Angling across Spain

It was amazing how fast things changed once we left the coast.  We had our own private roads winding through the countryside.  We were heading northwest, and this route took us through a range of the northern Spanish countryside.

An interesting sculpture at the entrance to the Aeroport de Castelló

Roman arch. At least the stones at the base are from Roman times.

Compact hilltop towns mean narrow, winding streets.

Narrow, winding street.

I don’t think we should drive this way.

Great views from the edge of town.

Overgrown villa in Montenejos

The road out of Montenejos.

The canyon upriver from Montenejos.

Quite a lot of water getting released from the dam.

The reservoir is still a bit high.

Old structures and older structures.

Shelter high in the mountains.

What happened to our sunshine?

Almost moonscape.

We are about to descend to the top of the Javalambre Ski Area

Far below the ski area.

This looks like an interesting road.

Red rocks and ponderosa pines. Almost feels like home.

Riding through Pinares de Rodeno

Pinares de Rodeno

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The (East) Coast of Spain

After leaving Cadaques, we spent a few days in Roses, just a little down the coast.  We stumbled across the preparation for a car rally.  All the cars were still squeaky clean.  I particularly like the trophies.

Rally Cars!

Rally trophies. This would the Roses Rally, of course.

Sunset in Roses.

Tom couldn’t resist the photo op.

The Mediterranean coast of Spain seems to alternate between rocky sections, with tiny little villages and tiny little coves followed by long sandy beaches studded with seven story apartment blocks, casinos, and nightclubs.  Early May is still somewhat off season, so it’s easy to explore.

With a lot of motivation, one could walk this beach all the way to Roses, which is at the base of the hills in the distance.

Tamariu

Fornells

Seaside villas

Looking towards Sant Feliu de Guíxols

We spent a night in Tossa de Mar and enjoyed exploring the castle and the old town.  I can only imagine what these Costa Brava towns are like in July and August, packed with people, but we are sure enjoying them in May.

Good thing there were no more motorcyclists staying at our hotel — we filled the moto parking!

The Castell de Tossa in Tossa de Mar

The view from the castle (Tossa de Mar)

Tossa de Mar

Walking the old town in Tossa de Mar

Moving on down the coast, we stopped for lunch in Casteldefels, just south of Barcelona.  Tom lived here in the mid-80s.  When we visited in 2008, we stayed the weekend in the same apartment building that he lived in.  This time, we just had a quick visit to see what had changed.  It’s still right on the beach!!

Denis Playa apartments, not much different from when Tom lived here in the mid-80s.

Looking down the beach in front of Denis Playa

We spent the night in Sitges, just a bit further south.  Sitges has quite the party reputation; we skipped the nightclubs but enjoyed walking the pedestrian streets.

Sitges

Doesn’t look like Kansas to me!

Pedestrian street in Sitges

Evening in Sitges

Roman ruins in Tarragona

Exploring the Ebro River delta, a big rice growing region.

Heading in to the Parc Natural de la Serra d’Irta, looking back at Peniscola.

Torre Bedum in Parc Natural de la Serra d’Irta

We made it down the coast almost as far as Valencia, then turned inland to see a different side of Spain.  But that’s a topic for another post.

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Cap de Creus

The Pyrenees drop into the Mediterranean Sea right at the border between France and Spain, making for a dramatic coastline with rocky headlands, twisty roads, and small towns.  We were happy to be out of the rain, even if the sun hadn’t quite come out.  We were aiming at Cadaques, Spain, where we had visited a few years ago.  Cadaques is the main town on the Cap de Creus peninsula, which is Spain’s easternmost point.  And within a few hours, the sun had started to appear.

Collioure, France

Old police boat in Port-Vendres, France.

Cebere — the southernmost town in France on the Mediterranean coast.

Not much use for the border post now.

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Cadaques, Spain

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Cadaques, Spain

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The sun breaking through. Cadaques, Spain

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Statue of Cadaques’s most famous resident, Salvador Dali.

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Poking along Cap de Creus

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Poking along Cap de Creus

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Port Lligat

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The road to the cape.

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The easternmost point of Spain.

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The road to the cape.

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The remnants of a grilled sardine lunch.

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Looking back on Cadaques.

