Well our last full day in France has been a cracker. Our estimation of the weather map was spot on and we were far enough north to miss the rain band headed for Paris so had the waterproofs on to defeat the wind chill factor until lunch time then just kept the pants on after that. We have had INCREDIBLE weather for our trip so the planets have been aligned and all our saints upstairs have obviously been on the job so thank you to all responsible!

A quirky shot of the parade of sheep beside our hotel heading for the salty marshlands around Mount Saint Michel which was some of the entertainment we had at breakfast

The scenery we have seen today has been just beautiful and we have seen so many picture postcard views along the way with buildings from the tiny cute and quirky to the huge ‘Oh my God stupendous’ and everything in between, and while I had thought today may be a bit of a letdown since we are heading to the end of our bike riding for the trip it has been anything but.

Looking towards the Cathedral at Bayeux from what used to be the area which housed the village tanneries. The municipal workers were removing weeds from the waterways…I suspect that wouldn’t have been necessary in the days the tanneries were there so the old swings and roundabouts routine as always!

Our first point of call was Bayeux to see the Bayeux Tapestry which dates back almost 1,000 years. This is a vast wool embroidery on linen cloth which spans the centuries, illustrating the Conquest of England by William, Duke of Normandy who prior to the conquest was known as William the Bastard and after defeating King Harold was known as William the Conqueror. The Tapestry is approximately 1 meter high and 70 metres long and is a comic strip as such, which transports the viewer back to medieval times in the midst of Viking boats and Norman knights. The tapestry was displayed for two weeks every year in the cathedral at Bayeux and it is amazingly well preserved. I was grateful of the commentary and it tied up some of the information we had seen at Hever Castle in the UK. This is the region of Normandy and many of the influences for ‘Norman’ architecture we recognised in the UK comes from here.

The Bayeux Cathedral which was a beautiful peaceful place inside

From here we headed to Omaha Beach which was the point of landing for the American troops on D Day June 6th 1944 when the push to liberate Europe began in earnest. Where once there had been a very expensive holiday village, the playground for the rich and famous of Paris there now stands a small holiday settlement. We visited the Museum and were grateful that our parents, ourselves and our children had not been involved in such a conflict. It was a ‘bloody battle’ and the beach was apparently known as ‘Bloody Omaha Beach’. From here we walked down to the beach which is now a quiet peaceful place and enjoyed the peace of the place.

The Memorial at the rear from many years ago and the sculpture for the 40th Anniversary in 1984 on Omaha Beach. A name I remember from many TV documentaries and accounts of WWII.

From here we headed for Honfleur and again were treated to many beautiful vistas and the ‘Norman’ influence in buildings was very obvious particularly as we approached Honfleur. We headed off from the main road on another GPS short cut to our accommodation and wound our way through tiny country lanes past some incredible real estate and then we were descending a really steep hill into the old town and next thing turning down a tiny lane to….would you believe it, our Hotel where we got a million dollar welcome. We headed down to the village to explore and found an incredibly beautiful harbour village which looked spectacular and even more so once the sun set and the up lights turned on. We saw the bridge above the loch gates lift and let a yacht into the little harbour and can see the sails from the the bridge we will no doubt ride on tomorrow to get to Le Havre. What a treat all round.

The Harbour at Honfleur looking towards the loch where the bridge lifts to allow entrance to the harbour Honfleur from on top of the bridge looking back to the town

Bits and Bobs:

Last nights’ accommodation:
Auberge De La Baie
33 Route De La Rive
50170 Ardevon, Mont St Michel France

Well this was one of our budget choices and so we expected the small room and no air-conditioning (thankfully we didn’t need it anyway) but it was clean and presented well, we also weren’t crowded out by all the coach traffic because this is pretty much a one destination / attraction town i.e. the Mont St Michel. The WIFI was (*#%^) but they didn’t charge us for it which they had intended to so okay in the end. The dinner at the restaurant was delicious but we didn’t choose the ‘Salad with pig’s ears and chicken gizzards’….and I kid you not that was on the menu! If you have a family and they like the whole farmyard scene then this is the place for you! Why? Because the hotel which has been here for hundreds of years beside a small country road has now been extended on the accommodation side to cater for coaches and disabled patrons and is across the road from a dairy and the road between them is the main access route for cows to the dairy and sheep to the salt marshes for feeding at low tide as the road testifies to with the generous coverage of manure all over it!

