Sounds so much more exciting I think than race circuit don’t you think?!!
Bikes, more bikes and a little bit of sightseeing
The initial ride down from Cordoba to Jerez was a bit monotonous as we needed to circumnavigate the city and then get some kms under the belt. However, what it did give us was loads of bikes all heading in the same direction which was very exciting and resulted in much waving, leg extending and the like. You know my delight in such things by now! What was quite surprising, though, is that we only seemed to see Spanish bikes – don’t know why I was thinking there would be lots of other nationalities passing by too, but there we are. Anyway, after a while the call of the curvy roads got the better of us and the final section to the hotel was lovely and gave us a really nice end to the day. We timed it well too as not that much later the heavens opened and there was a massive downpour with thunder lightning and the full works. Our thoughts now were with Robin and his mate Colin who were still en route. Thankfully they arrived safe and sound (if a bit wet) and after a few beers and a lovely meal, all was well with the world and we all called it a day.
After a relaxing start to the next day and Colin turning the car park into an impromtu bike wash (with permission of the owners btw), they headed off to watch the qualifying and we went for a mooch into the nearby town of Arcos de la Frontera. Now, I had a Vauxhall Frontera many moons ago (which although afforded good viewing for the kids and a good boot for the dog) was shit, and the alarm always went off so it was a case of leaving it unlocked in the hope someone would nick it but they never did) but this namesake town was much more classy. A town perched on the top of a sandstone ridge, it gained its name by being the frontier of Spain’s 13th century battles with the Moors. Winding our way to the top and parking Tom along a pretty side-street (well he deserves nice views too) we walked up through lovely narrow streets to the top of the town to the medieval castle, basilica and many churches and were rewarded by amazing views over the surrounding countryside. As a reward (not that we probably deserved it) we had a bite to eat on the terrace of a beautiful parador and just enjoyed the moment. After a very cultural interlude, we headed back to base and relaxed by the pool (which was friggin cold but we still had a swim – very British of us I think) and enjoyed the sunshine (which had been distinctly lacking thus far). More beers and catch ups with the lads on their return from qualifying put us all in good spirits for the race tomorrow.
Crutchlow on pole at the Spanish GP!
Brits on bikes in Jerez with a Brit on pole and the sun shining. Doesn’t get much better than this!
A short ride to the circuit and then we were in! Robin and Colin were in the posh seats (well, they had a seat – not quite the prawn sandwich brigade) and so Tim and I were quickly on the hunt for a pitch. It was already heaving with people and the atmoshphere was as you’d expect. The Spanish are mad for their motoracing and did not disappoint. The view we had was great – on the Michellin bend – and the noise was superb. Even had an air-show interlude with the equivalent of the Red Arrows doing their thing. Very exciting.
The race itself was eagerly awaited. Qualifying times had given hope that this could be Crutchlow’s race, but him sliding out on lap 8 and then the 3-way crash of Pedrosa, Lorenzo and Dovizioso on lap 18, saw the main challengers fall away (literally) and from then on it was Marquez all the way. So much so that many Spaniards left early! Anyway, it was still worth witnessing and, I’m sorry if this is non-pc, but the noise was awesome and so the prospect of electric bike racing just DOES NOT APPEAL. There was a couple of laps of an electric bike but nobody was the slightest bit interested. My cheese and chorizo sandwhich was far more exciting and maybe more dangerous…
Anyway, it was a great day and fantastic to be part of it. The next excitement was trying to remember where the bike was…. With literally thousands of bikes in the parking areas it was quite a sight. However, always the girl guide (well, I only managed Brownies actually) I had made a careful mental note of the bike’s position (level with the loos, 10 rows back) and there he was. Tom and his new mate Pedro chewing the fat and explaining how proper British bikes like to do things.
The heat and excitement of the day led to nice cold beers and a lovely meal back at base and by this time, we were all part of the family and in spite of a distinct lack of language skills, they were all keen to know how we had got on. It had been great to meet up with Robin and Colin and team GB were now contemplating the ride up to Santander. All good things must come to an end…
Adelante y hacia arriba
Onwards and upwards as they say. Breakfast and packing up next morning amidst mixed feelings followed by team photo and farewells before setting off on our separate routes.
We decided to stick to the autoroute until we cleared Seville which proved a good tactic. The roads were still busy and full of bikes so it was fun to still feel part of the whole GP experience. Once past Seville we had a quick coffee stop and then decided to reset the Satnav for non-motorway type roads. Lovely they were again too going along more winding and largely empty roads and heading through lovely, traditional towns and villages.
Animal, vegetable or mineral???
