“Let’s head for Cordoba” ….said Andy

With our friends Andy and Ali Fenwick we had previously discussed a motorbike trip to Morocco, and then possibly extending this to ride the “Ruta via De La Plata” when we returned back to Spain from Morocco. However this horrible Covid virus has put paid to any international travel plans for the time being….so Morocco is currently out of the picture 🙁

This being the case, Sara and I felt so frustrated and also a wee bit trapped; that we reviewed the areas and towns that the Ruta de La Plata goes through. We then decided that the route was away from the current Covid hot spots and that we that were going to do this trip. We discussed this with Andy and Ali on Sunday 9th August, and were delighted when they said they were up for it. We decided to head off on Tuesday 11th August….not much preparation time but heigh ho what the hell. The plan was to head north and do the trip from there to the south.

On the Monday evening I looked at the weather forecast and it showed storms and heavy rain on our proposed route north. This was discussed on a phone call and we simply reversed the route, and would now be going from south to north with only the first night stop to consider……… “Let’s head for Cordoba” said Andy …..so that was it, decision made !!

Teulada to Cordoba

Tuesday morning duly arrived, and bright and early four people, two fully fuelled Harley Davidson touring motorbikes met in Teulada car park (0600) and headed off with broad smiles.

We had decided to head for Cordoba by the quickest route, and this was getting more and more important as the skies began to darken the nearer we were to Cordoba. However we were all pleased and relieved to arrive at the Hotel Macia Alfaros (booked the night before) park the bikes in the undergound car park, then out to explore the town.
As Andy and Ali had been here before they knew their way around, but as we were exploring the old part of this amazing city the skies were getting darker and darker and whilst sitting outside in a cafe/bar the rain started, slowly at first but then the heavens really opened. Everyone outside was trying to get inside, albeit it was a small place. As Andy was heading in the hailstones started and he was hit by hailstones the size of small pebbles ….”ouch” he was heard to cry…..or something similar as he thought he had been shot!

We waited in this cafe/bar until things eased off a bit and then headed back towards our hotel, but en route the rain started again so we dived into a small restaurant for both shelter and food. The shelter was welcome but the food was, and i am trying to be kind, somewhat below average. Indeed when Ali’s main meal was presented to her we heard her immortal, and oft quoted line of “Reeeaaalllyyy” clearly everything was simply poor quality frozen food, and forever this establishment (its hard to call it a restaurant) will be referred to as the “Findus” place…….a bit of a slight on Findus, so apologies to them! The rain finally stopped and we headed back to the hotel somewhat tired as it had been a long day. But this didn’t stop our adventurous spirit, we regrouped at the hotel, and as we hadn’t booked accommodation for the next night there was lots of discussion on our next stop. We eventually decided to book en route tomorrow and headed out into the city once more.

Now the start/end of the Ruta de La Plata is in Seville, where one can pick up, at the tourist office the “passport” for the route. This passport has the names of all the towns on the route and every tourist office or Ajuntament office will stamp the page.
This does at first though seem a bit childish, but in truth it makes it all a bit of fun and encourages people to visit towns they might otherwise miss. We decided that we would not collect these at Seville, preferring instead to collect them at Carmona, have breakfast/coffee a look around the place and then head off.

Cordoba to Zafra via Carmona

Riding towards Carmona this morning Sara and I noticed this weird light “thing” in the distance off to our right. It was on the ground, not in the air and we couldn’t figure out what it was but it looked like something out of a sci-fi movie. When we stopped for fuel we asked Andy and Ali if they had spotted it, which they had, but like us they were stumped as to what it was……the only thing that makes sense is that it might have been a massive Solar Tower complex but that is the other side of Seville.

With the main tower being 40 storeys tall, it might have been as the land is flat in this area! ….if not, we obviously witnessed a Spanish equivalent of Roswell 😉

We arrived in Carmona, and whilst all of us agreed that Cordoba was lovely, exploring Carmona is equally as interesting, and it just “feels” a wee bit better. We went first to the Tourist Information Office, where the ladies could not have been more helpful or friendly. They gave us our passports along with the first stamp.

We then walked around and had breakfast in the square in the old part of town. The food was lovely and matched by the service of the jovial owner. After this we explored a bit more, but unfortunately we were so busy soaking up the atmosphere that we didn’t take many photos. However here is one of Sara and Ali outside the Parador in Carmona which sits proudly at the top of the town.

The motorbike route from Carmona, as you can see in the following photo taken from moto leaflet (which we didn’t have at the time, more of which later)

takes you along the A457 & A455 and this also illustrates fuel stops en route. From reading other information we knew there were two points of interest noted on this route, one being an area with waterfalls and the other being a mirador with a cast sculpture of a Wolf. Most of todays route would, as you can see, be through the Sierra Norte.

This turned out to be fantastic bike road all the way to the Cascades de Huelznar (waterfalls) where upon arrival we found the car park closed with a chain across the entrance. Thinking this was down to reducing numbers re Covid, we parked the bikes and walked the paths to the waterfalls.

On the way we noticed that had we continued around the next bend we would have found the new? car park. This was full of cars and lots of people. There were signs everywhere saying no swimming, but this being Spain this was ignored – ditto for some people when it comes to wearing masks! To be truthful the waterfalls were not as spectacular (sic) as we expected, and given the above we decided to get back to the bikes and head off.

I can see why this route is for motorbikes and not cars as its pretty narrow and twisty. We rode along this for miles and miles without seeing any road signs. this caused us a bit of doubt and wondering if we should have turned back to the main road from the waterfalls, but we decided to keep going. This proved to be the correct decision and we were blessed with lovely twisty roads and very little vehicle traffic.

Now at this juncture I have to say that whilst i have ridden motorbikes since I was a teenager, I am fairly new to Harley Davidson’s (Andy has been riding Harley’s for years) but these big tourers that we have are heavy old bikes, and this, coupled with rider, pillion and luggage comes to over half a metric tonne! That being said, they handle extremely well considering this weight, and are are absolutely fine riding through these twisties……, if the truth be told, it’s hard to get the smile off my face at times!

Anyway back to the route, (SE-179) after riding for a couple of hours we pulled in at the Mirador (viewpoint) that had the casting of the Wolf, with the correct name being Mirador de Sierra Padrona. This was a relief as it was now clear that we were indeed on the right road. Here we stopped for a much needed drink of water and for a certain pillion,……Haribos.

What a viewpoint, it was lovely and we had a bit of a giggle/chat and mess around for about half an hour before heading off again.

You can see how determined Andy was, as he has managed to fit the wolf statue onto his bike….

We were at this point, glad that we had enjoyed a large breakfast in Carmona as eating establishments etc on this road are non existent. From the SE-179 the route goes onto the SE-177 and we followed this into Santa Olalla del Cala where we stopped at a roadside restaurant/bar for much needed cool refreshments and lots of coffee. Sara and Ali got the mobile phones out while we were here and started looking at possible accommodation.

Now as the town of Montemolin is on the passport we thought it would be supportive to stay somewhere in that town. However from the information online it was hard to tell if they had safe/secure parking for the motorbikes, so we decided to ride to Montemolin and check it out for ourselves. This town was so quiet/closed and had a one way traffic system, so Sara and Ali headed off to check for accommodation whilst Andy and I waited with the bikes. When they came back they felt that owner of the accommodation had been particularly unhelpful and rude. This beggars logic as the whole idea of the route is to increase revenue for establishments along the route……as out American cousins would say …go figure!!

The decision then was simple, go online and book into accommodation in Zafra which was only another hour or so further on. We booked into the Hotel La Muralla, which had secure parking in a rear courtyard.

For some reason this hotel only had one star, (two on booking.com) but it was spotless, lovely inside courtyard, excellent service and courtesy. We have all stayed in four star hotels that could learn a lot from this place.

This had been another long day, but this is not a complaint, todays bike ride was superb on every level. So it was simply shower time, change, and out into town. Zafra is another lovely place and after a walk around we decided to eat in a restaurant in the main square.

The attention to detail in ensuring tables and chairs were all sanitised, QR code menus fitted on the tables, cheerful service and high quality comfort food, ie. burgers and chips ensured that the end of the day matched the rest of it…….simply fantastic!

In the morning we had another walk around town and as you can see in the following photo, there is some sort of spraying arrangement in the shopping streets…….not sure why!

We duly found the Tourist Office and waited for it opening.

Once it opened we had our first stamp in the passports since leaving Carmona. Then it was back to the Hotel, pack up the bikes, get them out of the secure parking, and headed off into more glorious sunshine.

Zafra to Merida

This was going to be a short day, given our long one yesterday. Our first port of call was the Tourist Information Office in the small town of Los Santos de Maimona to “collect” our next stamp. We couldn’t find any signs for this office, but we ended pulling up in a square with the local police pulling in beside us (Why when this happens do i feel I am in trouble?) I politely apologised for stopping our bikes here, and explained that we were looking for the Tourist Information Office. He just smiled, said no problemo, and pointed to the building right next to us. I will leave you to guess what I felt like at this point!

This photo by Daniel Perez Sarria (from Tourist Info Facebook page) shows the square albeit at night.

Trying to find a way out of this square and back to the route was like something out of a comedy sketch, my sat nav system was having a fun time to itself, and as anyone who has travelled in rural Spain will tell you, road signage is not an exact science – if it exists at all! We finally found the correct road out of the one way system and headed off towards Merida.