The Hotel on the left of the road and the dairy on the right of the road. We were grateful it was cool enough to leave the windows closed so our room didn’t smell like a cow-yard.

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Hard to believe we are down to just a few more days in France, only one more night after tonight..….where did it go?

We have had a comfortably cool ride for the majority of the day and even donned the wet weather gear this morning as it was very grey and misty in Tours but we got only a dozen or so spots of rain and packed them away after lunch in Fougeres.

Street scene typical of what we saw in Fougeres a town with over a thousand years history the sign said outside the town and the place was immaculate as well as the newer suburbs. Very nice.

The travel today has progressed through largely autumnal toned forests and rolling grassy fields and cropping areas as well as intensive market gardening as we saw yesterday also. Saw quite a bit more dairying and cattle today and the laugh tonight is that our hotel is across the road from a dairy complete with the track down the road the cows travel on complete with the generous sprinkling of fertiliser. Ha ha. Thankfully our rooms face onto another street.

On our way up to the Abbey with its many hundreds of stairs and much puffing and blowing later. In the 14th century the Mont outlasted a siege of 30 years in the 100 year War which is staggering to even contemplate. On our return to the gate we found a very nice chapel to St Michael where we lit a candle for family and friends past and present as well as safe travelling for us of course. This was a nice peaceful place.

Once we checked in we headed for Mont Saint-Michel which is hard to miss as you will see as it rises up above the farm and marsh land and is accessible via a causeway to the car park which has a sign to let you know what time high tide is expected and if it is safe to leave the car. The photographs we saw with the tide in totally covers the coach parking area!

The Aussie invasion of Mount Saint Michel

Bits and Bobs:

Love the French sign for ‘Over-dimensional Loads’ the title is “Convoi Exceptionnel’.

Last nights’ accommodation:

Hotel Ronsard
2 Rue Pimbert
Tours 37000 France

A short walk to the old city and the river. Very friendly and helpful hostess and a very nice breakfast. Rooms small but nicely decorated and comfortable. Heated towel rail brilliant for getting the undies dry as it was at our Paris accommodation. Free parking for motorbikes in the garage beside the hotel.

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We had a leisurely breakfast and didn’t head off until a bit after 10am but we had lots of sightseeing ahead of us. The morning was beautifully cool and misty as we headed off along the banks of the Loire River on roads which were as much levee banks as roads and have travelled on more of those throughout the day. The Loire Valley was where the French royalty and aristocracy built their ‘summer houses / palaces’ in times gone by and there are many and they are definitely high on the ‘magnificence’ scale.

Chateau de Chenonceau viewed from the edge of one of the gardens. The Chateau is built out across the river and allowed access for watercraft to provide goods for the Chateau Larder from the water, it also allowed for beautiful cool ventilaton through the building from on top of the water which we appreciated today. The palace was whimsical and decorated beautifully with incredible tapestries and a tribute to those preserving it for future generations that it is in such good condition. Some major restoration works were in progress.

Our first stop was Chateau de Chenonceau which was just beautiful and probably the most beautiful of the three we visited today though all were different. This had an interesting history belonging to the mistress of the monarch at one time who had the good sense to give it back to the widow of the monarch when he died. I imagine she got to keep her head that way. We’ve decided it was a very expensive exercise for the aristocracy to maintain wives and mistresses….no different to modern times I guess though the capacity for the wives to keep track is likely easier these days.....and more costly for the straying husband as it should be.

One of the beautiful gardens within the moats of the Chateau

From here we headed off to the village of Amboise to visit Le Chateau des Rois de France (The Royal Chateau Amboise) which again was beautiful but where Chenonceau had been built more as a family home and a place of retreat and enjoyment, this had been more a fortress though quite magnificent rising up over the village along with its spiral ramped entry for horses and carriages and two horsemen abreast from village level to the courtyard of the Chateau. I also liked the garden here, it was tiny compared to the previous Chateau but ordered and peaceful to look over and totally on top of the hill and beautiful in its own way. The Royal family of the time were its owners and the Monarch Francis retained Leonardo da Vinci as a member of the court who continued much planning work for him. Leonardo da Vinci was buried in the chapel here at his request.

Amboise – Chateau Royal from above the garden

The day had gotten very hot by the time we left here but we had decided on a picture we wanted (thanks to a brochure at the Chateau) so headed off to get that before we headed to our final destination for the day.

