Well, it’s about time we got onto 2 wheels again. Aussie Dieter was a blast, but we need to rebalance the blog with motorbike adventures and Tom is really loving this one. Tim is too, but more of that later. This trip is a jaunt down through France and Spain to Jerez and the MotoGP. We’ve never been to one before, and by bike seemed to be the most appropriate mode of travel. Tom and The Colonel (aka the beautiful Triumph 800 and KTM 1190 for the less initiated) have been dusted off, given a full service and Tom has even had new shoes (Bridgestone Battleaxes no less) and are raring to go…..
We are sailing…
Day 1 was a short but exciting affair as it coincided with my birthday. After a very lovely and leisurely day at home, we saddled up for the trip to Plymouth (with dinner en route) to get the overnight ferry to Roscoff. That was quite something – it was packed! Best entertainment came from a dads and lads rugby trip – Ivybridge playing a french team somewhere about an hour south of Roscoff – well the lads were doing the graft, dads were just there for the beer. Parenting skills were interesting to say the least. Chatting to a couple of the dads: “Where’s your lad then?”, asks I. Response: “No idea, I saw him a bit ago and told him to go to bed, but saw him just and he was still going strong…..another beer???” It was soon well past midnight and NO kids were in bed. The French boys were on for a walkover I reckon. Mind you, wait until the return leg…..
By morning, we were up and ready to disembark by 8am. Well, we would have been if it wasn’t for a trillion cyclists (lycra variety) in front of us. Tavistock Wheelers, come on down. Once we were off, we were rewarded with some lovely varied and quiet roads. Must do this more often thinks I. However, it was flipping cold – rarely above 8 or 9 degrees but we seem to cleverly dodge the rain – even if the roads were well wet. I swear me and Tim need to offer our services to all governments around the world who are overly hot and gasping for rain. Give us a free trip – we’ll sort it for you! A welcome morning coffee to warm up. Great roads and lovely towns to enjoy en route – Malestroit served as a lovely lunch spot – before arriving at our first overnight destination: Nantes. A basic hotel but safe parking for the bikes and a quick taxi ride meant we could have a quick look at Nantes (well worth it), a nice dinner and a couple of drinks. The taxi driver was a biker – had a GSXR but never mind – and gave lots of lovely chat there and back.
Nothing worse than a damp squib…
The next morning brought with it lots of rain and so we took the decision to do a fair bit on the motorway to try and get in front of it. Funniest thing was trying to get off the toll road to enjoy some proper roads. Unfortunately my toll ticket and money were in a pocket that was not exactly waterproof. Result was a ‘computer says no’ when I tried to exit the toll booth. Enter, stage left, a very lovely Frenchman (probably pee’d off for having to wait) to help the English damsel in distress. Limited English + rusty French = hilarity. I’m talking to him in my bestest French (a bit crap), he’s trying to decifer it so that he can speak in French to the toll man at the end of the not-very-helpful helpline. He ends up talking French to me, English to the man (who I swear was inside the cabinet) – hilarious. However, eventually we were released and all was fine. Big waves to him and his wife and children as they drove past and faith in human nature once again fully restored. Lovely roads again and only occasional rain before arriving at Bergerac. Lovely, lovely old town well worth exploring and, of course, more food and wine. I don’t drink much red, but it would be rude not to drink Burgundy when in the region wouldn’t it??
Chateaux, gateaux and Casteljaloux
Actually sunny today (!!) and so the roads through the vineyards were particularly attractive. Some amazing houses and lovely villages so morning coffee at Casteljaloux was a particular treat. Lovely patisserie which was very, very busy and no surprise there. Nearly had to leave Tim there, but the lovely roads and bikes won out. The SatNav routes were working really well again and eventually we starting to enter Pyranees territory. Not quite Stelvio but some lovely twisty roads until we started to climb to the highest point on our route (1794m) when it started to snow! Quite heavily actually – even Tim went a bit quiet. Keeping the visor clear of snow was interesting and wished I’d purchased the Shoei with windscreen wiper option, but there you go. Well glad to finally find our overnight stop (we got a little lost and passed the Guarda Civil at least 3 times but they thankfully left us alone). A lovely if largely empty hotel – we were the only ones eating in the restaurant – but the hosts were absolutely lovely and our introduction to Spain was complete.
