Summer is here (kind of) and It´s been a while since I last pitched the tent or did a road trip. I had two weeks off work ahead and the idea of doing a road trip around Europe would not get out of my mind. At the same time I realized that U.K. still has loads of places unknown to me. I always heard that the Southwestern side of the U.K. is beautiful and it is the British home for surfers (not that I am one, although I like the ocean), so it could be a potential great destination for my holidays.
Decision is taken!!! I´d ride west this time! Devon and Cornwall here I go!!!
Tent… Check! Sleeping bag, mattress… Check!!! Tools… Check!!! Clothes… Check!!! All bungee strapped, full tank and ready to go on a journey!!!
The road, the scenery, the bike and I…
I did not plan or did my usual research about which routes to take or thought about where I would be staying. One stop in Clevedon (Bristol) to visit my brother for a couple days, then I would ride west without a particular route or destination. While visiting my brother, I simply bought a map and marked scenic routes on it before going. I was lucky, the weather was on my side, and hopefully I would find what I was after. Roads and scenery able to put a grin in my face, beach, picturesque towns and great people!!!
I just had one task to do before leaving Clevedon, “Sophia” (my bike´s name) was due for an oil change. So after that was done and with the luggage on the bike I was time to depart!!
Riding the West!!!The Journey begins!!!
P.S. There´s more to come within the next couple weeks but now you have to be patient! Work in progress!!!
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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 F4 all ready and loaded about to depart to the Ferry in Portsmouth!
24 Hours with Brittany Ferries. What a great experience!!!
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.
After the check in, 2 hour waiting time before boarding
While waiting, I went for a snack, and coffee indoors, nothing especial there.
Not a busy time at the Port judging for the number of cars waiting. By the way, there is a brand new Harley behind mine. Was chatting with the owner for ages.
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!!
On the 7th Floor looking for my 4 berth cabin
Cabin 7220 on deck 7 (7th floor) access card
My 4 berth cabin, luckily I had it just for myself. private bathroom as well.
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!
Indoor Atrium. One of many.
Floor 7, staircase and lifts.
Simple, modern and warm decoration all round.
The top deck (10th floor) snack bar sells pizzas, burgers, ice creams, drinks. In front of the swimming pool. Above this only the Heliport.
Not a good shot but the best one I could get of the swimming pool (which was closed to the public because of the low season)
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.
Time to eat (Rather expensive but I decided to present myself with a nice meal)
Crab cream with something I dont remember, quite tasty entry.
The main course, Duck two ways and a French Bordeaux wine. The stomach was happy.
The camera is not the best but gives the idea. 7th deck at the back.
View from the 8th Deck where the cinema is. Live music on the first night animated the passengers.
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.
View from the 6th Deck, Saturday morning around 7.30 am
Later on, same day, being caught in bad weather.
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.
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…
This road trip came up quite unplanned and unexpected… Personal reasons led me to embrace on this adventure. I was supposed to fly home and get back in early January, however my traveling bug on two wheels was stronger. After a brief chat with a friend I decided to book a ferry from Portsmouth to Santander in Spain and from there ride to Lisbon in Portugal.
This is a solo trip, time for myself, the road, the bike and I. My plan is to ride straight from Santander to Lisbon depending of weather conditions, or maybe I will book a night at an hotel half way so I can enjoy the scenery (which I am not expecting to be that amazing). The way back will be by the 10th of January 2019 via Bilbao to Portsmouth.
I will sail for the first time on the 30st of November from Portsmouth at 5pm being the arrival time in Spain next day around 5.30pm. It is going to be a tough and a lone trip, but I will try to update with pictures and posts in real time as I progress instead of writing it down later like the previous trips.
As usual, I did my usual research and prepared all the essentials in order to avoid surprises whilst on the road. While routing the trip I didn´t look at any scenic routes as I usually do, this time I will be mainly doing the boring motorway until I arrive at my Portuguese home.
I might end up taking you on a discovery trip about Portugal and its beauty on my future posts. It will also be my first time in Portugal by motorbike since I left to the U.K making this trip more exciting.
Honda CBR600 F4 2001, A.K.A. “Sophia”
Stage 1: From Portsmouth, 30 of November 2018 at 5pm. 24 hours by Ferry to Santander. ETA 1st of December 2018 by 5.30pm
Stage 2:Santander to Lisbon, 1st of December 2018 being the ETA in Lisbon unknown… I guess I will play it by ear.
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!!!
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.
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”!!!!
