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 An oldie. Three mountain ranges and a gorge or two

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Andy
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PostSubject: An oldie. Three mountain ranges and a gorge or two   Sun Dec 01, 2013 4:11 am



I hope you enjoyed the report of my trip to The Gambia, which was superbly written by Paula.  Since returning I've been the target for a lot of sarcastic, abusive comments from the leader and another member of that trip so I thought I'd post this report of a trip Paula and I did a few years ago in which we covered more miles in about the same period, albeit on a larger bike.  It clearly demonstrates that if I am allowed to manage my condition, I am more than capable of undertaking long motorcycle trips.


For my 50th birthday Paula and I splashed out and bought a BMW R1200GS. We'd always fancied one since trying an 1100 back in 1998 but this was the perfect excuse to part with some hard earned cash! The bike was quickly run in, had it's first service and then we set off with the intention of riding the 'Grande Route Des Alpes', then crossing the Pyrenees and returning to the UK from Spain. The bike covered the miles so easily that we ended up doing a little bit more than planned............

After crossing from Poole to Cherbourg, our first nights stop was at Le Moulin du Prieure, a beautifully converted watermill with a very warm outdoor pool which Paula was grateful for. Somehow she had got really chilled during the day - it took her about two further days to thaw out! More details of the Moulin HERE. I cannot recommend this place highly enough. It's the only B&B in France where we've ever been served eggs for breakfast too!





We headed over to Lac Lucerne and Thonon Les Bains, the starting point for the Route Des Grandes Alpes. It was still decidedly chilly for France in mid September and there was a lot of low lying grey cloud about.





We started out for Val D'Isere, encountering some lovely winding roads and a few local wildlife on the way. We don't see many red squirels in the Uk now so it was a nice surprise to find them here in abundance.







Arrived at Val D'Isere where the large temperature display there read 0C. Paula still felt chilly! The place was almost desrted and we couldn't even find a place open to buy a much needed coffee. Some technicians were testing a new train which ran through an inclined tunnel through the mountain to the upper ski slopes. An impressive piece of engineering!




Leaving the town behind we started to climb up to the Col de L'Iseran at one stage passing through the clouds and emerging above them.







Down the other side we noted how much the scenery changes from one side of a Col to the other. Sometimes the scenery was almost lunar like and the low clouds below us gave the impression of travelling in a sort of primordial soup! The Col de Galibier was probably our favourite.








More stunning passes and scenery.





We arrived in Menton way ahead of schedule so we decided that as we were 'sort of' in the area we should travel back up the Route de Napoleon towards Castellane and find a hotel there..





The next day we circumnavigated the Gorges du Verdun, the deepest canyon in Europe. Unfortunately it was very misty but when a gap appeared the views were stunning.








We cut across the South of france, stopping at some lovely spots (sorry I can't remember all the places) and eventually arrived at Andorra La Vella. We had been told this was a bargain place for bike gear and we had the idea of buying Paula a heated waistcoat for future trips (she had fortunately thawed out by now)! However, we didn't find any and what was on offer wasn't our 'cup of tea' and appeared to be no cheaper than UK prices!








Leaving Andorra the next day we spotted a BMW dealer - they didn't have any waistcoats either! Now, which one is mine?



Once into Spain we headed south to Vinaros. Our ex neighbours decided to move there (they're both in their early 70's) after never being abroad in their whole lives. They had a small modern villa built for them two years previously but Bill had got itchy fingers, become tired of having nothing to do and bought them a 'project'. An isolated half built house in the middle of nowhere surrounded by three acres of rubble (supposed to be an olive grove). At the tender age of 73 he's set about finishing it! An ex-cabinet maker, Bill informed me that he'd rather die with callouses on his hands than on his bum! We also met up with our ex neighbours from the other side of our house. They moved to Portugal and had driven up to Vinaros. Bill and Barbara had a bit of a surprise as they didn't know we were coming. We just knocked on their door and said ' surprise'!

Footnote: he has finished it and they have moved in. He's now in the process of building a swimming pool! He's 75 now!

We stayed at camping Vinaros where we were able to hire a 'shed' for a few nights.









A few days later we rode down the coast to the town of Peniscola famous for it's use as a shooting location for the film El Cid.




Then it was inland to Morella, an ancient fortress town dating back to before the 8th century. We had passed this way two years earlier but decided to stop this time to have a walk round, finishing with a very pleasant tapas lunch. 