Now I am writing this blog entry with the value of hindsight and experience, and have to explain a few points that will prove useful when you ride this route. As you know this trip was decided at very short notice and with no real detailed information on the roads to be used. We naturally assumed this would all be well marked, and it is well marked BUT the road signs are primarily for cars NOT for motorbikes.

When we finally arrived home there was a lovely leaflet showing the “motorbike route” which pretty much follows the N632 with certain exceptions.

Therefore, there are in actual fact four Ruta de la Plata options these being whether (1) Driving a car, (2) Riding a motorbike, (3) Walking and (4) cycling. My tip would be to go online in advance of your motorbike trip and request the “passport” and leaflet for the “Ruta via de la Plata en moto” to be posted out to you in advance of setting off.

Neither Andy or I like riding on motorways/busy dual carriageways if they can be avoided, but on the way to Merida we ended up on and off the A66 due to our ignorance of the above. It was a pretty frustrating day in many ways, especially after such a fantastic ride the previous day.

We duly arrived in Merida and headed for our next hotel Hotel Nova Roma which had a super secure garage next to the hotel for the bikes.
The reception staff at the hotel were not exactly welcoming, nor were they particularly ignorant, we were simply processed by nonplussed staff.

Anyway, got settled into our rooms and then headed out to explore this town which has lots of Roman history and architecture from the famous theatre (the entrance to which also houses the Tourist Information Office, where we had our passports stamped ) to the ancient bridge leading to the Alcazaba and just outside on the roundabout is the famous statue of the Capitoline wolf suckling Romulus and Remus …..it really doesn’t get more Roman!

At night we explored more of the town and had a cheeky wee ice cream while sitting opposite this amazing building all lit up.

In the morning we all met up for breakfast, only to be met with more “nonplussed attitude” in the restaurant, I wonder at times if people are actually in the right type of business. Anyway the bikes were duly loaded up and off we headed into the beautiful sunshine, with the next overnight stop booked at Banos de Montemayor.

Merida to Banos de Montemayor

Our first destination today was to stop in Aldea de Cano and obtain another passport stamp. This is a good example on the benefits of the passport system, because without it being listed, we may well missed this absolutely delightful town.

Next town on our list today was Casar de Caceres, on the way into the town we saw the signs for the Tourist Information Office, but then they disappeared completely. We pulled the bikes into a suitable stopping place while Sara and Ali headed off to find the office on foot, and they came back suitably chuffed at having found the office and collected another stamp 🙂

From there we set off missing out the A66 and the N630 and taking the route shown on the above map, this turned out to be a super bike road through interesting and varied countryside and we passed this huge solar farm which i believe was the Núñez de Balboa solar complex quite amazing to ride this road with so many solar panels either side.

We were all loving this road, and enjoying the ride through the Parque Nacional Monfrague when suddenly we went around a bend and there were cars parked up at some kind of viewing platform, so we pulled in to find out why so many people were there!

Well, we were all stunned at the beauty of the place called Salto de Gitano, and stunned/in awe at the numbers of Vultures and Eagles flying around.

Amazing sight!

Two Angels not Vultures

Two bikes having a breather

What a special place, and an unmissable stop if you are ever close by or indeed riding the route.

Our next stamp stop should have been Hervas, but we missed the cut off and decided just to keep going to Banos de Montemayor as we could double back the next day to get our passports stamped.

We had booked into the Hotel Rural Eloy which had shaded parking for the bikes, and what a lovely friendly welcome from the owners. The rooms were spotless and everything was neat and tidy. Only downside was that the restaurant was closed tonight, but in chatting with the owners they were happy enough for us to bring back food from the shops later this afternoon and have a carpet picnic in their delightful external patio area.

We headed out to explore this relatively small town, and were taken aback at the sheer number of youngsters walking about. There just seemed to be too many for the size of the town……we couldn’t figure it out……so if you can shed any light on this please let me know.

We found a shop that sold insulating tape so that we could tape Andy’s bad finger to another for support. Poor guy has been struggling with this from the off, and Murphy’s Law being what it is, its on his front brake hand !!

Duly taped, Andy was keen to find the old Roman road, so we searched around and funnily enough we found it exactly where they had left it.

We explored around the town, visited the Tourist Information office for the passport stamp, and then stopped for a drink to kill time until the food shop opened. Sara and Ali headed off to buy the food for tonight while Andy and set about putting the world to rights.

Once the food had been procured we headed back to the hotel, and while setting out the food in the patio area, the owners came out and provided us with plates glasses etc – they simply could not have been any more friendly or helpful.

When we were finished eating we wanted to wash up the crockery and cutlery we had used, but they wouldn’t hear of it, they took them all away while we rounded off our evening with lots of laughter.

Next morning we met up for breakfast, and the owners themselves were once again bang on the money with service and courtesy. However the woman helping out in the restaurant at breakfast was sadly not up to their standard, surly attitude, burning toast and hiding under non burnt toast and serving this to customers. Such a shame as up until then we had been scoring this hotel 10/10……this person clearly lets the side down and hopefully will have moved on by the time you read this blog.

From here we nipped back to Hervas to collect the stamp we missed out on yesterday. What a delightful busy little town this proved to be, and we were pleased that we had doubled back.

Banos de Montemayor to Zamora

Our next stop was in Bejar to once again collect another stamp in our passports, but in truth todays trip was bit of mess as my sat nav system was once again doing its utmost to torment me. We ended up on and off the main A66 trying to ensure we were heading in the right direction as the A66 has lots of signage for cars doing the route.

This led to lots of personal and group frustration and exasperation, and I for one, wished I had the moto leaflet with us at the time – O’ how simple it would have been then!!

On the way we decided to nip into Salamanca (love that name) and have a quick ride round the historic part of the city. We found an open area to stop the bikes, and within mintues the police were passing in a van telling us to move on. We explained we were only going to be there a few minutes – a wee bit of a white lie – but heigh ho!

We then took turns at nipping across the road to look at the following buildings,

This is definitely a city on the “must revisit” list, but we had to get back onto the bikes and head out of the city and on with the journey.

We finally reached Zamora and I had take this photo as a bit of a private joke with my grandson Reyce.

We had booked into the Hotel Horus Zamora where once again we were met with a surly attitude, almost as if we were an inconvenience and the receptionist was doing us a favour! It is in a good location, and it has secure underground parking but dear o’ dear they could learn a lot from the owners of the Hotel Eloy in Banos de Montemayor….enough said.

Its only a short walk from the hotel to the square, where we asked a policeman for directions to the Tourist Information Office, these sounded a bit complicated but were in actual fact straightforward, and the passports were duly stamped. We then had a good walk around the town and found some unique pieces of street art etc.

Some people were getting a bit silly……but no names !!

Here is a real Battering Ram

At night we fancied a meal in a Chinese restaurant, but the one we had walked to was closed. Andy had been peering through the window when an employee turned up and he asked them when the opened – now was the reply – Andy’s response was; right then – a table for four – this was so funny for the rest of us to witness. The company was superb but the meal sadly was decidedly average, so we headed back to the square for Andy’s favourite frozen yogurt shop SMOOY as a wee treat!

During this we discussed the worsening Covid situation further north and decided against any further travel in this direction. This naturally would mean the end of the Ruta de la Plata for this year, but we will return one day to complete the route as its been an absolute blast, and we are all so glad we decided to “just do it”!

Below is a record of the towns where we had our Ruta de la Plata “Passports” stamped, and just looking at these stamps makes us all smile when we look at them because of the associated memories.

This did not however, mean the end of our holiday as it was suggested by Andy and Ali, and agreed by us, that we should head for the town of Segovia in the morning.

Zamora to Segovia

This morning we set off energised that our motorbike holiday was continuing, and pleased to be leaving Zamora behind. It was interesting enough, but no ones favourite town.

We decided that we would follow Andy as his sat nav is working better than mine and off we headed into rural countryside. Its simply staggering the sheer amount and size of the irrigation equipment working in field after field. The other amazing sight today was the sheer number of Storks nests built on electricity pylons, and the really peculiar thing is all the nests were built on the same side of the pylons, and there were lots of them!

After we had been riding for a while, the “fancy a coffee” hand signal was used by Ali and I pulled up alongside and indicated that I needed to get fuel and coffee. We had at this point been riding for a long time on small country roads without having passed any fuel stations, and therefore I thought it prudent to fill the tanks asap.

We eventually saw sign for fuel, pulled off the road and into the garage and filled up both bikes. We then asked the chap if there was anywhere nearby to get a coffee, he said he had a vending machine on site and seemed somewhat miffed when we said that we would prefer a cafe. He said in a grumpy manner that he didn’t know any cafe’s in the area.

We jumped onto the bikes and nipped into the village close to the garage, and lo and behold, we found a cafe. They served lovely strong coffee, but sadly no food. This is the kind of place we like to find as its part of the whole “absorb real Spain” experience.

We couldn’t stop Andy remonstrating with one of the locals about the merits of Mike Ashley and Newcastle FC!

Duly refreshed we headed off with the thought of stopping at the first food stop that took our fancy. The countryside was still clearly farmland but charming at the same time. We had been riding for a while and passed a restaurant and Andy pulled in a few hundred yards further on, but we decided to head on a bit more. Then after a few miles we happened across the Hamlet/Village of Aldeaseca and stopped at Bar Picoteo. This is just to side of the road we were on and had easy parking for the bikes. The owner was extremely welcoming which was lovely, and we ordered his fixed menu del dia (menu of the day) which turned out to be lovely and most welcome as we had not had any breakfast.

