Tag Archives: diary

España Part 1

Salamanca to Lisbon (01/12/18)

 

 

 

I woke up late, slightly hangover, dry and with a headache, silly me!!!!… Thinking I had a 350 mile journey ahead almost turned that headache into a migraine. After a shower and a good reinforced breakfast at the hotel I was ready to get back on the road. Today I would arrive in Lisbon!!!

I left Ibis around 11 am, as usual, the weather was good in South Europe despite the season of the year… nice, warm and sunny.  I did not ride much as I wanted to see a bit of Salamanca before leaving. I parked the bike and walked for a while to the historic side of the city. Sunday morning, the streets where crowded with people, coffee shops were busy and there was even some street animations going on. Salamanca is a lively city day and night for sure.

Salamanca
Walking to the historical center

 

 

 

 

 

 

Salamanca
Salamanca on a Sunday morning.
Salamanca
Historical Salamanca

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Salamanca
New Cathedral at the back , I had to have a look.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The New Cathedral is together with the Old Cathedral of Salamanca one of the two in the city. It was constructed between the 16th and 18th centuries in a Gothic and and baroque styles. 

Salamanca
The Impressive New Cathedral
Salamanca
The Old Cathedral. I believe at the time I was passing people were exiting after the religious service.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Salamanca
The New Cathedral
Salamanca
One of the towers of the New Cathedral.

 

Salamanca
Salamanca old Salamanca
Salamanca
These pictures don´t make justice at all of how impressive the Cathedral is.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ornamental sculptures are carved along the facades of the Cathedral. In particular the figure of a modern astronaut and a gargoyle eating an ice cream on the facade of the north entrance of the Cathedral, unlike any other, attract dozens of tourists to the door just to photograph these unusual carvings.

 

New Cathedral of Salamanca
The North entrance of the Cathedral
New Cathedral of Salamanca
Note the amazing sculptures carved on the wall all along the entrance.
New Cathedral of Salamanca
Challenge 1: Find the astronaut. Challenge 2: Find the dinosaur eating ice cream.
New Cathedral of Salamanca
The famous intriguing Astronaut.
New Cathedral of Salamanca
The dinosaur or Gargoyle eating ice cream.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How could anyone have carved such a clear picture of a modern astronaut in a cathedral built hundreds of years ago and long before such a character existed? 

Apparently this would have happened, in fact, very recently, when, in 1992, the cathedral was restored. The fact would have obeyed an old tradition, in which the restorers usually include some modern element.

Of course this is just a hypothesis, and many claim that the figure has been there since the original construction of the cathedral.

 

There is a lot more to see but I had to start making my way to Lisbon. It was getting late and I had to make a move. I was only 50 miles away from the Portuguese border and could have entered Portugal via Vilar Formoso (North Portugal), however you have to pay tolls on motorways and they are quite expensive together with high petrol prices. It was better to head South and enter Portugal in Badajoz (Spain)/ Elvas (Portugal) meaning that I would be still riding in Spain for another 200 miles or so, and then another 200 miles until I arrive in Lisbon.

The Map
My route from Santander. As usual, I am anti GPS so the route marked on the map together with notes works wonders.

The Spanish autovia A66 (E803) was quite pleasant to ride, nearly empty, in very good condition, and the best of it all, no tolls to pay. I stopped after Bejar to have a quick snack and to refill the petrol tank. Quite curvy and scenic this section and a great sigh seeing of the Autovia I was in. Had to stop for a couple pictures.

The A66
The motorway after Bejar, empty and going downhill towards…
A66 motorway
... towards this great curvy section and amazing scenery. Loved it all the way!!!
The Spanish soil
The places, the scenery, the odors, the bike, the road and the exhaust growling on my ears. All the problems, all the noise in my mind, gone!!! Nothing else matters besides what lies ahead!! That´s why I love long rides!

 

I passed Plasencia, then Caceres and then Badajoz. By 6pm I was about to enter Portugal, so I stopped again to refill my tank right before crossing the border as prices are insanely high.

