Brisbane2Bristol

On our great adventure

au revoir Francia…Hello England…

In the morning Clive oiled and adjusted the dodgy bike chain and did a few more pre checks….
Not only did we need a new chain but the front tyre was in need of being changed, considering how far we have come and on some indescribable roads, its done bloody well.

There was a chill in the air as we ‘saddled’ up this lovely sunny morning and followed the signs to France, to begin with the roads felt like we were going around in circles, it was just the way to get up over a mountain pass and a river, a very weird road, finally once over the bridge we were in France, our final country, we both had mixed emotions, all of a sudden we were extremely close to the end of journey.

It wasn’t long till we had to pay a toll, then what seemed only a matter of minutes we were slugged again at the toll booth, this is ludicrous, how does anyone afford to travel around Europe on toll roads, or is it that we are at the ‘tight’ end of our budget!!!
We understand some toll roads can’t be avoided and are generally quicker, but the ‘side’ roads are more interesting and have more opportunity to stop and explore.

We Seized the chance when we saw a road that would lead off the toll road, this was much better and way prettier, riding through quaint villages and roads that had woodland areas on either side of the road, made this ride to the town of Pons very relaxing.

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We arrived in the Medieval City of Pons and soon found Hotel de Bordeaux…Wohoo its number one on Trip Advisor (out of one Hotel in Pons!) lol

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There was no parking at the hotel, but the owners were very nice and said we could use their old garage to park the bike in, which was located opposite the hotel, once again (like most of this trip) we were on the top floor and there was no lift in this old building, the stairs were narrow and winding and squeaky, our orange room was spacious and had a great view overlooking a very rustic garden.
We spent the afternoon exploring this pretty quiet little City, the streets were as narrow as the hotel staircase!

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We strolled the the central square in Pons (pronounced Pon) called the Place de la Republique and overlooked by a magnificent Donjon.

A Donjon is the main tower within the walls of a medieval castle or fortress, although Donjons were not always constructed within a medieval castle’s walls built.

Pons’ dungeon as it is also known as is a beautiful monument. It was destroyed in 1179 by Richard the Lionheart and rebuilt later. We could only admire from the outside as it was closed, a short walk away from the Donjon was a fine-looking Chateau.

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Looking over the castle walls was the valley and the river Seugne below, simply stunning, but also a view of the ‘great staircase’ built in the 17th century to give easier access to the town below the ramparts, its’s pretty impressive, moving on we walked into a beautiful garden that was in the grounds of this castle…beautiful…

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Time was quickly getting away from us and the sun was beginning to set, we hadn’t eaten much today and were now ready to eat, but the local restaurant wasn’t serving food till after 7pm, too late for us as were hungry now…

So we hunted down a convenience store and bought supplies to cook ourselves.
The following morning we lugged all the luggage back down the winding staircase and loaded up the bike, the weather forecast was not a good one, so it looks like the waterproofs would be needed…
We hadn’t got five minutes down the road, when we had to stop, the chain on the bike was making horrible noises…

Is it going to get us to England…?

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Finally we were off, only 450k’s to the coastal town of St.Malo, which would be fine normally but the blackened skies turned to rain, softly at first then hard, the rain was here to stay for the day.

Any chance we got we would stop at a service station to ‘try’ and dry off, this was a fruitless effort, as our waterproofs had become so water logged they just couldn’t keep the rain out, our neck warmers got wet and the damp rose up and into the padding of our helmets, so not only wet but also cold.

When entering the service station cafes, we would leave a trail of water following us, when we took our riding gear off we had not a puddle but almost a river under our chairs! The hand dryers in the bathrooms warmed us up and partly dried our clothes, my gloves were so wet it wasn’t worth wearing them!

We thought of checking into a hotel for the night to dry off, but the forecast was the same for tomorrow so we might as well get this ride over and done with.
We were about half a hour way from St. Malo our destination, when the rain turned to a drizzle.
We were last here in 1989, the part of town we rode in was not here before, we found ourselves in the old part of town, now this we remember, we booked into our last hotel for this trip…the Ibis Hotel budget a good old favourite for us..
The room was small to say the least, the bathroom, soon resembled a chinese laundry, wet weather gear everywhere!
Thankfully we also had a heater in the room which turned out to be a blessing and the rain had started again but who cares we were now warm and dry and looking out the window at the downpour.

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The next day we woke to blue skies and sunshine, a perfect day to walk around the ‘Walled’ city.

We made our way towards the harbour, where a few fishing boats bobbed around in the clear waters, further along another ship caught our eye, a Pirate ship was moored up…we both took a few photos.

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Then Clive decided to go down the steps to get a ‘different’ angled photo, before i could say ‘be careful of the green moss’ he slipped into the harbour up to his chest holding his camera out of the water.

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All i could do was laugh, dripping wet he came up the steps, thankfully not hurt, fortunately the camera didn’t get wet, although a couple of lenses didn’t fair as well, they were water logged!.
A Half an hour later walking we arrived back at the hotel, my poor cold dripping wet covered in moss stained husband needed to shower, Clive had no more clothes that were dry anyway to wear, so the rest of the day we had to spend inside, while Clive tried in vain to dry out his expensive lenses, while i had the task of removing the moss stains from Clive’s clothes and finally booking our ferry passage from Caen to Portsmouth.

Luckily for us the following day was also sunny, once more we head back towards the harbour but this time go through the main gate and into the 12th century walled city, Saint-Malo, originally built as a walled citadel guarding the mouth of the Rance river, was for centuries home to feared pirates, although they’ve all gone to Davy Jones’ Locker…except the one thats with me!

Some weird art work caught in a reflection…

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The streets were very quiet, not many tourists at all, only a handful of shops were open, the last time we were here it was a hive of activity, full tourist season people everywhere.

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Walking through the cobbled streets of St Malo’s old town feels like you’ve stepped back in time.

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Wanting to get a better look our the area we head up some narrow stone steps and walk around the ‘wall’ what a view the beautiful golden beaches were vast, lucky for us the tide was out (Saint Malo has the highest tidal range in Europe, in spring and autumn) so back down the steps and a brisk walk across the sand to Fort National which is a fort on a tidal island a few hundred metres, from the ‘Walled City’s which was built in 1689 to protect Saint-Malo’s port.

Time has just slipped away from us today and before we new it, we were having dinner in one of the few restaurants open having dinner, the walk back to the hotel was under clear skies with a full moon and a few stars guiding us.

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The following day we were off to the Benedictine Abbey of Mont-Saint-Michel, riding along the roads we could see the slender towers and sky-scraping turrets of the abbey, even from a distance its breathtaking.

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Hmmm looks like a lot of work is being done on the roads (a bridge is being built) leading to the ‘Mont’, at the moment all tourist vehicles were forbidden to drive up to the Mont, but lucky for us we were on the bike, passing many tourists who were walking the from the mainland along the narrow causeway.

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The Mont is surrounded by tidal seas and at low tide the Mont is surrounded by bare sand for kilometres around, it is said that when the tide comes in it comes in faster than a galloping horse!
Mont St-Michel’s main street is lined with shops and hotels leading to the abbey, last time we were here it was the height of the summer holidays and was like a human traffic jam!

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Despite the vast number of tourists this place still manages to whisk you back to the Middle Ages, its fantastic architecture set against the backdrop of the area’s extraordinary tides, 3 million tourists visit the ‘Mont’ each year, the Mont is a tiny 100 hectares and has a population of just 44.

From the abbey’s veranda, the bay stretches from Normandy to Brittany, the views from here are spectacular, you can see for miles.

Walking in the abbey is a one-way route through the giant cold Gothic rooms, I even got to stand in the same fire place that i did in 1989, but i had my two children with me that time…

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While we were in the chapel, it looked like the nuns and monks were preparing for some special event, the atmosphere felt amazing, this is a remarkable place.

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We then climb down into the dark, damp Romanesque foundations, we come across a giant tread-wheel, which six workers once powered hamster-style to haul two-ton loads of stones and supplies from the landing below. This was used until the 19th century.

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I’m not sure how many steps we climbed today but it was a lot, but just to be here and feel the history was worth every step.

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Ten dollars to the first person who can spot our bike…

Back at the hotel repacking for the last time felt strange, we have lived out of our ‘Black Wolf’ bags for so long now, it felt normal for us, loading the bike up was depressing, HOW do we go back to a routine life and be ‘normal’.

We were heading to Caen which was only about 170 Klm’s away, so no need to hurry as our ferry wasn’t leaving till about 2pm, but with the bike in dire need of maintenance we wanted to get to Caen with a few hours to spare, just in case!
We stopped at Macdonalds for some lunch before we ‘saddled’ up for our final ride-to the ferry terminal.

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Menu service at McDonalds…

We were shown which lane to queue in, with about an hour to wait, a few people in the queue came over to talk, they were blown away when they realised how far we had ridden, but to us it didn’t seem that far as we were doing it daily, but it was REALLY along way.

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First on the ferry, after our bike was strapped down, we found some comfortable seats, we would be here for the next five plus hours.
Whilst gazing out of the window at the cold looking channel sea, we now had some down time where we could reflect on the colossal journey we have just about finished.
We have now arrived in our last country, England our birthplace and where we lived until we made the BIG move with our young children to live in Australia.

Finally arriving at Portsmouth, it was dark and as we went through passport control fireworks went off just beyond some buildings, what a welcome, fireworks, can’t get better than that, can you?

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Our trip to our friends house in the town of Yeovil should only take about a hours ride…
We got onto the Motorway for a short while then got off to head towards Salisbury, it was from here that we went a little off course lol…the GPS was sending us down dark spooky lanes with unnatural shapes that formed from the trees that over hung the silent lanes this place looked like the ‘Headless Horse man’ was going to make his presence known at any moment!
Just to make it feel more creepy heavy rain had now joined us on our lonely lane ride…lol…Welcome to England…

Clive now found the road we were suppose to on and it all became familiar… wohoo, it was a bizarre feeling riding our Australian bike in England.

We soon arrived at our ‘Hotel’ (our eccentric friend Steve’s House) a little wet and cold, but our welcome from Steve was so warm we soon forgot about the rain and the cold, it was so great to see our old friend….
He thought we would have arrived ages ago, our reply was don’t ask!