Now during this meal it was clear that someone else had not had breakfast and decided to join our table. Luckily for Marmaduke as he was duly named by Sara, (and had ULT’s) we had a tin of pate left over from the carpet picnic in Banos de Montemayor………….which was gratefully received by Marmaduke along with lots of petting.

When we left, both Andy and Marmaduke had tears in their eyes. Marmaduke was so traumatised and could not believe he was being abandoned by this heartless biker 🙁

This is how Marmaduke viewed Andy for his treachery…..

From there we headed for Segovia feeling much better and energised after the food. None of has been there before, but one of Andy’s mates had said it was super, and he also suggested a restaurant that has to be tried.

Entering the city we arrived at the spectacular Roman Aqueduct…….and it is just that…..spectacular!

We parked up in front of this to figure out which road would take us to the city centre hotel that we had booked.

Here is Andy, not content with fitting the wolf to his bike as per an earlier entry in this blog, he has surreptitiously managed to now fit a satellite dish!!! There is no end to this mans talents 😉

We figured out where we needed to go and headed up to the Hotel Isobel Infanta, which is a superb location, and provides offsite secure parking. This hotel is also in the area where no vehicles are allowed, unless you are going to a hotel where you need to unload and then go and park up somewhere out of this area. So having parking included as part of the deal was a real bonus.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

We had booked two nights in this hotel and I could witter on sounding like someone from the Segovia Tourist Board about its beauty, but hopefully some of the following photos will give you a flavour of the city;

Nightime; The Cathedral just across the square from our hotel

Aqueduct at night.

Table with a view.

Shopping never stops…..

Neither does the feeding…..

The Alcazar is simply a stunning building with lots of history. I’ve used a link to another website here as it’s difficult taking any photo that captures the building fully.

The aqueduct sweeps across the city as you can see in all the photos, like the one below….

….and then it curves around the city and reaches road level. We had fun thinking about the size of water channel this huge structure would have, and before you scroll down any further, what size of water channel do you think is carried?

Well as you can see from the following photos, it’s not as big as we all thought;

Nor is it as deep as we thought !

Segovia – Aliva – Segovia

This morning we headed across the square for breakfast, where someone got a wee bit carried away, and like Oliver Twist and wanted more, ……wonder if you can guess who it was…….nope, it was Andy

Then it was back to the hotel where we asked reception to organise someone to open the garage (about 150 yds away from the hotel) and we were told to go round there in 5 mins. When we walked around, someone was already there driving the cars out. To explain, picture a normal garage that will take three cars lengthwise with an offset space at the top and bottom. Our bikes were in each of these spaces, and the cars had to be taken out first before we could get the bikes out.
Real friendly happy service, excellent.

We were heading out on a day visit to the city of Avila where we rode right through to the old part, parked the bikes up and went exploring. Our plan was to walk along the city walls but these didn’t open again until the afternoon, so off we went meandering through the city streets. Inside the old walls of the city is no museum, its a vibrant place with residential properties, historic building, with the butcher baker and candlestick maker all making a living.

After exploring a good bit of the city we decided to have lunch in a restaurant in the Plaza de Teresa Jesus, which was not busy and not far from one of the main gates which had an entrance to the walls at the side. After lunch we walked back up to the entrance and found a queue had already built up. This queue was socially distancing, but the line was running alongside a restaurant and the owner was certainly not a happy man, and we could understand why given the current situation.

I don’t know if the walls are normally open all day or whether the current situation has made them change their hours, but it seems weird having a major attraction closed for a chunk of the day, when there are tourist around, albeit in reduced numbers. Anyhow the queue started moving and we duly (and patiently) crept along and finally reached the desk to pay our entrance fee, only to be told by the lady at the desk that we couldn’t walk all the way around the walls, she did try and explain the reason but we didn’t really understand….this is our failing in understanding Spanish/local language.

There a completely different perspective of the countryside from the castle walls, and to be honest, there is a fair bit of it open for visitors.

Our trusty steeds

It was then time to head back to the bikes and get refuelled before heading back to Segovia. There was a garage just down the road from where we had parked the bikes, so this was easy enough. From the garage we were basically retracing our track back alongside the wall when a Guardia Civil Officer stood on the road and directed us into a small layby, (we could almost hear Ali telepathetically saying reeeaaallllyyy!!) where there stood a further four Guardia officers all with guns strapped to their sides and looking very officious. Let me tell you this was a strange and unsettling experience !!

One officer was focussed on Andy and Ali’s bike while Sara and I sat behind them on ours wondering what was happening. At the same time we were trying very hard to capture what the officers were saying to each other (naturally in Spanish) in an attempt to understand why they had stopped us, as we certainly hadn’t been speeding or doing anything untoward. It was, in all honesty one of those situations where it was a case of helmets off, facemasks on, and lots of yes sir, no sir attitude!

They seemed to be totally focussed on Andy’s bike with his UK number plate, he was trying to explain that he had applied for the bike to be registered in Spain and was awaiting a date from the authorities. This this didn’t seem to be making any difference to the situation, with the single officer constantly deferring to the other officers. He then came to our bike and asked if we could speak Spanish, we replied a little, and he asked us to get off the bike – what the…..

He gesticulated at my Spanish number plate and then the penny dropped. The Spanish number plate has the letter E for Espana, but Andy’s number plate didn’t have a GB on the plate or – and this was the point, a GB sticker anywhere on his bike. We were all very polite and explained that in the UK it wasn’t a legal requirement to have a plate with GB on it, knowing full well it should have had one fitted, but being uber polite. Then we heard one of the other officers mentioning Andy’s face mask which as you may have noticed, has “I love Spain” on it with a big red heart. Now we are not sure, but we believe this was actually a training exercise for the officer, and we also believe that one of the others was basically saying you can’t really book the guy as he is wearing a mask with this statement on it. Andy was at the same time, being apologetic and saying he would get a friend to post out a GB sticker and fit it to his bike until his Spanish Plate was issued…….all in a friendly manner accepting he was in the wrong but not knowingly. The upshot was they told us to be on our way……Jesus, it was a relief to pull out of that layby and get back on the road.

Arriving back at the hotel in Segovia, it was the reverse procedure to get the bikes back into the garage, then getting ready to head our for a meal at the restaurant previously suggested by Andy and Ali’s friend.

The waiter we had was so funny, and in truth a wee bit “Faulty Towers” but he made us feel so welcome, the whole ambiance upstairs was typically Spanish and the food was most welcome and tasty. Best bit though was the laughter and teasing about Andy and Ali getting pulled in by the Guardia earlier in the day. From there we walked down to the Aqueduct for a final look at night…… followed by another frozen yogurt, there’s a bit of a theme building here 🙂

Segovia to Albarracin

Todays countryside was much the same, mainly agricultural but it was yet another perfect day riding motorbikes in glorious sunshine and clear blue skies – life just doesn’t get much better. En route to Albarracin we stopped for our customary coffee and croissant, topped up the tanks and then rode off again.

Today Andy was in front using his sat nag and for some reason best known to itself it had us riding over this mountain road on which the surface was deteriorating and the road getting narrower, I thought if this gets much worse we would be better off with trials bikes instead of the leviathans we were riding 🙂 However we safely made it down and reached our destination, but our challenges hadn’t ended…….

We had booked into the Hotel Arabia and when we arrived in Albarracin, Andy’s sat nav had us ride up this steep narrow hill to the hotel where we precariously stopped the bikes to unload the panniers. Then Sara and Ali headed off to book us into reception which we assumed was on this top level of the hotel. Meantime Andy and I were wrestling these heavy bikes in a tight area trying to park them where they wouldn’t get damaged all this on a steep slope with a cobbled surface…….sheesh.

The girls then came out to say that reception was actually on the bottom floor of the hotel (click the link above and you will see the height difference from the top to bottom floor) and there was a level car park opposite the hotel.

“O jings” I heard myself say !!!

Now Andy had his bike in a better spot than mine, so I said I was going to ride down to the car park at the bottom. This entailed more wrestling and turning the bike, and I was building up a bit of a sweat, but relieved when I got the bike turned around 180 degrees and headed off down to the car park where I luckily found a space. I then walked across to the hotel and found there was a space in the hotel grounds, right at reception/restaurant, where the bikes would fit.

I suggested that Ali tell Andy the parking was much safer down here, and of my intention to move my bike into this space, and then stand at the side of the road to show Andy where to pull in, all this was duly accomplished and the bikes safely parked up. Moral of this story is, if you are ever riding a bike and stopping at the hotel DO NOT go up the hill, as it will save your blood pressure getting too high 🙂

Rooms were lovely, and we all met down in the terrace where we had a few drinks, and whilst we had only booked for one night, we asked the chap if we could extend it to two nights. He wasn’t sure as they were busy, but he went away to check. We were relieved when he came back and said yep another night was OK. We then decided to go to the shops, pick up some food and have another carpet picnic on one of the outside terraces of the hotel. The lift in the hotel is a boon whether going up to go to the old part of the town, or down to the small supermarket.

