As Billy updates his website with retrospective reports on earlier trips he has farmed some out to fellow travellers to write the reports because otherwise it would take him forever. This one is being written by me, John Hold [often referred to as Holdie] because I was the only other person travelling with Billy [on bikes] to Portugal.

Holdie the story writer.. that's me above

The trip was conceived, as is generally the case, due to a casual comment in the pub that I was planning to go to Estoril to see the Portuguese MOTO GP racing. Having quit racing myself, in 2000, I wanted to go to as many different MOTO GP venues as possible.

Billy then declared it was the only European country that he had not been to on the bike so he was going too. Then there was a bit of a complication because my wife Anne was supposed to be going, but Karen had a problem in that she [and Billy] had a year old child, Paul, preventing her joining Billy.

The girls could not come on the bikes….but what about their holiday! That was when it was decided that Billy and I would ride there while the girls and Paul flew. We would then spend 2 weeks in a villa in Cascais for a “family” holiday before Billy and I rode back when the girls flew back with Paul. There was still some unrest though because they were only getting 2 weeks and we were getting 4……what a pity. Enough scene setting, on with the bike trip itself, but first a top tip. We decided to get the ferry between Plymouth and Santander both ways.

Another one of Billy’s friends, Den, has travelled this route many times and advised checking packages. This was very good advice because we got return ferry travel with 2 nights in hotels for less than paying for return ferry travel….we win even if we don’t use the hoteis!

The ride there….

On trips abroad I tend not to count the “domestic” miles but we will start with the ride down to Plymouth from the north east of England, which was uneventful. Billy was on his GS1150 and I was on my Tiger 955i. We decided to travel down the day before the ferry and take advantage of a “free bed and breakfast” offer from Billy’s cousin. Having been suitably entertained for the evening in Plymouth it was a leisurely start, getting to the ferry in plenty of time. The crossing was also uneventful, the main challenge being to find things to occupy us and keep us out of the bar.

Plymouth Hoe

Day 1 – 230 miles. We arrived in Santander and headed for our first “free” hotel, which was in Salamanca, in good weather. As it was not a long ride there was no rush. On the way there were plenty views and attractions to keep us interested, especially early in the day around Cantabria. Salamanca was a revelation. It is a historic city, with a fully operational bullring. It was a shame to only have one evening there and we both agree we must go back.



Day 2 – 230 miles. Another day with not too many miles to do so we went for a wander around the city for an hour before heading west for Portugal. The plan was to get to the coast and work our way down towards Lisbon and Cascais. This turned out to be an unfortunate choice as the route was not as attractive as we expected [trusting the green routes on the Michelin map] but the weather was kind all the way. We had chosen Figueria de Foz for our overnight stop, which turned out to be a big seaside holiday resort. We then booked into a hotel in an area suggested by the tourist info. This turned out to be away from the busy area [were they frightened of us?] but we found the nightlife anyway, thanks to Billy’s persistence. We were then wondering about last orders when we realised that Portugal is on the same time as us. That’s another hour drinking then!

Figueria de Foz

Day 3 – 160 miles. We were greeted with a little drizzle the next morning but headed off south down the coast, trying to find the scenic routes, on the way to Cascais. The coastal views of the Atlantic were nice enough but this is not classic bike touring country. On arrival, we found our “villa” all locked up behind big steel gates [as were all the other properties] so Billy made the phone call and we waited. After 20 minutes a friend of the owner turned up with the keys to let us in and it turned out to be a very acceptable billet for our stay in Cascais.

The rear garden.... Cascais, Portugal

The family bit..............

On arrival in Cascais, we had gone round the town a couple of times on the bikes [not lost just getting our bearings - honest] and as Karen had sent Billy away from home with a shopping list, once we had unloaded the bikes we walked to the hypermarket down the road. The shopping [and return up the hill] took longer than we expected and when we got back we found the girls and Paul waiting for us outside the house.

The Garden

Over the next 10 days we explored the area around Lisbon, Sintra, Ericeira, etc using Trains, buses and taxis, which were all very good and cheap. The whole area is delightful with everything from Moorish castles to quaint fishing villages, not to mention the largest casino in Europe. Lisbon is a fine city with many varied attractions not least the “ginga” which is the local hooch, bought from small kiosks in Lisbon centre. Watch the businessmen, in their suits with briefcases stop, on their way to work, and have a quick one. We strongly recommend that if visiting Lisbon, make sure you see some of the surrounding area as well


The MOTO GP bit

The middle weekend was the weekend of the MOTO GP and as a result Cascais became significantly busier. It is the nearest town to the Estoril circuit and filled up with racing enthusiasts. We even found ourselves sharing elbow space with the stars of the paddock in the pubs. Notably O’Neills Irish bar [there’s always one everywhere] had Jerry Burgess, with the Rossi pit crew in each night and one night Mick Doohan came in.