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Wandering through France

We entered France with a very loose plan.  We were aiming for Corsica, actually, but that’s quite far, so we started our wandering just by heading south.  We picked the littlest roads we could find and wandered this way and that.  The road network in France is fairly dense, so there are a zillion options depending on how eager one is to actually get somewhere.  We weren’t, so it was little tiny roads through little tiny towns, until the waning afternoon encouraged us to find a town that might have a hotel or two.  Somewhere out there, there are highways with a speed limit of 130 km/hr, but we stick with the littlest roads.  They are super fun riding– scenic, twisty, and with little traffic.  It also takes forever to get anywhere!

The scenery is wonderful, so there are many photo stops along the way.

Approaching Dinan, France

Dinan, France

Wisteria was in glorious full bloom all over France.

Ferrying across the Loire River.

The castle of Clisson, France.

The cat is not quite sure about this camera thing.

Clisson, France.

Evening in Clisson, France.

We were finding lovely roads, scrumptious lunches, and neat towns for spending the night, all without much, if any, advance planning.  Clisson was one, as was Brantome.  Photos only show part of the story, though.  The images below of Brantome are missing the soundtrack of the kids funfair set up in the plaza.  The calliope music of the afternoon was replaced with pounding pop music in the evening.  We weren’t sad to have to walk a bit to get back to our hotel.

Brantome.

Brantome, with the funfair not far behind the photographer.

A lovely spot in Brantome.

Sarlat, a little bit drippy.

Unfortunately, the occasional showers and cooler temperatures were becoming regular rain.  Packing was made easy because I was wearing all the clothes I had with me.  The forecast showed more of the same for the foreseeable future.  We had been talking about visiting Corsica and Sardinia for some time now, and while we were confident the weather in Corsica would be more to our liking, we still had several days riding to get to the ferry.  On the other hand, the dry, sunny weather on the south side of the Pyrenees was much closer.  Nothing a few hours on the motorway can’t fix.  So, we tossed aside the route planning of the evening before and headed south.

We hightailed down the motorway to Languedoc, but before crossing to Spain, we enjoyed a little riding around in the mountains.

Heading away from Quillan, France.

Thankfully, the snow is only on the distant peaks.

We took a little detour to see the remains of some Cathar castles in Languedoc.  These were built in improbable places with quite fun roads to reach them.

Gorges de Galamus

Gorges de Galamus

Château de Peyrepertuse

Looking from below Château de Peyrepertuse towards Château de Quéribus on the far ridge.

Château de Quéribus

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Logistics

We’re getting some questions about the logistics of shipping our bikes, so I’m just going to do a post about it.  Pretty pictures will resume in the next post.

The tl:dr version is Motorcycle Express, $1085 for each bike, $625 for each person.

And the long version….

We shipped with Motorcycle Express.  (We looked into Air Canada’s motorcycle shipping program, but it didn’t start until May, and we wanted to go mid-April.) The nearest airport we could ship our bikes from was Vancouver, and the only place we could send them from there in mid April was London-Gatwick. More destinations are available in the summer.

Motorcycle Express obtained our dangerous goods forms and arranged all the shipping details.  We used their recommended travel agency to book our flights, coordinated with the bike shipping.  The carrier was Air Transat.

We delivered our bikes to a cargo depot at YVR the day before the flight.  The requirements were less than one gallon of gasoline in the tanks and a disconnected battery.  We timed our gas usage well and disconnected the batteries when we arrived.  We left our soft panniers on the bikes, loaded with luggage.  (There is a list of prohibited items, none of which were an issue for us.)  We stayed to watch them be loaded onto pallets, which we didn’t need to but we’re glad we did.  Besides getting the photo op, we were able to assist a bit.  Because our bikes aren’t bristling with crash bars, the cargo guys were having a little trouble attaching their special straps.  So we just provided some of our own straps to make additional tie-down points.  I have every confidence the cargo guys would have secured the bikes had we not been there; we just made it a little easier for them.

When we arrived at our gate for the flight, we could see the bikes in the tarmac waiting to load.  And we got to watch the loading!  Nice to know that our bikes were on the same plane as we were.

We had to use an agent to receive the bikes at Gatwick.  Motorcycle Express provided the contact info, and a few emails back and forth ahead of our travel lined everything up.  I paid the fees online before we flew.  (This had to wait until the bikes had been weighed at the cargo depot.)  The fees could also have been paid by phone upon arrival in England.

