Gijon, Salamanca and Caceres from Poole by ferry and electric bike
John and Janet take a wonderful trip - warning, content may provoke envy!
But we're just so happy to hear about this fabulous trip! Read Janet's account below, then plan your own...
This is the helpful hint version of our trip so first a little background info to set the scene.
John is 77 and I am 65. We bought Juicy Classic Click bikes in April. John has a 16 amp battery as after 3 replacement hips (yes 3!) and with a new knee pending he doesn't want to pedal much. I like to pedal but not to sweat over it and have a 10 amp battery. John wins the downhills and I win the uphills. We have a 2.5 litre VW campervan with one of those excellent but horribly expensive Thule bike racks that fits on the towball. We were away 26 nights May/June staying mainly in ACSI low season campsites. We were motivated by the new ferry route that opened this year – Poole to Gijon. (Gijon – pronounced Xixon - Gheehon - is about 176 km west of Santander) the new route cost about £200 less than its traditional competitor so we decided to go for it. Our Juicy bikes took on the hills and the cobbled roads with ease, the only adjustment needed was to tighten up the bike stands.
Gijon is the largest city in Asturias and a city of two distinct parts. A large port, industrial area and lots of those Spanish blocks of flats but also two enormous proper holiday beaches separated by the attractive old town. Here comes the best bit, a dedicated cycleway along the front at least 7km long and they were still working on it while we were there. We stayed in the 2*camping Gijon campsite overnight (very good and very helpful) at the far end from the port. It has a fantastic view and is really close to the cycle way. For motorhomes there is loads of overnight parking to be found but we need to charge our batteries....
Salamanca (330 km from Gijon on motorway) is right on the tourist route but what is not so well known is that it has miles of dedicated cycleway.In one place bikes had right of way over traffic – now that's a first! You can download the map but here is some info you won't find on the internet. Lots of choice of campsite but Camping Don Quixote (excellent) seemed to be nearest the city, alongside the river and convenient for cycling. The track from the site we decided really was too rough for the first few km so we found a better way on tarmac roads. We locked up our bikes outside the cathedrals and they were still there when we came out again. Keep your eyes peeled and you will find a Lidl about 500 metres from the Roman bridge and the cycle way so we didn't have to use the van at all.
Caceres (220 km on motorway) is not on the main tourist drag but well worth seeing. The centre is fascinating. It is medieval and very Moorish with mainly cobbles and some very narrow steep streets. It was definitely not cycle friendly in the old city but only a euro on the bus. The campsite is the only one we have stayed in where every pitch has its own personal mini toilet and shower block. Impressive! There are cycleways we saw in the distance but not easily accessed from the campsite and we didn't explore them as there are some very busy main roads .
Lourical (Portugal) is about 320km from Caceres but a slow journey. Some motorway but there's a lot of mountain between Spain and Portugal. Lovely countryside when you reach the border but slow travel. A great site here and the sea is within cycling distance. We cycled to the “Whale bone “ beach and found a cycleway for the last 8km. Lots of small roads to explore with only one climb which is down to the town. Interesting popular picnic area nearby too. Amazing market here every Sunday and very good butcher in the square (open Sundays). We now explored inland Portugal, it is beautiful but really mountainous so I won't include that bit.
Vila Cha is about 180 km from Lourical and north of Porto. It is a quaint fishing village and a rabbit warren of cobbled streets. The campsite is small and friendly but disappointing as pitches are in serried ranks. We had been told about the nearby Mindelo bird nature reserve – with 32 km of cycleway. Now that sounds good and so it would have been had we found it! We set off following the coast line and missed the cycleway by about 50 metres. Fifteen km later, wet through and cobbled out we saw the cycleway by the roundabout on the outskirts of Vila Cha. So this is one for someone else to explore!
Praia de Ancora is about 70km further north and the ACSI campsite just outside the town is a real bargain at 10 euros a night. Lovely riverside site with bar/snackbar/meals, great facilities and loads of space. The owner here is a cyclist. He showed off his Collindale racing bike, is in his fifties and still racing. Everywhere we go lots of people comment on our bikes.. We do see quite a lot of cyclists on the road but they are mainly young fit fellas who overtake us (fraid so!) or locals who are trundling along on ancient machines. Where Praia de Ancora really scores is that it has a cycleway all along the coast to Caminha. There is a tourist office on the front with full info and a map but you don't really need it. When you get to the railway bridge cross over and rejoin on the other side.
Muros is 200km away and is in Galicia Spain. It is a place I have wanted to visit for some time and it did not disappoint. The campsite is a couple of km out of town but we have a pitch close to the beach and at night we can hear the waves gently breaking on the beach. Wonderful. A fishing town of character and a popular resort Muros now has a small yacht marina. There is no dedicated cycleway but the paseo (walkway) is very wide with plenty of room for cyclists. It extends a few km to the next village. There is also a shorter cycleway at the entrance to the campsite which goes along the beach in the opposite direction to the next village. This is a very sheltered area as it faces south and is protected by the peninsulas. Very pretty at night with lights across the bay and fishing boats at work. We complete the circle and travel back to Gijon. Total Juicy bike miles travelled on holiday – 350 miles!
Take a photo of yourselves with your bikes as proof of ownership and keep it on your phone.
The boat takes 25 hours but cabins have electricity (continental 2 pin) so you can run your laptop.
Many campsites abroad have only 6amps – fine for battery charging
We use an induction hob (with an extension lead to cook outside) and it will work ok on 6amps .
Signposts in Portugal are not very good.
Many Portuguese roads are cobbled. If you take a short cut, be prepared.
Do research the Portuguese law with regard to bike racks, Fiamma warning boards on bike racks are compulsory in Portugal.
Few Portuguese speak English but you can get by in French. They don't like you to speak Spanish.
Portuguese motorways have a new toll system – research it!
There are a few ecopistas. Railways converted to cycleways and some of them are quite long.
If you have enjoyed reading this then you may like to read about John and Janet's adventures along the way, the dash to St Nazaire, the grass fire at a campsite and the family of geese who kept them on their toes.
You will find it on the Ucycle website (where they bought their Juicy bikes) see this link: Motorhome touring and electric bikes.