Thursday, March 27, 2014

Catch Up

Right time for a catch up.

The route we took from Santiago across the top of Spain while scenic was fairly unremarkable. We stayed in a nice biker friendly place just outside San Sebastian where we put the bike in the lift to the upper floor in an old industrial building for safe parking.

The next day was one of this mistake days where while trying to avoid the boring toll motorways we ended up on the coast road through Biarritz. Very hot, with lots of holiday makers going along the coast road in no hurry. Get me outta here!!

Anyway we were back in Fontennay En Parisis a couple of days later and then into full on “lets get married” mode.

The wedding took place in Coventry in September with people coming from as far as Switzerland and France to help us celebrate. The day went off without a hitch and I’m pretty sure that everyone enjoyed themselves. We certainly did and spent a very nice wedding night at Coombe Abbey.

Coombe Abbey


The long awaited trip across Russia, Mongolia and Siberia is on. Since Christmas I’ve been planning for most of the time and getting the Russian visa sorted. That is all done now and it’s just a question of getting the last few bits and pieces sorted out before I fly to the UK again on the 10th of May (economy again! But finances dictate this time) Unfortunately my mate Mike Haysom has had to pull out of going with me but as I write this I’m in contact with a guy from Sweden who is heading the same way and might be company for some of the way.

Packed for two

The bike is pretty much sorted and since Spain I’ve fitted a single sided Titanium exhaust. It’s made the bike more rideable, got rid of 4.5kg and it sounds like a big single should now. As you can see from the photo Claire has been amazing with the amount of luggage she can manage with on the bike, although we will be slightly overloaded through Europe as I have to carry the camping gear with me this time. That’s OK as it will be all on tarmac roads and we won’t be pushing hard. The seat has also been recovered with better foam which should improve the comfort for both of us.

New Exhaust

New Seat

 I’ve still got to fit a decent bash plate and upgrade the front fork springs but nothing that a few days work wont fix.

Bring on the 10th May.........

Friday, August 2, 2013

Santiago de Compostela

Day 9 of the trip saw us crossing over the top of Portugal and into Galicia heading for its capital Santiago de Compostela. Allegedly the remains of St James the Apostol were brought to in 813 AD for burial, and pilgrims have been flocking here ever since.

the back of the cathedral

If you go upstairs you can "embrace" the Apostle??

Lots of carvings and pictures of this fella

35 degrees in Europe can be hard work, the green hills in this area start to give up a lot of the moisture they are holding onto and the humidity goes through the roof!! While we were starting to look for a place for lunch I suddenly caught the smell of BBQ and down below us to the right on a minor road we found this place. All you can eat for 20 euros. The place was packed with locals and tourists alike. Whoever though of stocking the fires so that the smoke drifted across the main highway was a genius !

When we finished this they just asked if we wanted more!!

I had been warned by my sister that access to the area around the cathedral was limited bordering on impossible and it was more by luck and ignoring some no entry signs that we found the entrance to our hotel right opposite the back entrance to the cathedral. We unloaded the bike and registered and for the first time on the trip we had to put the bike into a public car park for safe keeping. Never mind. Our hotel was an old monastery and while the rooms were sparse they were comfortable and cool.

The entrance to the hotel

Inside was nice

The next day was spent wandering around the old city and trying to find not only the religious parts (of which there are many, cathedral etc) but the other interesting places like the meat and fish market we stumbled upon.

fish market in full swing

Lots of interesting places to discover

The early evening nightlife in Santiago is fantastic. Once everyone has woken up from their siesta the street cafes and tapas bars come to life and it’s a great way to people watch while having a drink and some nice nibbles. In fact this was becoming our evening meal as we ate our main meal at lunch time as eating at 10.00 in the evening is not my thing.

Cafe culture in the evening - Great

Good beer, but beware at 8.2%!!!

Octopus tapas, mmmmm!!

Different buskers each night at this place

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Zamora "in da hood"

We left Toledo and headed out across the wheat plains of Spain (rain this time of the year was mainly thunder storms at night!) stopping at Zamora which was just a mid point for a nights stopover but is a nice enough Medieval town in its own right. With 24 churches in the old part of town it has the most Romanesque style churches in all of Europe.

Great old streets again

One of the 24 chrches

At the end of the old city is the cathedral number 24

The other thing Zamora is famous for is Holly Week when the Easter brotherhood’s, parade through the streets (I’m sure some of the Zamoran’s have cousins in the deep south of the USA??)

Statue in the main square

The brothers in the hood!!

After a good walk and a beer or two around we raided the supermarket to get some food seeing as the restaurants don’t open until 10.00 and we were both getting very hungry.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Jousting with Windmills

Toledo turned out to be a fantastic place to stay and explore for a couple of days. The hotel was just to one side of the old city and with restaurants and souvenir shops and bars galore we had no problem in amusing ourselves. Like many of the old Medieval towns in Spain the buildings in Toledo are four stories high and very narrow. As a result the sun does not penetrate into these streets so easily and it stays a little cooler. 