To be continued…

‘Adios Espana’……

Our departure from beautiful Portugal was a sad day for us both, there’s still so much more for us to see in this country but we needed to leave
Our hearts were heavy not just because we were leaving Portugal but because we were coming to the end of our great adventure, but all things have to end and we needed to make our way to Spain again and start heading towards the UK.

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Interesting views turned to uninteresting and after a few hours we seemed to be back on the road less travelled by Spaniards, this was not a really scenic route, rural country, empty fields and flat plains were now our views.

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Stopping at a service station to fuel up, checking and ajusting the bikes continuing clanking chain, we head over to a vast wooden cafeteria for a late lunch, and after a visit to the ladies room and whilst drying my hands i spied next to the hand dryer a interesting vending machine lol…didn’t expect that!
Chuckling, i filled Clive in on my find, who also found it amusing, and no i didn’t buy any!
The must be a lot of frustrated Spanish woman in Spain…lol.

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We were hoping for a bite to eat, but we were disappointed with the crap selection of dried looking meals that were on offer, they looked like they had been in the Bain Marie all day (i bet the meals were nice at the beginning of the day!) with our tummys rumbling we settled for a coffee and cake.

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We saw a few of these giant bulls on top and sides of hills whilst riding, having something other than fields to gaze at broke the boredom of being on the road, they appeared every 50 klm or so…

We were starting to feel the afternoon chill as the sun gently lowered, i tapped on Clive’s shoulder to Signify that we should layer up, so the next service station we came across we filled up with fuel, there also happened to be a restaurant and hotel across the courtyard of the service station… a hot drink would be nice and maybe something to eat before heading back out, whilst having a drink and a bite to eat we decided that we felt so relaxed and drained that we didn’t want to ride any further that day, or was it the realisation of our trip ending was also playing on our minds, the thought of ‘normal’ life was an awful idea…

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Great name on the van…

We booked a room for the night, top floor again! i’m beginning to think we must smell or something as we are always on the top floor, even when the hotels are empty..!
Our room was modern and had plenty of space, although there was a smelly issue coming from the drains in the bathroom!
While Clive was covering the bike, the manager kindly said not to worry about the bike as we could park it right under the nose of the service station night attendant…

So after a freshen up we decided to catch up with the kids on Skype,the WIFI was crap in our room, we could just get a signal if we stood by the door, the WIFI was brilliant in the restaurant, but it was far to noisy to Skype so we had to do it on the hotel landing, thankfully there was a lounge to sit on, but the lights kept going out, as they were the sensor type… lol

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The morning soon came a round and looking out of the bedroom window we could see that the morning was going to be chilly, as fog was thick, hopefully it will lift soon, once outside it felt even colder, thankfully only a short ride awaits us today, all rugged up we were heading for San Sebastian (Donostia) our last port of call in Spain, as the fog lifted the day got warmer, yep we needed to delayer.
The rural flat plains turned to one of beauty, green trees, lush grass and hilly twisty roads were fun and our interest on this part of the journey was again sparked.

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Once again we were filled with enthusiasm, this part of the journey was brilliant, even though we were only 20 k’s from France we could have continued but one more night in Spain was needed and what a beautiful little seaside town this was.

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We found a nice hotel, Hotel Parma which was overlooking the bay of La Zurriola.

We only had an afternoon to explore, so there’s no time to waste, so after a quick change, we walk down De Salamanca Ibilbidea, not sure what we are going or what we are going to find, but thats the fun of exploring new places…

There was a lot of street art painted on buildings, giving a great vibe around the place.

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We walk through the maze of old sand stone coloured buildings that make up these narrow streets, small shops, restaurants and Tapas Bars.
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Many places were closed either due to it being late afternoon or perhaps because it was out of season (October).

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We now find our selves entering the harbour, we sit on the edge of the harbour, dangling our legs over the edge of the wall and enjoy the warmth of the sun, the sea below us was such a lovely aqua and so clear, in the not too far distance we could see the Beach of La Concha, the golden sands looked pretty empty, just a few people enjoying the fantastic weather, i can imagine the beach being jam packed with tourists in the height of the summer season!

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Good use of a old cannon as a bollard…

We continue our walk past the Navel Museum and the Aquarium and continue walking along the promenade with a cliff on one side of us and the sea on the other side, the waves crashed onto the rocks below us and at times we felt the cold sea splash up at us….Brrrr, looks like swimming is out for today…

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The trend that we saw in Italy and Austria has continued here….’LoveLock’ padlocks attached onto railings…we have a spare padlock back at the hotel that we could have added to this sparse collection that runs the entirety of this promenade! Next time…

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These guys kept us amused for a while with their antics , they were hilarious..

The wind was really picking up and being in the shade it was cold, so we head back into the town to get some dinner before heading back to the hotel.
We spent the evening checking the channel ferry times, something we have been putting off for a while…
In the morning after checking the bike chain etc, we loaded up and also rugged up even though the sun was out.
There were gloomy looking clouds on the horizon, hopefully crossing into France was not going to be a wet one!!!

Historical Portugal…

All packed and ready to leave Spain, all uphill now [on the map anyway] to our final destination for this trip, which is bitter sweet for us, on one hand we will see family and friends but it means our trip of a life time will be over..
I don’t really remember much of the ride to Portugal, except for the small village on approach to the border.

The village was small and quiet with white washed homes and a few small shops, all surrounded by dry fields that were in desperate need of water, it kind of reminded us of parts of Bulgaria…

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Apart from the sign to say we were now in Portugal there were also some badly run down stone huts of either side of the road, they must have been the old border huts.
The weather was perfect and the scenery was much the same as Spain for a while any way.

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Stopping for a ‘leg stretch’ and a drink we noticed some unusual windmills, the sails looked like they were made from cloth, these windmills were critical to village life many years ago, as the windmills ground corn and wheat to make bread and grain, all towns had at least one mill.
The country side was beautiful, passing some strange looking trees, that had the bark removed ?

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We found a local supermarket, bought some supplies for lunch then stopped at a roadside rest area that had a few well used picnic tables, it was great to just chill out under the shade of the trees…

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We found this and Clive tried to fit it the front of the bike without success…

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We found out the mystery of the stripped trees, they are cork trees and apparently it takes 43 years for a cork tree to yield its first wine cork and the life of a ‘cork’ tree is about 200 years and the best cork is meant to come from Portugal, we have been hearing for years now that there was a cork shortage, but apparently thats not true, as always it boils down to cost the aluminum twist off caps and plastic cork cheaper to produce…

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The road towards Lisbon was leading us towards a toll road… N’oooo, something we had tried to avoid, it had cost us a small fortune in Spain when we were caught on one.
Slowing down we could see some toll booths and a drive through with no physical gate to stop you (you must have to have a tag or something) we choose that lane a small alarm went off, but there was no one around to ‘chase’ us so we carried on, well we got away with it in Italy!

On this beautiful smooth road and sharing it with one or two cars, we couldn’t believe that these roads were hardly used, when stopping for fuel along the way, we half expected police to come up behind us, but no.
We had to make more adjustments to the bike chain, is it going to get us to England?

Lisbon was now only a short ride away, but before we got there we need to go over a bridge…
The bridge was crammed packed with big trucks, cars and other motorbikes, their driving was not impressive, they were a bit crazy in fact, but we have encountered worse…much worse, we however took our time to enjoy the views.

Riding into the city was frustrating at times, we have been having problems on and off with the GPS for a while now and today was one of those days, so as usual we seemed to go around in circles few times in this very hilly old city.
Being a GPS that is a few years old, it was having trouble keeping up and we seemed to be passing the turn off before it told us to turn…which was not fun on one way streets!

Finding our hotel wasn’t too hard once on the correct road, when we checked in we were told that the hotel didn’t have a car park, but were told we could either park in the nearby bank car park or on the pavement outside the hotel, so after checking out both areas we decided that the pavement was the safer place for the bike, so after moving a few pot plants we got the bike as close to the door entry as possible made it as secure as we could and put on the bike cover on, our room over looked the bike, although if someone was to meddle with it, it would take us a while to get to it as we were on the 5th floor…

After a quick shower and change we head out for a look of the local area Anjos, but first Clive needed a hair cut, it was getting in eyes.. we found a Nepalese barbers, the owner wanted to see some photos of our time in Nepal so we showed them some pictures from our phone, him and his staff were fascinated and couldn’t believe that we had ridden from there..

Many bars and restaurants line these charming colourful streets of Lisbon, some buildings had tiny wrought iron balconies, which just added more charm to these already charming buildings that stand tall in the narrow streets some with beautiful tiled frontage on them was impressive its not just public buildings but also residential homes that also have elaborate tiled frontages some from bottom to the top, take a wander down some of the side streets and you will be surprised by the splendour of it all.

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Trams old and new went past us, what an amazing city this is, this is one place to add on our ‘Revisit’ list, which is getting increasingly long now..
Before we knew it the sun was setting and the streets were quiet, well in this side of the city anyway, this stunning city really did not feel like a city at all, more like a large country town.

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We had breakfast early, loaded up the bike and set off towards Porto… but not before getting some photos.

Porto shouldn’t take too long to get to as it only 316k’s from Lisbon.

The day was turning into a bit of a scorcher, and we needed to open up the vents on our jackets and ‘delayer’ a few items, as it was close to lunch time we stopped at a local supermarket and then found a ‘rest stop’ on this lonely stretch of road, whilst enjoying our lunch, a few other cars at various times pulled up, but they were only stopping for a toilet break (there weren’t any loo blocks either) they didn’t care that we were in full view (sort of puts you off your lunch!) thankfully we didn’t sit on the grass to enjoy our lunch! with that we decided to leave..

Later that afternoon we arrived in sunny Porto, we had a list of hotels, but finding them proved a challenge with one way streets, taking us to many sides of this city, but hey at least we got to see more of the city than we would have..

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We decided to have a few days here as it had such a relaxed feel about it, we found a little hotel squeezed in between two larger buildings, the small reception looked really nice, boutique style, with lovely greys and a splash of lime green, nice…pretty modern, so off i went to check out the room, hmmm once out of the lift the boutique feel had certainly disappeared to the ugliest paint colours i have ever seen put together (mustard yellows, faded red and dark purples) and it wasn’t helped by the tatty old furniture, ekkkk we have gone back to the 70’s lol… opening the old wooden (chipboard style) door i ventured in to a old style room, the sheets were clean and so was the bathroom, thankfully we only had pale yellow walls and nothing else, it’ll do i really can’t be bothered checking out any other hotels…we booked for three nights, but yet again no car park, looks like the bike will be covered up again at the front door, so with every thing unloaded we made our way up to the top floor, thankfully there was a lift.

