had heard about the Pilgrims walking this route, although we had not thought about just how far it was. Miles and miles of twisty bends over the mountains, and then all of a sudden we would see a Pilgrim with their backpack making their way along the road.

We headed through Oviedo where we got a glimpse at the medieval wall surrounding the town. Our lunch stop was at the wonderful restaurant El Tenderjon del Fernando nestled in the Escamplero region with the most spectacular views. Oh and food was lovely too, and not to mention very very cheap indeed!

So after lunch it was time to head through more and more twisty bends to get to our coffee stop at Café Berliner which is located in Salas, Asturias. It’s lovely cobbled street and real local feel was great. And not to mention that the coffee was just right! Time for a picture!

A further 20 minutes ride on some more amazing twisty roads (I get the feeling that I am going to describe these roads as amazing quite a few times on this tour report!), we arrived in the beautiful small town of Tineo which is a popular stop for Pilgrims. With secure parking for our bikes and the most wonderful rooms it certainly was a welcome end to a perfect days riding. Some choose to walk around the town to marvel at the spectacular views while others relaxed in the bar.

We headed to our evening meal in the hotel restaurant and before long it was time to head to bed for the night, dreaming of those roads we had already ridden and imagining what the roads would be like tomorrow.

Tineo to Santiago de Compostela
Today we continued to follow the Camino de Santiago and within a few minutes of leaving Tineo we were climbing up the mountains which included a few hairpin bends and lots of open bends to really enjoy. Our route took us through ‘rustic’ Spain where the predominant industry seemed to be farming, with cattle in the fields, where you could hear the chinking of their bells and see for miles.

We got to the top of the mountain, and the views were incredible. You really could see for miles and miles. I thought to myself how can this get any better, but our guide had said we were really in for a treat as the tour progressed – this is only the beginning.

On our descent from the mountains we crossed a huge dam, where dotted along the route were small huts and places where Pilgrims were able to rest. The work that must have taken place to build this dam was immense as it was such an impressive structure, so we had to stop to look around!

Although a little damp today it didn’t dampen our spirits as the roads and views were far too good to miss, whatever the weather! Arriving at our coffee stop just outside of Grandes de Salime, we all lined our bikes up and headed in for a cuppa. As I walked in I was smiling as all I could hear were the group laughing and joking about their mornings ride.

Heading from coffee to our lunch stop, we were able to dodge pretty much all of the wet stuff and head down to Lugo where we had the most inexpensive 3 course meal we have ever had. For around 10 Euros we had a feast!

Unfortunately the wet stuff came down as we left Lugo so we headed to the hotel. Thankfully most of the great roads today had already been covered so we didn’t miss much at all.

Arriving in Santiago was a little hectic, compared to the open empty roads that we had got used to, although our route popped us into the city at the bottom and within 15 minutes we were at our hotel for the next 2 nights.

There is always so much to do in a city and Santiago de Compostela did not disappoint for choices of food – seeing some people take in tapas, while others chose to find a more formal sit down place to eat.

The hotel for our stay in the city is located next door to a lovely, vibrant sports bar which is great as a few drinks in the evening were a must! The fact we only had to go next door to our hotel was brilliant.

Santiago explore day
So today was to be a relaxed start, unfortunately the heavens opened which from our guide is most unusual at this time of year. Luckily we had the choice of exploring the city or taking a planned rideout. Everyone unsurprisingly chose to explore the city, and we met each other at 10am to make our way to the centre to see the cathedral and to meet our walking tour guide that had been arranged for us.

As the rain was coming down, Geoff turned up with a brolly he had bought and very soon everyone had enquired where he had gotten it and several more brollies appeared in the group…

Listening to Paula our walking tour guide, it was amazing to hear the history of the city and the buildings that were dotted around and to understand the importance in Spanish culture and religion that these buildings held.

We walked through the streets learning more and more, we also managed to see inside the cathedral which is a must! It was also nice to see the jubilation of Pilgrims celebrating in the square after their epic journey along the Camino.

Santiago de Compostela to Guimaraes
As we headed to our morning brief, we could see that there was a little drizzle and it looked dull, but this was very short lived as very soon after we headed off it brightened up, and kept doing so!

We headed along some more (yes you’ve guessed it) stunning roads with fast flowing twisty bends traversing around hills to our coffee stop in Soutelo de Montes which has the most incredible cakes on offer. Most of us took the opportunity to get a sandwich to take with us as our next stop was at the border crossing into Portugal.

After a sandwich it was time to head through the Parque Nacional Peneda-Gerés were you could see all the way through the gorge for miles and miles.
Heading down through the 5 hairpin bends and ensuring that our satnav didn’t take us off on a small turning on one of them we arrived at a coffee stop where some chose to have pizza overlooking the Cávada River.

We then headed to our hotel for the evening in Guimaraes. A very modern and stylish hotel awaited us with a dazzling views across the countryside to the mountains in the distance. Our meal was a buffet style meal with lots and lots to choose from. It was delicious!!

Guimaraes to Covilha
Today was always going to be a sad day as Chris and Mark had to leave as they had planned more adventures which had to see them leave the tour early. A few near tear farewells later and we waved them off on their journey home.

But for us it was onto highest point in Portugal for a 2 night stay. Very soon after leaving we were on roads that can only be described a sublime.

