Nice to go, nice to return home.
Visiting a new place, with a different culture, in a different time zone, is invigorating and exhausting. But, once back home, the opportunity to reflect on the experiences is as rewarding as the pre-trip planning.
Maybe more so for me this time. The Camino bike tour portion, shown on the map route, was my newly retired husband’s first experience of planning an adventure trip for us. He’d been saying he wanted to do multi-day bike tours, primarily in Europe, for a few years, but he had limited, time-restricted vacation days, so it remained a wish-list item.
Then, I booked a writer’s conference in Madrid and insisted that he join me. His suggestion was to add a bicycle trip up the northern Portuguese and southern Spanish coasts. We’d follow the pilgrim’s route to the cathedral where Saint James’ bones are kept. Though he was born and raised Catholic, neither of us is seeking anything more than an adventure. But, the well-trod path offers the infrastructure to allow even the novice traveler a safe and pleasant journey.
Late spring offered nice weather, warm but not hot, mostly sunny, and oodles of spring flowers and foliage. A myriad of hotels, cafes, and bars line the route. Daily mileage could be long or short, on-road or off. Breaks any time, as long as the target hotel was within range.
He found a company specializing in booking the bikes, hotels, and luggage transfers for self-guided riders. We packed an extra duffle bag with the padded seat I need to ride multiple days in relative comfort, our rinse and wear bike outfits, including fluorescent yellow and fuchsia long-sleeved shirts I wore over t-shirts for sunscreen and visibility on the roadways.
And it worked. The tour company, Camino Ways, did a perfect job of delivering the rental bikes, booking the hotels he contracted for, and shuttling our luggage between them each day. Some stops were in city centers, some country manors. Some were better than others, but when you’re only there only overnight, anything clean and safe is good.
We chose the riding track – some days dodging walkers on unpaved paths, sometimes cars on the highway, occasionally through small villages and farmer’s fields. With our data-enabled phone maps, we never felt like we were lost. A quick map stop and off we went to navigate amongst unmarked trails and roadways. Sometimes on a pre-planned route, sometimes discovering the path. We took long lunches to avoid the mid-day sun, carried drinks and snacks, and chatted with other travelers at roadside cafes.
And, should we poop out, trains run parallel to the Camino. We spoke with a buddy group on their sixth day out who was seriously considering making the final leg into Santiago via train. We didn’t find that necessary (I rode a battery pedal-assist bike, and my husband trained via a week’s worth of 25-30 mile daily rides) but it’s nice to know it’s an option. And yes, after arriving at the cathedral, we happily dismounted and turned in the bikes before booking our return to Madrid via train and then flying home.
Nice to go and nice to be home, safe, healthy, and with another adventure in the books.