Two Aussie bikers and the village of Amboise with the Chateau Royal in the background – A signature French shot!

Our final port of call was at Clos Luce and the Parc Leonardo da Vinci. This was the Castle Leonardo da Vinci lived in for the final three years of his life and the park like gardens which were the grounds. Really peaceful. He was great friends with the Monarch Francis and was a favoured member of the Royal Court. This was a lovely building and home, the building was beautiful and tasteful and not fussy at all and in remarkably good shape. The big bonus for the boys was that there were working models of heaps of his inventions in the basement which were quite remarkable. What a brilliant mind this man had! To quote Norm ‘imagine what he could have done if he had an engine and modern materials!’

Clos Luce from the garden (the back of the building)

Bits and Bobs:

One of the many floral arrangements from Chateau de Chenonceau provided from their own garden which were scattered throughout the Chateau and really enhanced the experience. I think I enjoyed these almost as much as the Chateau. They were just beautiful and we loved visiting the Chateau farm and the flower and vegetable gardens also.

As a matter of principle this was one of Leonardo da Vinci’s invention labelled as ‘The First Car’ complete with the description which was attached.

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According to our maps we had over 5 hours travelling today so we headed off at 8.45 am to beat as much of the heat as we could and the ride initially was pretty chilly but just beautiful as we wound our way down from the mountains in the soft morning light through many small villages and farms until we got into more open land with larger settlements and ultimately larger fields as well.
The ride through the woodlands was spectacular with the morning light gently filtering through the green and gold leaves and producing dappled shade where I suspect was more dense shade a couple of weeks ago. The further north we have travelled the more the autumn tones are obvious in fact there were probably more shades of gold than shades of green in the deciduous forests today and not quite so much of the clarets colours as had been evident yesterday.

Stained glass window above the altar in St Peters Cathedral Poitiers. Built on the remains of ancient churches in the 1100's and known for it's light interior. In remarkably good condition and undergoing a major refurbishment program which will cost heaps. Glad it's not my responsibility.

The day consisted of being committed to making a mile and giving ourselves enough breaks to not make it punishing. The fact that a good deal of it was on country roads helps with not sitting hard on the seat in one position for too long, but with a maximum of 90kmh for heaps of it and village speed limits of 50kmh meant slow travel for a lot of it and we only got on to some motorways just after Poitiers.

The Loire River - Tours

By the last fuel stop before making it into Tours I had shed all my layers of linings, leather vest and long sleeve shirt leaving just the sleeveless T top but I was still grateful once we got into Tours that the streets were shady and our hotel wasn’t all that far from where we got off the motorway.

Street scene in Tours of some of the quirky buildings. The buildings of the old city are largely different to those in Sarlat but it is still tempting to start snapping the camera every corner I turn around!

We had coffee at a little bar in Limoges amongst the locals and several walking tours past the cathedral and then lunched at a little village with a comedian for a chef so it was a bit of fun and after a walk around the old part of the town tonight had a yummy dinner and came back to the hotel to crash for the night.

St Martins Basilica - Tours (a local saint from 360AD). The original Basilica of which a little remains was built around 470AD and the current one started in 1860 and completed and consecrated in 1925. Had a lovely feel about it

Last nights’ accommodation:

La Villa de Consuls
3 Rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau
24200 Sarlat France

Yummy little accommodation on a walking lane (very quirky) with a number of accommodation options within the one complex attached to a central reception area courtyard and breakfast room. Units are close enough to apartments to call them that. No sink but a microwave and fridge and plenty of utensils to manage. There are communal washing machines and dryers (no charge to use other than soap powder) which is brilliant for any travellers especially for these ones on the road for a good number of weeks. There is a bar next door if you don’t want to walk anywhere but heaps of choices for restaurants within easy walking distance. Secure parking available not all that far away and a host who carried all our bags upstairs and supposedly told Sharen that our bags were heavier than hers (jury is still out on that one!) He was even about to come and look for Norm and I and Ken as he thought we had been longer parking than he anticipated…how good is that! Would stay again given the opportunity.

La Villa des Consuls hiding up a little lane in Sarlat

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We decided to give ourselves an extra 30 minutes in bed this morning before breakfast but with the temperature expected to be 30 plus today thought we should head off on our tour before the worst heat of the day as we had some areas we anticipated tramping around before we made our way back to here to explore further.