On the edge of the old town

The Cathedral

The down side is when you walk into one of the squares at midday and it’s like a scene from the Chronicles of Riddick!! 

Tall buildings = Cool streets

The third day we fired up the bike and headed south to find the windmills around Consuegra. These are the ones that Don Quixote jousted with when he really went off his rocker!! Perched on the hillside just at the back of the town they are quite a sight to see. Even though we didn't set off that early we still beat most of the Spanish tourists and the coaches there. We were on the way back for a siesta by lunch time. 

Right Rocinante, on to battle!!

Great views from the hill top

Next was a run across the hot Spanish plains and north to Santiago de Compostela.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Andorra and into Spain

The ride on the Sunday was an easy 120km down to Carcassone. We stopped for a coffee in Cordes-sur-Ciel and arrived early in Carcassone. Check in time was also thankfully early and after parking the bike around the back of the hotel under lock and key we wandered of to have a look around one of the most “knights and castles” places that you can imagine.

Luckily the majority of the daytime tourists had left and we enjoyed a comfortable evening and dinner before returning to the hotel to find the bike had company of around another seven, or eight bikes from Germany.

Monday’s run into Andorra was another short day but the scenery got better and better as we climbed up into the Pyrenees Mountains. This was my first visit to this Principality and although great if you are looking for duty free alcohol, cigarettes, petrol (around 25 stations along the main road into town) or any other kind of electrical device from camera’s, computers to tazers!! I think other than a winter skiing vacation I won’t be coming back too soon.

Spectacular ride in

Tuesday was another short 120km day into Spain to the Parador in Cardona. During the 1970’s the Spanish government took over a lot of the old castles and grand houses in Spain and converted them into luxury hotels. The one we had chosen was a castle set on to of a hill. Thankfully like most places we parked the bike fairly close to the entrance and enjoyed a huge room and dinner that evening.

The Parador (old castle) set on top of the hill

Very medieval !!

All the Paradors serve a variety of the local dishes of the area. I had the stuffed Guinea Fowl. Very nice.

As we have come down through Spain the temperature has slowly risen to the high thirty’s, as expected. What was a surprise were the roads, especially from Teruel to Cuenca. I think I can safely say that this road would rank with the best motorcycle riding roads in the world. Good road with lots of bends and great scenery. 

Albarracin town start of a great ride through the sierras

By the time we got to Toledo we were baking in the mid afternoon sun and desperate to get to our Hotel. Once again we scored not only with it being in the heart of the old city but when asked where was the best place to park the bike the reply came “just park it outside the door. Perfect!!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Paris to the Tarn district

I left Claire and Fontenay on the next Sunday morning after a week of odd jobs and larger ones with me lending a hand to Polo to pull down the ceiling in the living room and putting up a new one. Traffic around the outside of Paris was light and remained so for the rest of the day. It gave me a chance to get back into the travelling frame of mind. Just before lunch I thought I felt something rough in the driveline but it seemed to disappear and I forgot about it. I made good time and arrived in Guere by two o’clock. Unfortunately the check in didn’t open until five!! The downside of Sunday afternoon in France is that there is nothing open, so I headed for McDonnalds (always open!) to waste as much time as I could. The poor weather that I had encountered in the afternoon was still hanging around the next morning as I chatted to the Belgium quartet on Harleys that had also stayed there. Luckily it dissipated as I got through the massif central mountains and continued south west down into the Tarn region. I got to Pear Tree Cottage at around three in the afternoon to join my Mum and my Sister for the next two weeks to relax and enjoy some of the wonderful sights there are in that region.

During the thirteenth century the kings of France and England built “new” fortified towns or “Bastides” in the Tarn region laid out to a plan of streets to a grid pattern with a central market place. These medieval towns were built on hills and surrounded with defendable walls. All this means that they were sturdy and still survive today and as such are a delightful window into what it must have been like to live in those times. Towns such as Cordes-sur-Ciel and Najac have occupied most of our time as the weather has steadily got better with the European summer suggesting that it may have finally arrived??

On one of the first days I decided to do a little maintenance on the bike and after adjusting and lubricating the chain noticed that there was a fair amount of play in the brake side of the rear wheel. It only took a moment to decide that it would not make sense to risk continuing on to Spain with it like that, especially considering that all the hotels are booked and we are going to be on a fairly tight schedule. So with that in mind I sought out the local Yamaha dealer “Warmup Moto” in Albi and over the weekend they managed to procure a full set of bearings and have the work done by the Tuesday afternoon. Great service with a smile and at the 200 euros I had expected.

Next step is that Claire will join me on Friday and on Sunday we will start to head for Carcassone and then the Pyrenees and a couple of nights in the principality of Andorra.