September 2007 - Cycling from Santander/Spain to Porto/Portugal
After having learned Spanish for almost two years at Bonn public university, it was time to try it out practically. On the 9th Bonner Radreisemesse we heard about cycling tours in Northern Spain for the first time, and some research in the internet convinced us that this could be a great trip. In contrast to the rest of Spain, the north is very green with moderate temperatures in the summer. For some reason that we cannot record anymore, we decided to take a departure flight back to Germany from Porto (Portugal) and not from Santiago de Compostella. We didn't regret this at all and enjoyed the northern part of Portugal at least as much as Galicia, Asturia or Cantabria in Spain.
Nowadays northern Spain is getting more and more popular because of the Camino de Santiago. We planned our route indenpendent of the caminos (there is a main camino and several smaller ones). Sometimes we saw signs of the pilgrim route, sometimes one or two pilgrims, but really there wasn't much about it - until we hit the main route about 30km outside Santiago de Compostella: There were hundreds of pilgrims of nearly every age... Mostly on foot, but also a group of Americans on horses and some others cycling. We left the road after a few kilometers and enjoyed the sudden lonesomeness. Just a few cars and us.
The outward flight with Ryanair from Frankfurt-Hahn to Santander departed on September 2, 2008. The return flight was on September 22 from Porto to Stuttgart with TUIFly to Stuttgart where we visited our little nephew Jonas. This allowed us 19 complete days cycling.
The weather was excellent! Literally speaking, we had the wind behind us. In this area, usually the wind blows from the atlantique to the east, but luckily all my hopes became true and we had following winds. However, you can probably not expect this if you ever do the same trip.
The temperatures were also very comfortable. Warm, but not too warm. While it was a bit too cold for a swim at the northern coast (in Cantabria and Asturia), we had a perfect hour :-) on the beach in Cambados (Rias Bajas, Spain) and in Motosinhos near Porto (Portugal). The rain god was out of office except the day when we crossed the border from Spain to Portugal - when he returned with thunder and lightening. We were soacked through, but dried up quickly due to the warm temperatures. One cannot complain at all.
WetterOnline offers a service to research past temperatures and rain for Sanatander, La Coruna and Porto. Click on "Rückblick". Be aware, it is all in German. :-(
Don't believe your guidebook if it says that the Spanish people are generally capable of English. This may be true for younger persons, but we often met owners of agriturismi that were only able to speak Spanish (=Castellano) or their local language (Gallego in Galicia). Hence it proved definitely helpful to know a bit of Spanish though I should have studied much harder.
In Portugal the situation was different. To our surprise, it was no problem at all to get along with English. We haven't investigated the reasons, but one factor is probably that Portugal is a much smaller country than Spain and hence much more dependent on international relationships.