bacchus travel

Bacchus

An Appetite to Explore
E-tape Bacchus Electric Bike

The E-Tape

The E-Tape 2048 1152 Bacchus


The Etape du Tour – one of, if not the most coveted cyclosportives for non-professional cyclists. An epic encounter between man and mountain going into its 16th year in 2019, the chance for dedicated amateurs to live one day in the life of a Tour de France rider.

However, for many of our elder cycling community and armchair enthusiasts, the ship has sailed to ride in the Etape. Its dizzying climbs over mountain passes and unforgiving French topography require a superhuman effort that us mere mortals will only ever get to experience in a car.

Or perhaps not.

Let us introduce the e-bike, coined the ‘wheee!’ bike by some, so fun to ride that you can’t avoid grinning like the child you once were.

Electric bikes began to turn heads in 2016, though there has been slower uptake in the UK than with European neighbours Germany and Holland. In their fledgling years, they have been quickly dismissed as ‘cheating’ by so-called purists. “Nothing more than an eco-motorbike” they say.

Well, we say to heck with them. For those who haven’t tried it, what e-bikes do is give you a little bit of assistance on the flat, and they positively sail up any kind of incline. More than just making cycling fun, they make the inaccessible accessible.

John Deere (pictured above, far left) joined the Tour de Pirinexus in 2018 – a 3-day, 300km raid looping the Catalan Pyrenees and Costa Brava – with two dodgy knees and has never looked back.

Mountain climbs through the Alps and the Pyrenees, they are all within reach on an electric bike, and you can bet you’ll get their quicker than the purists. Using the different modes, from “eco” to “turbo,” you can test your endurance too.

For those overwhelmed by the thought of cycling on a traditional push bike, whether down to fitness or otherwise, the e-bike is the perfect way to ease yourself in. Comfortable, robust and designed for conversational hill climbing, we can’t recommend them more highly.

So without further gilding the lily, we would like to present the E-tape de España. The electric sibling of the Etape du Tour. Though it won’t be an official stage of the Tour de France, nor will it be in France, the E-tape aims to open up multi-day challenging rides to you on Bacchus’ stomping ground in Catalonia, the Pyrenees and the Sierra de Aracena in Andalusia.

It’s an opportunity to experience road cycling and mountain biking with the peace of mind that your lungs won’t blow up and your legs won’t cramp up.

We very much hope we’ll see you in E-spaña soon.

Find out when our next Bacchus E-Bike tour is taking place.

Bacchus Supper Club Recipes #1

Bacchus Supper Club Recipes #1 1960 1470 Bacchus

Bacchus Supper Clubs have launched to bring our favourite dishes and wines from the Continent to you. After our in-house chef, Edmund Kendall, served a humdinger of a menu last week, one of our guests asked for the recipes. We’re going to start with the famous egg yolk ravioli, our signature starter, with asparagus, pancetta and truffle oil on ciabatta…

Ingredients (serves 4)

For the pasta dough

200g 00 grade flour
2 eggs
1 teaspoon olive oil
Pinch of salt

For the filling and the ravioli

1 tablespoon olive oil
100g spinach
125g ricotta
35g grated Parmesan
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
4 egg yolks
2 tablespoons butter
16 asparagus tips
200g pancetta
Truffle oil
Ciabatta

Egg yolk ravioli with asparagus, pancetta and truffle oil on ciabatta

For the pasta dough

  1. Sift the flour onto a clean work surface and use your fist to make a well in the centre.
  2. Break the eggs into the well. Add the oil and a pinch of salt to the well. Gradually mix the egg mixture into the flour using the fingers of one hand, bringing the ingredients together into a firm dough. If the dough feels too dry, add a few drops of water; if the dough feels too wet, add a little more flour. You’ll soon grow accustomed to how the dough should feel after you’ve made it a few times. Note that you don’t want to add too much flour or your pasta will be tough and taste floury.
  3. Knead the pasta dough until it’s smooth, for between 2 to 5 minutes. Lightly massage it with a touch of olive oil, wrap in cling film, and let it rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. The pasta will be much more elastic after resting than it was before.