This is the hotel entrance at the top of the hill near where I almost had cardiac arrest

Having booked a second night made us all unwind a little more and we headed off for a look around the town, which is an absolutely amazing medieval town. Its more amazing that there are no power or telephone cable to be seen on the walls which makes me think it might be used for period films/TV programmes.

As Andy and Ali had been here before they knew their way around and we had a good walk around the town while they reminisced about their previous visit.

Next morning during breakfast we decided we would walk around the city walls, and hopefully the following photos give an indication of how lovely the scenery is around the town.

Our hotel from above;

Fearless Ali……..reeaaaallllyyyy

At night we ended up in a restaurant in the old town, where we all had pizzas, a few drinks, a final walk around the town and then back to the hotel having enjoyed our two days immensely.

Albarracin to Chulilla

This morning, after our breakfast we set off trusting ourselves to Andy’s sat nav, and it weaved us around some small country roads (CV 330A )until we ended up in a small hamlet Val de la Sabina and stopped two ladies to clarify/ask directions. Well this set of heated exchange of views between them both, then another lady appeared on a balcony asking what we wanted and then she joined in the cacophony of noise. Then one more lady appeared on another balcony asking questions, but didn’t join in the exchange of views on the right way to go :-). Finally a guy came out of his house and asked us where we were heading for, (the ladies were still “discussing” options) he said back up the way we came, take first right over the mountain, then when we cross a small bridge turn right to a village called St Miguel…… turns out this is the CV363.

I think this is the most excitement this hamlet has ever had, with two big noisy bikes and four foreigners seemingly lost. It was such a funny experience, and we loved them all for their efforts at helping.

This road the CV363 was a simply superb mountain road with stunning views and lots of twisties, hairpins etc a fantastic bike road, and once again these big bikes were fine on these roads. By the time we pulled into Puebla de San Miguel we were in need of a coffee, albeit we were all buzzing after such a great section of road.

We found a local cafe, filled with locals sitting outside, and between them and the owner we all had a good laugh even though we couldn’t fully understand each other. It was more the international language of friendship and courtesy, even though the owner forgot the peanuts about four times, much to the amusement of all…….really great stop.

We then headed back onto the CV363, and I simply don’t have a good enough command of The Queens English to describe the road to Chulilla (Chew – lee – ya) . This route CV363-CV350- CV345 – CV395 is the best motorbike road I have ever ridden full stop. It simply has everything you could want, climbing up one mountain, looking at the road descending and then up the next, – fantastically exhilarating !!

We arrived in Chulilla (Andy and Ali had been here before by car from Valencia direction) to find it really busy with traffic and people. We stopped the bikes in the centre of town and had a coffee and sandwich in the square. Andy and Ali knew of a river walk, and also where to park the bikes so that we could change out of bike gear into cooler clothes for the walk. This was lovely, and at the end of the walk there is an area where there appears to be a small dam and various shapes cut into the rock. The following video will do a better job than me in describing this area. There are photos and more information on the town in the link above.

We then walked back to the bikes, changed into bike gear again and set off for our accommodation that was listed on Booking.com as being a few kilometres from Chulilla, but first things first we all need a water stop as we were boiling. At our second attempt we found a restaurant/bar that actually stayed open to serve us. To explain it must be a family place because as he was serving us his family were shouting him in for his meal, he was quite cool about things and we paid him along with a decent tip for being so accommodating.

Duly refreshed, and with my sat nav working again i took the lead for the couple of kilometres to our B&B Amarain Casa Rural but this turned into a lot more than a few kilometers as we were riding over hills/mini mountain type roads, and then I heard a blast on a horn and stopped for Andy to pull alongside ” Dear chap are you sure we are on the correct road”? or words to that effect. In truth we had no real option but continue to the end of the road. There we found the signs for Gestalgar where the accommodation was, and I suppose it IS only a few kilometres as the crow flies, but by road a good 20-25 mins.

When we arrived the owner was there and gave us a good welcome, but explained he had no parking on site for the bikes and we would need to park in the pub car park round the corner – not ideal. We had booked two rooms, one with air con which we blagged and the other with a fan. Its fair to say these rooms are “compact” and I could hear in my mind a massive reeeaaaalllly coming from Ali. She was in the words of our illustrious Queen Victoria ” Far fae chuffed”
Turns out both rooms were a similar size, or as Ali prefers to say, both wardrobes were of a similar size 🙂

This was a shame as it was our last night, and the atmosphere was a bit sullied until we went to the restaurant and after a few drinks the world came back into balance. Andy on Bacardi and Coke and me on Fanta!

We had a late check out and decided to take a walk along the river bank before leaving, and I have to say it was a lovely walk and similar to the one in Chulilla, with the girls taking time to cool off in the river.
Now there were signs everywhere saying NO SWIMMING…..others saying NO PICNICS.

On the way back we saw two lifeguards sitting by the river in their swimmers having a picnic……only in Spain !! 🙂

Then it was back to the bikes to load them up at the pub car park, and after packing was complete we sat in the shade for a coffee and watched all the tractors passing through with trailers full of Carobs (?) they tooted their horns and we waved like locals…..childish but lovely at the same time.

Andy and Ali wanted us to go to a restaurant they had been raving about called Las Bodegas in Vanacloig for lunch, and that was our next destination. It was in actual fact not that far from Chulilla, and has plenty of parking outside. They were fully booked when we arrived, but they set up a table for us none the less, and the menu of the day was of fantastic quality, I would say its the best we have had on mainland Spain thus far, coupled with really good service, and all at a very reasonable price in a beautiful building.

This was a fitting end to a superb motorbike holiday, where we took in superb roads, towns, cities, met lovely people on the way, and in the company of two exceptional people namely Andy and Ali Fenwick. We had so much laughter and many reeeaaaalllly’s on the way – thanks guys it was great!

NB: Finally we were all happy for Andy as he expressed his delight at being reacquainted with Betty Swolloks during the trip!

We are looking forward to the next trip already……………to be continued 😉

Motorbike Trip – Spain 2017

Palma – Albir

Arriving back on the island from the UK, we packed up the panniers of the motorbike and took the ferry to Denia. Our good friends John & Sue live close to Denia and we were hoping to catch up with them. However “Murphys Law” intervened and they we travelling to……guess where……yep Mallorca! Hopefully we can catch up before to much longer!

Our first night, (due to the orginal accommodation cancelling) was spent at Palm Luxury Retreat in Albir. It was more expensive than the original accommodation and booking.com eventually refunded the difference.
This was a lovely clean property and the ladies who welcomed us could not have been friendlier. They also provided secure level parking for the motorbike which is always a serious consideration when checking out accomodation.

Now I don’t know if its just my sat nag system – but it does seem to have a mind of its own sometimes – and that’s irrespective of the settings – and once again it had me weaving around various small back streets etc. However it finally stopped messing about and we arrived at our destination. We both had a laugh about its foibles.

Albir to Mojacar

Todays run had a good mix of roads with one in particular being a terrific biking road. I know that two up with luggage, that one should be a wee bit reserved but hooning was absolutely essential on this road – great fun and big smiles. Chicken strips are now missing off the new back tyre!
At the start of the run we were up high looking down on Benidorm, and never having been there, I cant make any comment other than “bloody hell”. It takes up a huge area and has a sky line more in line with Hong Kong rather than a coastal Spanish town. One building in particular stuck out from the rest and as we found out later it is called the In Tempo Building now you should read this link as the story about this building could not be made up!!

Riding down the coast north of Cartegena we passed loads of salt pans which was kind of neat to see in person the same process that has been undertaken by mankind for centuries. Not sure the exact name of the area or salt pans, but it was on the landward side of Mar Menor.

We stopped in Cartagena at the marina and just as we were setting off for a wander and a coffee I noticed coolant dripping onto the road. I stripped off the plastics and tried to find the leak. It seemed to be dripping from a hose clip on the bottom of the radiator and I did manage to tighten it a little and the dripping stopped. I then topped up the coolant level albeit it only needed about 150ml.
To say I kept my eye on the engine temperature on they rest of the run to Mojacar was an understatement. But it was fine, with the temperature being perfectly normal all the way down to Mojacar. I was relieved that this quick fix had done the job and avoided a potential nightmare.

Mojacar area

We had managed to get a good deal online with the Parador Hotel in Mojacar and had booked a three night deal. We really like the Parador Hotels and especially their “Esentia” range that are in historic/monumental buildings etc. However this one is a modern Parador Civia hotel. FYI the third type are Parador Naturia. Don’t know why I ended up on a ramble about Paradors there sorry. 🙂

We had decided on spending time in this area as Sara wanted to check it out, to see if it offered a similar or better option than the north of Mallorca. Online it looked like one could buy a villa with pool/land etc for the price of an apartment in Pollensa. I wont bore you with the details but we checked out areas between Mojacar and Aguilas on the coast and inland as far as Huercal Overa. Some towns/villages were lovely but not lovely enough to make us want to move. There was however one property in Los Lobos that we viewed with the estate agent (and another twice on drive by) that was so well built and had everything anyone could want in a property. However the village/hamlet would have needed to offer just a wee bit more, and we may well have been seriously interested – as I said, it was well built, and was for sale at a price that would make one wonder how they could have bought the land and built the house for that kind of money!

