Backstories: The Algarve

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Penned by Kieran Andrews

A note on our series of backstories:

We like riding with clients, we really do. We love being with our customers as they experience things for the first time. If we are doing our jobs well, our clients never even think about the fact that there was once a first time for us as well.  

I will come straight out and say it, I absolutely love the "pre-trip" part of guiding. Sometimes the idea for a trip evolves from a relaxing summer holiday and other times a week long itinerary needs to be ironed out in only 3 days. We find the routes, eat at the restaurants, wander the villages and collapse into the hotel beds… and all the while we debate the merits of every choice we make. We do this so that you don't have to.  

As no client will ever share these experiences with us, we will share our stories with you right here.

After many, many years leading trips in Mallorca, we found ourselves wondering if there weren’t other destinations that might be equally as idyllic for cycling trips during the spring and fall. The Portuguese Algarve had been on my radar for some time so I set myself the task of convincing my lovely partner that she and I should take our next holiday there.  

Warm and dry in the spring and fall? Check. Quiet, winding roads and variety of terrain? Check. These things we knew in advance, but what we needed to find out was whether we would like the feel of the place; if we would be proud to bring our guests there.       

Finding the coast roads very busy, we did our best to find quiet routes into the mountains.  Every small route ended up pushing us toward the coast. If you have ever wondered where the sea salt on your dining table comes from, I can now tell you!  I can also tell you that it is brutal on your cycling equipment and not much fun to ride on. But we didn’t let this get us down too much. We focused on finding the best of the busier coast roads and set off toward the mountains.  

I am going to allow myself the smallest of tangents here and say that I really love mountain culture. Throughout the world the people who live in the mountains have created unique and magical places as they adapted to these harsh but beautiful environments… except in southern Portugal. Everyone seems to have just upped and moved to the coast.  Don’t get me wrong, the roads were nice and the hills beautiful but it seems that the place was abandoned. Not only did we have a hard time finding what we would call culture, but we also had a hard time finding enough food and water for long rides.

Sadly, years of austerity have been hard on Portugal. A beautiful country it remains, but garbage pick-up seems to be a thing of the past and the graffiti everywhere speaks to the social decay that seems to be a constant undercurrent.

One of the things we pride ourselves on is finding vibrant culture paired with the quietest, most beautiful routes available. In this case we couldn’t see ourselves bringing clients here.  Yup, we had a nice holiday but we have never brought clients to the Algarve. That said, we learned something important and added more Mallorca dates to our travel season.