A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: Chris_Jayne_RTW

Last Few Days

Along the coast of Spain

sunny 26 °C

Strange as it may seem I didn't want to leave the hotel room this morning. Maybe it was because it was so nice, maybe because I had gotten used to sitting in them whilst ill, or maybe because I knew it would be our last day in Europe on the bike.
As I swung open the curtains we were greeted with yet another gorgeous sunny day outside. It was around 25 degrees, bright sunshine and blue skies. We had been so lucky on the trip so far for this time of the year. I remember looking at the weather forecast about a week before we left and the whole of western Europe showed nothing but rain. We had a 'do we or don't we' conversation and inevitably the explorer in us said sod it lets go anyway. Yet more proof that you should always do the crazy things in life because ultimately you will be rewarded in some way.
Being the last day we opted for a buffet breakfast in the restaurant and it was lovely. Lot's of fresh fruit including figs and giant grapes, freshly squeezed juice and fabulous coffee and croissants. A great start to the day!
The bike was packed for its last day in Spain and we rode off out of town and towards the coast. We had decided as we were not a million miles from Bilbao (and the ferry port) that today we would meander around the coastal roads taking in as much of the scenery as we could and maybe sit on a beach for a bit.
The roads were windy and tree lined with forest's of green pine trees rising up on either side of us, it was more like riding in the Rocky Mountains than a coastal road in Spain!


We rolled through a few different lovely little villages and quaint little fishing ports


before finding a sign that led us to a busy looking beach. The bike was parked up and as we watched a man and his dog performing synchronised swimming in the water just off of the quayside Jayne swore she had heard a loud buzzer and lots of cheering. It seemed to be coming from over the rocks and on the other side of the beach so we found a way round and as more people came into view we realised it was a surfing contest!
The waves were pretty massive and the contestants were of a good standard as they paddled like mad to catch a biggy and then quickly jumped up and carved their way along the edge of the wave, twisting and turning before either it ran out of steam or rolled over them like a giant hand clawing them into the sea.


There was also a boat of sorts, well more like a giant float actually with 7 guys in wetsuits knelt on board who would also paddle out as far as they dare to try and catch a big wave. Then clinging on for dear life while the sea hurried them back towards land before tossing them aside like a giant wafer biscuit that it had decided wasn't very tasty!
It was fun to sit in the sun for an hour or so, listening to the sound of a pumping house track from the DJ stand while seeing the small black specs getting tossed this way and that.
Time to move on though and another rocky mountain style road took us eventually past a roadhouse eatery that looked busy.
Inside the guy hustled us into the restaurant as the kitchen was about to close and tempted us with the 'local dish'. I should know better than taking waiters recommendations as it is usually either the most expensive on the menu or the stuff that's left over in the kitchen that needs gotten rid of, but we threw caution to the wind and ordered the 'bean dish' as it had been explained.
It was indeed a beany dish as he dropped a large bowl of a mixed bean substance into the centre of the table and then returned with a plate of beef, black pudding and cabbage.
The bean concoction (although looking like cans of re-fried beans emptied into a bowl) was actually quite tasty so we mopped it up with bread and shovelled it in until we were stuffed.
A quick look at our watches and a glance at the map revealed that it was about time to head to the port as we were unsure where the ferry was leaving from and wanted plenty of time to find it.
We jumped on the nearest motorway and followed the signs to the port. It seemed to take us forever and it was further than expected but we arrived in plenty of time and there were already about 30 bikers in the queue in front of us.
It was the strangest gaggle of bikers I had ever seen! There was a complete mixture from young guys on race bikes wrapped up in skin tight leathers all the colours of the rainbow to fat balding old men straddled across their Harley's glistening with chrome and adorned with leather and studs.
A ferry has some sort of strange magic that brings them all together, wondering up and down the rows of bikes giving complimentary glances and nods and stopping to chat as if they were old friends.
We waited for about an hour while they loaded up the lorries and a few section of cars before they eventually let us on. Our precession of wild colours and sounds made it's way down the ramp, onto the boat and then down another ramp into a small holding area where orange boiler suited men pointed out where to park up. They packed us in pretty tight with barely enough room to dismount either side of the bike without putting your foot on another persons bike. A very different story to the lone bike in a huge bay on the ferry out a few weeks ago!
We took as much as we needed off the bike and headed up the stairs to the rooms. Room no. 8104 was easy to find and opening the door it was again a very reasonable room.