The next few days were spent exploring the ‘birthplace of the popular drink ‘Port’…
Porto is situated on the right bank of the Douro, a mythical river on which was used for transporting barrels filled with Porto wine from the producing region.
Porto the 2nd largest City in Portugal is a mixture of modern and ancient, with its magnificent monuments, beautiful museums, gardens, and restaurants and the tiled buildings.

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We walked the narrow lanes and stairs that zigzagged parts of the city, you couldn’t help but notice many dilapidated houses, that have been left to crumble, many roofs were completely covered with tarps and held on by ropes and rocks, unfortunately and like a lot of european city we have visited we couldn’t help but notice there is so much graffiti, spoiling the charm of these old cities, so sad…

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Down by the river, Ribeira is one of the oldest neighborhoods of Porto, and the narrow streets open onto the river front square (Praça da Ribeira) a picturesque stretch of the Rio Douro, it was here with the bridge Ponte de Dom Luís (The view from top of the bridge was amazing, well worth the hike up) this was a backdrop for our morning coffees whilst in Porto…

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Our personal parking space for the next three days…

It was in 1880 that Construction started by a student of Gustave Eiffel, the bridge’s top deck is now reserved for pedestrians as well as being the city’s metro line, the lower deck is for regular traffic, with a narrow pedestrian walkway along the road.

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We spent a fair bit of time in this area, it is a place to people watch and relax with a glass of wine or beer it was here we tried a Flaming chorizo sausage, it was a little spicy but very good.

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It was here that we could watch the traditional boats, going up or down the river and when they weren’t doing that they were moored up at the quayside waiting for more passengers, this really is a picturesque place that even UNESCO thought as well, as it is a World Heritage Site now.

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Sheltered under medieval arches here makes for great cafe, bars etc as well as the many Port tasting that can be done as well!

Climbing up the medieval alleys and stairways we came to SE a hilltop fortress of the cathedral, which was founded in the 12th century, we decided not to go in, as we have become a ‘bit churched out’ now…

We decided instead to carry on walking past the many magnificent little shops that Porto has to offer, until we come to SÃO Bento station, we were blown away by this place, we spent ages studying the tiles that seem to tell so many stories here.

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The first train to arrive here was in 1896.

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Click on pic for full view in panoramic..

There are about 20,000 tiles on these walls which cover the history of transport and Portugal and covers most of the entrance which is the work of artist Jorge Colaço and date from 1916, they are so magnificent its hard to steer your eyes away, there is one remarkable panel which shows King João I and Queen Philippa of Lancaster by the city’s cathedral in 1387, Prince Henry the Navigator conquering Ceuta in Morocco, and a representation of the Battle of Arcos de Valdevez, truly amazing, i think this station is my favourite place here in Porto.

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Close by is the monumental Avenida dos Aliados this is coated in the heart of the city a place full of grand buildings, one of them being the poshest McDonalds ever…

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Chandelier in a McDonalds…

The Clerics Tower, or Torre dos Clerigos, is a popular tourist attraction here in Porto, It was originally built between 1754 and 1763 as the bell tower of the Clerigos Church.

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The above picture is how we felt, we have had summer seasons for most of the year travelling through the many countries to get here and we were now facing the onslaught of winter.
We enjoyed just relaxing and chilling out for the last few days, but in the back of our minds this trip of a life time was closing in…

We decided to ride the short distance to where the river meets the sea, not one of the most beautiful beaches we have ever seem…there was a huge wall that devided the path from the beach area, this turned out to be a great place for us to snooze in the warm sun, later followed by a short stroll watching the locals fishing and once again reflecting on how lucky we are…

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What a great place to one day revisit, there is far to much to do for just a few days.

Back now to the hotel to repack and head for Spain the next morning.
We wanted to ride the coastal roads as much as possible, which we did, with views to the Atlantic in the distance whilst riding through ‘post card’ villages…
Don’t worry Portugal we will back…

Rocks, Plains and Monkeys…

With a brilliant and full on day that we had yesterday, we were excited to move on, but as we were loading up the bike this early morning we could see that it had been raining pretty hard, but thankfully as we were about to leave the sky was once again clear and blue…

Today we wanted to get as close to Gibraltar as possible, maybe Malaga for the night, you may be wondering why we choose to miss so much of Spain, well we could see the bottom of the money bucket now, we still had a few more countries we wanted to visit before our ‘Trips end’, plus we knew the weather was only going to get worse with winter looming in, Australia has spoilt us where good riding weather is concerned!!!

To ride to Malaga would take just nearly 16 hours, so we knew we wouldn’t make it there today, but we’ll give it a good bash anyway.

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Trying to get a ‘selfie’ of us on the bike….

We rode for a few hours till hunger got the better of us, refreshed and refuelled we set off again, i found myself not really enjoying this leg of the trip and i think Clive felt the same, it had nothing to do with being in Spain it was more to do with the fact that we were getting close to the ‘Journeys end’.

Eventually we came to Valencia, the home of the orange, stopping by an orchid for a quick break and drink, before we had to head inland, while enjoying the break we could see many high-rise buildings about a kilometre towards the ocean area, we choose not to explore the area this time and kept going.

We were now quiet a bit inland the scenery had gotten pretty ordinary, just crop-less fields, a few hills nothing really to get excited about, the plains of Spain..does it rain?

For some reason today was dragging, we seemed to be getting no where fast, it was now late afternoon and we seemed to be getting closer to Madrid…
Hmmm in fact we were only a hundred or so km’s away, we needed to get fuel and to see whats happening with the GPS, the funny thing about getting fuel on these roads is that there are plenty of signs for them, so you pull off the main road, but the service station is a few klms away in the next village, this was beginning to frustrate us, eventually stopping and fuelling up at a service centre located ON the main road, we found that we had in fact missed a turning about 100 k’s away, flaming nora was not the words we used!!!

We had about an hour or so of daylight left so we decided to start looking for a place to stay for the night, well seeing as we were in the back and beyond, we didn’t have any luck, there was nothing out here in any direction, we did check out some land near a service station, but we deemed it too dodgy and it didn’t feel right.

Looks like we’re camping tonight so we literally went off, on to the beaten track and into a harvested corn field, about half a klm into the field were three tracks and a grassy triangle deviding them, with just enough room for our tent.

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With the tent up and the sun going down fast, we sat down for an evening meal of mash potatoes (dried) and soup poured over the top, it turned out pretty good lol…

The sun was now completely gone and it was black, except for the millions of stars that shone so brightly, it was also freezing cold, so off to bed 6.30 pm in all our clothes for extra warmth…

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As you can imagine we didn’t have the best nights sleep and woke to the sounds of a near by train thundering past..
We still didn’t get up until 8am, as it was too cold.

The temperature gauge on the bike in the morning was saying it was 5 degrees and boy did it feel it, it was also foggy very foggy, so thick that you could only see a few metres in front of you, after a welcoming cup of tea we loaded up the bike and got back onto the road. The bike didn’t like the cold and we had trouble starting it.

We couldn’t properly put the tent away as it was very wet from a heavy dew, so just rolled it up to deal with later, this wasn’t the first time we have had to do this. There was no traffic about, most normal people would have been still tucked in bed on a miserable morning like this.
We rode for about 2 or more hours utterly freezing our arses off, it must have been worse for Clive being the rider, although he does have heated handle grips!

Finally the cover of fog lifted to a beautiful blue sky, gradually i could feel the warm creep into my body, and it wasn’t long till we had to de-layer all the extra clothes we had put on.
We stopped at a roadside cafe and had a couple of coffees and a giant Palmier or elephants ear, and spread out the tent in the sun to dry.

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Just like yesterday the roads were straight and boring and very quiet with traffic, thankfully going the wrong way only cost us time and a lousy nights sleep as this wasn’t a expensive toll road that we had been caught n before…

Finally we came to some interesting landscapes, with hills, rocks a few trees and in the very far distance we could make out the ocean, i was beginning to think we would never get there, though it was way way in the distance.

We pushed on in hope of coming across that ever familiar ‘Golden M’ sign for a half decent coffee and a burger, we eventually found a Maccas near a seaside town, which of course we stopped for a well earned break, while using the WIFI to source some hotels for the the night.

Finally we arrived at Estepona so we knew it wasn’t far to Hotel Piedra Paloma our room for a night or two, riding with the ocean to our left we got stunning glimpses of the sea and the huge rock jutting up that we were trying to get to, this area doesn’t seem to be as touristy and crowded by high rises as some areas we have just ridden through.

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Checking in was quick, taking our luggage up to our room proved a challenge as it was dark in the hall way, with only those stupid sensor lights that turn on once you have gone past them!

A shower was the first thing we wanted and some clothes washing was needed then dinner.
We had toyed with the idea to book a hotel in Gibraltar, but it seemed pointless as we were only a half hour ride away and we were told it would be very expensive so we decided not to uproot again but to do a day trip to ‘Rock’ from here.

Another early morning and we were greeted by warm sun and more blue skies, looks like its just shorts and t-shirts today, but may take a jacket just in case, we arrived in the seaside town of La Línea de la Concepción, and quickly located the border.
Before we could get through the Gibraltar–Spain border, we had to queue, thats if you were in a car, we were on the bike so we got to ride past all the cars, this border crossing is also referred to as (The frontier of Gibraltar) or simply as The Frontier.

After a few minutes we were through and into British Territory, wahoo, i was disappointed that we had to ride on the right hand side, i thought it would be the left!!!
Gibraltar is tiny its area is about 2.6 square mile or 6 kms, and about 30,000 people live at the foot of the ‘Rock’, packed in like sardines comes to mind!

Here is a brief History lesson on why the British rule the ‘Rock’,
It was at the time of Cromwell when Britain first became interested in the rock but it wasn’t captured until the War of the Spanish Succession. Gibraltar became a British garrison in 1830 and was declared a colony.

Spain has never been able to accept the loss of Gibraltar with good grace and twice during the 18th century she tried to recapture it without success. The first time was the short siege of 1727. There was a more serious attempt during the American Revolution when Spain joined forces with France in the war with a specific aim of taking Gibraltar.