One morning whilst in Mojacar the lock assembly on the top box (storage box) packed in, and as such it would not lock onto the bike…..deep joy I heard myself say!! As these boxes are KTM parts I checked for the nearest KTM dealer and found one in Almeria called Motorinbox
and tried phoning them. My lack of Spanish was a problem and the chap in the shop couldn’t speak English. I then rather cheekily went into an estate agent (bilingual) and asked them to call Motorinbox and explain my problem. I was told to get down to Almeria today and they would see what they could do – result. We nipped to a Ferreteria (Ironmonger) and bought some ratchet straps to secure the box to the bike.
As this might have been a bit dodgy Sara stayed at the hotel, and I rode to the shop. The guys were superb and whipped the box off, completely stripped the lock assembly apart, and discovered the problem was some fasteners inside the assembly had come loose. Absolute fantastic service and the bill was more than fair, so I rode back to Mojacar a happy bunny and told Sara the good news, that the trip would not be delayed due to the topbox. 🙂

Mojacar to Orgiva

On the morning we were leaving I went to move the bike and had coolant leaking again – jings imagine that I was heard to say!! The hose clip I had tightened a few days before was still tight and I was concerned that the problem might rest with the radiator itself or something else that might not be good news! However when I checked the coolant level it was still OK, a bit lower than ideal but still OK. I decided we should head back to the KTM dealer in Almeria which we did, again keeping an eye on the engine temperature gauge. Again the temperature was fine and I was still puzzled as to what could be causing this. We arrived at Motorinbox and I explained the situation to the mechanics. They thought the same as me, in that the hoseclip was the issue so it was changed. By this time the engine had cooled down and the leak started again – my anxiety levels were increasing exponentially as the mechanic said, quite rightly, that he would need to strip the bike down to facilitate access and find the fault…..you can well imagine!!

The plastics, fuel tank etc were all duly stripped off in the workshop, and then within a short period of time, the mechanic called me over to show me that he had found the fault. To explain: the coolant level in the plastic container, can be checked without stripping off the side plastics of the bike. To top up the coolant container the side plastics need to be removed, (only a few screws) but there is still a part of the coolant container inaccessible, as it is under the fuel tank etc. Turns out this part of the coolant container has the main cap (like a radiator cap on a car) and the problem was that this cap was loose!!
Boy were we relieved- the bike was put back together and once again the bill was more than fair, especially as they dropped what they had been working on, to help me out. Outstanding back up from a KTM dealer and one which should be applauded, very seldom in all my years of riding (a wide range of different manufacturers) motorbikes have I enjoyed such exemplary service.

We were back on the road mid morning and looking forward to riding through Los Alpujarras to our next stop in Orgiva.
We first read about Los Alpujarras in a book called Driving over Lemons by Chris Stewart (the first in a series of books by him about his life in the Alpujarras) and we were really looking forward to the run.
However we first had to pass El Ejido the area of Spain covered in so much plastic that it can be seen from space as per NASA photo below;

All these fruits etc are apparently/allegedly grown in bags (as this area was once dessert type land) with lots of chemicals used, and allegedly the majority of workers are illegals from the likes of Morocco. These poor folks allegedly end up with various very bad ailments/cancers. Imagine the heat under this plastic and breathing in all the chemicals fumes just so people in affluent countries can have their choice of fruit and veg available 52 weeks of the year………its just so wrong in my book. What’s wrong with going back to eating fruits and veg that are in season? – it has to be better than this, doesn’t it?

Our planned route was up to Berja on the A347 before cutting off onto the A348 to Orgiva and the western end of the Alpujarras. This run was simply superb, we had the road more or less to ourselves for the most part, and as you can see from the photo below it is stunningly beautiful and reflects the beauty of rural Spain as opposed to the Costas.

Approaching Orgiva we caught up with a pick up truck…..must have been rush hour!

Being serious I would think that in the tourist season, this road might be alive with cars and coaches – we considered ourselves very fortunate to have had such a clear road today.

We had booked into Casa Jazmin which as you can see is a lovely rural house. Bit tricky to find, but once we found it, the owner Rosa turned out to be such a bubbly effervescent and helpful character. There was also good secure parking for the bike. We did suggest that she put a small map showing how to find the property entrance on her web site, as we were riding in circles for a good 5-10 mins before finding the property.

It was quite interesting walking about the town which had featured in the series of books mentioned above.

During the night however we were awakened by what sounded like rifles firing. It might have been youngsters with fireworks but I really don’t think so! In the morning we asked Rosa, and as it turns out she had also heard the noises, but she didn’t know what it was all about. After breakfast we headed off and were relieved to find that there were no bodies lying in the street – it was taken up with the market stalls – therefore all must be well. I was beginning to think of Lee Van Cleef leaning in a doorway with his pocket watch playing a tune.
Only those of a certain age – or a penchant for Spaghetti Westerns will understand this last point 🙂

Orgiva to Ronda

From Orgiva the road goes through to Lanjeron, and a few miles further on the road winds down through the hills to join up with the main road to Grenada. We had originally planned to spend some time in Grenada and visit the Alhambra etc but after such tranquility in the Alpujarras I didn’t fancy it this time around, and therefore we decided instead to head for Ronda. Our route was north to Granada and then west to Antequera where we stopped for lunch. After lunch we were heading for the A367 to Ronda. Now at this point, i admit that we were aware that an amber warning was in place for wind, and in truth the wind had been building as we rode along but I hadn’t really paid any heed.
I have ridden through strong winds in Scotland, and also ridden through the Mistral in France, so I never really took much heed of this amber warning.

Well the reality was that the wind just kept increasing, and I have to say its the strongest winds I have ever ridden through. The bike has an output of some 150 bhp, and I could feel the wind really pushing hard against me when head on, and once when side on, we were caught by a gust which lifted Sara’s feet completely off the pegs. Think I’ll leave it there and not repeat her comments, and say simply that this will go down as an “interesting bike ride”.

We were both happy and somewhat relieved to finally reach Ronda…….however good Ol’ sat nag was enjoying it so much she didn’t want our day to end , nor indeed did it want us to find our accommodation, as it had us going in circles for a while…..boy was it taxing!!

Eventually we found Hotel Bodega el Juncal.
After sorting ourselves out we went out to stretch our legs and had to walk around branches blown down off trees etc en route to the town. The town itself is quite amazing being built as it is on a cliff edge;

We really enjoyed Ronda and booked an additional night to let the strong winds blow through before setting off on the next leg.

Ronda to Seville

From Ronda it was a smashing bike ride up the A374, the scenery was so lovely, and then we picked up the A375 into Seville. We were looking forward to exploring this city and had booked into Catalonia Santa Justa and arranged underground parking for the bike.
We duly arrived at the hotel, parked the bike in the underground carpark and then reception came up with some bullshit excuse about a plumbing problem, and that they had arranged for us to stay at a sister hotel for the night, and then come back to the Catalonia Santa Justa for breakfast when they would have a room for us. NOT ideal and I think they must have taken a booking for a coach load of people and were making room for them. They were paying for the taxi’s to and from the sister hotel and whilst we made our displeasure known, they in turn promised to waive the parking charges and provide breakfast free of charge, its fair to say that we were a bit miffed.
Anyhow into the taxi, which dropped us off at the hotel as per instructed by reception – only to find that we had been dropped off at the wrong hotel! This hotel contacted the Catalonia Santa Justa and we found out that the correct hotel was only a short walk away. We were then told at reception of the sister hotel that we had to pay the full price for the night (full rack rate) and this would be deducted from our final bill at the Catalonia Santa Justa……..Jesus this was getting ridiculous. The room to be fair was well appointed, so it was shower time and out to explore Seville for what was left of the day.

Next morning we got a taxi back to the Catalonia Santa Justa around 10.00 and yes you’ve guessed correctly no room ready for us. We again expressed our disappointment, and basically said we were going for breakfast and fully expected a room to be available when we finished. This they managed by the skin of their teeth as the cleaner was just finishing off the room they told us was ready!!
Very very poor and a hotel NOT to be recommended. We actually posted a review on booking.com and neither the hotel nor booking.com made any comment, nor any form of apology. Obviously they must be getting their money too easily and don’t need to bother about customer service.

As for Seville we loved it;

We also thought the old Real Tobacco Factory (now part of the University) was an amazing building with lots of history.

Our friends Diane and Brian had told us that the open top bus tour also included a walking tour at around 1600 each day, which was included in the price and well worth doing. We did the open top tour and then duly turned up for the walking tour. We both agreed it was a highlight of our trip in Seville, because we were walked through areas we had no idea were there, and even if we had found them ourselves, we would have had no idea about their history. This is well worth doing if you are ever in Seville.

Now I always knew that it was a Scot, James Keillor of Dundee, that came up with Marmalade, as there was ready access to oranges that were not good enough to eat and it seemed a waste to dump them…….but i never knew why this was the case. Well to our surprise the reason dates back to when orange peel was used in the process of manufacturing gunpowder. The Muslim ruler was fed up with locals eating the oranges, and thereby reducing the potential amount of gunpowder that could be manufactured, that he instructed that the oranges become a mixed strain of oranges and limes which would not be as tasty to the locals. Now I took this with a pinch of salt but decided to do an online search and lo and behold it’s true. Sometime truth is actually stranger than fiction!!

Seville to Cadiz

En route down to Cadiz the wind was getting “a little bit buffety”, and you can imagine what was going through our minds (after the road to Ronda in high winds) and I think we both had the same thoughts and trepidation as we approached this very high bridge into Cadiz; but it was fine.