For the filling and ravioli

  1. Take the pasta out of the fridge and set the rollers of your pasta machine to the widest setting. Take half the dough and roughly flatten into an oval. Roll the pasta through the rollers 3-4 times on each setting until you get to the thinnest one.
  2. When the pasta is as thin as you can get it, lay it out on a work surface dusted with flour or semolina. Cut the pasta into 12cmx12cm sheets and leave under a damp cloth so they don’t dry out.
  3. Prepare the filling by placing the spinach, ricotta and Parmesan in a food processor and blitz until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Lay one of the pasta sheets on a work surface and brush away the semolina. With a teaspoon, place a dollop of the ricotta mixture on each sheet and create a small well. Add an egg yolk to the well of each ricotta circle. Brush around the filling with egg white and then lay another sheet of pasta on top, pressing gently to tease out and seal any air pockets.
  5. Using a 10cm circular cutter, cut out the ravioli and discard the pasta scraps. Place the ravioli on a plate dusted with semolina until ready to use. Bring a large pot of water to a steady boil and season with sea salt.
  6. Lower the ravioli one by one into the pot using a slotted spoon and cook 3-4 minutes or until al dente. While the pasta is cooking, toast a ciabatta raft, fry the pancetta until crispy and steam the asparagus until al dente.
  7. Drain the ravioli and place on top of the ciabatta. Coat in melted butter, sprinkle with pancetta and place the asparagus by its side. Finally add a drizzle of truffle oil, season with salt, pepper and some grated Parmesan.

“Egg-straordinary!”

Find out when our next Bacchus Supper Club is taking place.

Bacchus Travel Mountain Biking Catalonia

Bikepacking adventures in Catalonia

Bikepacking adventures in Catalonia 2000 1496 Bacchus

Wild swimming, campfire cookouts, old maps, squashed flapjacks and tea out of an enamel mug, it’s bikepacking at its finest.

This summer, we’re bikepacking in Catalonia, wending our way along roads less travelled, into the rolling hills for paella picnics, organic wine tastings and night-time negronis by the fire. We promise you, it always tastes better outdoors.

Authentic adventures with kindred spirits, celebrating mother nature and reconnecting with the origins of local food and wine. To us, beauty lies in simplicity.

Join us! Our bikepacking tours have been designed for the adventurous souls out there. A pared back edition of our signature journeys. Less luxuries, more memories.

Trips starting from £450 per person for *3 nights accommodation, bike hire, transfers and some meals. Based on a group of *8 guests.

10 Beautiful Photos of the Sierra de Aracena, Andalusia

10 Beautiful Photos of the Sierra de Aracena, Andalusia 1500 998 Bacchus

In the province of Huelva, to the northwest of Seville and close to the border with Portugal, lies the Sierra de Aracena, without doubt one of Spain’s most beautiful and unspoiled mountain regions.

Gruta de las Maravillas

Alajar

Picnic Lunch

In the woods

Whitewashed Villages

Linares de la Sierra

Hanging Jamón Ibérico

Café

Aracena

Photography: Christina Guan

Get in touch if you’d like to visit the Sierra de Aracena

Bacchus Travel Cap de Creus

Hiker’s Heaven in Northeastern Catalonia

Hiker’s Heaven in Northeastern Catalonia 3434 2037 Bacchus

Sally Paterson, our hiking host in Catalonia and Mallorca, puts pen to parchment and tells us about her women-only hiking adventure in Alt & Baix Empordà.

Our group of girls met at Barcelona airport, friends and soon to be friends coming together from across Europe. From here we drove northwards arriving in the late evening to the small Alt Empordàn town of Cantallops.

Morning dawned showing us the beauty of the Albera Reserve, with views from our hotel across the rolling hills and olive groves. But, with no time to delay, we were soon off on our first adventure.

LAS CHICAS GUAPAS

CASTELL DE REQUESENS

Alt Empordà and the Albera Reserve

The path we took led us past ancient cork trees with blackened trunks, along tracks rootled by the nocturnal, resident wild boar searching for acorns and up onto the high ridge from where we could see across the wooded foothills of the Pyrenees to the imposing Castle of Requesens. The rain that had dripped on us through the leafy canopy had lifted, opening up the view across to France.