The Great Siege commenced on June 21st 1779 and lasted nearly 4 years. During this time the rock was defended by a force of 7,000, commanded by the Governor, General Sir George Eliott. The battle eventually ended on February 2nd 1783. The city took many years to rebuild, hence the lack of Moorish buildings remaining here.

What is a Moorish building? well i wasn’t sure until i looked it up, this is the extremely short version The Moors were Muslim and influenced by the Islamic architecture that developed in the Middle East.

Riding around some of the really narrow streets, trying to find a place to park the bike was proving challenging to say the least, even for a motorbike, luckily we didn’t have the side boxes on, other wise we would have stood no chance, finally after going around the narrow streets we found the tiniest space between 2 cars, i hope the people that own these cars aren’t ‘large’ as they won’t be getting in their vehicle, but having said that the carsparked here were really dusty and they looked like that hadn’t been used in ages, and lets hope today is not the day the owners need their cars!!!!

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We were just around the corner from the main Street, it was as if we had been ‘transported’ into the UK, the tiny streets, familiar shop brands but mostly small shops selling the usual tourist crap, old style phone boxes,Red pillar boxes, fish-and-chip shops even bobbies on the beat were all sights that reminded us of our previous life in England.

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It was still breakfast time and feeling peckish, especially with the smell of bacon that kept wafting around the streets, that was enough for us to stop at one of the many pubs (The Royal Calpe) were serving a full English breakfast, we had to eat quickly though as it was blowing a gale down here,we chose to eat outside we were very concerned our sausages and bacon would be blown away with the wind, the breakfast didn’t disappoint either.

Next how to get up the ‘Rock’, there were lots of tour guides trying to get us to join their groups, that were going up the ‘Rock’, those sorts of tours are not our style, we find our way to the top thank you.

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We make our way to the Cable Car which is located at the southern end of Main Street next to the Alameda Botanical Gardens.
We get to the ticket office and a few people were waiting, the girl selling the tickets was on her own and the English people behind the person she was serving were being loud and yelling at her to hurry up, we felt bad for the girl serving, but also embarrassed that our fellow country ‘men’ would act like this, i think today we shall be Australians, we had hoped that what we had witnessed wasn’t what the UK had now become, a bunch of loud mouth yobbos, Not sure if i want to go back if this is the case!

It was our turn to be served by the frazzled young Spanish girl, we decided to buy the whole package, we are splashing out today lol..Euro 28.70 ($41) each.

The cable car ride was fast, the ride up took less than 3 minutes although i read somewhere it takes 6 minutes, maybe thats both ways, the cable car swayed a little in the windy conditions, but not a white knuckle ride by any means, getting out at the top we nearly got blown away.
We made to the top of the ‘Rock’ where we collected our headsets for the commentary.

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While we adjusted our headsets we were being inspected by the Barbary Macaques (monkeys), who seemed to be checking to see if we had any food we were willing to part with, the fines for feeding the monkeys is 700 pounds, but this didn’t seem to bother a few people up there who were blatantly opening up packets of biscuits and feeding them, stupid people this is why they attack and scare visitors.

Clive decided that he would go via the spiral staircase to get to the lookout, i watched on in amusement when he high tailed it back down after a monkey bared his teeth at him, as the monkey was enjoying a pizza!

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At the top of the lookout a huge big cloud just hoovered over the tip of the ‘Rock’, it was not going to budge so we could get a clear view photo, but the cloud was pretty stunning as it looked like it was creeping up the ‘Rock’ in places, after a few photos we moved on it was breathtaking in more than one way blowing a gale…

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We took the path along the top of the ridge and come across Apes Den, i couldn’t see a ‘Den’ but a concrete area, where the monkeys get fed, as you walked past them you could feel the monkeys closly watching you in hope that you had some goodies for them, when they realised we didn’t have anything they went back to grooming one other or chasing each other along the walls that surrounded this area.

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Our ticket let us into various attractions up here, so with no time to waste our first stop was were the Siege Tunnels, it was then we realised that we could have rode the bike up here after all, oh well never mind.

Upon walking into the tunnels you immediately felt the temperature drop, stone slabs paved our way through this historical marvel, the tunnels were carved out of the rock by hand during the Great Siege which took place between 1779-1783. This was done to defend Gibraltar against the Spanish and French forces who were trying to recapture Gibraltar from the British.

Its truly amazing to think the tunnellers relied on the strength of their arms, on their skills with a sledgehammer and a crowbar, and some gunpowder for blasting. In five weeks 18 men had driven a tunnel 8 square feet (2.40sq.m) by 82 feet long (25m) into the Rock, they must have at times felt like they were getting no where fast.

Whilst tunnelling they decided that a horizontal hole be blasted in the rock face in order to improve ventilation for the workmen, on doing this they realised that a gun could be put in place to bear down on attacking forces.
Its amazing to think they even managed to get cannons and other equipment up here.

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Inside the tunnels there are small historical exhibitions in the different rooms you enter, the wind coming through the cannon spaces whistling through, it would have been freezing up here in the winter, another fantastic experience.
We decided that we would now catch the cable car back down and go and get the bike and ride it up here, this bike as been to some amazing places on this trip…

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Next was St.Michaels Cave we were expecting wonderful thing when we ventured into the Cave, we were disappointed that it had tacky rainbow coloured lights, just plain coloured would have looked better in my opinion. The natural beauty of the cave had been hijacked by the 21st century, maybe we are we hard to please? i don’t think so.

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Now onto the World war 2 tunnels which built by the Royal Engineers before and in preparation for the Second World War, with a total of 33 miles or 52 kilometres of tunnels inside the Rock.

In preparation for war the British, set up a “town” inside the Rock of Gibraltar. The intention was to house up to 17,000 military personnel inside the Rock who could remain hidden inside for up to 2 years with ample food and water supply for this period.
There were fully kitted sleeping accommodation for the Army, Navy, Royal Air Force and domestic staff (mainly women). There were kitchens, a hospital including a fully fledged operating theatre, a pharmacy, ammunition, food, water and fuel stores.
The mind boggles, our service men and women were true heroes.

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Back on the bike we rode to Moorish Castle, almost not stopping as there was a lot of traffic here and nowhere really safe to park the bike, but we squeezed the bike into a place on a very steep incline and we were worried the bike would topple over at any moment…
The castle was built by the descendants of the Moorish general Tariq ibn Ziyad (670–720), who conquered the Rock in 711. The present Tower of Homage dates from 1333, and its besieged walls bear the scars of stones from medieval catapults (and later, cannonballs). Admiral George Rooke hoisted the British flag from its summit when he captured the Rock in 1704, and it has flown here ever since.

We climbed lots of steps and finally reached the top and what great view we had of the marina below us and the stretch of beaches that were in Spain, there wasn’t much to see inside this thick stoned building.
We were relieved that the bike was still upright when we returned…

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Back down and onto the main street we take now decide to have a walk through the tiny Trafalgar cemetery, it was here that men wounded in the Battle of Trafalgar in October 1805 that died of their wounds in Gibraltar were buried.

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Across from the cemetery is a memorial statue of Admiral Lord Nelson erected in 2005 on the 200th anniversary of the battle of Trafalcur, the graves and the gardens are well cared for and was lovely to walk through them reading the interesting inscription on the gravestones.

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Back on the bike we ride around the ever twisting narrow streets past cars that were parked so tight up to the walls they were next too and would need a can opener to move from the position they were in and followed the maze of tunnels that go under the rock to the other side.

We come to Europa Point a large flat area, from here we could look across the straits to Morocco, which is about 23 km (14 miles) away.
We did have plans to visit Morocco if we had time when we first started this trip , but we had run out of time…

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If you squint a bit you can just make out Morrocco…

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There was plenty to see and do here, Hardings Battery, The Lighthouse, Ibrahim-Al-Ibrahim Mosque, Shrine of Our Lady of Europe and the Nun’s Well.

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With many of streets all one way, riding back was now going to be chilly as this side of the ‘Rock’ was shaded.
As we had skipped lunch we were now feeling hungry, so back to the other end of main street to see what wonderful food we could find, parking the bike on a wide path near Grand Casemates Gate on the site of Water Gate.

Which is the main access to the fortified town of Gibraltar, we walked through one of the huge stone tunnels, that had the original old wooden gates still attached.

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We were now in Casemates Square, a large public space where the former barracks have been transformed into bars and shops, we had a wander around unsure of what we were going to eat as there were so many restaurants to choose from, we were spoilt for choice, but in the end we decided that as we had started the day with an English breakfast we shall end the day with a English Roast dinner as we were in a small piece of Britain, this was a great place to sit back with a beer and enjoy life and reflect how far we had come…

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The sun was slowly setting, so that was our cue to go, riding across the airport runway and back to the border, getting back into Spain took a bit longer that coming in this morning, plus we couldn’t jump the queues as motorbikes had to squeeze down a make shift passage single file.
There is a deliberate stalling tactic by the spanish border guards at the moment because they are in some sort of dispute, but they waved us through with no hassles.

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Back at the Hotel we researched where we were going next, folded and packed the washing, tomorrow we are of to see what Portugal has in store for us.

We were having mixed feeling now, from now on we are on last leg of the journey taking us towards the end…

Viva La Barcelona…

The mornings rain made for a very miserable ride to Barcelona, as we arrived at the outskirts of the city, we followed the GPS direction to our hotel, the GPS was taking us up some crazy steep, narrow one way road in the hills behind the city, this was defiantly not the correct area. On the plus side though it gave us the best view of Barcelona.

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We managed to get to the bottom of the hill on the other side without overheating the brakes…
But managed to go round in circles trying to figure out where to go.

We did eventually find our way to Hotel Exe Parc del Vallés Cerdanyola del Vallès, which is about a 15 minutes ride from the city centre, as we had the bike, it didn’t bother us being that far away from the centre, plus it was cheaper.

As Clive began to unload in the now persistent rain, with black clouds and a thunder storm looming in, i went in to check in, the girl behind the desk was a happy as the weather, miserable, she must be having a bad day!

Our room was large, clean (we get pretty excited about these types of things) with great wifi.
By the time we had a hot shower the rain had stopped..wohoo… so we took advantage to have an explore around the local area and grab some dinner, taking the umbrella just in case.

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Clive likes to eat like’Fred Flintsone’

The town was small and was not a touristy area, but pleasant all the same, and it was nice to stretch our legs.