I entered Portugal on the A6 in Elvas towards Pegoes and then the A2 motorway to Lisbon, in 200 miles I would be at my Portuguese home in family. I did not take any other pictures as I wanted to get home. By 8 Pm I was safe and sound in Lisbon,  although I did not feel safe at all on the Portuguese roads. 

Here is a warning:  If you are planning to ride a motorbike in Portugal, I advise you to do so only if you are an experienced biker, otherwise chances are that you might end up having a serious accident. Portuguese drivers are mad and bad, speed limits are there but nobody respects them at all, most drive dangerously, unconsciously and very aggressively. Also tolls are very expensive, I paid 16.60 Eur for some miserable 120 miles on the motorway,  please be aware of these facts.

 My holidays were just starting…                    

  … Keep an eye for future posts, more to come!!!

 

 

The Crossing

Portsmouth to Santander by Ferry (30/11/18)

 

CBR600f4
My F4 all ready and loaded about to depart to the Ferry in Portsmouth!

 

24 Hours with Brittany Ferries. What a great experience!!!

The Cap Finistère
Riding on the sea!!!

I was due to sail on the 30 st of November by 5 pm from Portsmouth port, however there was a delay of an hour and a half due to someone passing away during the previous trip, unknown to my person the facts of how it happened.

 

Finally around 6.15 pm I was directed to the boarding area. It was a slow process, first the lorries and trailers were allocated  in the ferry garages,  then cars and motorbikes (only 3 counting with mine) and at the end,  caravans and vans. I parked the bike in the designated area and the staff secured it with straps so it would not fall during the trip. Then I was sent to the 7th floor to find my cabin. It was a 4 person berth but the ferry was quite empty so I ended up having it all only for myself, lucky me!!

The ferry garages
Level one garage for cars and motorbikes at the lower deck.
The ferry garages
“Sophia” strapped and secured for a 24 hour sailing on the Atlantic ocean!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The “Cap Finistere” is a 10 year old  ferry cruise ship serving on “Brittany Ferries” sailing from Portsmouth to Santander or Bilbao in Spain and vice-versa with a capacity for 700 cars and 1600 passengers. It features 2 bars, 2 restaurants, a spa, a mini market, cinema, a swimming pool and a heliport on the top deck in between other facilities. The decoration is good and modern, and there´s Wi-Fi available for free as well (although it´s not the fastest) . Quite impressive  once I was inside I must say!

Cap finistere
Indoor Atrium. One of many.     
Cap Finistere
Floor 7, staircase and lifts.

 

 

 

 

 

Cap Finistere
Simple, modern and warm decoration all round.

 

It was a pleasant trip, as we were leaving Portsmouth I decided to present myself with a  nice dinner and a bottle of wine in order to celebrate my solo journey, followed by a visit to the main bar where there was live music.  I wanted to start writing this post but ended up talking with other passengers and crew as everyone was friendly and warm, great atmosphere.  After a couple pints the ferry was wobbling badly and I was afraid to feel seasick, I supposed we were on high seas already. Around 1 am there was no one around so I went to my cabin and tried to get some sleep. It was a good feeling to be out of the U.K.

 

 

 

I found out the next morning that the crossing was delayed by two hours as someone had an heart attack and an helicopter had to come to pick up the patient. It was a tough landing as the ocean was quite rough. Unfortunately I did not record that event as I was sleeping while it happened. I ended up meeting L. (a very nice lady who told me all about it). She was traveling to Santander to do a car road trip to the Pyrenees and then across France. We exchanged a couple smiles the previous day, ended up meeting and talking a lot. L. was my companion for most of the day as she was a lovely, fun and chatty person. At a point we were told to stay inside due to weather conditions,  and stabilizers had to be deployed as the ocean was quite rough, slowing us down a bit more and balancing the ferry hard.

In open seas.
View from the 6th Deck, Saturday morning around 7.30 am
on the open sea
Later on, same day, being caught in bad weather.
Rough sea
Caught in bad weather!