This first morning of our hiking and cellar tour of this North East corner of Spain known as the Empordà was along the GR11 – a grand route that can take you from one coast of Spain to the other. It led us, to the small hamlet of Els Vilars, where we chanced upon a bucolic scene – a gently simmering, al fresco fideua de marisco, prepared for us by our local guide and historian Josep Maria. A chilled glass of white wine to accompany it to share the morning’s surprises and ease the aching legs. Delicious.

FIDEUA & WINE

CALA S’ALGUER

From the foothills of the Pyrenees to the Costa Brava coastline

Our five day hiking trip was the inaugural outing for Bacchus in Boots – sister to the already established Bacchus on Bikes – allowing us to explore this fascinating area of Spain at a more leisurely pace. Taking us from the foothills of the Pyrenees to the rocky paths and sandy coves of the Costa Brava and onto the sandy, scented eucalyptus forest of the Ardenya Massif, we had time to breathe in the scented wild rosemary and thyme, watch the circling sea birds over the rocky Cap de Creus and dive into the rolling waves.

Of course, the other advantage of a full days hiking is the guilt free enjoyment of the spectacular food and wine from this abundant region. Together we drank chilled glasses of fresh white wine and feasted on buttered skate wing, delicately spiced mackerel and burst in your mouth bubbles of black and green olive at Cadaques. We chanced upon Rice Thursday in the ancient medieval town of Peratallada and a local dish called ‘Arroz a cassola’, brimming with seafood. We tasted fresh green olive oil and tapenades flavoured with honey with producer and bon viveur Marti Clos. And we ate a picnic on the rocky outcrop at the Cap de Creus as the wind and the seagulls threatened to steal the food from our plates.

The hikes are planned so as to not over face, especially on the first day when boots and legs need to be stretched, but on each of the routes there is an option of an afternoon extension. There is also the comfort of knowing that Josep Maria is there in the Bacchus vehicle if it all gets too much. The weather wasn’t as kind to us as it might have been but it didn’t matter knowing that we were returning to the warmth and comfort of the charming hotels we stayed in along the way.

PERATALLADA

CAP DE CREUS

Kindred Spirits

These adventures are about so much more than just hiking. As well as discovering the culture and scenery of this very special part of Catalonia, the girls (chicas guapas) made new friendships, supported each other, laughed a lot and strengthened our minds and bodies. There is lots more to return for.

Learn more about our hiking trips in Catalonia and Mallorca

An Electric Experience in the Empordà

An Electric Experience in the Empordà 2000 1500 Bacchus

Guest of Bacchus, John Deere, experiences an electric, epicurean cycle tour in Northeast Catalonia

Over a glass or two of red earlier this year with my good friend, Tony Wallington, he inveigled me into joining him for a real taste of Catalonia. “Off the beaten track cycle touring from vineyard to vineyard through the depths of the Empordà, a region dubbed by many as the undiscovered Tuscany.” I said I liked the sound of it. He said I might like it even more with an electric bike.

PYRENEES

MASIA SERRA

Josep Maria, Tony’s Catalan counterpart, picked me up from medieval Girona and we set off to our first overnight location. His passion and knowledge of this north-eastern knuckle of Spain – in particular, the family-run vineyards of Alt & Baix Empordà, where the majority of their cycling adventures are based – had me hooked.

Only an hour and a half drive north of Barcelona, the Empordà is relatively unknown given its gastronomic, viticultural and olive oil producing heritage. Wine and olive oil were first introduced here over 2,500 years ago when the Greeks, Romans and Arabs inhabited the area.

GIRONA

LAS HERAS

My culinary adventure on two wheels begins hidden in the contours of the undulating Garrotxa national park and weaves its way to the Costa Brava coastline over the course of four days. We are staying in a restored medieval farmhouse tonight with wonderful landlady, Monica. She has been longing to give us our first taste of Catalonia since we arrived – a mouth-watering spread of homegrown produce accompanied by an impressive selection of organic Empordà wines.