We couldn’t believe it when we woke up, brilliant sun and cloudless blue skies, just what we wanted as this was going to be our only full day here and we were going to need to cram in as much as possible, so no time to waste we get on the bike and head into the city.

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First on our list of places to view was
The Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família
a Roman Catholic Church designed by the Catalan Antoni Gaudí (1852–1926) the genius architect, who died after being hit by a tram.

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Parking the bike was not a problem, with all the bags and side boxes off it made it even easier. We parked in the prime spot right outside the church…
Like most people walking towards the church, you walk with your head tilted upwards, taking in this spectacular tall building that a brilliant man designed.

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The queues to get in to the church wrapped around 3 sides of the building and they didn’t seem to be moving either, we noticed a cafe opposite the church, so while having a much needed coffee, we could also see how fast the queue was moving…well it wasn’t even moving at a snails pace, it was way slower!

So the decision was made, we weren’t going to go inside, not this trip anyway…

This astonishing Church was started construction was inspired by the organic shapes of nature, Gaudí studied every detail of his creations integrating into his architecture a series of crafts in which he was skilled… ceramics, stained glass, wrought ironwork forging and carpentry..

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Its style Orientalist, Neo-gothic, Naturalist, Modernist and eclectic, construction started in 1882 and is going on even after more than 100 years.

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Even though its unfinished it attracts around 2.8 million visitors a year and is the most visited monument in Spain.

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The Church is meant to be completed in 2026…i wonder how Guaudi will feel about it when its finished as Critics have warned that its final design will has little in common with Gaudí’s original vision, a failing that the architect may not have had much trouble with, something we will never find out, even though its amazing.

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Back on the bike , Barcelona is a easy city to navigate as it is mostly set out as a grid pattern, we are going to check out Park Guell, parking again was easy, we parked in the corner of the bus park.

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This park started out as a development project. Eusebi Güell, acquired 42 acres of a large hilly plot in the Gràcia district. He wanted to turn the area into a residential garden village based on English models which was to be Sixty housing units and a few public buildings.
The project was a commercial flop and was abandoned in 1914 – but not before Guell’s friend Gaudí had created 3km of roads and walks, steps, a plaza and two gatehouses in his inimitable manner.
In 1918 the city of Barcelona acquired the property and in 1922 it opened to the public as a park.

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There are a few entrances into the park, ours was not the main one, we followed the twisting paths and gradually ascended, the paths lead to the most amazing arcades and viaducts.

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Gaudí’s imagination is astonishing and is revealed in the different elements that amaze visitors from around the world.

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Some strange people here!!

We find ourselves at a huge circled area with curving broken ceramic benches around the perimeter, this is impressive, we find a space on the bench and take in this fantastic creation from a brilliant mind, i’m sure Gaudi would be more than happy to know that his brilliant achievements had brought so much happiness to millions of visitors.

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We make our way its famous dragon covered steps (covered in coloured broken-ceramic pieces)…this leads to the gatehouses, which look like they were built for the Hansel and Gretel fairy tale WOW WOW WOW.

We head back to the bike and decide to take a little ride around this colourful, vibrant city and end up at Catalunya Square, we park with all the others hundreds of motorbikes that are parked next to the square, then head of to find something to eat, walking past the hot dogs was too tempting, hardly local Spanish food, but never the less very delicious, we head back over to the massive square which is 50,000 square metres, and is known for its fountains and statues.

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The square over looked by huge buildings, and at the edge of the square are tree and lawn that give it more of a park feel, apparently this square is where all roads start from Barcelona and you can practically go anywhere, we’ll test that out shortly.. as we are off to check out the old fort that over looks the Mediterranean.

We road up towards the fort zig zagged until we could get no further, and walked the rest of the way up, the walk up was pleasant, the gardens that followed the pathways were simple and well kept, we could have got the cable car up, but we were glad of the walk.

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The castle was way smaller than i thought it would be, but still impressive and with sweeping views over the city and Mediterranean.
We walked across the old bridge, underneath where what would have been a moat? were beautiful designed gardens.

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This castle or Fort has a rather dark history…it has been used to watch over the city and as a political prison and killing ground, anarchists were executed here around the end of the 19th century, fascists during the civil war and Republicans after it.
The castle is surrounded by ditches and walls (from which its strategic position over the city and port become clear).

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Massive guns point out to sea and over the city and areas, it was a shame that people have taken to graffiti the guns, and take no notice of the signage that ask you not too climb the guns!

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One last look out to sea, revealed the cruise ships below us, Barcelona is now the main port of call in Europe, with over three million passengers every year!

Time was now getting away from us, we have been here for hours, where does the time go?
The air was getting cold, and the sun was slowly dipping.
Thankfully the walk to the bike was all down hill, the ride down the twisting shaded roads was a cold one, but once past the cypress pine tree and down near the port, we were once again in the sun, but were still cold
making our way back to the hotel. Repacking tonight, we have a long trip tomorrow, we want to make our way towards Gibraltar

Espana Bound…

All loaded up, we leave the beautiful town of Antibes and our temporary home with all the creature comforts, now heading towards Spain hoping we would miss the nasty weather that was looming on the weather sites!
The border was about 5 hours away, so we weren’t sure if we would make it into Spain today, as we were going to take it easy and not rush through this part of France.

We rode most of the coastal roads until lunch time where we stopped at a beautiful beach, we had bought earlier some cheeses, meat and some tomatoes, we sat down on grassy area where lots of families were enjoying the last few weeks of good weather before Autumn really sets in, the sea was calm and the sand was warm, children were either swimming or playing in the sand, a perfect family holiday spot.

With our picnic lunch over, we were back on the road still hugging the coast line, the roads were quiet which was nice, out in the sea we could see a large Navy ship, it looked like the crew were doing some sort of exercises as there seemed to be a lot of activity happening from what we could make out anyway.

We soon end up on some boring straight roads and our once beautiful scenery was now replaced with the industrial ugliness of Marseille, even though it was the afternoon we decided we didn’t want to stop here for the night so we push on towards Spain, then we see a sign for an Ibis Hotel on the side of the highway, they usually do a cheap deal for the night, so we head to the Ibis Budget Hotel in Arles, booking in for one night, we drop our gear off into our damp smelling room and head off into town, and find out what a treat we are in for, this little town is a real gem..

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Arles is a small Roman town that sits along the Rhone River and these days is well known for some of its agricultural products such as rice and olive oil.

We ride slowly into the town centre past colourful sun-baked houses and to the Rhone river, park the bike near river and along side dozens of camper vans, that seem to be set up for overnight what a stunning site they have, we stroll towards two huge stone buildings that sit beside the river, at first being unsure what they are but on closer inspection we find two stone lions high up on stone pillars and seem to be guarding the remnants of a bridge that once crossed the Rhône, the lion is in fact the symbol of Arles.

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Apparently the Dutch post-Impressionist painter Vincent van Gogh lived in Arles in 1888–1889 and produced over 300 paintings and drawings during his time there.
Once back in the town centre, we decide follow the Van Gogh trail, which is a walking circuit of the city and is marked by footpath-embedded plaques, and takes in spots where Van Gogh set up his easel to paint canvases such as Starry Night Over the Rhône (1888).

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I don’t think Van Gogh, painted this duck impression, that was on the side of an Arles house!

At each stop there’s a lectern-style signboard with a reproduction of the painting and interpretative information, that was really good.

The next site we wanted to view was the massive Arles Amphitheatre which is now one of the town’s UNESCO World Heritage sites.

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Many years ago Slaves, criminals and wild animals (including giraffes) met their death before a delighted 20,000-strong crowd, the arena was built around the late 1st or early 2nd century AD and is 136m long, 107m wide and 21m tall, topped with four defensive towers to become a fortress, in the 1820s, when the amphitheatre was returned to its original use, how ever there were 212 houses and two churches that had to be demolished first, before retuning the arena back to its former glory, it truly is a magnificent building and in remarkable good condition, we were however too late to go for a tour of the inside, but i’m sure it couldn’t have been too different from the Colosseum in Rome, Arles Amphitheatre is now one of the town’s UNESCO World Heritage sites.

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Unfortunately there is still bull fighting that goes on today, and in no uncertain terms would we ever go and watch that horror thats played out in the name of ‘sport’… man against beast.

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Close by was the Church of St. Trophime (Trophimus) which is a Roman Catholic church and former cathedral built between the 12th century and the 15th century, very nice it is too.

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The late afternoon was now turning chilly, and as we were hungry so decided to find some where to eat, feeling full the sun had now gone down and the sky was a clear dark blue/black, but before we returned to the hotel for the night we wanted to have a walk around the town centre in the dark with just the street lights for our guide.

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Wow the town was as stunning under the street lights as it was in daylight.

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This town has captivated us, and after a quick ride once more around the town we then decide to call it a night, as we were wanting to get an early start in the morning. Before getting to Spain we had another place we had researched a while a go and as we were pretty close we could now get to see it, its the town of Avignon.

With the bike parked directly underneath our 2nd floor room, to save time running up and down stairs with our bags, i got to throw a couple out the window with Clive at the bottom catching them, lol, now all loaded up we were ready to leave, saying a sad goodbye to this little surprise town of Arles, a town that we could have explored for days if we had had the time, but we always knew we couldn’t do it all sadly.

The bike was making ‘clunking’ noises which was becoming really annoying now, we were both hoping that the chain will survive the rest of our journey!
The morning was cool and the clouds in the sky were high and cold looking, Avignon wasn’t too far away.
We passed low lying empty crop fields, and in the distance we spotted what looked like an old castle that had been built on the edge of small cliff, as nice as it would have been to visit, we can’t do all the castles we see, now can we?

Arriving in Avignon we rode through the beautifully preserved medieval towns walled entrance, it was like going back in time, but we were on an iron horse not a real one!

Even though we arrived early we had to ride around the old streets a few times to find a suitable spot to park,wow some of these streets are so narrow if our bike had been any wider we couldn’t have got through, we finally found a small park and managing to squeeze the bike through the bollards (after having to unload the bikes side boxes first).
Locking up our helmets and jackets, with the rest of our gear, we hoped that it would all be still there when we returned later…

This walled city is incredible, another stunning piece of history and so well persevered, the ramparts still encircle the entire 4.3 km city, building started in 1355 during the Papacy of Pope Innocent VI, to protect from the assaults by the roving bands of mercenaries, the wall was finished in 1370 under Pope Urban V.