We docked in Santander by 7.30pm on the 1 st of December, two hours later than predicted (26 hours in total), it was time to wish L. safe travels and to part ways.  Unfortunately it was dark already and I could not see much beside the road, I headed straight towards Torrelavega on the A67 motorway, going up the Cantabrian mountain.   I stopped at a service area next to Reinosa to fill up my tank, also to have dinner as it was nearly  9 pm and I was getting hungry. I was around 1500 meters above the sea level and I could feel the cold, so it was time to swap my summer gloves for my winter ones. From there it was non stop until Salamanca where I booked a night at an Ibis hotel. The Spanish motorway was quite nice, empty and in good condition. I passed the cities of Palencia, Valadolid and finally arrived in Salamanca by midnight, 250 miles later and 4 hours after I left Santander Port. It was time to park the bike and call it a day.

Hotel Ibis
One night in Salamanca

Instead of going to sleep as I should I decided to go for a beer. I ended up staying out until late night. I found out that people from Salamanca are true party animals, I went from bar to bar, from beer to beer trying to find a spot where I could sit down, enjoy some music and a drink but it was nearly impossible, it was crowded everywhere and the streets packed with locals enjoying themselves. The Spanish are loud and talkative, so I met a few people along the way sharing a few laughs. 

 

I went back to the hotel around 4.30 am, tipsy, exhausted and nearly forgetting I had 350 miles waiting for me next day… 

Day 12

Trets CassisTrets  08/08/17 (9am/7pm)

 

It felt weird to wake up in an unknown house however, we slept quite comfortably… as opposed to our infltable camping mattresses. Our aim today was to visit Cassis. As suggested by E. (Marie´s friend) there are great walking paths and beaches on the “Calanques de Cassis“, and it is a good way to spend the day. A quick shower and breakfast, beach towels and in no time we were on the road road again!!!
Another day on holidays, another summer day, another hot day!!!
Trets
Mountain view near Trets. Beautiful!!
Our road ride got us a little lost for a while. I didn´t take my tank bag where I kept my maps so we were riding by GPS… Conclusion,  we got lost and we spent most of the morning trying to find Cassis. I  did the mistake of entering the A8 and we were riding  back and forwards confused, to end up in Marseille accidently. I didn´t take any pictures as we didn´t want to lose time however I found Marseille ugly, dirty and  a bit of a dodgy city, people also drive madly (like in most cities I guess). We were pretty much lost in the city centre, not knowing where to turn or where to go, until finally and after asking a few people, a local guy on a scooter (250cc at least) was kind enough to show us the right way. ( He also was mad on the road making it difficult for us to follow him). Uff, once out of chaotic Marseille  we were back to the nice and scenic country side roads. We arrived in Cassis around 12pm, later than we wanted… of course, before anything, we were hungry already, so meal first.
Cassis is situated in the Mediterranean Coast, East of Marseille in the Cote-de-Azur department. It is a very picturesque town by the sea, famous for the outstanding “Calanques de Cassis” (Cassis cliffs), port and beaches making it a very touristic town.
This is Cassis
The port, the fortress and the cliff
This is Cassis
Cassis and the beautiful sea front.
This is Cassis
The fortress of Cassis (which we didn´t visit) and the port where you can do boat trips

 

We walked a bit near the port just admiring the town and taking pictures here and there when we found a company that offer boat trips around the famous “Calanques”. Instead of walking as suggested by E. we decided to book a boat trip as it could be interesting and maybe we would have time to enjoy the beach after.

The boat trip and the “Calanques de Cassis”!!!!

Cassis
This is the Calanques de Cassis
Quite affordable and a great experience that´s what I can say; there are several boats operating in Cassis so the waiting time isn´t long even if it is a quite popular attraction there. The trip lasts for about an hour  and a half  but it is well worth it. There´s a touring guide that also comments on the Calanques all the time. ( If you understand french you might find it amusing too). We took loads of pictures and it was hard to decide which ones to upload but here are a few:
NOTE: Click on the pictures for a better viewing, it is really worth!!!