Les Jardins du Manoir D’Eyrignac

The ride today has been just awesome with a greater intensity of autumn colours visible in the forest foliage so a real treat. Our first stop was Les Jardins du Manoir D’Eyrignac which are privately owned gardens which have been in the same family for over 500 years and has over 80,000 visitors a year. We were happy to be here before the crowds arrived and enjoyed a peaceful coffee before we headed off.

Two Aussie bikers making their way to Rocamadour and yes it was a one way bridge

From here we headed off to find the village of Rocamadour with our first layer of clothing removed as it was starting to warm up and the visual treats just kept on rolling out in front of us from villages, individual cottages or manor houses and spectacular scenery viewed from winding country lanes. Just beautiful!

On the road to Rocamadour

Rocamadour was NOT a disappointment and we wound our way up to the Chalet and walked out on the ramparts for some spectacular Ariel shots of the surrounding countryside then had some lunch before heading back to Sarlat for some exploring of the village.

Rocamadour clinging to the cliff face

The market was amazingly still happening on our return so we had a circuitous journey to our garage as we had done getting out of town in the morning and after a shower started wandering the many lanes and passage ways which make up the town of Sarlat. Incredible.

Sarlat street view looking towards the Church which built in the 17th century on the foundations of an Abbey built in the 9th century

We finished our exploration at the Hotel Madeleine which was the hotel Norm and I were supposed to stay at last year had I not come off my bike in the second day into our trip.

Hotel Madeleine across a small park area

Bits and Bobs:

For the record, the temperatures are unseasonably hot here at the moment which we are benefiting from and supposed to hold out over the weekend with a couple more 30 plus days…….not sure what the forecast is after that but it doesn’t matter, we will enjoy it anyway.

As we left the hotel this morning we were surrounded by the setting up of market stalls so the ‘Bell twins’ bought themselves some matching hats which we appreciated at the gardens and elsewhere throughout the day

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On last year’s trip we struggled to get WIFI connection at all while I was doing the travelogue and inconsistent in-house internet connection. This year we have had WIFI connections everywhere we have stayed……..even last night which I discovered too late to get the login and password details to load the blog……..and I didn’t have too much confidence with the language difficulties between our host’s lack of any spoken English and my rudimentary French so didn’t bother to go down to get it. I took the notebook down to breakfast and got the login and password but every time I tried to do a second thing the connection dropped so gave up on it. Just goes to show how much things can change in a year!

The burbs in Arcachon from the hotel window on the way down to breakfast this morning

We headed off while the temperature was still comfortable and made a good mile. The traffic was intense again while we were on the main Motorway heading towards Paris but reduced a fair bit as we headed for Lyon and the scenery started to return to the lovely leafy green countryside and snapshot views of villages and church steeples and farm cottages intermingled with forests and farms. Initially the motorways seemed to just slice their way through towns and communities but once we were onto the country roads they seemed to wind their way through more gently and the towns and villages still seemed connected somehow and we felt intertwined with the incredible sights and scents and ambience of the road.

La Burge for lunch - looking across the water to the back of the church - a wall of water flowed over the wall behind the church and buildings and then continued on down the street - very quirky

Our lunch stop was at La Burge which was a beautiful little village, actually reasonably substantial as it turns out and the little Pub / Restaurant was doing a roaring trade. There was a lovely stream running through the town which was held back by a concrete wall behind the church as you will see below. Once we were back on the bikes the views and villages and everything which couldn’t become more spectacular just kept getting more so. What a day…..oh and the heat kept climbing as well. We saw a sign on a shop saying over 30 at some stage and it got hotter still.

First view of Chateau Beynac-Et-Cazenac. That’s the chapel top right hand side and the chateau rises up way beyond that and you can see part of it on the top left hand side. We were grateful of the cold drink from the little bar you can see across the road when we got down the hill

Next viewing stop was Beynac where we climbed to the top of the hill to the Chateau Beynac-Et-Cazenac which has been home to a series of Barons and their families since the 1100’s. The Chateau was solid and has been very grand in its day and is pretty well preserved but the views from here were like Ariel views and no matter where we looked they were incredible including the deepening autumn tones of the surrounding foliage which has been dropping like large confetti in wooded areas today.

