Crete 1992

Dolomites 1994

Gran Canaria 1995

Tuscany 1995

Andalucia 1996

French Pyrenees 1996

Portugal 1997

Euskadi 2001

Provence 2003

Provence 2005

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Crete 1992

This was a long time ago, and I don’t remember it very well. Our route was roughly as follows: fly to Iráklio, then ride to Réthimno via Pérama; then cross country via Thrónos and the nearby monastery to Agía Gallíni (a disappointment); and finally back to Iráklio.

We had nice weather, but I don’t think the cycling was anything special, and our photographs aren’t all that good (but we’ve learnt to use a camera since then). It may be the passage of time, or the lack of good photographs, but other destinations have eclipsed Crete in our memories. But Xaniá is a delightful place to spend an evening.

The roads were narrow and quiet, the climbs long and well-graded. The landscape is mountainous and arid, but with the occasional emerald pool of irrigated farmland. Tracey had been to the west of Crete in April ’89 and the country is at its best at that time of year – there is snow on the mountains, the orange trees are in blossom and there are wild freesias by the roadside.

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Dolomites 1994

The Dolomites are extraordinary mountains – green pastureland slopes up to massive vertical blocks, improbable towers and great slices of grey rock. Roads zigzag furiously through the gaps between the massifs. For a climby cyclist, it’s a paradise.

Mon. Fly to Verona and catch a train along an attractive valley to the pretty town of Bressanone. Tues. On to Brunico via Terento. Weds. Day trips. Thurs. To Corvara. Fri, Sat, Sun. Day trips. Mon. Over the Gardena to Canazei. Tues–Fri. Day trips. Sat. To Bolzano via Vigo, then by train to Trento, a lovely town. Celebration meal at the Antico Orso Grigio. Sun. Train to Verona, where a little more sightseeing, then plane home.

Tracey’s comment: “Do you think I enjoy going at this speed?”

Fine weather, beautiful scenery, good food, attractive quiet towns. Some of the day trips were spent walking. (Some of the paths are a wee bit exposed.) Accomodation was easy to find, and so were pizzas.

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Gran Canaria, March 1995

   

map (120k)

Mon. Fly to Gran Canaria airport. Escape from the airport with the usual difficulty and have lunch in Maspalomas. Cycle along the south coast past huge apartment complexes to Puerto de Mogán, a real village with real hotels, all full. Cycle back, asking for accommodation at every resort without success, eventually arriving back at Maspalomas at 10:30, where we get the last room in an expensive hotel. Gran Canaria not so far living up to expectations.

Tues–Thurs. Day rides from Maspalomas. We managed to make a booking for the hotel at Tejeda. Nice picture of it with a swimming pool. Fri. Climb to Tejeda; stay in the hotel. The pool is green and stagnant. The weather has turned cloudy. Sat, Sun. Day trips. Some rain. Mon. To San Nicolás de Tolentino, where find a hotel. Tues. Take the corniche road to Los Berrazales. Stay in the spa hotel – rather grand, busy with coach tours at lunchtime but quiet in the evenings. It’s at the top of a rather splendid valley. Drizzle. Weds, Thurs. Day trips. Plentiful rain. Fri. Back to San Nic. Sat. On to Mogán, then climb the unsurfaced road back to San Bartolomé, where stay in a hotel we’ve booked by telephone. The route is hard but scenic. Sun. Day trips. Sunshine. Mon. Back to England.

We could have done without the rain and the difficulty in finding accommodation. The scenery is nice and the weather not usually so bad. Without the package tourists it would be a good destination.

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Tuscany 1995

   

Tuscany is glorious cycling country – quiet, good roads and motorists that respect you. Longish climbs through big rolling hills. Vineyards, cypresses, woods, and hill towns, serene villas and farmhouses. It all looks as though it was designed by an artist.

We spent just over a fortnight there divided between 3 locations in late September. We flew to Pisa and made the awkward journey by train to Siena, from where we rode to our first destination, a cottage from the Solemar brochure at Tenuta di Monaciano. This was along a dirt track, not too easy on Tracey’s narrow wheels. At the junction of the track with the road was the Antica Osteria, serving brilliant food. We stayed here a week.

The second week was spent at another cottage from the same brochure at Fattoria di Mandri near Reggello. Finally we returned towards Pisa and spent a couple of nights at the Hotel Universo at Lucca.

The weather was poor for the time of year. Accordingly the Chianti vintage was bad but there was a profusion of porcini, which (cooking for ourselves) we exploited to the full.

Tracey’s 10 Top Tips for Tuscan Cycling

  1. Does your pump look tired and dated? Why not give it a fashionable ‘aero’ look? Simply leave it in the middle of the road and let the traffic do the trick.
  2. In Italy, traffic lights and one-way signs do not apply to bicycles and may safely be ignored. Lights are not necessary, especially at night.
  3. Add variety to your training schedule. Swimming is excellent aerobic exercise. A couple of lengths of an average-sized hotel pool are approximately equivalent to two hours of Level 3.
  4. If, like many other cyclists, you find swimming difficult because of a lack of useful buoyant fat, you may find assistance in flotation from a “Lilo” or inflatable dinosaur.
  5. Change your name to “NO POLL TAX”. Continental cyclists who visited Britain a few years ago will treat you with respect.
  6. In Italy, they use the metric system of weights and measures. As liquid is measured in litres, and one litre is 2.2 pints (approx), you'll need to drink 2.2 times as much there to have the same effect.
  7. Save money on expensive perfume. GT85 is an economical substitute and my husband never notices the difference.
  8. Join in Siena’s Man v Horse v Bike ‘Fun Race’ in July and August. (The Palio).
  9. Carbo-load the Italian way. Spaghetti is a crunchy snack and can be easily carried on the bike by taping it to the top tube.
  10. Enjoy touring but sometimes find carrying your luggage a bit of a drag? I find a ‘wife’ handy for transporting 12-volume history books, travel guides, and other odds and ends. Also useful for clearing out fridges. (C.J. Champion).

Also spotted:

“Zucchero è anche forza intelligente.” (Sugar is also an intelligent force - Zucchero ‘Eridania’ S.p.A.)

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