In these Corona virus times, one of the big problems for small travel businesses like ours is the lack of confidence that uncertainty brings. Some of our new clients were concerned about booking with a "young" company, so we asked the original founder to tell you all about the very beginning - way back in 1986!
Written by Maggie Deffense
Founder of Cycling Portugal, mentor and tour writer for Cycling Rentals & Cycling Centuries Bike Tours
This time of the year always makes me remember CTTC's - or as it was known then, CYCLE PORTUGAL's - very first tour which began on Oct 16, 1986.
The date is burned into my memory for more than just sentimental reasons. First of all, we had no real experience with cycling tours (we just knew it was a marvelous idea) and we were exhausted from working so hard all year to find the perfect bike routes, picnic sites, hotels, restaurants and so on.
No one else, that we knew of, had ever designed a bike tour in Portugal, or anywhere else for that matter.
We had no one to copy (a grand old tradition in the bike-touring world). It was hard to decide in which region to do our inaugural tour, but in the end we settled on the Minho province in the north as we felt it was the most magical and "olde worlde".
And, we knew everyone loved "olde worlde". So we plotted our route through picturesque villages, lush vineyards and fairytale castles.
I designed the route maps which had more adjectives about the scenery than actual directions.
We planned to picnic almost everyday so that was an added treat for our clients.
The tour group turned out to be a large one, as the office in the US had decided to sell it for a special price, being the inaugural tour and all.
I almost fainted when I walked into the hotel lobby that first morning. There seemed to be hundreds of eager cyclists.
To make matters truly complicated, that was the year a terrible freak hurricane hit Europe from southern England to, yes, you got it, northern Portugal.
For several days the weather was just blustery and rainy but the group bravely soldiered on - sodden picnics and all.
They were a jolly forgiving bunch who meshed together perfectly and decided that no matter what they were going to have a fabulous time.
God really does answer desperate prayers.
The people of the Minho couldn't have been more wonderful, as well.
In the various manor houses we stayed in, some of the owners organized programs with folklore dancing and music and others wine-tastings and tours of the wet vineyards.
The people in the little villages thought we must have been a racing team, albeit an odd one, with so many women and gray haired participants. But, what the hey, they energetically cheered us on and wished us well anyway!
On the last day's ride the heavens opened up and the wind took a deep breath and blew 2 bicycles off our roof rack. After retrieving them, we were the last vehicle allowed on the bridge, over the Lima River and into Viana do Castelo, before it closed.
Going out to dinner that night, we had to hitch up our skirts and pants legs and wade through the water in the hotel lobby and then through the driving rain to our cozy restaurant. By then, the worst had died down and we had a fabulous night toasting the fact that we'd all made it through.
The tour turned out to be a thundering success and many of our fearless group came back for seconds ...and thirds and fourths. Whew!
Cycling Rentals is now a "Clean & Safe" certified business! We are following the strict Health & Safety guidelines issued by the National Health & Tourism Institutes of Portugal. What does this mean for you if you plan on cycling with us?
Cycling Rentals is doing everything to ensure your experience is not only fun and unforgettable, but also clean and safe from Corona-virus. Specifically we are following the Clean & Safe protocol established by the Tourism Institute of Portugal:
Ou staff have received specific information and / or training on:
The Coronavirus has hit everyone hard, but as a genius once said: Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.
People are like bicycles. They can keep their balance only as long as they keep moving, and that is we what we want to do at Cycling-Rentals. You can help us! And to show our appreciation, we are making the following unique offers for bookings for next year:
Book any 2021 cycling tour holiday before July 30th this year and get 25% off for each rider.
Book any 2021 bicycle rental before July 30th this year and get 15% off for each rider.
You can see the full details of these offers right here, and as always reach out to us if you have any questions!
Stay safe, stay healthy and keep moving!
Is Coronavirus lock-down keeping you from your epic bicycle touring journeys? Do you have an exciting tale to tell of your two wheeled journeys? Share your inspiring experience with the world right here!
Some of the best bike touring stories are not all about the bike or even the ride, but about the people you meet along the way, and the experiences you have, the emotions you feel and the memories you forge!
A classic bike tour that never fails to elicit all of the above is of course the epic Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route, but some of my own unforgettable rides have been much closer to home. How about you?
Below are a few of my favourite and most inspirational bike tour stories, that simply put the joy of pedaling in me. But we would love to hear about your most memorable experiences on a bicycle!
Written by Martin Thompson
Martin is co-founder at Cycling Rentals; a long time cyclist, mountain bike lover, environmentalist, full time eater & part time world traveler.
Along the Camino Frances, after the legendary stop of O Cebreiro, on a windswept crest, you’ll come across an impressive statue of a medieval pilgrim battling the elements. This is the poster child of the medieval pilgrim, San Roque, the Patron Saint of Plagues, and a perhaps a saint for our times?
San Roque was born about 1295 in Montpellier, France, the son of the governor. Nothing is known of his childhood except that it was privileged and that he lost both parents by the age of twenty. Whereupon, he joined the Franciscan Order and distributed his fortune among the poor.
He then went on pilgrimage to Rome and there cared for the victims of the plague that was taking its toll on Italy. He devoted himself to the plague-stricken, curing them with the sign of the cross. He next visited Cesena and other neighboring cities before going on to Rome. Everywhere the terrible scourge disappeared before his miraculous power.
Eventually, he caught the plague himself, while ministering to the sick, and was expelled from the town. Ill and starving, he was saved when a hunting dog found him and brought him bread every day.
He recovered and decided to devote himself to caring for the sick. He, also, eventually became the patron saint of dogs, as well. San Roque was reputed to have performed many miracles of healing throughout his life... and after his death!
San Roque’s intercession was called upon when a plague struck Germany in the 15th century. “In 1414, during the Council of Constance, the plague having broken out in that city, the Fathers of the Council ordered public prayers and processions in honor of the saint, and immediately the plague ceased.
Time and time again he was invoked during various medieval plagues and eventually became “The Patron Saint Against Plagues”.
At a time when we are all feeling the direct or indirect impact of the Coronavirus pandemic, and few if any, pilgrims are walking or cycling the Camino de Santiago, perhaps it feels like a good time to remember the brave example he set 700 years ago?
Written by Margaret Jeffries
Founder of Cycling Centuries bike tours, world traveler and Iberian travel consultant.
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