In the beginning - A Minho bike tour fairy tale from the past

In the beginning - A Minho bike tour fairy tale from the past

Our original founder, Maggie Deffense took some time to share her memories from the very first CTTC Bike Tour, from way back in the 1980s! 

Portugal was a different place, the world was a different place, but the joy of bicycle touring is every bit the delight it is today. 

Spring always makes me remember CTTC's - or as it was known then, CYCLE PORTUGAL's - very first tour which began on Oct 16, 1986.

Group of cyclists standing in front of an ancient granite wall in the Minho region in Northern Portugal
The date is burned into my memory for more than just sentimental reasons. First of all, we had no real experience with cycling tours (we just knew it was a marvelous idea) and we were exhausted from working so hard all year to find the perfect bike routes, picnic sites, hotels, restaurants and so on. No one else, that we knew of, had ever designed a bike tour in Portugal, or anywhere else for that matter.
CTTC Bike tour van in the 1980s on a bike tour in Spain

We had no one to copy (a grand old tradition in the bike-touring world). It was hard to decide in which region to do our inaugural tour, but in the end we settled on the Minho province in the north as we felt it was the most magical and "olde worlde".  

And, we knew everyone loved "olde worlde". So we plotted our route through picturesque villages, lush vineyards and fairy-tale castles.  

I designed the route maps which had more adjectives about the scenery than actual directions. We planned to picnic almost everyday so that was an added treat for our clients.

Cyclist riding under a old granite arch in the Minho region in Portugal

The tour group turned out to be a large one, as the office in the US had decided to sell it for a special price, being the inaugural tour and all.  

I almost fainted when I walked into the hotel lobby that first morning.  There seemed to be hundreds of eager cyclists.  

To make matters truly complicated, that was the year a terrible freak hurricane hit Europe from southern England to, yes, you got it, northern Portugal.  For several days the weather was just blustery and rainy but the group bravely soldiered on - sodden picnics and all.

They were a jolly forgiving bunch who meshed together perfectly and decided that no matter what they were going to have a fabulous time.  God really does answer desperate prayers.

Group of friends reclining by a river on the Minho valley bike tour in Portugal

The people of the Minho couldn't have been more wonderful, as well.  In the various manor houses we stayed in, some of the owners organized programs with folklore dancing and music and others wine-tastings and tours of the wet vineyards.

The people in the little villages thought we must have been a racing team, albeit an odd one, with so many women and gray haired participants.  But, what the hey, they energetically cheered us on and wished us well anyway!

On the last day's ride the heavens opened up and the wind took a deep breath and blew 2 bicycles off our roof rack!  

Group dinner in an old CTTC Bike Tours photograph from the 1980s

After retrieving them, we were the last vehicle allowed on the bridge, over the Lima River and into Viana do Castelo, before it closed.  

Going out to dinner that night, we had to hitch up our skirts and pants legs and wade through the water in the hotel lobby and then through the driving rain to our cozy restaurant.  

Group of friends sitting on the steps of an old manor house on a bike tour in Portugal
By then, the worst had died down and we had a fabulous night toasting the fact that we'd all made it through.  The tour turned out to be a thundering success and many of our fearless group came back for seconds ...and thirds and fourths. Whew!
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