I am excited to learn that tomorrow I will be cycling to the cellar of my favourite claret yet – Mas Ponsjoan’s 2012 vintage blend of tempranillo, monastrell and jaqué grape varietals – though my mind wonders what sort of condition I’ll be in when I get there.

MAS PONSJOAN

2009 TOUR DE FRANCE  – STAGE 6 ROUTE

Of course, I need not worry. My knees and I give in to the lure of the electric bike and it is a sage choice indeed, as I am to gratefully discover on the spectacular Ardenya Massif coastal route, featured in a Spanish stage of the Tour de France in 2009.

If, as all purists would insist upon, you ride this route without electrical assistance, a reasonable level of fitness is required. That said, at no stage is the route totally overwhelming for the traditional pedal pushers, and we have the comfort of knowing the aptly claret-coloured Bacchus broom wagon is always close behind, ready to sweep us up and take us to the next hidden gem.

THE CLARET WAGON

WINE TASTING

From charming overnight stays in idyllic locations, to grape picking and tasting with local winemakers at Mas Ponsjoan and a special 7-course tasting menu in the quaint fishing town of Cadaques, each day brings something new and extraordinary. It is the meticulously crafted concoction of experiences reflecting real Catalan life and the enthusiasm of the local characters we meet – not forgetting the mouth-watering cuisine, excellent wine, and good-natured camaraderie of cycle touring – which is enthralling. I wouldn’t hesitate to go back.

Learn more about our cycle tours in Catalonia

Bacchus Travel Catalonia Cycling Pirinexus

A High Altitude Cycling Challenge in Catalonia

A High Altitude Cycling Challenge in Catalonia 3065 2298 Bacchus

As seen in FT How To Spend It by Charlie Norton

Alt Empordà’s off-road terrain and winding mountain trails provide an extraordinary playground for touring cyclists. Charlie Norton gets in the saddle – and is rewarded by the region’s world-class cuisine along the way.

PIRINEXUS

As I pedal down the easternmost promontory of the Iberian peninsula towards the towering white lighthouse at Cap de Creus, I’m suspended on a tramuntana crosswind that would blow a professional peloton apart. The peninsula is part of a natural park that inspired Salvador Dalí, whence, he liked to claim, he was the first in Spain to see the sun rise, from his elegant bedroom in nearby Portlligat. And as the red sun tips over the Mediterranean, even the hardy goat-head thorn and juniper, which stretch down and loom over choppy, azure waters, look lush.

I’m facing a few punishing days in the saddle, culminating in an iconic 8km climb of the Serra de Rodes to a monastery that overlooks ancient vineyards planted by the Greeks; but fears of my oncoming agony are counterbalanced by this inspiring vista – and by daydreams of the fine wine and gastronomy that will await at the end of the day. I am on a pioneering trip, curated by luxury adventure travel outfitters Bacchus on Bikes, to the sensational area of Baix and Alt Empordà, near Girona. Classic Catalonian Dalí country, and coined the “nirvana of two wheels” by The New York Times, the region combines peerless road and mountain-biking routes with wine-tasting and haute-cuisine opportunities.

WINE TASTING

MOUNTAIN BIKING

For cyclists, this region has languished in the shadow of the Alps and the Pyrénées. Hard to know why, given Alt Empordà’s stunning coastal vistas, peaceful roads and remote climbs used in the Vuelta a España Grand Tour – not to mention its not-really-secret “secret” status as a training ground for some of the top professional teams, including Garmin (and, in the past, Lance Armstrong and US Postal Service). For mountain bikers, there are some gnarly off-road climbs near Roses as well as the Pirinexus region, arterial trails through vineyards and the Pyrénées stretching all the way to France. The area is, as everyone by now knows, a world gastronomy capital, cemented by the elBulli Foundation (Ferran Adrià’s new think-tank for culinary creativity, due to open next March), the continued excellence of El Celler de Can Roca in Girona and the soaring reputation of Compartir, where we have a table booked as one of the highlights of the trip.