  • Jerry Burgess is Valentino Rossi’s team manager. In the past he has taken the likes of Wayne Gardner and Mick Doohan [as well as Rossi] to many World Championships and [at that time] his riders had had almost 100 top class race wins. I know of no-one else that is more successful in his own sport.
  • Mick Doohan was 5 times World Champion in 500cc Motorcycle Grand Prix. ‘Nuff said!!


The Estoril Circuit is a bit disappointing because there are 6 areas for spectators around the circuit. You pick an area, pay for your ticket and then you can only watch from that position. This is most unsatisfactory, as I usually like to watch from various positions around the track on practice days.

I made the decision of where we would watch from based on the fact that it was very hot, Paul would need some shelter from the sun and there was only one covered grandstand. As it turned out this was a brilliant decision because on race day the rain absolutely sheeted down from the first warm-up session to the end of the last race.

We were sat in the main grandstand at the start/finish line. We had a great view of the large monitor screen and we were directly opposite Valentino Rossi’s pit garage. Everyone enjoyed the races despite the incessant rain making the races more of a lottery than usual. Valentino won the big race and this pleased the group because he is Anne’s favourite. Billy could see that Rossi is the people’s favourite, so he kitted Paul out in a Rossi shirt.

That night, in O’Neills, Rossi’s pit crew were celebrating and Billy explained to one of them that this was his first GP. One of the crew then told him that he had witnessed the meeting with the most “offs” ever in the races………..63………another claim to fame for Billy.

Paul finds a baby sitter

The ride back ….

 While we were in Cascais, there was only one day when Billy and I had a ride out. We went for a ride up the coast to visit Cabo da Roca. This is the most westerly point of the European land mass and had to be visited.

Most westerly point of Europe - Landmass

Day 4 – 300 miles. The morning of departure we were greeted by very heavy rain. We saw the girls and Paul off in their taxi and decided to wait a while to see if it eased before setting off. It didn’t, so we set off in heavy rain heading north-north east on the motorway to Coimbra. When we got to Coimbra we left the motorway and went onto the scenic roads heading for Vila Real, which was to be our overnight stop. These roads proved to be much more scenic, through lovely countryside. Part of the ride was along a very minor road along the valley of the River Douro. Very nice but we were still riding in the rain. We managed to ride for a while with no rain on the approach to Vila Real, so we were not like drowned rats when we turned up looking for a bed. Finding one proved to be a little difficult, but we did find a place, unloaded, and went out to have a look around. It is a very nice town, several bars and restaurants. Apparently it is popular as a base from which, to go walking the surrounding hills.

At least the bikes were close to the hotel

Day 5 – 250 miles. Daylight broke and joy of joys, no rain. Lets get on to Spain. In our excitement to get some dry miles under our wheels Billy forgot one of the objectives of staying in Vila Real. That was to visit a nearby stately home in Mateus, you may have seen it on a wine label. Oh well, another place we will have to go back to. The days riding was planned to take us on scenic routes through valleys in the aforementioned hills, over the Sierras and into the country just to the west of the Picos de Europa. This was an excellent ride, in good weather. On the tops we could really get a jiggle on, winding the bikes up on straight roads with good visibility and good surfaces. Through the valleys we came across a bit of excitement when 2 helicopters were dropping water on a small bush fire. We stopped and Billy took photos until the helicopters didn’t come back. We then set off, turned the next bend and found the reason the helicopter had not come back….it had crashed and was just starting to burn. There was a lot of frantic activity as ground fire fighters tried to get the crew out. We think they got one out OK but the other one died [according to TV/newspaper reports].

 We couldn't believe it the helicopter crashed

We pressed on with a new perspective on the uncertainty of life. That night we stayed in a city called Oviedo. This is a fairly large, spread out city and it was very busy. The reason for that became apparent when we booked in to the hotel. There was a religious festival on. You have to hand it to the Spaniards, they know how to enjoy their religion with bars, bands and catering stands at every corner.

Day 6 – 130 miles. This day was deliberately planned to be a short distance to Potes, our next overnight stay, and incidentally our other free hotel. Billy wanted this because he had been there the previous year with a group of lads on trail bikes. The plan was to adventure around the mountains roads and some of the more accessible trails on our way to Potes. Although our bikes have an image of some off road capability, they are not the ideal tools when fully loaded. It could have been worse though if my wife had been on the back. Nevertheless the scenery was stunning and we did have a lot of fun as we travelled through this beautiful area. Potes is a picturesque little town surrounded by the mountains and a good base for trail riding and walking. This was to be our last night over the channel so we made good use of Billy’s experience from the previous year and had an excellent meal helped down with various drinks. The local cider is recommended and you must try drinking it the local way, you will find out if you visit Potes.

Day 7 – 70 miles. An early start was required to get to Santander in time for the ferry, but the weather and the traffic were kind and we made it comfortably. That left us with the ferry trip and the usual challenge of staying out of the bars.

 The ferry docked and the only thing left to do was travel all those horrible domestic miles home. It always seems to be further coming back at the end of a trip than going down at the start of a trip. We both got back safely with only one thought – where do we go next and when??

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