It didn't have the giant 'lie in' port hole or double bed of the previous one, but was around the same size and the bathroom seemed bigger. No TV though so it was going to be a loooong trip.
The ferry started moving and once out of the port it was fairly rough sea's. You couldn't walk straight, in fact trying just to stand sometimes was amusing. Jayne even decided to play the 'Balance on one leg and see how long before you fall over' game for a while, but it got boring pretty quick.


Jayne begged some glasses of ice from the bar and we popped open a bottle of the Rose wine she had won in an attempt to perhaps balance out the swaying of the boat.
It didn't work and slightly hungry and dizzy we went for an explore around the boat. Top deck we had a splendid view of the land disappearing from view and found the kennels and strangely a fast food type bar next to them. I ordered a burger, Jayne some pasta and we wobbled our way back to the room.
I popped the top off my meal to reveal a nice looking burger with hash browns as a bun, but what was that on the salad. I saw movement I swear!
Two tiny eyes on sticks stuck up from the the salad and a snail started to make it's way over the leaves! GROSS!!
Jayne took it back and they appeared as shocked as we had been. They explained all the leafs come from bagged pre-packaged salads and demonstrated opening a new bag and putting fresh leafs onto another burger plate. Oh well, I guess it can happen!?
The food was a bit bland and I think I was put off by the movement in the last one but we both left quite a lot of our respective meals and laid down to play iphone games.
The sea got silly rough and laying in bed it reminded me of being in a Vietnames railway carriage, with the familiar shunting backwards and forwards and trying not to fall off of a shelf while sleeping!
Eventually I got to sleep, Jayne was awake longer, chuckling to herself as she was tossed from one side of the bed to the other.

Posted by Chris_Jayne_RTW 09:31 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

To The Coast!

(leaving the Pyrenees)


Today started, well, rather badly for me as we had to call the travel insurance to try and find a nearby hospital/doctors to treat my now chronic stomach pains. Hospital located (or so we thought) Jayne went to order a taxi at the hotel reception and the guy looked at her like she was mad?
"Yes Hospital!"
"Yes, in town!"
Man walks to door and points across the road, "Hopital"
"Ah, right - cancel the taxi then!"
We walked to the building but it was in darkness and clearly not open. Darn it. Anyway, cutting a long story short we found a doctors nearby that was open, spoke to a doctor who didn't speak English, got a prescription, paid up, returned to Hotel with a carrier bag full of drugs! Literally hours later I was feeling much better - thanks Doc!
We decided that it would be best to settled in the town for 1 more day so I could recover fully and hopefully enjoy the ride out of the Pyrenees tomorrow.
Luckily I suppose for us, the weather was the worst we had seen. It poured down all day so I slept while Jayne read a book and the day was soon over.

Day 2 in Luchon I awoke after my first full nights sleep in 5 days, phew finally on the mend time to get going again!
The weather wasn't brilliant, but it wasn't raining so that was a plus. Just a very dull overcast day with the clouds skirting around the mountains just above our heads. We stuffed the bike as usual (slightly easier now a lot of the wine had gone!) and headed off out of town.
It felt great to be on the bike again, it's suprising how much you actually miss it after a day or so. The first road out of town was ok, but then came the col (the mountain pass). As the tarmac snaked and slithered its way ever higher the road became slippery and we entered the clouds which made visibility very poor.

The way forward was made even harder by the roads being covered in autumn leaves just to add a bit of spice!
The brief glimpses we got through the misted up visors and cloud were beautiful, if not a little eary and forboding.


At the top of the climb we were well and truly in the clouds and at around 1400 meters above see level it was getting quite chilly in the wind. As we crested the Col and it began to wind back down there was a sense of relief knowing that the weather should get better as soon as we break back through the clouds again. The roads became drier, the visibility clearer and it was actually quite pleasant once we had reached the bottom. It had been incredibly slow going though and as the next climb was going to be the Tourmaline (one of the most famous and highest passes) we decided to stop and check the map for alternatives.
It was a shame but we really didnt have the time to waste and adding to that the road can be a killer (especially on a day like today it would be suicidal on a bike) made us decided to route ourselves via low passes to the larger roads. Jayne put her Twat Sack on again and I laughed again.
It turned out to be a good choice because the next 2 hours were spent in the rain and cold blasting out motorway miles heading to the West coast of France. The mountain passes would have been absolute misery!
We stopped off once to empty the water out of our boots and add more layers of clothing under our already fit to burst jackets...


but it didnt seem like that long before we were drying out again and nearly at the coast.