The Bacchus entourage pick me up at Girona airport with road and mountain bikes on the roof, fitted to my exact specifications. Founders Tony Wallington OBE and Gareth Davies are on hand, as well as our local Catalan guide and mechanic Josep María Codina Casulleras and experienced sports physio Richard Luddington. Tony, a former bobsleigh Olympian, talks me through the itinerary on the way to Can Xiquet, a rustically refined boutique hotel with terraced views of the Alt Empordà plains. “We want guests to experience the true beauty and diverse nature of this extraordinary corner of Catalonia – the road cycling is second to none but at times taking a mountain bike means you can really get off the beaten track, exploring medieval monasteries, weaving through vineyards, and arriving to wild picnic spots with a view.”

We quickly hop onto the mountain bikes for a leg-loosening few kilometres to Celler Masia Serra, the vineyard of Jaume Serra, one of the outstanding oenologists in the region, trained at Château Pétrus – though it’s a spectacular gin and tonic served with lavender, lemon, vine leaves and chilled granite that we enjoy as an aperitif. We later head back to Hotel Can Xiquet’s restaurant for cod carpaccio with rosemary oil and grilled squid, washed down with the Ctonia 2013, a flowery white Grenache from Masia Serra.

MASIA SERRA

OLIVE OIL – CLOS DE LA TORRE

Next morning we break our legs in gently on the Pirinexus route from Cantallops south to Capmany, wild flowers drooping in the summer heat between stands of cypress trees (partly responsible for the area’s reputation as the Spanish Tuscany). The trails are gentle, and it’s a pleasure to see the respect the Catalans afford cyclists on the road; clearly, it’s much deeper within the culture here. From Capmany our route takes us across the plains of Alt Empordà, where we meet olive-oil magnate Martí Clos to view his centennial olive groves; we then cycle on to Rabos for a tasting of his award-winning virgin Clos de la Torre in the atmospheric vaulted tasting room.

Clos (currently being wooed by Harrods to sell his oils exclusively in the UK) says, “In the old days we waited for the tramuntana winds to blow the olives to the ground, but they were always too ripe.” Now the elaboration of Andalusian picual, Tuscan frantoio and Alt Empordà argudell olives make an exceptional blend that has taken Prestige gold four years running at the Terra Olivio awards in Jerusalem. The oil is poured into blue glasses so you can’t see the variations of green in the hue. “It’s all about aroma and taste,” says Clos. We’re looking for hints of vegetable, fruit, spice and bitterness. The Clos de la Torre is exquisite, a soft, peppery explosion; I buy the largest vessel I can physically take back to the UK.

After a transfer to Hotel Sol Ixent, in Cadaques, and an agony-relieving back massage from Richard, we travel down to Compartir, which is in a refurbished old stone house, a relaxed setting for informal and unpretentious haute cuisine. Three former elBulli chefs – Mateu Casañas, Oriol Castro and Eduard Xatruc – have struck progressive gold here; they deploy dazzling techniques using top-quality local ingredients. We feast on zingy red tuna cannelloni, razor clams with salty Ibérico ham, firm, juicy monkfish and an explosive liquid chocolate bombe with blackcurrant, which is utterly delicious.

RESTAURANT COMPARTIR 

CAP DE CREUS

Next morning we rise in the pre-dawn cold to cycle to Cap de Creus, pedalling hard to unstiffen our legs and heads. It’s the long road-biking day I have been waiting for, around 140km, and the tramuntana has just started to blow. At the lighthouse we ambitiously attempt an Iberian breakfast picnic of squidgy tomatoes and garlic on hunks of fresh bread, with Spanish coffee from a flask, though we are wildly grabbing anything that might blow away. And indeed, it feels like a morning for the slightly absurd and surreal as the wind nearly knocks us off our bikes several times, and later we tour Dalí’s refracted curio of a house, now open as a museum, in our tight Lycra and helmets, cleats clanking on floors.