Getting fuel early on today, Kevin discovered that mixing the colours of the petrol and diesel pumps up meant a little of the wrong fuel had ended up in the KTM. It was at this point that we truly found the Portuguese hospitality as the local garage attended within 10 minutes, recovered the bike within 20 minutes and were working on it within minutes. Even the customers from the garage rallied around and took Kevin to get some petrol while the garage mechanics worked on the poorly KTM.

Some marvellous working and in no time the mechanics had Kevin’s pride and joy up and running once again, after a few clouds of smoke came out the back, it was running perfectly once more and he and our guide could make their way to join the group again.

As we headed through a real treat – The Douro Valley we could see fields full of stunning vines all holding onto their grapes ready to be produced into the famous wine from this region. The temperature was starting to rise again and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. Our first coffee treated us to the most incredible cakes! For less that a Euro! Wow!

I knew that the Douro Valley would be nice but nothing prepared me for the beauty that I would see, and of course the amazing roads we rode. Wow, we were in biker paradise!

So after riding more and more amazing roads, we all arrived at our hotel for the night -The Serra da Estrela. Perched on top of the Estrela mountain range. It was gorgeous, hot, sunny and just amazing!

Shortly after we arrived, our guides Toby & Andy arrived with Kevin after a great days riding and being thankful that the KTM truly is a resilient machine!

Serra da Estrela Rideout Day
Today saw most take to the roads once more to do a circuit of the some of the fabulous mountain roads from yesterday with lots lots more on offer to extend the day. With the sun shining once more the day was filled with twists and turns with views to be amazed by. . . and like most of the tour, these roads kept getting better and better!

Lots of time to take pictures and stop to marvel at the Portuguese beauty.

Some people chose to stay at the hotel and have a relaxing day using the hotels facilities or explore on foot. But when everyone got back the smiles on peoples faces were everywhere! The views truly were spectacular!

Our evening meal, as last night was a buffet with some of the largest choice of food I have ever seen. Located in the medieval themes restaurant at the hotel we could pick and choose what we wanted, but for some the temptation was too much to stop at one plate! Our guide Andy clearly needed filling up! Oh Andy!!

Covilha to Zamora
Waking to the sunshine and warmth never gets old or tiring, and once fed at breakfast overlooking the mountains we headed out once more. This time to the historic town of Zamora.

Heading down the mountain from our hotel and again onto open empty roads, we headed toward the real ‘rustic’ Portugal and Spain where cobbled streets and narrow roads were the order of most of the day. We did manage to find some (you guessed it) more incredible fast sweeping bends through the most sublime countryside in the Douro Valley where we stopped for lunch next to the Douro River in a little hamlet.

We didn’t want to leave the beautiful Portugal countryside and a conveniently placed closed border crossing meant that some of the group took the dirt track while others ventured on via the tarmac to wind our way around the route.

After the days riding we headed to the bar in the square and then to a favourite of Magellan’s – Casa Barnardo’s were we had a beautiful 3 course meal. Another fantastic day was had by all!!

Zamora to Congas de Onis
Leaving Zamora, we had another day bursting with beautiful roads, spectacular vistas and picture perfect mountains which were truly awe inspiring.

The landscape changed as we went along and each bend brought more delight. The Potes and Panes road did not disappoint with the majestic mountains towering over us as we rode through the canyon. The road was narrow but with the newly finished tarmac we enjoyed the ride. The day was hot so the obligatory ice cream was purchased.

As we got closer to Cangas the road widened and the long sweeping bends gave us the satisfaction of completing another full days ride. Dinner was enjoyed as we started to say our goodbyes to some of the group, the holiday was coming to an end and the great company and conversation were yet again a testament to the saying time ‘flies while we were having fun’.

Our hotel in Congas de Onis was a converted monastery set in the most amazing grounds which meant one thing….. relax!

Congas de Onis to Santander
Today had lots in store, the Picos mountains, beautiful scenery and the most glorious roads to round off our tour. I could not believe that the tour had gone so quickly and the return home was on all of our minds.

Today was another sad day as we said goodbye to Simon, Kevin, Paul and Bernie as they had plans to stay touring for a few more days. We were all very envious of them and sad to see them leave the group, but they sent us a pic a few hours later to let us know that they were ok.

It was another wonderful warm summers day and as we discussed the routes we had taken. This was yet another mixture of wonderfully wide sweeping bends and narrow winding roads to remind us of the beauty and contrast of Spain.

We had different options for the routes today, the majority of us took the regular route with two choosing to deviate to incorporate both routes and one choosing to enjoy the port of Santander for longer.

The roads were sublime and almost resembled something from a James Bond movie car chase with the views and corners. Perched on the top of the mountain pass heading towards the lake was a monument which lended itself to a perfect spot for a picture!

The leisurely riding day via the lakeside restaurant of El Puerto de la Poblacion was just the ticket to finish our trip.

All too soon it was time to make for the ferry home. What a wonderful time was had by all and despite the brief day of rain in Santiago we had sunshine for the rest of the tour.

We then crossed over the hill and made our way down the valley towards the ocean to board our much awaited Ferry to Plymouth.

What a wonderful tour! We all thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and were genuinely sad to see the end of it. Still, there was time on the ferry for a few relaxing beers and a sing song before arriving in Plymouth and saying farewell to each other. Thank you to all of our Magellanites for an awesome trip, see you on the next tour!

Teresa.

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