The weather brightened and so did our moods as we saw the cliffs and the sea stretching out before us.


We turned south and followed the coast through into Spain and then continued along the coast until we hit a town called Lekeitio.
The first hotel we saw was a 3* and seemed pretty expensive, but after a search of the town didnt turn up anywhere else inspiring (and it was our last night) we bit the bullet and paid the room rate.
It was a great room to be fair and a lovely quaint hotel with a Michelin star restaurant!


After unpacking we started walking into town to find something to eat. Jayne was hungry (as usual) and I was famished having lived off of 4 banana's and a couple of dry crackers in the last 48 hours! But could we find a restaurant, could we hell! Not a single one no matter how hard we looked, just bars with no menu's. The place was the busiest town yet with peple everywhere (and strangely a child to adult ratio of about 8-1!!??) but where did they all eat!!??
Then we realised we were in tapas country. There isn't a menu, you just go inside and a selection of toasted sandwiches and strange snacks are laid out on the bar for you to eat. You buy your drink, eat a few nibbles, pay for what you've had, leave and go next door. and so on and so on. Once we got the hang of it it was actually good fun. I didn't eat many of the strange delicacies but Jayne had a good effort. By the end of the night she was quite tipsy aswell, asking if she could stay out drinking more of the 1 Euro buckets of wine that they serve you!

The walk home was through cobbled narrow empty streets with tons of character to them and also a visit to one of the many vending machine shops we'd seen. It basically looks like a shop but when you walk in nothing is inside except rows of vending machines selling everything from pizza's to dildo's!


Jayne (of-course) decided the machines looked hungry and so tried feeding them most our change before I dragged her back the rest of the way to our gorgeous room for our last night on dry land.
Tomorrow we get the ferry home and sleep on the ship before the final squirt home.

Posted by Chris_Jayne_RTW 09:25 Archived in France Comments (2)

Breakfast in France, Lunch in Spain!

Into the Pyrenees

sunny 27 °C

We woke up in Monica and Simons lovely spare room and knew it would be the last time as we had to get moving again if we were going to cross through the Pyrenees and get our ferry back to England in a few days time. I felt really rough still, but with the help of rather a lot of pain killers a session on the bike seemed perfectly do-able. We had a quick breakfast with our hosts, said our goodbye's and Monica made us a packed lunch for the road in a typical French style of bread cheese and smelly ham! It was a gorgeous hot sunny day as we rode out of the town of Pouzolles and headed towards Narbonne.
We decided to use this place as a way point and see how far we could get before I felt too rough to continue. Once on the bike and concentrating on the lovely sweeping tree lined roads I almost forgot I was ill and we passed Narbonne with relative ease and decided to keep heading into the Pyrenees and towards Spain.
A brief stop in a lovely square next to a gently flowing river in a town called Quillan provided us with the chance to order some refreshments before moving on again.


We took several wonderful mountain passes...


and a couple of huge descents that seemed to go on for ever....


before we finally arrived in Ax-les-Thermes, a mountain town famous for its thermal spa's. This became obvious as the first square we came to had several people sat in a large hole in the ground bathing their feet in a thermal pool!
We were only a few miles away from Andorra, a small semi independent state which as it was a tax haven would be a great place to shop and fill up on fuel.
The drugs however were starting to wear off and I was feeling rough again so as we had already gotten further than expected, we decided to hole up here for a night and decide our route onwards tomorrow. Jayne went on the hunt for a hotel room while I sat next to the bike and watched people soak in the thermal pool.
I didn't have to wait long before Jayne came back and suggested that the hotel right next to where I was sat was probably the best one for the price. They also had a little alleyway at the back of the hotel where I could hide the bike from prying eyes, so I agreed this was a safe bet.
After checking in and heaving all the boxes to the room on the 4th floor Jayne wanted to go for a walk around the town. I was starting to feel pretty bad so opted to have a lay down while she explored the town.