Ariel type view from the roof of the Chateau

From there we headed to La Roque-Gugeac which was another spectacular village seemingly attached to the side of a great cliff face and even has massive caves visible above the village which have had stone walls built up to wall them off in centuries past. When we parked the bikes here there were a group of walkers admiring the bikes and Norm said ‘I’m sorry I only speak Australian’ to which the reply was ‘That’s okay mate so do we’. So, a group of Australians on a walking tour of the area and having a great time also.

Street scene La Roque-Gugeac

It was a short ride to Sarlat-La-Caneda where we are staying tonight and we gratefully had a cool shower after parking the bikes and walking some distance back to the hotel. No vehicle access to this part of town and the hotel is in a little lane up the side of the hill in the old village but we have sort of apartment type accommodation and there is a washing machine available. What a glorious thought (how sick is that!)

PS. You may remember I met up with a friend on top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris and this evening Sharen met a former work colleague and his wife at the washing machine in our hotel…….we all have the same Travel Agent so obviously a winning selection for this hotel since we (and I assume they also) had many options to choose from. Mind you the washing machine doesn’t have the same sense of romance as the Eiffel Tower but still, a massive coincidence you have to admit.

Bits and Bobs:

Couldn’t resist this on a building site in La Burge. We all know some project we have suspected that this contractor has been responsible for and now here is proof of where he actually operates from……..and he advertises the fact as well no less!

Last nights’ accommodation:

Villa Regina
11 Allee Corrigan
Arcachon France 33120

A budget accommodation choice. Recently refurbished room and reasonably basic but clean and had apartment type facilities e.g. hot plates, dishwasher, microwave and fridge which would have been handy if we had been here more than a night. Stately old building, lovely breakfast and also provided dinner but we didn’t know that and the host spoke no English so couldn’t learn anything other than our room number basically. Loved the pool! Also had a nice conservatory area. The biggest downer was the distance to the beach. A grand old building on its way back to being so.

The Vila Regina, our room faced the back overlooking the pool and the leafy suburb, very nice

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Well we were back on the road again today and I was thankfully feeling a little more rested as well as less like an invalid which was a welcome improvement. The temperature yesterday got to 32 degrees in San Sebastian so we expected a hot ride today and by the end of the day it was certainly that though I don’t know how hot it got (29 in Paris so would have been hotter here). I peeled off all the layers I could except for one because I didn’t want to arrive at our accommodation with only a bra under my jacket! I was grateful this was the first hotel we have stayed at that has a pool. As a matter of principle I jumped in and lowered the core body temperature to a tolerable level.

A beach view at Biarritz

The highlight for our day was our visit to Biarritz which was a spectacularly beautiful spot. The terrain was hilly around the beach which gave character to the beach areas and the promontories had rugged protrusions of rock thrust up out of the sand and ocean. The beaches were just beautiful and everywhere we went around the beach there were little vantage points and alcoves with seats where you could sit and contemplate every possible angle you could think of. The town was well maintained and the newer buildings didn’t detract from the old so planning has been effective. We could have gladly spent a couple of days here and I would even have enjoyed swimming at one of the little beaches we found as well as exploring the rock pools. We spent quite some time wandering about before we got back on the road.

Streetscape Biarritz showing a variety of differing building styles and eras

The countryside itself today after Biarritz was incredibly flat and featureless and reminded me of the flat conifer forested areas along the Brisbane to Sunshine Coast Freeway. We were on motorways nearly all day and roadwork’s and reduced speed limits for at least half that time. The road looked like it was probably one of the early motorways and was in the process of upgrade but was obviously a main freight route between France and Spain and we were blown away by the sheer volume of trucks on the road (mostly single drive and tri-axle trailers). If I had a dollar for every one I saw today I could have paid for this whole trip! For the first time ever my eyes were burning and streaming from the diesel fumes no doubt because of so much slow travel so it was good to get into Arcachon and the suburban streets.

A view to the main beach across the ancient marina with many small boats moored there still and close to sitting on the mud at low tide but protected from the ocean

Arcachon is a quirky place and we are basically in the ‘burbs’ in our hotel…well what were the burbs in the 1800’s when it was built. At that time it was referred to as the ‘Villa Regina of the Forest’ and has been a grand building surrounded by what looks like many expensive smaller villas which would have been wealthy seaside accommodation where over time the space has gradually been filled up with other houses though many still in keeping with the original designs. The hotel halls are lined with photographs of many of the villas when they were newly built. We wandered down to the Plage d’Arcachon (main beach) and had dinner before walking back as the sun set.

