History. Long long ago, before Colin turned up to blight her life, Tracey went cycle touring in Andalucia with John Mackle, a cyclist so famous that his name has entered the language. (To mackle = to spend ages getting ready to set out.)
Then Colin came along, and whisked Tracey away for a holiday in India, where the monsoon gave way to winter with no scope for trekking inbetween. Tracey let Colin know, frequently and with emphasis, that there was one holiday destination where perpetual sunshine was guaranteed: and that location was Andalucia. So, not having been impressed by the weather in the Canaries, that is where we went.
Thurs. Fly to Almeria. Fri. Ride to Laujar in the sun. A mostly pleasant (and mostly uphill) ride. Stay at a nice pension in the main square. Sat. Day trips. Sun. Rain. Ride to Yegen, where have lunch in the Rincón de Yegen (excellent). On to Berchules. Mon. Cloudy. Ride up to Trevelez for superb views; on to Capileira for lunch. Claggy afternoon: a quick look at Bubion and on to Lanjarón. Tues. Sunshine. Day rides. Weds. Cloud. To Granada. ThursSat. Rain, clearing on the Saturday. At Granada and on day rides.
Sun. Fair. To Guadix via Quéntar and La Peza. The road is now surfaced: it had been an excellent rough route on Traceys previous visit. We stayed at the Hotel Comercio, which was surprisingly good. Mon. Torrential rain. On to Lacalahorra. Storms. We hide in a bus shelter. Colin suggests going back to Guadix. Tracey has other ideas. We make our way over the Puerto de la Ragua, fingers bitterly cold, until the weather eases off as we cross the pass. Freewheel to Yegen. Find that the Rincón has rooms. Decide to stay there.
Tues. Heavy rain. Day rides. Weds. Sunshine! Back to Canjáyar for lunch, the weather getting drier and hotter as we head east. Then to Almeria. Weds. Back to Blighty.
Traceys comment: Are you finding the hills hard or are you doing this to annoy me?
A week and a half of sunshine and hard cycling. We flew to Lourdes and rode on to a hotel near Argelès Gazost, where we spent 3 nights. Then our transfer day took us laden over the Tourmalet and the Aspin to a gîte at Agos just north of St. Lary-Soulan. From there many day rides are possible, eg. the Azet and the Peyresourde. Tracey, who gets an extra frisson from the futility of her rides, had a special liking for the climb to the Pla dAdet. Finally we returned to the airport via the Aspin.
Another fortnight of dodgy weather. We flew to Oporto and travelled by train to Amarante, from where we rode to our first cottage opposite Peso di Regua. Both the cottage and the manor house which owned it were lovely, but spoilt by the road and a new bridge.
A week later we rode on to our second destination, Torre de Moncorvo. We knew that our cottage was a few hundred metres from the road. We learnt when we saw it that they were vertical metres. It was a very cosy and romantic converted dovecote with superb views. The track which climbed to it was barely ridable. Torre de Moncorvo itself is a pleasant town.
We returned to Oporto by train, stopping for a night at Amarante.
Portugal isnt that good as a cycling destination. We found enough routes to do, but the country has a reputation for dangerous driving. Tracey never stopped complaining about the lousy road surfaces. Colin didnt mind so much, perhaps because he wasnt training for flat 25s. Portugese food is no great shakes, and all the restaurants have televisions permanently on.
The famously dilatory John Mackle eventually tied the knot to his lovely Spanish bride Amaya in Vitoria in the Basque country in July. We couldnt resist making a holiday of it, and got a lot of drizzle and clag while Britain enjoyed a heatwave. We hired a car to carry us, our bikes, our gladrags, and our walking boots.
Vitoria itself is very pleasant, and the sun shone while we were there. After the wedding we drove to the Hotel dArcé at St. Étienne de Baïgorry. We stopped at the way for an enjoyable ride not far from Pamplona: from Anoz over the Puerto de Ulzurrun and back over the Alto de Echauri.
St. Étienne is situated at the foot of the western Pyrenees. The mountains are not high, but the roads are steep and narrow. The views may be good, but we saw little more than clag. Tracey rode several times to the Col dIspéguy.
Our last 3 nights were spent at the parador at Argómaniz. We found a pleasant ride on the coast from Deba to Laida, returning via Ereño where there is a good restaurant. But again we cant comment on the views. We also visited the village of Biasteri/Laguardia, which is old and unspoilt.
On the way back we went to the Guggenheim at Bilbao. Tracey and Colin dont see eye to eye on its aesthetics. Tracey went in, but Colin was unwilling to fund the gigantic imposture which calls itself conceptual art, so he sat outside in the sun reading volume VIII of Kinglakes Invasion of the Crimea.
We spent a sunny week at Orange in early May with Colins parents. Somehow we sneaked our bikes along with us.
The best ride is an ascent of Mt. Ventoux from Bédoin, descending by the gentler and scenic slopes to Sault and making a return along the beautiful Nesque gorge and then through Flasson. An ascent from Malaucène is also worthwhile in good conditions. Beyond Mt. Serein you have views ahead to the Alps 100 miles away if the atmosphere is clear. The high part of the road had lost its tarmac when we were there, and we were forced to dodge barriers.
We spent a couple of hours in the Dentelles de Montmirail, and they would have merited longer, especially if wed had mountain bikes. Theyre steep, spiky, and full of gravel tracks. The famous yellow bike serves as a letter box for a rural house on the road to Ch. Redortier; the photograph on this site is © J. C. Champion.
We also rode along the Ardèche gorge. This is pleasant enough, best ridden from west to east. The road runs along the top. Looking down you get good views, but also the feeling that the canoeists below are having the better deal. So, having never canoed in our lives, we hired canoes one day. It was good entertainment, with the modest rapids adding occasional hilarity. At one point we capsized completely. But although canoeing looks tranquil from a distance, our unpractised muscles ached for a week.
Another week in the sun with Colins parents, this time in late May staying at Vaison la Romaine, a better base for cycling. Having had a glimpse of the Dentelles last time Colin took his mountain bike, though Tracey, a martyr to training schedules, took a road bike.
On the Tuesday Colin made a double ascent of Mt. Ventoux, taking 2 ½ hrs from Malaucène then 3 ½ hrs from Bédoin (with many rests) (100km, 3220m).
On the Thursday he took an extended ride in the Dentelles, which is full of unpaved roads and tracks and which he strongly recommends.
On the Sunday Tracey rode to the Col de Perty, which she describes as very scenic (160km, 2000m). She spent most of the week riding intervals on the Sablet road, but on the Thursday she emulated Colins double ascent of Ventoux (1 hr 45' then 1 hr 50'.)
Dentelles. The best map is the IGN 1:25000 sheet 3040 ET. Colins route went behind the château at Vaison to the junctions at 6655 49001 and 6655 48987 and thence to le Crestet (which is pretty). From here he went past the contemporary art gallery to 6654 48957 and took a detour to la Verrière. Returning to the previous junction he rode to 6655 48952 then along to 6642 48939, where he climbed to the left to 6645 48936 and descended the rough track to 6651 48933 and thence by a zigzagging road to Suzette, where he had lunch and the eponymous crêpe.
He then climbed back to 6654 48930 and contoured round to the hamlet of Château Neuf Redortier, dropping down to see the yellow bike at 664500 4893060 and continuing to a right turn at 6649 48926. Here he climbed to a col at 6638 48926, dropping down on the other side to 6632 48919 where a pleasant track popular with walkers leads under the Dentelles Sarrasines to the Col du Cayron. From here you must find another way back.