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We walked through the quiet old narrow streets, only a few cafes were open, most were setting up for the day and as for the rest of the shops, well they were all closed, the footpaths were narrow so we walked most of the way on the cobbled roads that on occasion turned to modern flag stones, we pasted old and picturesque squares that were dotted throughout the old town our way towards the popes palace.

As we were walking past many cafes we kept getting that ‘waft’ of coffee, the smell got too much to bare so we decided we had better have a coffee and some breakfast…and enjoy our surroundings.

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Love is in the air, or coffee…

A short walk from the cafe was Place du Palais (the Popes Palace)…what an impressive building this is, it stands so prominant in the square, its such an interesting looking building, i found myself just staring at it for what seemed ages.

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The Palace of the popes was built in less than twenty years, starting in 1335. The first part was built by Pope Benedict XII and was continued by Pope Clement VI, Nine popes lived here and ruled from Avignon during the 1300’s, making the city a major political and spiritual capital of the western world and is a significant architectural heritage, it is the biggest Gothic palace in the world, and has 15,000 square meters of floor space – which is the size of 4 Gothic cathedrals!

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It was hard to take a picture that included the whole of the palace!
The long queue to get in made our decision up for us and we decided not to go into the Palace, it is however a good excuse to return one day!

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Close by to the Popes Palace were some stairs that lead up to some beautiful gardens and had a panoramic view of the Pont d”Avignon, the only thing that was a let down was the man made water cave, it was so unnatural and tacky looking that we felt it really spoilt the beautiful gardens.

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Back into the Palace square, there were now many more tourists about and a few street performers, doing there best to trick people into believing they were statues, they were very good.

The sun was warm on our backs as we walked to the area where the bike was, Clive looked at the weather radar installed on our phone and it didn’t look good for our ride into Spain!
Despite the weather radar telling us we were in for some downpours we decided against putting on the wet weather gear for now!

Back on the bike we stopped for a quick photo of the Avignon Bridge, a beautiful stone brigade that only goes part of the way across the Rhone River, today only 5 of the 22 arches remain, the bridge was built in the 12th century and due to Wars and the Rhone river flooding the bridge was damaged even though over the years it was consistently rebuilt, before being abandoned in the 17th century, the river won that battle over the bridge!

This is one impressive little town, if you are down this side of France at all, i would suggest a visit, hopefully we will be back!

We rode for about 20 minutes before we had to stop to put our wet wether gear on lol.
We were only about less than 3 hours from the Spanish border and tried to avoid the main roads as much as possible, hoping to stick to the local roads, the rain got really relentless at times, stopping for some lunch and getting a break from the weather, we came to some coastal hills, that had some tricky switchbacks for this horrid weather, at times it was hard to see anything as we rode into fog, high on one of the hills we came to the Spanish border, the once used border buildings were run down, had smashed windows and were covered in Graffiti, bit sad really.

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Wohoo we are in Spain and the weather was still crap, we came to a few coastal towns and thought we would call it a day, but it wasn’t meant to be, these towns were pretty much empty, creepy even, so we pushed on further and stopped in a supermarket to stock up on a few items, just in case we needed to camp, at this stage it was looking like thats what we will have to do, but where i don’t know.

Even though it was the early afternoon, it looked more like early evening, as the dark clouds turned day into night.
Looking at the GPS we knew a bigger town was only a short ride away, the town of Figueres, riding through the town i got off the bike and enquired at the Hotel Trave, a bit above our budget but at that stage we didn’t care, we were cold and didn’t want to ride around just to save a few bucks, so i booked for one night.

Lucky for us the rain slowed down just enough for us to get the bags and side boxes off the bike and up into our warm, massive room, we even had a balcony but it was too wet to check it out, claps of thunder and a few strikes of lightening were now joining the rain which had started again with such force that the balcony looking like it had marbles bouncing off the tiles.
Hopefully when we leave tomorrow comes so will the sun…

After a long hot shower, we decided that we should book a hotel in Barcelona (our next stop) we certainly don’t want to be hunting for rooms in the rain.

With our hotel all booked for Barcelona we could now relax for the evening…

To be continued…

Memories in Antibes

After doing a walking lap of the campsite, we stopped at the camp shop to buy a few supplies for dinner, good old English bangers and mash with Heinz baked beans for dinner tonight, washed down with a bottle of wine.
It felt good to have a decent fridge and cooker, something we haven’t used for along time now…

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Up early the following morning we didn’t want to waste this ‘down’ time, we or should i say i, wanted to wash our bike gear while we had the chance with some decent weather (not all bikers are dirty!)
While i went to the laundrette Clive gave the bike a good wash and did all the usual checks etc…

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Next was a short ride into the old town of Antibes…
Antibes was founded by the Greeks over 2000 years ago with the name Antipolis, Shortly afterwards it was incorporated into the expanding Roman empire when it was known as Antiboul. With the fall of the Roman empire Antibes was a target of pirates and raiders until the growing power of Genoa (Italy) removed most of these threats.

We found a park for the bike, and only needed to remove our helmets and lock them up… it felt so good not wearing all the bike gear and back into our summer shorts…

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First up we walked around Port Vauban which is near the old town and is renowned throughout the sailing world as a place where super yachts for the super rich gather. It is Europe’s largest harbour and is home to more than 100 berths, over the 23-metre in length, with some berths accommodating 165 m yachts!

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The sky was blue and cloudless, the air was warm and felt so good, and the yachts were stunning, wow the wealthily sure know how to live, defiantly no fishing boats moored up here!

As the yachts very gently bobbed up and down on the clear aqua waters, their crew hosed, polished, brushed anything and everything till it sparkled, these yachts are unbelievable, although it doesn’t compare to Monaco when we were there years ago, i had never seen anything as spectacular, but all the same it is amazing.

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Art work facing the sea..

Walking back towards the old town,we walked through a familiar stone arch way, that lead to a small beached area surrounded by the harbour stone walls, we brought our kids to this beach in 1989, the great thing about these old towns are that nothing much changes, it was like we had been transported back in time, minus the kids…

The sand was warm on my feet, but putting my feet into the clear water was a shock, it was freezing, there’s no way i’m going for a swim, even if there were lots of children and adults being very brave, but i’m not one of them and nor was Clive!

To get to the old town we had to walk past our bike, even though there were a few people looking at our number plate and looking confused as to where the bike was from, we kept on walking, not feeling the need to put them out of their confusion!

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The old archway into the old town is big, just how we remembered, the narrow streets, were full of gift shops, bars and outdoor restaurants, the whole place has such a relaxed feeling and it shows, people lazily sitting, drinking, laughing and chatting without a care in the world, we followed the path into the back streets which took us down some narrow pathways, these streets were residential we gingerly walked on the cobbled stones, knowing full well they have hidden dangers…lol…

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The lanes full of stone and multicoloured homes with small windows, some with shutters and some with low doors that only kids could get through, the shinny brass door handles, sparkled as the sun hit them, plants in hanging baskets were full of stunning coloured flowers, so many streets to explore.

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Back into the busy town area we end up near a large covered area-Marché Provençal (covered market) at the Cours Massena, unfortunately for us the market stalls were all but packed up, i remember this market area from our last trip here.

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It was cake time again..

I’m not sure where the time had gone, but it was way past lunch time, finding a quaint little cafe we order a spot of lunch and enjoy our relaxing surroundings for a while in the sun. With a bit of sadness we knew we were near the end of our trip, as we could hear so many English voices, a few months ago, we could only be understood by speaking a bit of Russian!
Later in the afternoon we stopped at the supermarket to stock up on supplies, this part of Antibes has been having a lot of road works done so we went the wrong way a few times, getting a bit frustrated with the lack of road signs, it was a bit like being back in India lol.. but as always Clive could sniff out the right way..

We head back to the caravan park, and take full advantage of having a ‘real’ kitchen by cooking a roast dinner with a cheap but nice bottle of wine, the perfect end to a perfect day.

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The following day was just as beautiful as the day before, we rode back towards the old town, parked up and walked up an old lane towards the sea, we walked along the old sea wall that protects the town and found some where to sit, the air was warm and felt so good, closing my eyes for a few moments to enjoy the sounds of the sea…eyes now open we enjoyed the view of the surrounding areas, as the clear blue waters calmly hit the wall below us.

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After walking around for what seemed miles we turn back and head towards the Musée Picasso where we saw what looked like giant maltersers in the courtyard…yum..if only..

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After a spot of lunch we got back on the bike and rode along the coast road, passing busy beaches and beautiful private homes, we come to a small cliff area that looks over Antibes, as we park the bike we notice that someone has put up their tent illegally in a park area behind some bushes, what a multi million dollar view they would have.
We clamber down the small cliff and sit amongst the rock pools, enjoying yet again the sun.

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On our way back to the caravan park we pass the 16th-century Fort Carré which is a massive, star-shaped fortress on a promontory overlooking the Port Vauban. The fort is built on the site of the Chapelle St. Laurent, which sat on the ruins of the Temple of Mercury. You can’t visit the fort, unless you are going with a tour group, but there’s a nice walk around it, i remember walking around it years ago.

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The following day was spent going through our luggage and repacking it, trying to make space where there wasn’t any!.. Time was also spent doing some more maintenance on the bike, i think Clive just likes playing with his tools!

In the afternoon we decided to go to the local beach near the caravan park, crossing the road to the underpass hadn’t changed at all, i don’t think even the underpass had been painted since our last visit!
The pebble beach was uncomfortable to walk on and was also deserted except for a few locals trying their luck at fishing, it was how we remembered it, not a particularly attractive looking beach… we managed to walk a fair distance on the awkward shape stones, taking time out to act like kids by throwing stones in the sea.

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The evenings dinner was washed down with more local wine, it almost felt normal to have fully functioning kitchen to work in after being on the road for so long…
Another pleasant day had, we know we couldn’t stay here, we need to move on, after discussing over dinner that we should head for E’spania to chase the fading European summer and hopefully keeping the sun with us for a while longer.
So spain it is, its always sunny in Spain, isn’t it?
So the following morning all loaded up we head off on the coastal roads towards Spain, noticing on the forecast all the rain crossing northern Europe, we will keep south thank you very much…

cherche le soleil…

With the bike maintenance checks all done, Clive loaded up the bike and rode out of the underground car park standing up, missing his head by inches as he came through the roller doors, that was close…

As we left the hotel, the staff informed us that the forecast was for rain…yep just what we wanted to hear…
Even though it was overcast the rain was holding off, we studied the maps last night and worked out a route that would mostly keep us of the motorway and put us on twisting roads that led us to some beautiful old towns, that oozed charm.