We landed around 11 am, and after clearing immigration, getting our bags, clearing customs, hitting up a cash machine, and having a bite to eat, we took a taxi over to the cargo warehouse.  Our bikes were unloaded and waiting for us patiently.  We reconnected the batteries and loaded our luggage.  By 2 pm, we were riding off to the nearest filling station.   Easy Peasy!

We paid Motorcycle Express USD$1085/motorcycle (it would have been $150 more if we hadn’t flown with the bikes).  Our one-way airfares were USD$625/person.  We paid USD$111.50/bike to the agent in England to cover a variety of fees.  This last charge would have been more if our bikes were bigger — they were under the minimum weight charge, so we paid that minimum.

(There was a third bike on our flight, also from Oregon,  — Hi Mike! — and he reported $1150 for the bike and $450 for himself.  I don’t know what he paid in destination fees.)

The UK agent filed a temporary importation form on our behalf, and we had to report when the bikes left the UK.

We obtained our mandatory insurance (often referred to as “green card” insurance) through an agency in Croatia.  Motorcycle Express could have also provided this had we wanted them to.  It was easy to obtain the paperwork; I hope to not find out about filing any claims.

I think that’s the whole story.  If I missed anything or you have any questions, let me know.

 

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Landing in France

We were originally planning to take a ferry from England to France via the island of Jersey, but the ferry timing was less than ideal, so we caught a different ferry and got to explore the very western part of Normandy, starting with our landing in Cherbourg.  We spent a little time in town taking care of the basics, getting some lunch, euros, maps, and wine (for later).  After studying our new, more detailed maps, we were off!

First stop, Utah Beach.

Heading for Utah Beach

Utah Beach Memorial

Utah Beach. Now mussel farms and a makeshift trotter track

Helping a stranded motorcyclist. We have no French, and he has no English, but we all speak moto. After some wrenching, we eliminated some possibilities but didn’t get him on the road. But his friends were on the way.

Mt St Michel in the distance

I’ve been curious about St Malo since reading Anthony Doerr’s book All the Light We Cannot See (and hearing him talk in Bend thanks to the fabulous Deschutes Library!).  We stayed within the walled city and wandered all over.  It is indeed charming, almost too much so, especially as we learned more of its history– that it was largely destroyed by the Allies in the Second World War and rebuilt over many years afterwards.  Still, a lovely place to spend a few days.  And a fascinating place to watch the tides, some of the biggest in the world.

Our home in St Malo for a couple of days.

The view through the city wall.  The tide is out!

The view along the wall. You can see the high tide line near the bottom of the stairs.

Strolling the old town, and finding the butter shop.

Looking back at the walled town.

Waiting for the tide to drop.

NINE minutes later. 40-foot tides fall fast!

From where, we’ll head south and see where that takes us.

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Springtime in Dorset

We didn’t really think mid-April would be the best time for exploring England, so we were planning to head south straightaway.  But there lovely spring weather convinced us to spend a few days exploring just a bit of southeast England.

I suspect there are going to be a lot of pictures of old stuff on the blog over the next couple of months.  Might as well get started!

A country church that’s been around a while.

Detail of one of the doors.

Some really old stuff.

Selfie at Stonehenge.

We seek out the smaller roads. But we’re going to have to turn around soon.

Stopping in front of a village shop for a snack.

 

Not much traffic to deal with.

Lovely spring weather.

After we visited Stonehenge, the weather continued to improve, so we decided to spend a little time on the Dorset coast.  We chose Lyme Regis as our home base for a couple of days.

Serious bowling.

Lyme Regis

Lyme Regis

Waiting for the summer crowds at Lyme Regis

The well protected harbour at Lyme Regis

Lyme Regis

Lyme Regis

We headed out for a bit of a day ride.  After spotting it on a map, we couldn’t resist a trip to Beer, which is another lovely little seaside town.

How could we resist?

The beach at Beer.

The beach at Beer is so steep, throwing a dock out is easy.

Mid-April isn’t peak season yet.

More small roads brought us to Portsmouth and the ferry to France.

Yet another quiet country lane.

Looking over the English Channel.

Countryside scene.

Classic hotels in Portsmouth. We ended up spending the night in the Queens Hotel, the largest one you see here.

Securing the bikes for the Channel crossing.

Leaving Portsmouth.

Bye-bye England. See you in a few weeks!

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