Given the narrow streets in and around Cadiz I was pleased that sat nag had behaved and we got straight to our accommodation Hotel Monte Puertatierra
where we had booked underground parking for the bike. The owners of the hotel Catalonia Santa Justa should send their employees to this hotel to find out what “service” actually is!! Everything about this hotel was pretty much spot on, with real attention to detail when dealing with clients. Lovely Jubbly.

I have always wanted to visit Cadiz as it is so full of history, and not just surrounding the Spanish Fleet being in here before the battle of Trafalgar – but also that in the days of the Spanish Empire all the ships carrying treasure (plunder) from the Americas had to first stop in Cadiz. Its hard to image what the value of these spoils would be in today’s values but I would assume mega billions…..in any currency you care to apply!

We walked through the Puerta de Tierra

then around the outside of Cadiz

and out to Castle of San Sebastian

We then explored through the centre of the town and found the old convent that is now a boutique type hotel Hotel Convento Cadiz we had a good look around this place and its certainly unique. I had considered us staying here but as there was no secure parking for the bike it was discounted.

All in all a fascinating stop and I’m personally delighted to have finally managed to visit this amazing City.

Cadiz – Tarifa – La Linea – Malaga

We headed out the city in a southerly direction which meant we didn’t go over the bridge again, and headed for Tarifa. The road down to here was again simply superb with terrific scenery, but it had a lack of fuel stations, and as I had not filled up in Seville I was beginning to get a bit thoughtful (well I was a bit beyond that) as our fuel was so low we must have been close to riding on fumes, when the Gods smiled on us and we had the joy of finding a fuel station. Duly refueled, we rode into Tarifa itself but avoided going down to the docks as there was real heavy traffic, instead we took the road out towards Algeciras.

We stopped at the Mirador but the weather was pretty poor so we couldn’t see Morocco – however had it had been clear, this is the view we would have enjoyed.

We then rode through Algeciras and around to La Linea de la Conception and decided against going into Gibraltar itself as the queues were taking a 2/3 hours. Instead we parked up and enjoyed some food and coffee whilst looking at the Rock.

From here we headed for Malaga, and this was the worst bit of road so far – not the road surface, it was just so busy with truck and cars, with bizarre joining lanes – so I headed off for a toll road to get away from the chaos and the choking fumes.

When we arrived at Malaga ol’ sat nag started its nonsense again and had me going one way then another and back again…………..eventually we made to our stop for the night Hotel Castillo de Santa Catalina a quite special and unique property. If you check the link you will see what I mean about special! Our room was the Junior Suite shown on the web page…….really neat old place with lots of history and super grounds.

Update: This was Sara’s favourite accommodation out of the whole trip)

We walked into Malaga town, and in truth my expectation was low. How mistaken was I, its a lovely town and believe me, i saw a lot of it as Sara was looking for new Fit Flops to replace the ones that broke recently!! There are lots of really interesting properties around (

over and above shoe shops!) and is a town that obviously enjoyed a fair degree of prosperity in the past.

Malaga to Ubeda

The run up to Ubeda was another of those days where one would think that the authorities had given us our own personal road for the day, with the added bonus that the scenery was, once again lovely. We decided on Ubeda as it was the nearest large town before our planned sojourn into the National Park which starts at a town called Cazorla.

We booked into our hotel the RL Ciudad de Úbeda. We had to ask for a change of room due to air con noise – clearly a problem in (at least) this room as they had built in another internal glass door in an attempt to reduce the noise. Other than that, a pretty decent hotel, in a town that we knew absolutely nothing about.
We went walking into the town and the more we explored the more we uncovered – Ubeda is a gem of a place, with the countryside for miles around covered in Olive trees. It transpires that this area produces more olives than anywhere else on the planet. The real find though was the old part of the town – it is amazing. Here are a few photos…..

The church of San Pablo

The Hospital of St James (now a cultural centre)

Parador Hotel

Its really neat when you come across something unexpected and interesting – Ubeda definitely falls into this category

Ubeda to Coto del Valle de Cazorla

The weather forecast was not looking good for the following few days so we were looking at various Spa type hotels to give us something to do until the rain passed through. We finally decided on Coto de Valle de Cazorla
The ride from Ubeda to Cazorla was a bit hit and miss with the rain constantly threatening as we rode into this town. Once there, either me or sat nag got a bit discombobulated, and we had to stop in the town and ask directions. We understood the chap when he pointed out the road and said in Spanish “when you go up over the mountain and come down the other side its on your left”
This road surface, was as you might imagine being a mountain road, in pretty poor condition. It was also a wet narrow road with hairpin bends, and to put icing on the cake the mist was low, and at times visibility was extremely limited! Deep joy I thought as I focused purely on the black strip in front of us and negotiated the hairpin bends etc……..a challenging ride!

Here is the road when the mist cleared..

No its not!!… I’m only joking and checking you are still with me and haven’t fallen asleep 🙂

When we arrived down the other side of the mountain road I was happy to park the bike up, and the bonus was we arrived before the heavy rain. Sara asked me if I had heard the sound of breaking glass near the top of the mountain road, and I said no, what was it? …..she replied it was “just her bottle crashing”, when she got spooked and saw the drops down the off side of the road when the mist lifted 🙂

We sorted ourselves out in the room and then decided to take advantage of the Spa Facilities – we had a lovely couple of hours relaxing in the spa and watching the heavy rain hit the windows of the pool. As this hotel was quite remote we decided we would eat in the hotel. It’s not what we normally do, as we prefer to stop along the way, or go out into whatever town we are staying in. However we both enjoyed our evening meal and funnily enough ordered the exact same food.
That night I started feeling a bit grim, and cutting a long story short things didn’t really improve for the remainder of time we were here. Thank goodness it was somewhere that Sara could do something, and I encouraged her to spend as much time as possible in the Spa, as I was totally out of commission! The day before we were leaving I was feeling a bit better and we walked through the woods to the next town called Arroyo Frio – but on the way back we got caught in the rain and sought shelter in an unfinished house. Next morning I felt good enough to move on, as by this time I was absolutely fed up and needed to get back on the road.

Coto de Valle to Albacete

The road through this National Park is the A319 and the scenery is so very reminiscent of the west of Scotland – in other words beautiful. We are both completely blown away by the size of the country and the number of areas of outstanding natural beauty and this is right up there.

A great ride all the way through the park, then alongside the lake, over the dam, and eventually exiting out onto the main N322 road to Albacete and onto our stop for the night Hotel Santa Isabel .

In the underground car park of this hotel was a collection of classic cars, motorbikes and scooters all in first class condition. The room itself was huge and bright, and after my recent trials and tribulation I loved it….. Our meal that night was very light, with breakfast in the morning a strange experience. The vast majority of food was submerged in olive oil, with some other foodstuffs being a bit of a puzzle, as we didn’t know whether they were animal vegetable or mineral and therefore a bit thoughtful. The waiter chap was no help and he is definitely in the wrong profession – his disdain for everyone was palpable, and it’s as if he enjoyed making as much noise as possible clattering plates and banging doors. We had a little bit of what we could recognise, but decided that it might be prudent to wait till later on the in the day to eat, and have a menu del dia somewhere en route to Xativa.

Albacete to Xativa

Sara had booked us into an apartment in the middle of Xativa, and all we really knew of the town was that it had a medieval castle on a hill. The run from Albacete was again through some amazing countryside and we duly arrived early afternoon. Sat Nag had us in a square in the centre of the narrow streets in the town and it was a wee bit confused bless it. However we both knew we were close, but we couldn’t see street name plates to help us. Now you need to excuse this next bit as it might seem like whinging Pomme time, BUT every time I have asked a Spaniard for directions they either get it wrong because they don’t know where the place is – or it might be that they are simply having a bit of “fun ”
with tourists – whatever the reason, it’s invariably a waste of time. No offense meant.

The following is proof of what i say, because sitting on a bench in this square was an old boy, obviously a local chap, and I asked Sara to show him the street name we were looking for and get directions. He looked at the address, pondered it for a moment, and then and proceeded to point behind him saying something like third on the left, fourth on the right, straight on, round the roundabout and disappear up your own ***** why it is so, I have no idea!!

We ignored this “local advice” and found the required street no more than 20 yards away from us in the direction the old boy was facing! – the nameplate of the street was not actually on the corner but about 25 yards further down the street!!

The owner of Las Coles Apartasuites was there to meet us – showed us around, and then took us to park the bike in a secure garage. Once sorted out we went out for a look at the town. I fancied getting the tourist train to show us around, and we had passed where it runs from when riding through the town. We waited till it arrived, but the driver then said it would be a few hours before the next trip up to the castle. Cutting a long story short he eventually took us up to the castle ,saying we would have to walk down……got our vote and our thanks. Walking about the castle and seeing its topography and defences made the mind boggle as to who would try to attack such a structure on such a hill. You would be jiggered by the time you climbed the hill to the bottom of the walls!

Also turns out that Xativa is where the Borgias came from – check this link for more info on them and also on the town itself.

This town also hold the current record for the cheapest three course menu del dia (menu of the day) at 6 euros 60 cents. Furthermore it was absolutely delicious with really friendly service.

