Bike tour of Spain with BikeToursDirect


Some friends suggested the Spanish Balearic island of Mallorca (Majorca) for a bicycle tour, and in a Web search BikeToursDirect (1638 Berkley Circle, Chattanooga, TN 37405; 877/462-2423, www.biketoursdirect.com) had what looked like the perfect option: a 7-night, self-guided tour, about 30 miles per day on a bicycle, for $718 per person (land only).

We booked the trip for April 20-30, ’06, including an extension of one day before and two days after the tour for an additional $425 for both of us. Our total for the tour and extra days was $1,861. Because we were bringing our own bicycles, that amount did not include the rental fee for bikes ($75 each per week), but it did include a full breakfast and dinner each day, including the extra days.

Ann Abeles passes a picturesque church in the countryside near Banda Azul, Mallorca.

There are no direct flights from the Washington, D.C., area to Palma, Mallorca, so, after checking various flight-and-ferry combinations, we used a travel agent, Dan Travel, Inc. (Bethesda, MD; 800/775-4922), to book the round trip via British Air to Heathrow and via Spanair to Palma de Mallorca, Balearic Islands, Spain, for a total of $780 for both of us.

By having our flights booked on one ticket, our luggage could be booked through and we only had to pick up boarding passes at Flight Connections in Heathrow rather than go through ticketing again.

Additional trip expenses included $108 for parking at Dulles and about $300 for alcoholic beverages, lunches, entrance fees, etc.

On Mallorca, the tour was operated by Eurobike (Obertrum, Austria; phone +43 [0] 6219 7444 or visit www.eurobike.at) and went extremely well. There were 29 of us, all German, Austrian or Swiss except for my husband, Fred, and me.

Because we were the only English-speaking couple, the tour guide, Stefan Lindemann, arranged to meet with us a day early to go over the general tour materials as well as the specific maps and cue sheets for each day’s ride. The maps gave us a good overview of the route we would follow, and the cue sheets were very detailed. In addition, he told us that all of the turns along the route were marked with a distinctive posted or painted arrow indicating the correct way.

Everyone was booked into the same starting hotel on Friday, and there was a general orientation and bike fitting beginning at 9 on Saturday morning. Because we both speak a little German, we also attended the general orientation, giving us a chance to meet our fellow riders. Several were surprised to see Americans on the tour and wondered how we had discovered it (on the Web).

Each day, we left our luggage at the front desk to be delivered to our next hotel, then we were free to ride at our own pace. Stefan also arranged a meeting point for each day, where riders could meet with him if they needed some assistance.

Ann biking along the old wall of Alcudia, Mallorca.

Fred and I rode our Dahon folding bikes, but the others used the rental bikes, which were 21-speed hybrid-type bicycles — very adequate for the occasional cobblestone path or gravel trail.

The route began with an easy 5-mile ride along the beachfront promenade in Can Pastilla, a suburb of Palma, and then turned inland past farm fields and olive groves before returning to the coast for a view of one of the watch towers built by early inhabitants of the island, the Talaiot.

We continued on a zig-zag route past windmills and salt lakes and on to our hotel, Club Colonia de Sant Jordi, in San Jordi. We felt quite special as we were greeted with flowers and complimentary champagne on our way into the sumptuous evening buffet. I commented to one of the other bikers that this was like being on a cruise but with better activities.

Other highlights included biking through the Botanicactus, a botanical garden near Ses Salinas with one of Spain’s largest cactus collections; Petra, the birthplace of Father Junipero Serra, founder of San Francisco, and the chance to bike through a large bird refuge, S’Albufera de Mallorca Natural Park.

One day, we had a beautiful ride past orange groves and fields of poppies and daisies as we biked inland to Inca. There we loaded our bikes onto a trailer and were bused into the mountains to the monastery at Lluc. Our bus passed large numbers of cyclists biking up the mountain to the monastery. These mountains are a favorite training area for serious cyclists, including those training for the Tour de France.

After touring the grounds and museums, we were taken through the tunnel near the summit on the road to Soller. At that point, we got back on our bicycles and biked down the mountain, stopping at Fornalutx for a fabulous paella dinner and then on to Hotel Marina in Porto Soller for the night.

From Soller, we boarded the historic train Red Rocket back to Palma, about an hour’s ride. In Palma we were met by a guide who gave us a tour of some of the high points, including the Catedral de Mallorca. This huge cathedral was first started in 1300 following the conquest of the Moors. It was built on the site of an earlier mosque and was finally completed about 1900. The interior, especially the main altar area, was extensively remodeled by the Spanish artist Antoni Gaudí in 1904-1914. The huge rose window is one of the world’s largest.

We were happy to have more time to see Palma. We took the bus into the Old City and toured museums, the Arab Baths (the only remaining structures from the Moorish era) and a little gem, the Casa Museo J. Torrents Lladó, a wonderful artist (1946-1993) from Mallorca.

On our last day we pedaled back into Palma and spent the day biking around the Old City, enjoying the labyrinthine streets and interesting sites. Finally, we headed back to the hotel and packed away our bicycles. We had time to relax over coffee along the strand, watching the surf sailors fly with the wind across the bay.

We both felt that this had been a wonderful and well-planned bicycle adventure.

ANNE ABELES

Frederick, MD