Labour day fun and games
Who knew? It was a bank holiday Tuesday (not Monday) in Spain which extended to Wednesday (in Madrid) so our trip on the following day was full of cool waving/acknowledgements to a plethora of bikes and avoidance of quite a few cyclists too. It made lunch a little difficult to pin down as the world and his mother was out and about. We did finally manage to find a restaurant – looked a bit basic from the outside, but how wrong could we be?? It was empty when we arrived and, again, the limited Spanish was tested robustly when I was read the options from an order pad. After feebly admitting that it was too much information too quickly (blimey they talk quick), I sneeked a look at the pad and the starter I was able to have an educated guess at, the main I simply just picked one at random. Thankfully both starter and mains turned out to be very lovely indeed and, talk about being in the right place at the right time – the restuarant was soon chocker block with locals with standing room only for those willing to wait for a table. Suffice to say we ate up and paid up to make room but a lovely experience non-the-less. The place – Darocas – then turned out to be a bit of a dark horse as the very workaday street that the restaurant was on soon gave way to an amazing fortified town – encased on two sides by rock faces and the other two were entered only by impressive gateways. Quite something to behold. Mind you, many, many towns boasted a castle or keep of some sorts and we were soon bamboozled by the size and scale of the castle at Molinas de Aragon. Finally made our way to our overnight stop at Pelegrina – an out of the way sort of place but an ancient village (with its own derelict castle) and superb B&B with a bar/restaurant just down the road. Happy days.
Spain is NOT dry and arid
Not that you thought that, but that is sometimes the impression you can have. If you fly in and out of the main resort areas you just don’t get the see the real Spain, and this bike trip has certainly enabled us to see, feel and experience just how really beautiful and varied Spain can be. We cannot say enought just how fantastic and varied the roads are. Off the main roads, you can wind your way up and down quite significant altitudes, enjoy bendy bits and be rewarded by lovely, unspoilt little towns. One such town – just as we were getting to the ‘must get this helmet off and give my bum a rest’ moment – ended up being a real gem. A real working town, no posh square with bars to shout about but we did spy a shop with people sitting outside drinking so we thought we should give it a go. What a great decision. It was just a shop but the owner was very happy to open some chorizo, a loaf of bread and make us a couple of sandwiches to have with olives, crisps and chocolate. Washed down with a cold drink in the street with the locals, it was a feast fit for a king. After a ‘chat’ of sorts with the locals – helped by the shop owner who had moved from England to Spain when he was 4 and so had more English than we had Spanish – we were soon talking bikes and enjoying the camaraderie that knows no language bounds. Priceless.
The end of our journey was along an autoroute so not as enjoyable but a good way to chew up some miles and get a shower and beer. Basic but, yet again, lovely and accommodating people who made us feel really welcome. We were the only ones eating but the food was great and the beer cold. What more could you ask for?
THESE ROADS ARE LOVELY
Sorry, I’m shouting it as I’ve said it so many times but it’s true. Fanstastic ride again to mark Day 6 with a coffee stop and chat with a fellow KTM rider who was also en route to the MotoGP. A Spaniard, he got us really excited as he has been many times and was keen to say that the atmoshere both inside and outside the circuit is unbelievable. As many people go for the social bit as for the racing itself. By the time we reached Cordoba we were ready for a rest (great roads do require lots of concentration – well from me anyway) and the hotel was more fancy than others so far so lots of places to chill. Mind you the beer tasted just the same… Can’t wait for tomorrow that takes us to just outside Jerez where we meet up with Tim’s mate Robin and base ourselves ready for the MotoGP on Sunday. What a ride! And, guess what, it got up to 20 degrees today with full-on sunshine – woo hoo!
See you after the GP!