We have just landed back in London after what has been a very exciting recce for the Moloko Portugal Escape. Think forest summits, postcard shorelines, quiet roads stretching out into the rural countryside, colourful Portuguese towns and water sports galore!
Day 1: Arriving in Viana
We arrive at the hotel and are immediately blown away. The warm and stylish decor makes us feel at home within minutes, and we straight away start planning our stay to ensure we make the most of the pool, spa and varied classes.
After unpacking our bags we head down to the restaurant for lunch and enjoy seasonal local food freshly prepared for us: we both have the catch of the day, followed by homemade passionfruit ice cream.
Day 2: MTB taster
After a delicious breakfast of tasty fruits and Portuguese treats, we hit the gravel trails on our E-MTB with our amiga Sophia. Our first stop is the Basilica Santa Lucia, where we have our photo taken on film by Miguel. At 93, he's still the official town photographer, with every family in Viana having had their photograph taken by this iconic man.
Then, Sophia takes us on some more technical trails just so we can have a feel for what MTB riding is like. It's really fun, although we're definitely out of our comfort zones! So quickly ask to get back onto the easy trails where we can focus more on the views than on the rocky descents.
The cutest coffee stop awaits us nestled on the river bank: we enjoy an espresso & pastel de nata on a colourful picnic set and then are off again
We descend down to the coast via the famous Camino de Santiago, shouting Bomdia to all the pilgrims walking this iconic route. The last 10km of the ride are simply stunning: nothing beats cycling along to the sound of the waves breaking on the beach.
Today was epic. We loved how accessible these bikes were and how they can enable people of different abilities to ride together and have fun.
Nonetheless, we're excited about getting back on our road bikes tomorrow to see what roads Portugal has to offer.
Day 3: Local Gran Fondo to Caminha via road 301
We've been invited to join the local cycling club on their weekend ride out to the Spanish border. There's no GPX , so you have to just follow the ride leader who picks a route he likes!
The ride did not disappoint: steady climbs with lovely views, quaint villages, a sneak peek of Spain and a stop in beautiful Caminha, before cycling along the rugged coastline back to Viana.
Day 4: Self-Care
58km | 570m elevation
The success of a good recce is to try everything on offer, so today we're surfing!
After a quick (but big) breakfast, we hit the beach which is beaming with morning light. We squeeze into our wetsuits and then walk over to meet our instructor Fernando, who helps us both catch some baby waves. As the morning progresses we both get more confident and so paddle out a bit further to catch some bigger waves.
We're feeling super hungry after our morning in the sea, so we devour lunch at the hotel (octopus for me and risotto for Paul) before treating ourselves to a sports massage. The rest of the afternoon is spent chilling by the pool with coffee & ice cream, planning tomorrow's ride and enjoying some down time.
Day 5: Cerquido Madness
93km | 1700m elevation
We're committed to showing our super keen cycling friends that if they fancy testing their legs on epic climbs, this destination is for them.
I plot a route on Komoot with the main highlights & climbs in the area. The cycling options here are endless but I end up with a 140km / 2500m elevation ride that goes into the mountains and through some of the old towns which are full of beautiful architecture.
First up is Boalhosa, a stunning 12km climb with 800m elevation gain. The mountain goats grazing away on either side of the road make my day and I can't get enough of the colourful churches and monasteries scattered all over the countryside.
It's very hot though and so we feel relieved when we make it to Ponte da Barca where we can re-fill our water bottles and enjoy an ice cold Coke & ice-cream.
The route then takes us along the river Lima to Ponte de Lima, the oldest town in Portugal. We cross over the iconic bridge that names the town: a composite formed by two bridges, a Medieval and a Roman one, before finding a cafe to refuel in. Nothing beats having lunch in a town full of architecture after spending the morning cycling through beautiful landscapes. We both enjoy a ham sandwich and of course a Portuguese tart with a glass of fresh apricot juice (my favourite drink when cycling in Spain or Portugal).
Next up: the infamous Cerquido, 10km averaging 10%... Now, this is for those who really fancy a challenge because it hurts. A lot. The views however are so rewarding that it's definitely worth the challenge.
In June, the plan will be to descend rather than climb, so everyone can enjoy it. However the option to climb will be there for gradient lovers...
As we descend the sun is beginning to set and we soak up the last of the warm evening light before arriving back at the hotel for a recovery swim, sauna & dinner.
Day 6: Viana Stroll
As it's our last day we decide to take the time to enjoy the amazing buffet breakfast: chia pudding and toppings, pastries, fresh fruits & smoothies, Portuguese tarts, Brazilian cheese balls... Our biggest problem is to decide what to have!
We pack our bags and head out for a morning walk along the beach where we feel the first sun rays of the day. Our friend Sofia then takes us for a stroll through the old town of Viana, known to be one of the most beautiful towns in northern Portugal. We now understand why!
Coloured painted houses, azulejos (Portuguese tiles), a plethora of churches and monasteries which are a mix of Renaissance, Baroque and Art Deco architecture... I could stay here forever.
However its unfortunately time to head to the airport...
We're back again in June though, and you're coming with us, right?