Xativa to Tortosa via Peniscola and Vinaros

We set off next morning with sat nag again taking control, and today I was pleased that it did, as we passed one of the white elephants in Spain, and we would possibly have missed it had sat nag not known better, This one is Castellon Airport

From there we headed to Peniscola where I fancied looking around the Templar Castle, and also checking out the town that we thought about, but didn’t visit when sailing Sun Dog down the coast. This town might well suit some people but its certainly not our kind of place, and as such we didn’t stay long.

Instead we headed up to Vinaros, a port we did sail into when sailing down the coast. For me its always a bit surreal when revisiting a place sailed into previously, as it throws up such lovely memories of a time when there was no real plan as to where we were going…….we were simply meandering. That was again the feeling when we parked up near the marina and reminisced, but it was time to move on and get more fuel before heading for Tortosa where had booked into the Tortosa Parador for a few days.

In entering Tortosa good old sat nag once again took a funny turn (and this was was the best one yet!) as it had me going up roads no wider than pavements, and giving me angst as the side panniers (boxes) were getting close to the buildings on either side! I am not kidding either! It finally took us up onto a proper road which lead to a gap in an old Castle Wall. However the road appeared to go up a relatively steep hill, and as I didn’t want to get myself into a possible tight turnaround situation on a steep slope with the bike fully loaded, I was pondering on the best thing to do. A lady was walking out the grounds and she told us that reception was indeed up the hill and the road continued around to the right through an archway.
This photo shows the final part of the slope and gives an idea of what I mean, albeit this is the last part of the slope – we were viewing it from a couple of hundred yards away, and there were no signs anywhere to give any indication.

We duly got checked in and were:
(1) Impressed with the view from our balcony.
(2) Unimpressed with service and quality of rooms for a Parador
(3) Unimpressed that a new lift shaft was being installed and the noise started around 8.30 in the morning and stopped around 2200 in the evening, and that no one had informed us this was the case. There was only a sheet of A4 paper at reception apologising for the works……but by that time they have your booking and money.

When we gave feedback at the end of our stay, all we got was a standard fob off – not what one would expect from a Parador. In fact its fair to say this is the worst Parador we have ever stayed in – but it was one with outstanding views!!

Anyway back to the trip. We had decided to base ourselves in Tortosa so that we could cover the area to the north by doing clockwise loop one day, and an anti clockwise loop the next day.

Clockwise we rode north on the C12 until we reached the junction with the C242 to La Granadella and on into the Parc Natural de la Serra de Montsant another area of outstanding beauty. I’ve never seen the Grand Canyon but part of this Park look like a miniature version. It’s so difficult to convey how beautiful this areas is, and its beauty continues mile after mile, it also gets harder to remain focused 100% on the road. We were out all day on the bike and were both blown away by the scenery, which we have tried to show via the following photos – but they simply do not do it justice.

The next day we were doing the anti clockwise route, again up the C12 road until joining the N420 going through Gandesa and onto the A1413 onto the N232 to Morella and then back to Tortosa.

After the spectacular scenery yesterday we were trying to manage our expectations, but it transpires, there was no need, as the scenery all the way to joining the A1413 was smashing. It then just blossomed ever more, whereby we were riding past all these meadows with fields of poppies, and simply had to stop and give ourselves time take it all in. I don’t have a good enough command of the English language to describe the beauty of this amazing landscape properly.

We finally reached Morella another Medieval castle and town, and this one is truly amazing. If the electrical cables were removed in certain parts of the town, it would be as if one had gone back in time, as areas of this town seem to have changed little.

This town and Castle is worthy of a full days outing to explore the area properly – amazing town. From there it was back to our accommodation for an evening of reflection on yet another fascinating day.

Tortosa to Vilanova de la sal

This mornings run was again a bit of a case of hoping the rain would not get us – it did try – but thankfully it didn’t hit us badly. We only rode through some drizzle en route to our first stop in LLeida, where we stopped at a cafe, and oinked our way through croissants coffee cake etc. This restored the soul and we then headed onto Balaguer, a town where we had stopped on the bike when riding down from Scotland to Mallorca. Once again it was neat to sit and have a juice outside our original accommodation and the memories came flooding back. Sara headed into the supermarket for a few bits and pieces as the accommodation she had booked for tonight, was apparently in a rural location with no shops. However back she came, not with a few bits and pieces, but with half the supermarket. We had to try and squirrel all of this into the top box.

Having successfully accomplished this, we headed of for our accommodation Cal Ribero in Vilanova de La Sal.
This is without doubt the most rural Sara has booked to date – however to be fair the accommodation was like new, and they also provided a garage for the bike. We didn’t go out at night deciding instead to simply rest up and work our way through the supermarket purchases. There was another reason………there was simply bugger all to do!! I did ask the owner in the morning what his niche market was, and it transpires he is normally booked out with Rock Climbers…..and this makes a lot sense given the area.

Vilanova de la Sal to Cardona Parador

The run to Cardona was, once again through the lovely Spanish countryside, especially after the town of Ponts, where good ol’ sat nag had us turn off the C26 onto the much smaller C1412A then onto the C75 at Biosca, then the LV3002 passing El Miracle and then after a town called Su (somehow Johnny Cash came into my mind) the road somehow morphed into the BV3001 and on to Cardona – extremely interesting route – makes me wonder if the gremlin in our system, manifests itself in the same way in other peoples sat nag systems:-)

We arrived at the top of the hill overlooking Cardona and we could see the Parador sitting proudly at the top of another hill. Now this is where sat nag excelled itself once again. We spent the next 15mins or so going in circles and ending back where we started (getting frustrated at this point) . I decided to ride back to the top of the hill, switch the sat nag off, looked down at the town and memorised what looked like the road to the hotel. I’m pleased to say this worked and we arrived at the road up to the hotel.

When we got to the top we followed the sign for the Parador Reception straight into a car park – no sign of reception at all!! We went back and and tried another way, but it was no entry!! I couldn’t believe it was so difficult to find reception. So back to the sign for reception, and into the car park where the problem was solved. You drive into the car park and go around to the left where the narrow entrance road to the Parador is situated. However on our first attempt there was a mini bus parked alongside the wall ostensibly “hiding” the entrance. I’m willing to bet others have done the same 🙂
Neat thing was I could ride the bike up past the reception area and onto the higher level parking space.

You can see what I mean in the following photo. The two cars are in the lower car park mentioned above, and the archway is the entrance to the hotels own parking. Reception is actually at the top of the ramp to the left after going through the archway. Where I parked the bike was further up again, where the white and blue vehicles are parked.

Love these photos of the Parador;

We duly checked in and were pleased that our room was to the right standard, and had an outstanding view. From one of our windows we could see that if we had simply ignored sat nag and stuck to the main roads we would have arrived at the foot of the Parador. But, in its defense sat nag saves us from getting bored, and allowed us to see countryside not frequented by many travellers 🙂 We had a good look around the hotel and I have to say that this has been the best Parador on this particular trip, and second best ever. Bayona in NW Spain holds the number one award.

We then walked down into the town for some bits and pieces, this is where we made a mistake and walked down the road, when in actual fact there is a path from the Parador down to the town. We used this path on the way back up. The old part of the town is full of narrow streets and has oodles of character, and charm. We enjoyed our coffee in the square, simply sitting and watching the world go by.

Plan A was that we were going to meet up with our good friends Pete and Debbie when we arrived in Barcelona, and then on the two bikes we would head up to Andorra together. However upon checking the weather forecast for the dates we had planned it was showing heavy rain 🙁

I phoned Pete, and he said that as we were in Cardona, they would jump onto their bike and ride up the next day and we could have a long lazy lunch and catch up. Its been a couple of years since we last met up. Jumping back to 2011 when we were at the end of our six month sabbatical and the boat was in Barcelona (parked just along from Pete and Debbies boat) I was sitting on Sun Dog trying to figure out the best way of getting the boat back to Scotland, as we didn’t have enough time to sail her back the full distance ourselves. I was checking out paying for crew, transport by truck etc. At that moment Pete popped by and asked what I was up to. When I told him, he immediately asked the killer question that changed our direction. The question was WHY? And a bloody good question it turned out to be, and I will be eternally grateful that he asked that question that day!

They did ride their bike up the next day, and we had a great catch up and a lovely lunch in the Baronial Styled Dining Room, and spent the rest of the day lost in chat and laughter.

All nice days end, but we plan to catch up again before we get the ferry back to Mallorca, and a Uruguayan steak restaurant in Castelldefells is being muted…….that will suit Meatasaurus Pete 🙂

Next morning after breakfast we jumped onto the bike and headed for a day out to Andorra and then back for our final night in the hotel.

The road up to Andorra has me again looking for superlatives, absolutely stunning, and the nearer we got to Andorra the more Alpine the buildings became.

It was kind of strange when we came to the border of Spain and Andorra, as for the first time in a long time, we had border controls to go through. Freedom of movement across Europe has been the norm for so long that these borders took me way back in time, and also made me reflect on what Brexit might bring??

Update: Our next mobile phone bill included a hefty data roaming charge!………….you have been warned!!

The main city of Andorra, is Andorra La Vella and it is not for us – way to crowded and busy, and almost claustrophobic. We parked in a car park and then went for coffee, and made the decision to head straight back. Sara duly paid the parking charge, but when we got to the barrier and inserted the ticket the barrier wouldn’t open. Two choices; faff around and try and get it to open, or up the pavement, around the barriers, through a park, between the posts and onto the road. I’ll let you ponder which option was chosen!