Another Biarritz street scape back down a lane to the Ocean which led up the hill to a lovely open paved area and many upmarket and well preserved buildings and stores

Bits and Bobs:

Heaps more people of ALL ages smoking in France than Spain…and BIG numbers in France.

Bread of all descriptions in France is beautiful……much more basic in Spain.

Motorbike parking in France is pretty much anywhere and literally on any street (as in footpath) you can find but in Spain they definitely have to be parked in a parking spot and saw one getting a ticket even though it was no hindrance to foot traffic.
Car parking also seems more stringent in Spain compared to what appears more haphazard in France. On our visit to Comillas Sharen and Ken parked in front of the municipal offices where there were no signs or indicators NOT to park but when they asked some locals sitting close by if it was allowable to park there their response was ‘you may like it, but the police WONT like it’. Needless to say they kept driving until they found a car park.

The Spanish Do not Disturb sign from the Hotel cracked me up!

Last nights’ accommodation:

Silken Amara Plaza
Plaza PIO XII, 7
San Sebastian Spain

The hotel is a lovely building beautifully maintained with many different places to eat and relax. The rooms are generous as well as the supplied toiletries. The restaurant meals were very nice and the included buffet breakfast delicious. The reception staff is exceedingly helpful including almost instantaneous response to plumbing problems in the night as well as delivering my parcel (riding glasses) when they arrived…. I think this has been the pick of the hotels so far as far as actual hotels go though our Apartment Hotel in Paris made it possible to live cheaply and was yummy as well.

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The Donostia title is the Basque name for San Sebastian. This is an ancient language native to the area and there is no memory or record of where it came from or how it developed. This northern area of Spain is part of the Basque region.

We have had a very slow paced day today which was welcome starting off with a sleep in and breakfast at 9.30am. It felt thoroughly scandalous after our disciplined beginnings thus far! We set out walking in the lovely leafy streets heading for a stop for the ‘Hop on hop off bus tour’ which we ultimately rode for the tour of the city.

Looking over Puerto de Santa Catalina (Bridge) then to Puerto de Zurriola (Bridge) on the Rio Urumea (River) to the ocean

The city covers around 70 square kilometres and has a population of approximately 180,000 (similar to Monash City in Melbourne) and yet the density of population is spread very differently here. There are massive areas of parkland which are beautiful and the population is housed in well laid out apartment blocks between 5 – 7 storeys high set around courtyards with lots of greenery and playground areas. The ground floors are taken up with commercial space and many small grocery and fresh food outlets, chemists and what reminds me of the old general stores we used to have in Australia i.e. some hardware, whitegoods and even clothing. There are many cafes and bars as well with tables spilling out into the streets and there is a lovely community feel to the place.

The streets are wide, well paved and leafy apart from the oldest parts of town which by European standards are not all that old as the town was all but razed to the ground in 1813 when the occupying French forces were expelled in disarray with the help of Portuguese and English troops. At that time of the original 646 houses, only 35 remained intact! Then in 1833 there was a massive fire when all Municipal records were lost. Mmmm. Makes one wonder that. Anyway it means that planning for comfortable living has been possible and the buildings are in very good shape in the majority of cases.

The Cathedral….Norm was relieved he was spared another ABC tour as it was all locked up

The beaches look good. The one on the actual shoreline was man made some years ago with a massive sea wall and imported sand and now there are world famous surfing competitions held here according to the tour guide. There were many people here lying about on the beach and some in the water whereas in the Bahia de La Concha (named after the shape of it as the shape of the Conch shell) had a wide sandy beach with what looked like hundreds of people walking one way or the other along the shoreline on the firm sand up to their ankles at most. Looked good and about as enthusiastic as I get at the beach these days. This bay was made popular by Queen Isabella when she built a palace and holidayed here making it a playground of the rich and famous and diplomatic corps of the time as such moves always do.

Bahia de La Concha

Once we got off the tour we opted for chilling for the afternoon so wandered through a couple of shops and had a cold drink and some tapas which were delicious before heading back to the hotel for a nap. Told you we were having a kick back day!

Bits and Bobs:

Millau Viaduct: The roadway level is higher than the Rialto Building in Melbourne!

Recovering: Yesterday was the first full day I have been able to hear everything since our ride into Gap! It sounded funny to all of a sudden be aware of the air noise in my helmet and to hear my bike properly again. The throat is also much more comfortable but I have developed a cough which sounds like I have been smoking for 100 years which as a non-smoker I resent. Thankfully it seems to be settling.