Being lovers of old castles, we had read about the Castillo de Loarre, situated NW of Huesca. We had also read about a good hospederia with an excellent restaurant nearby so that's where we headed. We arrived at the hospederia fairly late to be informed that they did have a room but unfortunately the restaurant was closed and the nearest one was about 8 miles away. So we set off to eat. Unfortunately the only one we could find didn't open until 10.pm so we had no choice but to wait as we were both famished! Sadly, they didn't speak the same Spanish as Paula and all we ended up with was a starter and a pudding! They somehow totally missed out the main course and although we tried to explain they were having none of it so we left - unfulfilled! After a very good breakfast we visited the castle the next morning and that made up fot it all.










Leaving the castle and still headed NE we passed a stunning area of rock formations known as the the Mallos de Riglos. These are a set of rock formations approx 30 miles from the city of Huesca. Rising to nearly 1,000 ft high ( 3,300 ft above sea level), they form part of the foothills of the Pyrenees. (I know - one of them looks like a willy!)







We then came across the Monasterio de San Juan de la Pena.The monastery consists of two buildings, the New Monastery, dating from the 17th century, in the Baroque style, and the Old Monastery, from the 10th century, in the Romanesque style. It has its origins in a hermitage church built where the monastery was constructed in the 10th century, with what is known as the Mozarab style Lower Church being built first, and consecrated in 920. Sancho el Mayor of Navarre founded a new centre in the year 1025. A new Romanesque style church was built. In the 15th century the chapel of San Victorián was built and, in the 17th century, following a fire, the monastery had to be rebuilt, this time adopting the Baroque style. However, the most important is the marvellous Romanesque Cloister that attracts the visitors.




 

Autumn was setting in now and we just rode along, fascinated by the magnificent colours. At this point we decided to cross the Pyrenees again and stay one more night in France. So we headed for the thermal waters town of Eaux Bonnes taking in the scenery on the way.







The next day we decided to visit Lourdes via the Col D'Aubisque and cross the Pyrennes (again) back into Spain. Lourdes was jam packed with pilgims and shops selling horrible cheap plastic 'holy' trinkets so we decided not to stop and carried on, crossing into Spain and Jaca via the Col du Somport. We ended up staying in a small village named Hecho where we met Nicky and Neil on a R1150GS. We didn't realise they were English until she turned round and spoke to us in the restaurant that night. She had been ordering their meal in fluent Spanish! They both live in France but were looking to buy in Spain. This didn't happen and we've since met up with them in France and hope to do so again this year.









The following day the four of us decided to travel up the Hecho valley together, cross the Pyrenees via the Col de la Pierre St Martin, then have lunch in Oleron Ste marie before going our separate ways. Neil and Nicky were heading home and we had arranged to meet friends from Taunton who were travelling in the same area. This journey was probably the most stunning of the whole trip and the colours were truly amazing. The pictures don't really do them justice.











To be continued......................

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Last edited by Andy on Wed Dec 04, 2013 7:00 am; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: RE:An oldie. Three mountain ranges and a gorge or two    Mon Dec 02, 2013 6:20 am

Andy this is a brill report love the pics and sounds like you had a great time , looking forward to hearing the rest.

Andy forget about the other trip we all know you  are capable of doing the trip and enjoying it if given enough time to yourself . You made it there and made some friends for life that your now trying to help out so as a club we are proud of you Andy for achieving this , you have some true friends Andy which is more then can be said of some one else so stand proud Andy.
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PostSubject: Re: An oldie. Three mountain ranges and a gorge or two   Tue Dec 03, 2013 9:14 pm

eric stocker wrote:
Andy this is a brill report love the pics and sounds like you had a great time , looking forward to hearing the rest.

Andy forget about the other trip we all know you  are capable of doing the trip and enjoying it if given enough time to yourself . You made it there and made some friends for life that your now trying to help out so as a club we are proud of you Andy for achieving this , you have some true friends Andy which is more then can be said of some one else so stand proud Andy.
Thanks Eric.

Here's the final part.  Hope you enjoy it.


After parting from our new found friends we met up with the Taunton group at nearby Mauleon Licharre where we all decided to stay for the night. Waking with slight hangovers the next morning we parted company once again. They headed north to the Millau bridge and we headed south to the Pyrenees once again, this time taking the D933/N135 from St Jean Pied de Port via the Puerto de Ibaneto back into the Navarra region of Spain.