We cycle on to Celler Martín Faixó, an ambitious family project to reclaim the vines in the Cap de Creus Natural Park. “The Greeks brought vines here in 3,000BC, because they realised they could grow lighter, fruitier grapes in the tramuntana,” Faixó explains. “The first vines were planted here, and stretched all the way to Bordeaux.” In 1870, an infestation of phylloxera decimated them, however, and with very little work available the local population was reduced from 7,000 to 500 as they sought jobs elsewhere. But now that disease-resistant vines from America have been planted, truly high-quality wines are produced in the Cap’s slate-y soil. “We’re awakening a sleeping giant,” says Faixó.

From here we head down the mountain to El Port de la Selva for a light lunch, over which we contemplate our next leg-burning climb. Hours later, we’re on it – up the 8km Serra de Rodes, just over 500m of ascent. There’s a steep early ramp, reminiscent of Alpe d’Huez, then meandering hairpins, where I quickly find a rhythm. On every cresting turn the staggering views of Alt Empordà distract me from the lactic acid searing through my legs. When my chain comes off, the support vehicle is immediately on hand; Josep María leaping out to get me back on my way for the last long, glorious switchbacks. He pops up again at the summit, next to the Sant Pere de Rodes monastery, a treasure trove of Catalan Romanesque art, to hand me a glass of Crémant. We descend through the Espelt vineyards to the village of Sant Martí d’Empúries on the coast. Ancient Greco-Roman ruins and a long sandy beach form the backdrop to Hotel Empúries, in whose Villa Teresita restaurant, manned by renowned chef Rafa Peña, we enjoy mackerel, crayfish and prawns.

HOTEL EMPURIES

ALBERA RESERVE

On day four it’s on to the treacherously stunning mountain-bike tracks of Serra de l’Albera, through the high-altitude vineyards of Celler Hugas de Batlle. There are some near-impassable sections – so steep our feet won’t go down on the pedals, and we walk breathless and sweating as we take in the views over the Med. We switch to road bikes to head up to Selva de Mar, then back onto mountain bikes for the trail up to Celler Mas Estela, which is known for its biodynamic production: wines are aged in French oak barrels in a restored 12th-century pigeon coop that is ventilated by the tramuntana. This vineyard perfectly manifests the new passion for Alt Empordà wines and offers a definitive tasting. The Vinya Selva de Mar 2006 (a black Grenache-Syrah-Carignan blend) is full of dark-fruit personality – and a star on the wine list at El Celler de Can Roca. Next up is a deep, smooth Garnatxa Dolça de l’Empordà Solero 1990, perfect with chocolate or rich cheeses – or, apparently, cigars, which is what it was supposedly served at elBulli.

There is a huge contrast between Celler Mas Estela and Celler Bell-lloc at Finca Bell-lloc, where a Swiss-German family has built an avant-garde subterranean cellar with Russian cargo metal, reminiscent of a Bond villain hideaway. There’s no shortage of hype surrounding the place, but the 2013 Garnatxa more than lives up to it. And the accommodation is lovely, in a converted farmhouse with views of the mountains and a family chapel.

MAS ESTELA

FINCA BELL LLOC

On the final day, we mountain-bike through the quaint town square in Calonge to reach Celler Mas Gil for a spectacular tasting (Clos d’Agon 2008, one of Spain’s finest white wines) with Miguel Coronado. Then we’re back on the road bikes on a soft climb into the Gavarra mountains on bounteous tarmac to Celler Sota els Angels, where Guy Jones and María Jesús de Polanco produce classy organic wines – their no-frills white earned the ultimate kudos from Josep Roca, head sommelier at El Celler de Can Roca, who said it is “the most honest wine” he has ever tasted.

I choose to forgo the lung-busting final 10km climb to Monastery Sota els Angels in favour of a long lunch of traditional black pals rice with cuttlefish at L’Antic Casino in Pals. I’m happily spent, battered by wind and mountains but sated by the fruits of the land. “The food and wine are the soul of the place,” says Josep María on the transfer back to Girona, “but come and experience it while it’s still a secret haven for cycling in extraordinary terrain.” He’s right – in this corner of Catalonia, somehow at once rustic and exquisitely refined, it’s impossible not to be, as the Spaniards say, touched by the tramuntana.

MAS PONSJOAN

We hope you can join for one of our upcoming tours in Catalonia in 2019