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 the Port of Cassis
Leaving the Port to see the colossal Calanques De Cassis
Leaving Cassis by boat:
The Calanques de Cassis:
Approaching the Calanques
The amazing rock formation of the Calanques
Rock in detail
Look at the little cave and how clean the water is…
Here and there, people everywhere enjoying the great Calanques
A rock in the middle of the sea, one of many!!
Little bays and beaches in the Calanques:
I felt so jealous about the people on that beach… paradisiac!!
One of many Yatches, If you look closely on the right side you can also see people swimming and snorkeling
Leaving this bay in between the Calanques
Kayaking along the Calanques
She posed for the pic… or maybe to get aware of the boat passing by
A lot of sea activities are possible here, and it seems safe
Climbing, Jumping and diving into the water
Trying to show how clean the water is but the picture doesn´t make justice
Way back to Cassis:
The Colossal cliff, just East of Cassis
returning to Cassis ( at the far end)
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.
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.
Saint Andre Les Alps– Saint Maxime–Trets07/08-17(9 am 7 pm)
It was early, hot and sticky as we emerged from the tent and our neighbor, a nice 80 year old man from Germany who did not speak a word in English, simply approached us smiling with a kettle saying “cafe? Cafe?”. He was the sweetest guy we met. Using smoke signs and lost words here and there to communicate we understood he was spending a couple weeks in Saint Andre just to do paragliding ( very famous activity in the area). Also the couple staying in front of us ( which we had met on our previous stay) invited us for a barbecue event they were planning at the camp site. Very nice the community at Les Isles, however we politely declined as we had different plans…
We planned a nice day on the famous beaches around Saint Tropez and a visit to an old friend of Marie that happened to be living close to Marseille, in Trets. After having coffee with our friendly German neighbor, we took a shower and jumped on the bikes towards Saint Tropez. this time the camping site Les isles would be our base, so we did not have to lose time with the tent and to set up the luggage on and off the bikes.
We rode southbound on the nice N202 and then by Saint Julien en Verdon we turned right, into the D955 along the lake and passing the EDF power station to Castellane again. ( At this stage, I was already pretty familiar with this route)… We passed a few towns along the curvy, scenic and extremely well maintained mountain roads. We were going down the Alps to the Mediterranean sea.
Unfortunately it was possible to see signs of devastation. There had been some bad wild fires in the south region a couple weeks before our trip, we passed really scorched areas where the fire passed by burning everything around leaving that burnt wood odor in the air, not a very pleasant scenario to see.
As I rely more on maps over the bike tank than GPS systems it was very easy to reach the coast, took us about two hours to arrive in Saint Maxime. I wanted to go to Saint Troppez which is not far but the horrendous traffic plus the heat beat us, so we decided to stay at Saint Maxime. There are series of beaches along the coast. On the billboards was saying the water temperature (26 degrees) which was perfect and also a notice warning that medusas populate the sea. After speaking with a life guard he said that it is normal and they be a bit dangerous because some people may develop allergies, luckily on that day there were no reports of medusas on this part of the sea.
We were hungry so we had a nice salad and sandwich at a beach snack bar. It´s understandable why this area is so famous and busy during the summer. It is hot, very pretty, the clean sandy beaches very inviting and the Mediterranean sea simply great and warm… could not wait to jump into the water.
It felt great, I spent ages diving, swimming or simply floating on the sea feeling that light waving on my body and just letting myself relax… at that stage I thought that life could not be better so I made sure I really enjoyed it.
At Saint Maxime beach
No doubt it is a wealthy region, judging by the villas on the road side and cars around, and especially by the numerous massive yachts around the coast( probably belonging to famous people and possibly corrupt politicians).
We left Saint Maxime around 5 pm to meet Marie´s friend in the little village of Trets which was about an hour and a half away from us, close to Marseille. We did a bit of mountain road and motorway until we arrived, however my other half´s friend house was not easy to reach as it is in the mountain and the access not the best… very tiny road, steep, full of gravel and dusty, not a good environment for two sport bikes, however, we arrived without issues. She lived in a big old house with massive bedrooms, two floors, swimming pool and a big garden. We ended up having dinner outside, talking and listening to Marie´s friend suggestions for the following day over a bottle of wine.
31/07/2017 Annecy- Choranche (Massif du Vercors)( National road/ D road/ Mountain road/ Balcony Road) 11 am/7 pm
…And this was the view from our ”window’ as we woke up the next morning in Annecy.. couldn’t be more spectacular!! We didn’t sleep too badly, although by the morning our inflatable mattress was deflated by the half.