The run back down just verified what a beautiful country Spain really is – lovely run back to Cardona.

Cardona to Barcelona

Next morning we were off to Barcelona to stay for one night at the Cram Hotel and catch up with my friends Ronnie & Bernadette from Australia (who I went to school with) who were doing a mini European tour. They were booked into the Cram Hotel for a couple of nights and we planned to catch up for a day and a night. Sadly they were hit by a family member being rushed into hospital, after something innocuous turned really nasty, and had to cancel their entire trip and go to Sydney to help out with their grandchildren.

Update: Good news is that some time later, Bernadette sent me a message saying that their daughter in law was out of the critical phase, and whilst still in intensive care the prognosis is good. We hope and pray that the improvement continues, and that we are all able to meet up at a future date and place.

Our boat Sun Dog was moored in Barcelona for a few years, but we had forgotten just how busy the city actually is! I have to say that, even though we both loved our time in Barcelona, its all a bit too busy and frantic for us now. Nice to visit, but not to live in, we prefer quieter and more peaceful places.
En route to the hotel Sara had spotted an Indian Street Food Restaurant so we went there for a meal, but during the night we both felt a bit squiffy. In the morning I was OK but Sara was still a bit groggy. This was a shame but at least it was a short ride to our final stopover.

Barcelona to Castelldeffels

We had used booking.com to reserve a couple of nights in the Gran Hotel Rey Don Jaime but it seemed way more expensive than the last time we stayed here. The reason we choose it is because its the nearest hotel to Pete and Debbie.
Sara then checked the hotels own web site and it was substantially cheaper than booking.com, Sara duly cancelled the booking made in her name, and made one with mine direct with the hotel online. Booking directly with the hotel also gave free underground parking.

This situation with all hotels charging for parking is a bit of a bone of contention with me, and i find it extremely irritating.

Just a mile or so before the hotel we stopped at a small cafe for a coffee and some food before going to the hotel. We left the cafe arrived at the hotel, went into the top box to get out the bag containing wallet, passports etc only to discover it wasn’t there – we had obviously and stupidly left it at the cafe. I dived onto the bike myself and flew back to the cafe checking everyone walking along the pavements didn’t have our bag. I arrived at the cafe and was relieved when the lady said she had our bag in the back of the cafe……relief doesn’t cover it……I went to give her money for her honesty, but she wasn’t having any of it. I then said she should give it to her grandchildren, and at that point she graciously accepted the money. I am a believer there are more good than bad people on the planet, and this honest lady adds weight to my beliefs.

Once checked in we went for a long walk along beach and into the marina (another one we had been in with Sun Dog) and were having a mental trip down memory lane – then who should we see but Pete working on a boat. Quick coffee stop and arrangements made that they would pick us up at the hotel tonight, and we would go to the Uruguayan steak restaurant.

At the restaurant we all ordered steaks and these were very good, with the company being even better. It was yet another period of laughter and taking the mickey out of each other. Sara and Debbie are more like the chuckle sisters when they get started! Hopefully Pete & Debbie will be able sail over to Mallorca later in the year. A good time was had by all and they kindly dropped us off at the hotel just before their Jeep turned into a Pumpkin!

The ferry was booked (it’s an evening sailing) Barcelona to Alcudia. This takes about 7 hours or so, but the expense of a cabin almost doubles the cost. We decided to book first class seats which are not expensive & have to say these are simply superb. They are fully reclining and uber comfortable – I think I was asleep before we were out of Barcelona harbour, Sara says she nodded off not long after me, and we awoke just as we were coming into Alcudia bay. Makes for a short journey 🙂

From the ferry its only 10 – 15 mins to our apartment, where we quickly unloaded the bike, and hit the sack for a few more hours.

What did we learn from our trip? Well amongst many other things, Spain is a big country when compared to the UK. It also has some absolutely outstanding areas of natural beauty, that would be hard to match, never mind beat. The people we met on our meanderings were (in the main) very friendly and helpful………just don’t ask for directions!

We both loved spending so much time in (non Costas) mainland Spain and look forward to future trips…..and if we have the same sat nag, this will no doubt, include some interesting diversions 🙂

Fantastic trip in a fantastic country.

Off we go…………….again!!

Well that’s the house rented out for a while and we are heading off for an extended break. Bit late in life for a sabbatical but that’s ostensibly what it is!
We have traded in our Triumph Tiger 1050 for a KTM Adventure R c/w side panniers and top box, and that’s our new mode of transport.

We set off to Manchester, Whitstable, then London to visit Sara’s family before heading down to Portsmouth to catch the Ferry to Bilbao. We have been through Europe a few times on motorbikes and this time we fancied getting the ferry straight to Spain. Unfortunately the weather God’s decided to give us a F8 down through the English Channel with lots of people on the boat feeling squiffy. My feeling was that this might increase when we hit Biscay, but thankfully the crossing was fairly straightforward, and we arrived in Bilbao in lovely sunshine.

On the recommendation of friends we travelled to Picos de Europa National Park and booked ourselves into Heredad de la Cueste in Llenin which is excellently located.
Jaime,the owner of this property could not have been more helpful, and he made suggestions as to which parts of the Park to visit via motorbike. The area itself is simply stunning with this being the view from our bedroom window.


If travelling on foot there are so many walks to do at a number of levels of difficulty and duration. However if via car or motorbike, make sure you visit the Lakes. There are parking facilities at both the lakes, with the added benefit of a Café and toilets at the second lake and also a very short walk to a viewpoint.
Here is an idea of the scenery.


We had an excellent few days here and would recommend this accommodation to anyone wishing to visit this area.

From there we headed off to the coast to our next stop in Zumaia, which is after Bilbao towards the French border. This area looked so good when we checked it out in advance, but in truth it didn’t live up to our expectation. Most people in restaurants and cafe’s were (to put it mildly) a wee bit surly, and it seemed to us they were “perfectly balanced” with a chip on each shoulder.

The accommodation we stayed in Landarte was quite pleasant, and it was obvious that a lot of time and expense had gone into filling the house with art and making the bedrooms quite unique. The roads through to here were simply great for the bike and we are having the occasional interesting detour, courtesy of our temperamental sat nav system. En route it took us over a high mountain pass which it turned out just looped us back onto the road we had been on………a bit quirky but fun non the less as we are in no real rush.

Our next destination was Ore, on the French side of the Pyrenees (about 12miles short of the border) and we were a bit thoughtful about booking accommodation in such a small village. However we were very pleasantly surprised by the L’oreiller d’ Hadrian run by a lovely couple from Belgium who also could not do enough for their guests. They suggested some lovely roads for us to explore, but only after checking on the telephone that the mountain passes were actually open. Only one that we had planned to do “Tourmalet” was still closed, but the Col de Peyresourde and Col d’ Aspin were both open and duly covered. These roads are used in the Tour de France and our respect for these riders has just shot up a few notches – incredibly long climbs with some bits being steeper than others……..respect!!

This shot is from the summit of Col d’ Aspin and you can see the road snaking up the mountainside.


The shot is when we stopped on the otherside for a coffee – if you look closely you can see people practicing hang gliding.

photo to follow

From here we decided to ride down to stay overnight in Balaguer. The roads we took down were simply great on the bike. However we did end up stuck for a while as the authorities tried to recover a truck and trailer that had gone on its side right over the Armco barrier on a RH bend. Most likely cause either going to fast, or the load shifting whilst going round the bend. This is the 3rd one of these incidents we have seen between France & Spain! They tried with a crane to lift the trailer back on its wheels, all to know avail and they dropped it back over the Armco and opened the road back up – no doubt they will eventually recover it.

We carried on our merry way and cut off the N230 onto the C1311 and onto the C13 which turned out to be a stomping road, getting better and better the further south we went. Lakes or reservoirs to the side of us pretty much the whole way down. Great ride, but very very hot!!
Arrived in Balaguer and headed for the first café in the main square to get a cold drink before going round the corner to our accommodation for the night El Palauet de la Muralla
. Now this must rate as the most amazing property we have ever stayed in, made all the more remarkable as we were the only people in the entire house for the balance of the day and the entire night.

There was a lady who greeted us on arrival – guided me round the back to park the bike in the old stables (totally safe and secure) and then checked what time we wanted breakfast, left us the keys and headed off…………I kid you not !!

From the link you will see photos and info, but for us the most amazing room was the one containing the Library. Now I have no idea what information is contained within these numerous volumes but it must simply be irreplaceable. Now whether its because we have been in the fresh air of the mountains but in and around the town our noses were running and stinging from the air pollution. So much so that rather than dine outside we bought food and took it back to the house. The town might not be our favourite choice, but if we were travelling this area we would book into this house again as its simply unique with a capital “U”.

From here we headed towards Castelldefels and upon leaving Balaguer its fair to say we had left the mountains behind and it was back to very busy roads etc. We had booked into a hotel for a few days enabling us to visit Pete & Debbie here in Castelldefels and it was great catching up with them before they headed off to France.

We also took advantage of the train system and for ten euros (for the both of us) we got a return trip to Barcelona where we had arranged to meet Nico Aure and baby Nina. Unfortunatley Aure couldn’t meet up with us, but we had the joy of once again meeting Nico’s mum who was over visiting from Buenos Aires. We had a lovely lunch at the club where we once were members, and a good catch up before leaving them their own space, and having a walk around the city where Sun Dog had been berthed for a few years.