From here we set off towards San Sebastian. Nicky and Neil had told us about a great fish restaurant in the small town of Mitriku situated on the coast road to the west of the city. As we approached the area the weather suddenly turned for the worse. The coast road was a nightmare with strong winds blowing in from offshore and waves crashing over onto the road. It was a wonder we weren't swept away. There were no other vehicles about, daylight was fading and it was a very weird experience. We finally made it to Mitriku but buggered if we could find the restaurant or for that matter anywhere to stay! We banged on the door of one hostel but couldn't get a reply. We tried another hotel but it was full up. So we carried on to Lekeitio with the weather rapidly worsening and the light almost gone. Then the thunder and lightning started! Arrived at the town and found a lovely little bars with rooms above. The owner was a bike enthusiast and let us park the bike in his personal underground garage for the night. He also gave us the keys and told us to let ourselves out the next morning! After a great tapas, a bottle of Rioja and a very large tumbler full of the local Anise we slept really well that night.




Next day saw the weather little improved so we decided to head south again! With us both being lovers of good Rioja, we thought 'why not visit the Rioja region'? So we took the BU 750 south of Vitoria Gasteiz, a Michelin ' green route' via the Puerto de Herrera to end up at Laguardia where we were able to enjoy fine food and sample some lovely examples of the local wine! We also paid a visit to the church with its stunning arch over the main doors. On the way there we also passed a classic car rally and, of course, the obligitory castle where we discovered that some low life had stolen the BMW tank badges (or they had fallen off)!





The next morning we saw some signs to a monastery so off we went! It had some beautiful stained glass windows. Unfortunately I can't remember where it was. 




We had read somewhere about Santa Domingo de Silos. It's famous abbey cloisters which have large capitals with carved scenes, are considered masterpieces of Romanesque architecture, and have been written about extensively. In addition to this the monks of Silos became internationally famous with the issue of several Gregorian chant albums, most famously Chant. First released on LP, the CD became popular when re-released by Angel Records in 1994 and strongly marketed. It peaked at #3 on the Billboard 200 music chart, and was certified as triple platinum, becoming the best-selling album of Gregorian chant ever released. It was followed by Chant II (1995). 


As we were 'sort of' nearby we decided to visit and spent an hour in the abbey listening to the famous chants. To tell the truth they got a bit boring after a while! Glad we went - yes. Would we go back - no!





The town was pretty dead in the evening and the only place we could eat was the hotel where we were staying. It was probably the worst meal we've ever had in Spain.On the way there we passed a huge reservoir where it was possible to see the remains of various buildings that had been covered when the valley was flooded.




The following day we noticed on the map there was a gorge nearby, the Desfiladero de Yecla. It was easily visited thanks to the installation of a walkway so we were able to go deep into the very narrow gorge and watch the vultures on the narrow cliff tops.


.




After this we stopped for lunch at the pretty hamlet of Covarrubias which is made up of a cluster of attractive arcaded half-timber houses fronting a network of little squares. The local inhabitants summed up the pace of life here pretty well. We left wishing we'd stayed here rather than Santa Domingo. I'm sure we'll return in the future.




We still had a few days left before our return ferry sailed so we decided, on a whim, to head for the Picos. We had passed through this stunning mountain range a few years earlier when the weather was abysmal so we thought we'd risk it as it had been so good this far. Although we find the Pyrenees beautiful there's something quite magical about the Picos with their compact ruggedness. We passed through Vanes, Potes, then Riano via the Pte de San Glorio, up to Cangas de Onis then Panes along the brilliant AS 114.




For our final night we stayed at S. Vincente de la Barquera on the coast where we climbed up to the castle, watched a spectacular sunset and ended up with the usual excellent tapas and a nice bottle of red wine.




We rode into Santander the next day, did our shopping at the large Carrefour supermarket, packed it all in the panniers and joined the queue for the journey home aboard the magnificent Pont Aven.




Arriving at Plymouth the next morning, it took us about an hour to get home. Obviously we were sad the trip was over but as a consolation we did have our Spanish shopping items to look forward too!


The bike performed brilliantly and never missed a beat (although it's badges were missed)! Total mileage covered was approximately 4800, it used about a cup of oil and the average fuel consumption was a staggering 55 mpg!


Andy & Paula

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PostSubject: Re: An oldie. Three mountain ranges and a gorge or two   Thu Dec 05, 2013 9:36 am

Fantastic report Andy and Paula have really enjoyed reading about your trip , some beautiful pictures , just goes to show given the time and pace you can do a trip and enjoy it all the way .

Thanks for some great reading and beautiful pictures ,

Eric and Jacki
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