To Valencia - Vuelta a Iberia - CycleBlaze

December 10, 2019

To Valencia

Bicycles and Public transportation in Iberia

So after almost three months here, we can report a bit on our experience trying to get around on public transportation with unenclosed bicycles.  We began with the understanding that requirements vary by region and type of train, but as a rule unbagged bicycles are generally accepted on local trains.  If you have a tour of your own in mind here, considering our experience might come in handy.  Or not.

We took public transportation four times:

  • From Braga, Portugal to Vigo, Spain.  We attempted first to go by train, but were told this was not possible in Braga without bagging the bikes first.  The bus took them though, without question but at an extra charge.  We just threw them in the baggage bay, and they arrived safely.
  • From Vigo to Ponferrada.  Trains run this line often throughout the day, but there was only one or perhaps two that accepted unbagged bicycles.  We just rolled them on.  Effortless.
  • From Córdoba to Málaga. Trains, no; bus, si.  We rode ALSA, threw the bikes in the hold, and enjoyed a comfortable ride.  
  • From Murcia to Valencia. Trains, yes and no.  They’ll take unbagged bikes on the regional line, if the train has baggage storage.   But since it doesn’t, they won’t.  Bus, no and yes.  They won’t take them unbagged (even though this is ALSA, the same company we rode from Córdoba); but they will sell you very nice bags for only 12 euros apiece - less than the price of the ticket, and much cheaper than renting a car.

So, that’s what we did.  I hate buying two large plastic bags for a one way journey, but they worked quite well - much better than the too small ones we picked up in Taiwan last winter.  Our Bike Fridays fit easily into them as long as we folded down the seat mast and either pulled the handlebar stem or removed the handlebars.  And, the bags seem lightweight and durable enough that we might find another use for them sometime.  We’ll bring them home with us.

In summary, we always found a solution.  Easy or not though, there’s always some stress involved and we’d really much rather bike than do this unless there’s a really good reason.  I wish we’d had the time left to just bike to Valencia, but at our pace we would have needed another four days.

Two Bike Fridays, well concealed.
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There was just enough space left on the bench for her to slide in next to my bike, after flashing me an impish smile.
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In Valencia

The ride was uneventful, but surprisingly warm.  I slept through half of it, but when awake I looked out to see what we were missing by not biking, and it looked like we would have enjoyed the ride.  The country in general seems similar to the basin we crossed biking to Murcia yesterday: broad agricultural valleys separated all around by rugged, dramatic ranges and peaks.  And oranges: acre after acre after acre of oranges.

Malcom and Barret hotel, our home for the next two nights, is about three miles from the bus station.  We mapped to it with our phone, and were led along an almost unbroken route of bicycle lanes that brought us right to the door of our hotel.  I think we had a total of two blocks where we just rode on the street.

Valencia looks like an amazing city for bicycling.  There are bike lanes going everywhere, and they’re all identified on the city map we were given at check in.  They’re well used, by bicycles and scooters.  And, it’s flat - I don’t see anything approaching a hill in the heart of the city.  I was discussing this with Sveta, the hotel manager, and she confirmed that it’s a great biking city.  Most of her hotel staff bike to work, and the hotel has a nice stable of loaner bikes in the basement that guests can use  I think free of charge.  She says it’s a much easier way to get around town than by a car, and I believe it.

Our hotel, Malcom and Barret, stands here on the corner with bike lanes fronting both sides. It looks like in Valencia you’re never too far from a bike lane.
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The entryway of the hotel.
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Part of the large stable of loaner bikes available at Malcom and Barret Hotel. They look fun, and sort of classy.
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Attentive readers with good memories will recall the trouble we had shipping our suitcases from Santiago to Valencia at the start of the tour.  We were booked here at Malcom and Barret, who had agreed to receive and hold our suitcases for three months until we arrived.  Through a mixup at the receiving room though, the hotel rejected delivery and they were sent back to Santiago.  It cost us something like 160 euros to send them only to have them returned, which was irksome or worse.

We cancelled our reservation, found another hotel instead, and shipped them there.  A few days later after we’d resolved to just put it out of our minds we heard from Sveta, the hotel manager.  She had heard about the incident, took full responsibility for the error, and wanted to make amends.  She offered to pay us for the shipping costs, but after some discussion about how to manage the transaction we proposed staying two more days in Valencia at her hotel as compensation.  Which is why we’re here in this city for five days, an unusually long stay for us at the end of the tour.

The main thing out of all this though is that I want to recognize Sveta for her integrity.  She could just as easily have let the incident pass by.  It seems obvious that you should just own up and do the right thing, but so often that doesn’t happen.

And, incidentally, it’s a very nice and reasonably priced hotel.  You might consider it.

With Sveta, the manager of Malcom and Barret Hotel, Valencia.
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Jen GrumbyVery kind of her to compensate you for the receiving mishap.

Glad you ended up getting a couple nights there .. looks like a cool place!
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9 months ago

Moving on

Well, we’re not really moving on yet of course.  We’ve still got four full days here and I’m sure bicycling will occur.  And then we’ve got a ghastly long flight back to America at the end, including a 16 hour stopover in Istanbul.  So don’t close the book quite yet because there are still a few chapters left to write.

I’ve heard some concerns about the approaching end of the tour though, and Patrick in particular is anxious about how he’s going to spend his cold, wet Vancouver mornings if he can’t imagine himself over here in biking Nirvana.  So perhaps it’s not too soon to tip our hand and reveal what’s next for us.  We can’t hope to find anything quite like this when we get back stateside, but two months in the dry, sunny southwest still sounds very good to us.  Join us next week when we touch down in San Diego!

Ride stats today: 4 miles, 0’; for the tour: 2,342 miles, 98,500’

Today's ride: 4 miles (6 km)
Total: 2,342 miles (3,769 km)

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Patrick O'HaraCongratulations Scott and Rachel on another wonderful tour! Thanks for sharing your photos, video (Rachel) and your always entertaining and informative (and well-written) experiences. It may be wet and cold in Vancouver, but your daily journal added warmth and happiness to our days, as well as a burning pang in our stomachs to return to Europe next summer. You are both an inspiration. Enjoy your time off the bikes.
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9 months ago
Jen GrumbyYes! What Patrick said. I've loved the blog & videos of a mostly warm tour on cold Colorado winter mornings.

But what I liked best was the low presence of automobiles in your photos, videos, and descriptions .. and the incredible beauty of almost everywhere that you rode!

This region will definitely be on our list of possibilities for an international tour.

Thanks for the excellent and entertaining documentation!
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9 months ago