 

 

Leaving Cassis by boat:

 

 

 

The Calanques de Cassis:

 

 

Little bays and beaches in the Calanques:

 

 

 

 

 

Way back to Cassis:

 

 

I could have uploaded a few more but I believe the pictures above give a pretty good idea about the “Calanques”. It is an amazing spot and much better in person. There are many little bays with little beaches and ports. It is all populated with people on the water swimming, bathing and doing all sorts of activities, either on the water or simply sunbathing in their boats, however it isn´t crowded, which is good. Definitely Cassis is a good place for holidays… maybe someday in the future!!!
It was still early so we had time for a sunbath and a swim on the beach. The sea in Cassis was a bit more wavy and not as hot as in Saint-Maxime, but with 22 degrees in the water it is still awesome.
Cassis beach
It was hot and there was I somewhere in the water… swimming, diving or just relaxing and floating…
By 6pm we were leaving Cassis to get back in Trets ( this time we didn´t get lost). My other half wanted to get back to catch up with her friend. We had dinner and a few drinks at E. and bedtime was calling us. (P.S. if you read this, many thanks for the hospitality E.). The following morning we would be leaving Trets to get back to Saint-Andre-Les Alpes and enjoy our last two days on holidays before the road ride back to London.
Cassis… What an amazing place!!!

Southeastern France 2017

INITIAL PLAN:
My girlfriend and I, two motorbikes, camping most nights with the occasional hotel, 15 days with nights in:
Old stinky London; Troyes; Saint Jean de Losne; Lepin le Lac; Savines le Lac; Castellane; Carpentras; Toulouse; Andorra la Viella; Col du Tourmalet; somewhere in the Pyrenees; Bayonne; La Rochelle; Mont Saint Michel; La Havre; back to the old stinky London
 Approximate map plan:

day 1

Day 1, 28/07/2017 London – Troyes (Fr)  (Motorway route/ Eurotunnel/ Motorway) 3pm to 2am

Finally the BIG DAY arrived. Unfortunately we had to work until 12pm on that day, so we set up our departure time by 3PM. We got back home and as all luggage were already packed, it was just a matter of loading the bikes  and there we go.. . See you in two weeks London.
We booked the Eurotunnel for 6.30 pm so we had plenty of time to get there. The first stage was only interrupted by the usual annoying english summer rain, meaning that 1 hour after we left we had to stop near Ashford (M20) on the hard shoulder to put the waterproof suits on.
IMAG0406
At the Eurotunnel
The Eurotunnel was quick and by 8.30 pm french hour (+1) we were in Calais, France. It was quite warm even if cloudy, but no rain in sight, so we took off the waterproofs and packed them again. ( something we eventually became better at.. bungee straps, cargo nets, accommodating luggage, loading and unloading) I don’t have much to say apart from the fact that french motorways are very well maintained and as it is quite known, you have to pay tolls to ride in most of them. We barely saw any police on the motorway; still we passed a parked up police car on a side exit with something that seemed to be a speed gun, so better stick to the speed limits in France, 130kmh on dry weather, 110kmh on wet (80mph/70mph). We did a couple stops on the motorway for petrol, snacks and drinks before we arrived in Troyes, and 4 hours later my girlfriend started to give a little sign of tiredness.IMAG04135 hours later, 1am, VOILA, we were arriving near Troyes. As I had a colleague from work staying atcampsite near Troyes and I was aiming to see him before going, we decided to look for a cheap hotel. It was late and we had nothing booked, hotels were either closed or fully booked and campsites receptions all closed at that time. As a result we had no option than to sleep by the lake, close to my friend’s campsite as what the french call ”par terre” meaning on the floor next to the bikes, by the side of the road. Anyway, it was all good as it was the only night we didn’t have any kind of planning.. and that was our first “romantic” night on french soil!!