Welcome to Alcala de Henares, just outside Madrid! This is not just a beautiful little town outside Spain's capital, it is the town where Miguel de Cervantes was born and it is also a Unesco World heritage site! And moreover it's not far from the airport! Definitely the perfect place to start this tour that will take us from the heart of modern Spain to the northern part of the Iberian Peninsula, through beautiful cities and remote countryside. An immense number of higllights and attractions is awaiting us along the St. James Way! What else can I write? Stay tuned!!!
Gentlemen (and women!), start your engines! A few kilometres after leaving Alcala de Henares, we entered a nice backroad... and barely saw any cars until almost the end of the day! We rode through the "Sierra del Robledal" and stopped for lunch in the tiny village of Campillejo with its typical houses made with the dark rocks of the area. When we got there, the restaurant was still closed, so we had to wait until 1: 30 pm to enter and took the chance to take a few pictures around. And, while we were eating... rain started pouring down! But we made it, just a little bit late!
The weather forecast was right, and the weather today could not have been better while we enjoyed a fantastic ride through the Reserva Nacional de Cameros and through Spain's most famous and best wine-growing area - La Rioja! We finally reached Pamplona, this beautiful and very lively town on St. James Way. Pamplona is famous for its annual Sanfermines from July 6th to 14th, which is held in honor of the Patron Saint Firmin from Amiens. During the procession, people are all dressed in white and wear red scarves. The biggest attraction of the Sanfermines are the stampedes (spanish: encierros) that take place every morning through the streets connecting the stables at the edge of the city centre with the bullfighting arena.
No packing today! Since we are spending two nights in Pamplona, today we went for a ride to San Sebastian, the wonderful town on the northern coast of Spain, and came back after lunch. We could have used the tiny backroads of the region, but we decided to take it easy, left the hotel at 10 am and reached San Sebastian in time for a nice walk and a tasty lunch! Back in Pamplona in time for a rest and today we had dinner out!!
Today we enjoyed a relaxed ride over rolling hills and along golden cornfields, and to reach Santo Domigo de la Calzada we had to pass again through the Rioja wine region... not bad at all! Many little villages, no traffic and perfect weather made our day! We reached our destination in time for going on a walk through the centre (full of pilgrims!) and also visit the beautiful cathedral. Well, since dinner starts in Spain at 8:30 and our hotel is located in the centre, we had a lot of time for visiting the town!
What a long a beautiful ride! We left Santo Domingo under a cloudy sky and we started heading westwards to the region of the Ebro, Spain's longest river! The weather became better and we enjoied riding hundreds of sweepers while hopping from one picture stop to another! And today there was also a surprise, Juri had prepared a delicious picnic by the Ebro river! What a fabulous spot! After lunch there were two options, a short ride to the hotel and a long one... and we took the second option! The landscape quickly changed, the road became even more twisty and it looked like being on the Alps! Some mist and some wet asphalt too, so we took it easy until we reached our destination for today!
Today a route of around 260 kilometres was planned, but as we reached the intersection to start the loop around the "Picos de Europa" mountains, it started raining and a quick look at the weather forecast was not encouraging us, so we decided to do a shortcut and reach Leon (where at the same time the sun was shining!) in time for lunch and to have a lot of time to visit this beautiful city and its amazing cathedral, a stunning example of Spanish Gothic Architecture!
A shorter but very nice ride today! We left Leon a little bit later than usual to enjoy the city a little more... and also because here on sunday the breakfast starts later! Anyway we managed to reach the little village of Villafranca del Bierzo in time for a walk. This village was, despite of its size, an important stop on St. James' way because pilgrims who were too weak to walk until Santiago de Compostela could get their absolution here. But since we travel by morotcycle, no excuses... we have to reach Santiago!
Another beautiful ride today! Chilly in the morning, as usually in these days, but then slowly the temperature raised. We entered the region Galicia from its highest point in the Sierra de las Cabreras, an area famous for the Slate mining (Spain is nowadays the biggest producer of this kind of stone) and then reached the hydroelectric plant of Barrio, where we enjoyed a picnic with a view! Another stop in Castro Caldelas for a coffee break and then we finally reached our destination riding in the area of the river Sil, through forests and wineyards. Simply amazing! And at the end of the day the biggest highlight was the place where we are sleeping tonight... our hotel is located in an old monastery, what an incredible place!
Today we finally reached Santiago de Compostela, the final destination and the big goal of each pilgrim on the St. James Way. (Well, nowadays it's not only pilgrims doing the long walk!) The day started with a nice and tricky ride along the canyon of river Sil, with its small villages and steep wineyards. Then, after the coffee break and especially after lunch, the landscape became more and more flat and the traffic increased... Santiago was not far! Our hotel is located right next to the Cathedral, so we got a lot of time to explore the town before meeting again for lunch. And tomorrow it's a rest day, what are we going to do? Stay tuned!
A cloudy and foggy morning... so what do we do today? Of course we ride! And we also had quite a good luck, the rain was not too heavy and, as we reached the ancient "end of the World" in Cape Finisterre, the sun came out!!! Very fascinating seeing the sun shine again on the Atlantic ocean! After many pictures, we had a nice lunch by the port of Finisterre and then we finally headed back to Santiago in time for another walk through the old town or simply to buy souvenirs!
Our ride today took us into Portugal after heading southwards on the highway from Santiago to Vigo. Soon after entering this country (and changing time-zone!), we found ourselves in the beautiful Parque Nacional Serra de Peneda-Gerês, riding through mountains and forests, and we stopped for some pictures at the Santuário de Nossa Senhora da Peneda. A nice lunch in Sojao was really needed after hundreds of curves! Soon after, we entered Spain again and quickly reached Verin, where our hotel is located next to the old castle!
Another loop into Portugal, but this time the Sun was shining! Leaving Verin, we headed southwards and soon left Spain, then the wonderful sweepers of the road N103 were cuddling us until we reached Braganca with its beautiful walled medieval city centre, where we also had lunch in a great spot! After lunch, the best way to digest was to face more than 50 kilometres of curves before we finally entered Spain again, where the landscape became more flat and we could give gas on the highway to reach Salamanca in time for a walk through its beautiful centre!
Also this wonderful tour has come to an end! What a beautiful itinerary, nature, art, history... two weeks full of highlights! Today we started a little bit later because during the weekend the breakfast in the hotels starts at 8 am, and we headed to Avila to admire its magnificent medieval city walls while sipping a coffee. Then we reached El Escorial, the biggest reinassance building in the world (that is monastery, royal palace, museum... and much more!), but we admired it only from the outside because to visit it people need one full day! From there, straight to the hotel to relax a bit before dinner!
Barbara, Thomas, Kalypso, George and Matt, thank you for two beautiful weeks together, and see you hopefully soon on another tour!
Domenico and Juri