Jayne returned an hour or so later and I was getting worse. I was wrapped up in everything I owned and under every bed sheet I could find, but was still shivering and felt like I was in a freezer. This wouldn't seem so bad if it wasn't about 22 degrees outside and bright sunshine!
Jayne got me some more drugs from a local pharmacy and sat and read our friend Simon's 'Tea with Bin Ladens Brother' book to me while I tried to get some sleep.
Unfortunately sleep wasn't that forthcoming and at 2am in the morning I was again wide awake and feeling super rough. This was made even more annoying by the fact that our room had a half size swinging door to the toilet that was right next to the bed (poor Jayne!).


We were also positioned right under the stairs which meant right above the toilet was a sloping ceiling that came down to about shoulder height. This meant that every single god damn time I went to the toilet (which was around every 20 minutes) I banged my head on it and shouted expletives!
I think due to my constant jumping in and out of bed (either that or the smell!), Jayne was also wide awake by 3am and after a hunt to find the TV remote was unsuccessful, she sat and read a book on her iphone. I barely had any more sleep and when daylight came I was exhausted. I considered staying on another day in the hotel, but the fear of giving myself a concussion from the low toilet ceiling convinced me to dose up on everything I could find and again see how far we could get.

The decision was made to head north around the Pyrenees instead of south towards Andorra in case my condition worsened and we didn't want to be stuck to far into the mountains.
Again once on the bike the miles passed relatively painlessly as we went back North towards the medieval town of Foix and then west along the edge of the Pyrenees. The roads were as beautiful as ever with large mountains on either side of us covered in dense green trees that made it look like we were riding through giant fields of broccoli.


Again we made good time and feeling better I pushed on to Saint-Beat which is a lovely little village on the border of France and Spain. From here we headed back south again to Vielha in Spain for a spot of lunch. Not a bad day when you can ride the most beautiful roads and pop from France into Spain for lunch!


Deciding to take the northern French route through the mountains, we back-tracked a few miles and headed west again towards Bagneres-de-Luchon as the roads took us through a lush green valley that eventually opened up into the town's high street.
Jayne again did the hotel scouting and found a beautiful hotel where the owner did us a 'special price' as he was due to close in a few days for the winter. They had a huge locked garage that was a few minutes from the hotel, we were given the Pin number for the door and deposited the bike in it before walking back to the hotel and setting up for the night.
Jayne went for another run in the mountains where she got a little lost and descended into another village, about now she realised she couldn't remember what our village was called even if she could find someone to ask! Luckily she retraced her steps and returned to the hotel to a bottle of red Vino and a cuddle in front of 'Friends' badly dubbed in French on the telly.

Posted by Chris_Jayne_RTW 01:15 Archived in France Comments (0)

A bit of a marathon!

sunny 22 °C

We left the Igloo hotel after a decent night's sleep and a hearty breakfast of croissants, cheese, ham and yogurt. Today's trip started with the decent through the ski town of Les Gets and down off the mountain into the valley below. We then started on our mammoth day of French motorway miles in an effort to get to Provence in time for Jayne to do her marathon on Sunday.

With 300 miles of motorway to ride I thought I'd be bored out of my skull, but the last couple of hours (after Grenoble) were amazing as we skirted the French Alps. The view was what I can only describe as like riding through the centre of the Grand Canyon.

Just as I thought it couldn't get any better we left the motorway and hit a road about 50 miles long that was stunning. It was billard table smooth tarmac and twisty, graceful bends that ran through the mountains. I almost forgot Jayne was on the bike and it was so loaded up as I shot around the corners having heaps of fun. The weather was getting hotter and hotter as we travelled south and each time we stopped for a rest, we removed more layers of clothing until our jackets and trousers had nothing left to shed.


After a short picnic break and a quick Intermarket stop-off to buy Jayne's pre-race breakfast (crossiant, banana and a muesli bar) we headed down the last stretch of motorway. By now the length of time on the bike was taking it's toll and we were both feeling a bit worse for wear and more than a little tired and achy. We arrived in Pertuis in time for Jayne to register for the race and pick up her race number ready for the following morning. The last bit of riding got us 20mins down the road to a pre-booked hotel in a lovely old village with little cobbled streets and alleyways. We opted for a meal in a little pizzaria in the town but the food was bland and very uninspiring compared to the culinary delight we had in Morzine.