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I kept seeing signs to Francia, which i pointed out to Clive on several occasions!…Clive being ever so knowledgeable said that was a sign for a nearby town, not France, i protested and said ‘no’ thats just the way the Italians spell France, Clive was a non believer….lol… but the funny thing was we kept on seeing this sign all the way on our route!

Gradually we started to climb, and ascended the twisting roads, which took us through small villages that were dwarfed by mountains with forests perched on the side of them, getting us closer to the border tunnel Col De Tende.

Passing through the twisting roads around the small villages, cows lazily grazed under the warm sun, not having a care in the world about the stunning area they grazed in, i think time has stood still here…old buildings dotted in fields have been left to go to ruin…they would have been great to explore.

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Finally we arrive at the border tunnel-Col de Tende, a bit of a queue was waiting at the lights- one way through the tunnel- we had a bout 20 minutes waiting time so we took advantage and enjoyed the views from the top, over looking the valley below, Col De Tende is a high mountain pass in the Alps with an elevation of 1870 m, the tunnel itself is only about 3.3k’s long.

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With the lights now green we were off through the dimly lit tunnel following the slow stream of cars that were in front of us, as soon as we got out of the tunnel and into France, the cars all suddenly sped up and drove off like looneys down the narrow twisting roads, over taking each other like their lives depended on it!

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We took our time, Clive enjoyed the twisting roads while i enjoyed the surroundings, we were also just happy to finally be in France, looking forward to some warm sun.

Following the road to Sospel, which was only a short distance away, we thought it would be a great place for a break and recheck our route.
We rode down a beautiful tree lined avenue, that lead to a street with cafes and restaurants on one side and a rather looking low (more like a trickle) Bévéra river on the other, the town of Sospel ozzes charm and dates back to the 5th century, when it served as an important staging post on the royal road from Nice to Turin, and later became prosperous in the 13th century when an important salt trading route between Nice and Turin.

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We parked the bike at the end of a bridge and found a quaint little distinctive French cafe (must be something to do with the fact we were now in France…lol) .

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We found a table and sat under a wide brimmed umbrella, ordered a coffee and made ourselves comfortable, just as our coffee was being brought out the heavens opened, grabbing our coffee we retreated to inside the rustic pink painted cafe, the rain didn’t look like it was going to stop anytime soon, so after about 1/2 hour of heavy rain, it finally started to ease, that was our cue, to get a few photos of this pretty little town.

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Lucky for us the bike was parked near a bus stop shelter, which was just as well as when we were suiting up, the heavens opened again, after 10 minutes it eased again, the sky was black, and we didn’t hold out any hope of the rest of our journey being a dry one.
The rain was on and off as we rode along the wet twisting roads, in the distance i could just make out a strange shape, as we got closer i could see a stone multi-arched curved viaduct, what is this strange bridge, that looks so out of place sticking out? …i later found out is was the Menton-Sospel Tramway, a narrow-gauge tramway which was built in 1913 to link Menton and Sospel.

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The hillside roads were now laden with lots of gravel and rocks that had washed down from the rock face and gardens above us which made it rather challenging for Clive on the hairpin bends, normally we would have enjoyed this type of road, it was made worse by the torrential rain that was now coming down and having a front tyre that has long past its use by date was making things a bit slippery.

At certain points on the road we could make out the Mediterranean, the skies also looked clear in the distance, but Monaco was not on our route this time…we were there in 1989 and covered most of it then, it seemed pointless to us to do it again.

We found our selves back on the toll roads again, just as the skies turned a nasty shade of black, the rain was so heavy we had to pull over into a service station to take refuge from the weather, many cars had the same idea as well, it would have been stupid to ride on in this weather.

We were soaked and made good use of the hand dryers in the toilets, turning the the hot blower on our wet clothes to dry them out a bit.
Just to add a some more excitement to our day a fierce electrical storm with amazing lightning decided to make an appearance…
An hour passed and the storm eased a little and we felt safe to get going again. This time we couldn’t avoid the toll road and we bypassed the city of Nice.
Then as if by magic the rain stopped when we saw a sign for Antibes, blue skies were above us and the blackened clouds blew off and into the hills, wahoo we were in warm sunshine again, it had eluded us for quite a while now…well it felt like it anyway.

As we rode closer to Antibes we started getting hot, we had to stop and strip off our wet weather gear.
The roads were starting to look familiar and it didn’t take long till we found the camp site that we stayed at in 1989 with our then, two young children, unfortunately the gates were locked, the campsite closed a week ago and wouldn’t reopen till spring, we looked through the gate and it looked just the same as when we were last there.

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Close by was another campsite, so we rode in and parked up while i enjoyed the sun Clive talked to the manager, it worked out to be only a few Euro’s more to stay in one of the mobile homes than it was to camp plus we would be staying for 4 nights, i think also the manager could see we had been traveling for a long time and was impressed for what we had achieved , he gave us a great deal, brilliant.

Our mobile home was pretty big and all the amenities we needed to live comfortably for the next few days, oh and wifi, an onsite supermarket, bar, laundry, pizza shop and pool.
It felt great to wear shorts and just a t-shirt again, while taking a stroll around the grounds, we didn’t realise it was so big, in fact massive, as we walked to the site supermarket all we heard were british voices, it seemed like this campsite had been taken over by the British, after talking to some of them we found out many of the mobile homes were owned by the British, some live here permanently and some come at the end of the holiday season to have a warm winter, escaping the English winter…But also we felt sad by hearing the familiar language, it meant we were coming to the end of our trip…

To be continued…

Its Been A Hard Day’s Night…

Not long after we had fuelled the bike up, we checked the map and realised that we were not that far from the border of Switzerland…wow that came up quickly.
The sun was going slowly going down and it was getting chilly, we were thinking may be we shouldn’t have spent such a long time relaxing and warming up in Lindau at lunch time!..

We decided maybe we should look for a place to stay for the night.
After stoping and enquiring at many hotels on our route for hours, we found they were either fully booked, closed down (but still had signage to say otherwise) or they were ridiculously over priced, the most expensive we have come across and believe me these rooms were nothing exciting, there was no way we were going to pay that as our budget has been taken a hit recently, so we made the decision to carry on riding until we get either tired or hoping something would come up!

It seemed like we were riding for hours and of course we were, the small towns and lush green countrysides went on and on, the sun was slowly leaving the beautiful, clear blue skies behind, we were now riding in the dark, which is something neither of us are keen on.

At times i found myself dozing off, maybe for a minute or so, Clive awoke me as my head would crash into his!
Clive was also feeling the effects of a long day, and both needing to take a break, we rode into a town and kept a look out for some where to rest, we found a Macdonald’s on the outskirts of Zurich and stopped for a bite to eat and a much needed coffee, discussing our next move, making our selves at home in Maccas for about an hour.
Feeling as refreshed as we could get we decided to hit the road again, maybe finding somewhere we could put the tent up, the motorway was dark and there was a lot of traffic about for this time of night, particularly big trucks.

We rode on until about 12.30 am, and decided this was getting stupid, we could get wiped out at any minute with the big trucks thundering pass so we pulled in at a service centre, we noticed that there was a hotel foyer in the mall area that housed the takeaway food venders it was then that we decided that what ever the cost we will just have to pay it, Clive went to check it out, while i stayed with the bike, he came back saying that he couldn’t get into the building, it was closed up, so we rode around the car park looking for some where to put the tent up, but then decided the place didn’t feel right, so back onto the bike and down the motorway again.

We find another service centre, there was no hotel but there were some big trees with a huge canopy so our idea was that the tree cover would keep the cold and damp off us (as it was now getting pretty cold).

We had a idea if we put the bike onto its centre stand we could sit on it and maybe get forty winks, So with the bike on the centre stand, Clive leaned forward with his arms on the tank bag and i leaned into him.
I think we managed about 10 minutes of sleep then it got too uncomfortable plus there were lots of coming and goings of people, so we got back on the motorway until we came across the next big service centre.

The next service centre, which looked pretty new and had a huge car park, we pulled up and went inside the service centre, to have a hot drink and a wash and to thaw out my hands under the hot water, while i went back to the bike Clive was off wondering the car park grounds, there was a small area that was grassy and a few RV’s were backed up to the grass area, Clive had a brilliant idea of putting the tent up between the RV’s so we couldn’t be seen (as camping was not allowed), we didn’t have much choice as Clive was really tired and felt he couldn’t ride any more, plus it was nearly 3am.

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With the tent up we dived in and didn’t even bother taking our motorbike gear off (except our helmets!). It didnt take long for both of us to fall asleep.
We woke up as the sun was rising, packed up our damp tent, before anyone noticed we were even there, and went off to have a wash and some breakfast, we don’t want to be put in that position again if possible, with both of us feeling better for a few hours sleep we set off in the direction of Vevey, which is on the northern shore of lake Geneva.

It was really a gorgeous morning once the fog had lifted, clear blue skies…just perfect.
We got off the main highway and took the country roads when we could, Switzerland is a visual delight, we rode past lush green hills, snow capped mountains in the distance, turquoise blue lakes that looked very inviting!- simply breathtaking.

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As we neared Vevey the scenery was very mountainous on both sides of us, produce gardens were perched up on the sides of the rocky hills, this area is very beautiful.
Riding through the town, trying to get closer to Lake Geneva was a challenge, as there were lots of man made barriers blocking the streets, it looked like there was some sort of push bike race happening today.
Eventually we made it to the lake, the water on the lake was clear, a few boats were sailing around but not as many as we expected, may have had something to do with it still being early!

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Some great artwork along the shoreline…

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Charlie Chaplain was born here and in his later life came back to end his days here.

Eager for a coffee we were disappointed to find no coffee shops around this area that overlooked the lake were open, so back on the bike, the roads were quiet and the scenery was awesome, we had the lake to the right of us, the lake was a mirror of ‘grey’ that blended in with the mountain backdrop.
Still eager for a coffee we find that ever popular restaurant Macdonald’s again, taking our time to enjoy our coffee and the backdrop of the mountains… but we need to keep going, the lure of the South of France and warm sunshine was getting closer each day.