Our lunch stop today had proved a little difficult to pin down, but we manged to find a small town cafe. We order a couple of drinks and sandwich each and they very kindly provided us with an apetiser whilst we waited. I won’t lie to you and pretend I knew what it was, and to this day I still have no clue. Not sure I want to either if I’m honest. Suffice to say that as I was brought up to be a polite girl (yes I was) and didn’t want to seem rude and refuse their kind gesture, I managed to get some down me. It was definitely animal – not sure what part (and again, don’t want to know) – and I have to say it tasted ok but there was always that nagging doubt in the back of your mind whether it was going to come back and get its revenge further down the road. Now, I’m sure I don’t have the emphasise the issue with that when you’re on a motorbike going through the wilds of Spain…. Tim did manage one bit but refused point blank to have anymore so I had to take it for the team. Good job I’ve got a reasonably strong constitution. Some of the hills were managed far quicker that afternoon than previously, not sure why…
The roads continued to be lovely – some lovely mounain passes – spoilt only by a tremendous rain storm. I swear you couldn’t see the road at times it was so awash with water. Blinking cold too. Anyway, soon got through it and the sun shone again to help us dry off a bit. Found the hotel in Caceres no problem which had a great, secure underground car park – essential when the hotel is right in the centre of the town. What’s more it was full of Welsh blokes on bikes up from the MotoGP too! Having not seen any other GB bikes all week, we had 8 of them altogether! They were a lovely bunch too and after chewing the fat for a bit, headed off into town for a bite to eat and a few drinks. We found a lovely square and bar but the lad serving us was the most miserable so and so we’d come across. Nearly had to avail him of my customer service training skills but decided it wasn’t worth it and we didn’t have enough time. He also tried to charge us too much but my Spanish had improved enough for me to point out the error of his ways. He thought he’d pull the wool over my eyes – I don’t think so senor!
National parks, wildlife and bird des-res.
Another day, another set of gorgeous roads but today seem to reveal more wildlife than previously. Going through the Mirador de Galiana national park, it was awash with vultures circling around on the thermals – an amazing sight: they are enormous! Quite something to see and was certainly a well visited place for bird lovers. The national park extended for quite some distance with the roads ascending and descending and affording amazing views. Although I thought we’d see more, we did see occasional deer too – thankfully not bounding across in front of us – and the funniest sight was seeing storks. Not just flying around (as they are pretty enormous too) but their nesting habits. They make a very good pad on almost anything. In fact electric/telegraph pilons are clearly being adapted to try and prevent them. However, their des res of choice are the many churches in the villages we passed through. They would, quite cheekily I think, make their nest on any flat surface and there was clearly some sort of pecking order (excuse the pun) and you could clearly see how aloof the one at the top felt being position uno. I imagine there would be quite a bit of bartering for an upwards move when (and if) the time ever came.
Finally we made our way to our last hotel in Valladolid. From the approach, most big towns in Spain look at bit less than attractive. Mostly high-rise, new buildings. However, once you get to the interior, the old buildings are just stunning. Our hotel was, again, quite central (but with the ever-essential secure parking), which meant we could briefly explore the layout and it didn’t disappoint.
The long and winding road (well almost always)
Up and off on the final day (boo) and a good mixture of beautiful scenery again and some twisty bits here and there. However, as we were blown away in Australia by the sheer size and scale of the place, there are times that Spain does that to you too. It is a massive place – miles and miles of land in all directions with nothing on it. We passed a military base that was enormous but no surprise really when you see how much land they have to go at. So what that does all mean is that there are very many long, straight bits too but never a dull moment. One stop at a petrol station on the outskirts of a town reached from one of said extremely long roads revealed itself as the home town of Michael Portillo no less! I kid you not. They were quite proud (mmmm) but he does do a good railway programme…
A lovely coffee stop approached over a very impressive 14th century bridge, and more national parks (a la Grand Canyon stylie) and a final lunch stop for menu del dia (amazing value, good food – Tim was in heaven) before heading to Santander. This last leg was made more interesting by thick fog on a mountain pass – damn cold too – but we arrived at the port only to be warmly welcomed by the Welsh lads! Good to see them again and we were able to share a few stories on the crossing too. The crossing gave signs of being a bit less than perfect. Late arrival due to weather, late departure as a result, storm in the Bay of Biscay which resulted in Tim’s bike going down and having to be double strapped – not that we found that out until we went down the following afternoon to depart. Lots of parts a bit twisted and a pain to sort out but at least rideable. As for me, the journey confirmed that I’m not really a seadog and the only way I could manage the day-time bit was by being outside – resulting in being freezing cold as the winds were frisky and sunburnt as you didn’t realise how strong the sun was. Luckily it was only the little gap between trousers and shoes and face underneath the cap, but there you go. I think I only managed the night crossing as I’d had a good number of rums before bedtime! I only did that for medicinal purposes you understand…sailors used to drink it so it must be good for you? The next day was carnage with stuff literally flying off the shelves in the cafes and shops as the ferry was buffetted around. Thankfully it calmed down by the end of the crossing and the arrival in Plymouth went smoothly (the photo below as we approached the end of the journey certainly gives a more positive impression than the rest of it believe you me!)
Anyway, the dramatic seas only seemed to accentuate the extremes of weather, variety of landscapes and fantastic people we had encountered along the way on this trip – it was an EXPERIENCE and no experience is worth doing unless it challenges you a bit don’t you think? 7,800 kms and the bikes went perfectly. Tom is great to ride for any occasion but certainly comes into his own on these types of trips and certainly gives me confidence to tackle the varying conditions you come across. I certainly can’t wait for the next one….