Went to bed early as Jayne's alarm was set for 6.30am to get her up, fueled and ready for the race next morning.


We woke up at 6.30am, well actually Chris had been awake all night being a bit poorly bless him. Anyway, I dragged him out of bed and forced him into his motorbike gear as frankly I was NOT going to run to the next village and to the race start. After Chris dropped me off, he rode back to the hotel to continue sleeping/feeling ill. The atmosphere at the race was amazing with a jazz band playing as a precsession of old French cars full of families dressed from the 20s drove past us waving. Then a DJ came on stage as did a team of 10 women dressed as ladybirds doing aerobics to warm up the runners - well, everyone looked on laughing really as the only people to participate in the warm-up where a bunch of men dressed as chefs and a couple of bishops.

The marathon started at 9am and we completed a lap of the athletics track first so that the rest of the competitors (for the half mara and 10K) and specatators could cheer us on. We then headed off into the coutryside and around the first of several hundred flippin vineyards. The route was half roads, half sandy/gravel tracks and although no huge hills, it was a very 'lumpy' course. The 1st feed station consisted of a huge table of food, cups of wine (I mean, who would want to be sober for a whole 4 hours??) and a French man singing kareoke very badly which could be heard over the speakers for at least another 2 miles.

I knocked out the first 15 miles without too many problems, a bit of tightnesss brewing in my knees and hips but not too much to worry about, I was more concerned about not being beaten by the giant carrot running alongside me.

At around 18 miles I had to stop for a stretch as my knees and hips were starting to plan a major protest. I was glad to see Chris waving at me from the 30km point and he handed me my salt drink that I like to have when its hot. The last 8 mile was just a matter of getting as much Coke and water in me as the temperature was soaring in the midday sun and keeping my legs in check with frequent stretches. I had to pick the pace up for the last 2km to get a sub 4 hour time and it was worth the pain as I hobbled in with 3:58 on the clock.


Got beaten by the bloody carrot though!

A bit of stretching afterwards would sort out the legs - no major problems, just tightness from being on the bike for the last week me thinks.

After a shower and a bit of a sit down with Chris at the finish (who was still feeling rough) we started to head off when I decided to have a check of the results as we walked past and was suprised to find my name highlighted in bold - it turns out I have won my category! We waited by the stage for 10mins for the award ceremony. Chris spotted the stage was surrounded by piles of pumpkins and sacks of potatos and he joked that these had better not be the prizes as there is was not a chance on earth we would fit any of that on the bike! The smile was soon wiped of his face when the overall winners where invited up to the stage and interviewed - in French and given 4 sacks of potatos each!! AHHHHHH. I was contemplating not collecting my prize at all and slinking off, when the man called my name out and I gingerly headed for the stage with the other category winner. We where presented with huge pumpkins which we had to hold in the air while everyone cheered!!??


OK, maybe a pumpkin we can tie to the back of the bike, that's not too terrible is it? - then I received a goodybag with a token to collect my 12 bottles of wine - 12 BOTTLES OF WINE - WHERE THE HELL ARE THEY GOING TO GO?? I had already been given 2 bottles just for finishing the race!!! Well, I couldn't say no could I, so I headed over to a bemused Chris to explain the impending dilemma. He seemed a bit bewildered as to how we would fit them in seeing as we could barely carry what we had already! But, seeing as it was wine, we decided we would fit them in somehow. The pumpkin however was gonna have to go, either that or hollow it out and wear it as some kind of haloween helmet!

Luckily we where heading straight from the race for my friends Monica and Simon's place to stay for a couple of nights and a fridge full of wine would make them a very suitable present! PHEW!!

The 150 mile ride to Mon and Simon's was a bit of a nightmare as Chris felt really rough with a monster headache/sicky tum and within mintutes I was starting to nod-off and seriously ache. Plus the bike was stupidly heavy and Chris in his current state was struggling to keep us up-right at the numerous toll stations. We have never been so pleased to get somewhere as we pulled up to Mon and Simon's beautiful house in the gorgeous little old town of Pouzolles just before it got dark.