Gradually we start to climb, we are now heading towards the Great St. Bernard Pass (Col Du Grand St. Bernard), which is the third highest road pass in Switzerland with an elevation of 2469m or 8,100ft. It connects Martigny in the Canton of Valais in Switzerland to Aosta in Italy.
It is the lowest pass lying on the ridge between the two highest summits of the Alps, Mont Blanc and Monte Rosa.
Great St. Bernard is the most ancient pass through the Western Alps, with evidence of use as far back as the Bronze Age and surviving traces of a Roman road. In 1800, Napoleon’s army used the pass to enter Italy.

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A few sportbikes ‘fly’past us on these twisting roads, they certainly aren’t loaded up like us!
The view from up here was mind-blowing, but that wasn’t the only thing that was blowing, the wind was keeping the temperature pretty cool, even more so when we were in the shade of the mountains.
Once we enter the tunnel we pay the toll and head off through the tunnels towards Italy, the tunnel wasn’t a solid wall of rock all the way through, there were large ‘gaps’ that gave us glimpses of the surrounding mountains, boy this area is beautiful, a few K’s before the end of the tunnel we could a ‘roar’, all of a sudden a red Lamborghini heads towards us, the noise was incredible, made worse by the fact we were in a tunnel, this car was defiantly not doing the required speed limit of 80 km/h or 50 mph and then it was gone, leaving a faint sound behind.

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We exit the tunnel into glorious sunshine we are now in Aosta Valley, we start descending down this smooth road, as we have said many times in our blogs and i shall say it again, we were over whelmed by the amazing scenery.

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The roads zig zagged through small villages with dark stone and slate roofs, we have gone back in time, in the distance sat castles on top of ‘lone’ hills, picture perfect.

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We were now getting quite warm so we found a ‘lay-by’ stripped off our bike gear and made a cup of tea. There were a few benches so we made use of them by spreading out our damp tent, in this heat and wind it won’t take long for the tent to dry.

We did have to chase the tent around the ‘lay-by’ when the wind decided to take the tent with it!
With our cup of tea finished the tent was dry enough to be packed away properly.

As we declined further the scenery, got boring, or was because we had just ridden through some amazing scenes?
The towns were bigger as well, some pretty some not, much of this lower lying area was surrounded by corn fields.
There seemed to be a lot of girls wearing practically nothing standing on the side of the road in the gaps of bushes, hmmm.. what were they selling….

Trying top avoid the expensive motorways was impossible at times, but apart from being expensive they were boring straight roads, with not much to view but the barriers.
It was now mid afternoon and our lack of sleep from the previous night was catching up with both of us.

Turin was the next big city, but we really didn’t want to start trailing hotels in a big city to find the best deal, being tired can make you short tempered!!!!

I could see that there was a hotel located near an exit off the motorway, i pointed at it to Clive, as we got closer to the hotel we could see it was Holiday Inn, fearing that it was going to be out of our price range, we thought we would ask anyway.
Clive pulled up and i got off, taking my helmet off, i tried with out luck to tidy my hair, thank goodness for my scarf, it has hidden many bad hair days lol.
As i approached the entrance doors a well groomed lady asked me if i needed any help (i thought maybe she was going to stop me from going into the hotel!) i explained we were after a room.
At the front desk, i enquired about a room, wow a bit pricey, but not as bad as Switzerland.

As i exited the hotel, feeling a bit deflated, the well groomed lady asked if i had got what i wanted, i explained it was a little out of our budget, she then said we can have the room for 60 Euros, with free parking in a secure park plus an all you can eat buffet breakfast, wahoo.

The receptionist who checked us in said the mangers has never reduced rooms like that before…
After registering we freshen up in our big, clean modern room with lashings of hot water.
We hadn’t eaten much today, so we decided to go into the local town which was 10 minutes down the road, on the way i felt something hit my leg, i mentioned to Clive about it, he immediately knew what it could be, his glasses, upon turning the bike around we could make out something on the road, but as we got closer to them so did a few cars, running over them we feared that they would be crushed, i finally managed to pick them up in between on coming traffic, the frame was bent out of shape but the glass wasn’t broken, thats amazing, it would help to have an odd shaped face to wear them now!!!

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At this time of the day we found not a lot open, we did find a super market and stocked up on supplies, on our way back to the hotel we noticed a patisserie, and feeling the lure of a cake, we stopped off the get a couple of ‘samples’, it was our duty to keep small businesses going!

An early night was on the cards for us, hoping to catch on on some much needed sleep, but first we had to Skype the kids…
Breakfast as we thought was amazing, the manager really did us a great favour, we think most people there were paying triple what we paid for the night and the breakfast.
We once more loaded up the bike and a great nights sleep we sped off in the direction of the Italian/ French border.

The road of Romance and Fairy-Tales….

The bikes all loaded up, and our good-byes said to Steven.
Looking at the sky and previously reading the weather report we know we are going to be in for a damp day :(
We have had enough of the rain and cold that seems to be set in the middle of Europe, we decided to head for the south of France for some much needed sunshine…

Yesterday Steven advised us of a great road south through Germany that would avoid the autobahn and he printed out a map with directions to follow, that would follow the famous Romantic road.

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Which flows through medieval towns of half-timbered houses on a route that starts from historic Würzburg to the alpine glories of the city of Fussen and ends at Neuschwanstein, where as most people would know it as the castle that was in the ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ movie (1968) and for those that don’t know the palace was also the model for the Sleeping Beauty Castle of Disneyland!

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We were really looking forward to this ‘romantic’ ride, which goes on for about 410 km, passing through some beautiful countryside, cobblestoned villages and the medieval, walled towns, and arched gateways with guard towers that stand at the entrance to towns, it sounds like a fairytale, but the weather had turned pretty nasty, before we could take the exit to these medieval towns, which put us in the non romantic mood!
So we were going to head straight for Neuschwanstein Castle.
Several times the rain was so hard that we had to pull over, it was unbelievably hard to see anything..
Thankfully the bursts of rain didn’t last too long….at times!

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As we neared Neuschwanstein, the scenery was incredible, big lush green pastures lay below the mountains, this is amazing there is no other words for it, we could just make out Neuschwanstein Castle in the distance, proudly sitting high above the Hohenschwangau Valley.

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Clive was not keen to do the castle tour, but i was, even though i had read some negative comments about touring the castle , e.g. that no photos are allowed and that you don’t have time to enjoy the rooms as you are hurried along by the group leader, but i still wanted to go in.

So after admiring this majestic castle from a far in a stunning setting and taking dozens of photos we rode into the village, oh boy it was busy the place was full of tourist coaches and upon looking at the queue which was ridiculously huge i decided against going into the castle, looks like we defiantly have to return to Germany now, so i can fulfil my romantic dream…

We rode into Fussen town for a bite to eat, and just as we were about to walk out the door, rain hammered on down, so much rain in fact that the road looked like a river, drains were so full they couldn’t cope, this weather was just another reason why we wanted to head to the South of France.

As soon as the coast was clear we ‘layered’ up again and rode on hoping to make as much ground as we could.
The rain continued for the rest of the day, feeling cold we made a quick stop off to a bakery for a hot drink, parking the bike directly outside the bakery on the wide pavement, we were welcomed in by the old lady that ran the store, she told us to relax and warm up, just them a police car pulled up and asked us if that was our bike outside, ‘Yes’ we said, he then went on to say we can’t park where we were and to move it, he then went on to buy a pie, as he walked out the door the old lady did the V sign to him behind his back and called him something really not what we expected an old lady to say…ha ha, it took us totally by surprise and as he drove off, she told us not to bother moving the bike, so we didn’t, but we weren’t there for much longer anyway.

We noticed all these pumpkins for sale at a road side stall and were amazed there was a Queensland Australia pumpkin , the part of the world we left behind nine months ago on sale there …

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There was a colourful mix of pumpkins on sale there..

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We rode until we had both had enough of being cold and wet, which was only after few hours, we stopped at a biker friendly bed and breakfast, and after a lot of confusion about whether they were were going to make us breakfast as they were having the next day off, the owner than finally said his mother will cook breakfast for you, so i booked the room without viewing it!…

I should have taken all the ‘above’ as a sign and walked out then, but we were tired, so after lugging all our gear upstairs and really looking forward to a hot shower, we got into our room, which was freezing cold and damp, taking off all our wet gear i walked through one of the doors thinking it was the bathroom- NO- it was a store room- Shit- no bathroom, they said there was a bathroom, so i went back downstairs and talked to the owner who said they do have a bathroom, its on the floor above us, but you have to share it.
We packed the bike back up and high tailed it out of there lol.

A few Klms down the road we came across another ‘Biker Friendly’ hotel.
I checked out the room….hmmm ‘very cozy’ but, yippee it had an ensuite which was the size of a broom cupboard, we didn’t care it was private, the room was warm and we were out of the rain, hoping to dry out our clothes and Clive’s recently acquired bike boots that were pretty wet.

The following morning we were again greeted by grey skies, but no rain, our plan for the day was getting into Switzerland.

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Later in the day we crossed a bridge and arrived at the small town of Lindau, which lies on an island on Lake Constance. It looked beautiful and with the sun out and blue skies, we felt so much better, back on top of the world, it amazing how the weather can change your mood..

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Parking was difficult to find even for the bike, we managed however to literally squeeze the bike into to an tiny area near the railway.
After stripping off our jackets, and postioning the rest of our gear over the bike to dry out, as it was now quite warm we would be foolish not to take advantage of it. Walking around the harbour in the warm sun was bliss, we could feel our bones warming up, oh the sun feels good.
We found a great little restaurant facing the harbour entrance-this will do nicely for lunch, even though it was warm we ordered the homemade soup.

While waiting for that to arrive Clive took off his still damp boots and socks hoping they would dry out a bit more in the sun, with Clive’s socks hanging over the arm of his chair we enjoyed our soup, ohh this sun feels so good we really didn’t want to move, so we stayed there for a while longer, Lindau has a great relaxed feel about the place, we sat there until the sun had moved away from us.

Oh well back on the bike and into Austria again but only for a short time we needed to fuel up before we head in to the birth place of my favourite chocolate-Lindt.

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