As usual, we spent around an hour and a half to dismount the tent, repack the luggage and load the bikes. Carrefour was our first stop in order to buy a new inflatable mattress. Well, at the end due to the not so good Carrefour stock control, we ended up buying two single mattresses and ditched the old useless one we had.
All loaded, petrol tanks full, breakfast eaten and we left with the feeling that we didn’t see even half of what Annecy has to offer and that we will be back again. This is the little inconvenience when you are travelling to a different destination on a daily basis.
We passed Aix les Bains, got lost in Chambery (it is very easy to enter a big city and get confused with directions). As we got out of Chambery towards Voreppe it was Wow, Wow and Wow!!! The curvy roads with the occasional perfect hairpin turn, the scenery and the little villages we were passing by were simply breathtaking (no pictures of it unfortunately as we didn’t stop).
It was quite hot and we were already riding for a couple hours so we decided it would be better to stop for a drink and wee before going to the impressive Massif du Vercors. It lies in the Prealps, south east France where you can find some of the most dangerous and most beautiful roads of France. These are also known as balcony roads…
Half an hour later we entered a complete different world.. The amazing D22 route and the Gorges du Nan and climbing up theVercorsfromCognin les Gorges!!!
D22, one of the most scenic roads I have ever done!!
About to start the D22 Route and the Gorges
Crossing Gorges du Nan; Marie and I were like two papparazzis.. It’s beautiful here!
Again, these pictures make no justice at all about the place..
..But you can have an idea of it, We were speechless..
Gorges du Nan.. One of the most scenic and dangerous roads of France as it it a 2 way road.
Had to stop the gendarmerie for an epic picture. they were very nice actually!!
Still a lot to climb and this was just the beginning..
You don’t want to know how high I was seated..
I set up the go pro camera to record it but sadly I couldn’t get any videos of the Vercors routes due to a faulty memory card Grrrrrr, frustrating.
So, this was the Gorges du Nan, short but unique, magnificent, beautiful and surely not for the faint hearted. Marie was as impressed as I was, despite the fact that she doesn’t like heights. We even had the police passing by and allowing us to take a picture of them. It was quite hot and time was short so we had to keep on rolling.. but not for too long because as we finished the Gorges du Nan we had to stop again as the road was becoming immensely scenic and incredibly curvy.. ( A pleasure for any biker)
Amazing places, aren’t they?
Well, At this point I wasn’t using maps but specific routes I had previously carefully researched and printed on A4 sheets, so it was very easy to follow. From the D22 route, to the D292 route and another amazing, probably one of the most scenic roads we did so so far.. Presles or route des Presles!!! again, pictures speak for themselves but don’t make justice to the place;
We probably spent about 4 hours around these two routes, and again, 7pm.. we should start looking for a camping site. We found a little camping municipal in Choranche, a very small village not far from route des Presles. It probably didn’t have more than 20/25 pitches for tents, but it was clean, extremely cheap ( 10eur for a night in total) and the lady working at the reception very friendly.
Our day on the road was concluded even if we were about 100 miles behind from my original plan.. We would try to catch up eventually…
As it was becoming our daily routine, we unloaded the bikes, set up the tent, mattresses, luggage installed ourselves. Local people camping were also very friendly and nice, making us feel quie welcome and safe as there was no security at all at the camping.
The little but cosy Choranche camping
A little picnic area
and our usual routine
setting up the tent and getting ourselves installed.
La Bourne river was just next to us. I had to go for a little walk around to check the surroundings. It was still too hot and I didn’t resist.. I jumped into the water.. 11 degrees inside (Ouuuch!!!) according to a dutch guy who was staying there with family for 3 weeks already.
La Bourne river and a caravan camping park on the other side of the river in Choranche. Beautiful in my opinion!!
Should I jump or should I stay?!
F*** it, It’s too hot and i’m all sweaty!!!
Our day was nearly over.. The only downside I found in Choranche was the fact that there are no shops at all, or if there are, they were all closed by the time we were considering eating something.
We ended up walking to the only open restaurant that happened to be just a couple 100 meters away from the camping … we had some pasta but no regrets at all, it was delicious! Finally I could have a couple beers as well as there was no more riding involved for the Day! YaY
In Choranche, we were surrounded by these massive plateaus
Choranche village, I highly recommend!!
Camping way out…
Le Jorjane, Thumbs up!! Very well presented, friendly staff, good food and not so expensive!!
Same place of the previous picture. Just highlighting the ”massif”
Pasta with champignons and something else.. Delicious!!!
For a detailed map of the D22 and D292 routes clickhere