I had a good catch up with Monica who I used to work with in Bath over 2 years ago and we enjoyed a BBQ meal which hit the spot perfectly before heading off for a very well needed sleep.

The next morning saw no improvement in Chris's bad stomach and headache so he laid in the bed whimpering for most of the day. I opted for a lazy day at the house, doing some sunbathing, some washing, catching up with the blog and cleaning the bike. It was a welcome break and hopefully Chris will feel better tomorrow as we will head off towards Spain and the Mountains again.

Posted by Chris_Jayne_RTW 08:54 Archived in France Comments (2)

Most amazing day on a bike EVER!

(God I love Swiss Roads!)

sunny 15 °C

Got up to a beautiful view from the balcony of a wispy cloud sitting about 50 meters of off the lake which was bright blue and the sun just coming up over the mountains.
The bike looked quite happy in the garage with its posh car friend (in fact it looked like my dream garage!)...


...but I dragged it out and off we set again. We had a massive day planned for today. The total mileage was going to be relatively low at 180 but this included every twisty bendy mountain pass that we could find in the direction of Geneva, so it was going to be slow but hopefully beautiful miles.

We started of by driving the north side of Bizern lake, then the south of the following lake in a kind of S shape. This got us the best view of both and was an inspiring start to the day as we followed the edge of the water along the cliff sides and through beautiful tunnels carved into the rock.


After the second lake we started to head into the mountains in search of something a bit more twisty, and we found it! It was called the 'Juan Pass' and would take us up and over the mountains that had been looming over us all day. The road was constant hairpins with stunning views of the valleys and villages down below for hours.


Coming back down the other side was even more amazing, with it's never ending twisty turny goodness!
Eventually at the bottom it was time to stop for two really milky coffees (ew!) before taking a road that would pass through the famous town of Gruyere (yes the cheese is made here!).
I did however manage to take a wrong turn somewhere and completely missed the town somehow? But you quickly learn here that no road is a bad road and turning off the GPS and getting lost is possible the best thing you can do! The road we found was yet another awesome bit of tarmac, winding through villages and cutting through the middle of a valley (the only mildly annoying thing was the roadworks every so often, but traffic was sparse so it was a small price to pay).
It took us through lots of little villages that are apparently filled with the rich and famous (don't know why) and it gave us wonderful views of Mont Blanc.

After having out fill of the valley roads we again took another mountain pass (don't remember the name of this one) which was just as incredible as the first. Feeling peckish we stopped on the side of the road next to a Ski Lift that was asleep until the snowy season and ate our sandwiches we had made from the left over breakfast items..
At the top of this pass there were again the most incredible views and the route down it seemed to wind backwards and forwards forever.


The route Jayne had planned was supposed to head along the motorways to Geneva, but I had somehow set the sat nav to avoid toll roads and so we followed a B-road which took us over the French border and along the opposite shores of Lake Geneva.


We noticed after stopping for the photo that we were not a million miles away from Morzine which Jayne had heard was a lovely ski town. As we were liking the mountain passes so much we took the route towards Morzine and headed back up into the mountains again. It was somewhere along this road that we hit the 1000 mile mark since leaving home! Woohoo!!
The road was yet another truly amazing one and when we finally reached Morzine I was knackered. I dropped Jayne off to ask at the Tourism Office while I scouted on ahead for hotels. Problem was the roads were a one way system and after several failed attempts to get back to where I had dropped her off, I decided the best course of action would be to go up another pass and back down into the other side of Morzine to start again. This worked so I picked her up and she directed us to one of the only open hotels in the town (due to ski season not starting yet). The Hotel was called Igloo and the room was adequate with balcony and electronic blinds that shut down over the french doors. The bathroom was a little weird though as it didn't have a toilet in it, this was in a separate cupboard next to this room!?
We changed and headed to town, had a stunning meal of Mushroom Fondue and the most gooey delicious chocolate desert I have ever eaten along with a bottle of local red wine. What a truly heavenly end to an incredible day, I was grateful today that we had decided on this trip and remembered why I love bikes so much!

The walk back to the hotel was very quiet as we starred at the clear view of the stars and plotted our route down south for tomorrow.

Posted by Chris_Jayne_RTW 13:56 Archived in Switzerland Comments (0)

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