How freaky are these letter boxes at the main Post Office?

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The day has become hot and humid but the riding through great sweeping curves and hills on the motorways has been enjoyable. We also learnt why it has been so smoky the last few days. We had wondered if there were fires in the area but it is very green and that seemed unlikely but on the way out of Santander this morning we discovered some forested areas which had been logged in the process of burning off the refuse on the forest floor, so there you go. We wound our way back through alpine regions which looked for all the world like the Swiss Alps complete with the mountain chalets. Very quirky. We have also travelled through some terrific tunnels today and we are so impressed with the engineering of theses European Motorways tunnels and bridges,

We stopped off in Bilbao to visit the Guggenheim Museum. The town itself had some very nice buildings and public spaces but felt cramped and grubby in a lot of areas. The Museum on the other hand was a spectacular building to say the least. There are twenty separate galleries and it confirmed for me that I am not into Abstract or Modernistic art on the whole. There were a couple of pieces that I liked and would have liked to see the water garden with fire fountains active but it was undergoing some work. The reflections of the fire on the water and against the shining titanium exterior walls of the museum would have looked spectacular.

The Museum entry complete with an interesting piece of artwork – A Floral dog

We were gobsmacked at the end of our tour when we wanted to purchase a calendar to find they have postcards and calendars of their art but none of the building! Clearly they want people to buy one of their obscenely expensive books which I was too mean to do. Ah well, you get that! The building itself was exquisite. It had beautiful soaring spaces and changing shapes of marble, glass and steel on the inside and glass marble and titanium sheeting on the outside. It was apparently built to look like a ship in full sail on the river which on some angles probably does. My practical self-wonders about the cost and overall purpose, but I loved the space and feel of it.

Another piece of external Artwork and so able to be photographed guaranteed to freak out my girls....but having said that I wouldn’t like to walk past it closely myself!

From Bilbao we headed to St Sebastian and it was largely a hot though spectacular ride with momentary relief from the temperature on the shady sides of some of the mountainsides and we were glad to get into the hotel and have a welcome shower and just chill in the bar. The temperature is 27 degrees and the same is expected for tomorrow and then 28 the next day.

Bits and Bobs:

An observation of the universality of human kind. Traffic on motorways / large arterial roads close to and winding through cities / large towns definitely have more aggressive / impatient daily commuters than out on the motorways on the weekends. Found some really aggressive pushy sods today with flashing lights and the works to get us back into the lane after passing ….even though the speed limit had changed and at that stage we were 13kmh over the limit! Needless to say he disappeared from view like a rocket with my best compliments behind him…..well okay that was a bit of a stretch but I refrained from giving him the finger or throwing my hand in the air in a ‘what the’ manner so I did well.

Last nights’ accommodation:

Gran Hotel Victoria
Calle de Maria Luisa Pelayo 38
39005 Santander Spain

A lovely hotel just a building or two back from the beach but with a lovely view of the beach. Rooms’ nice, bike parking, staff helpful but not much English which is fair enough because we don’t have much Spanish but we all muddled our way through. A lovely relaxed atmosphere with big veranda and grassy areas outside with room to relax. Lots of hydrangeas and other ‘simple’ flowers in the gardens here as well as the public areas (canna lilies and begonias and the like). I’m particularly grateful to the young man who spoke better English than most there as he has arranged to send my riding glasses to the hotel we are currently at as I left them in the room. DUH! Finally figured out how come the sun was so glary this morning when we were really too far to go back and get them.

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Well we decided against another ABC tour and gave the cathedral a miss and instead headed off up the coast to explore some of the local villages and what a treat our day was. The motorway was full of big sweeping corners as was yesterday and the scenery was green and hilly or mountainous with random scatterings of villages seemingly everywhere we looked.

The first stop was in Comillas which was a beautiful old village remarkably well maintained given the age and we had lunch there after we toured through the Anton Gaudi designed house (El Caprichio de Gaudi) which was one of his first designs and it was beautiful, functional and quirky as we found his other houses we had visited in Barcelona a couple of years ago. Love this man’s work!

The Gaudi House – Yum!

From here we headed along the coast to the village of San Vicente de la Barquera where again we explored the ancient part of town occupying the high ground on a peninsula complete with a fortress, ruins of a hospital and what remains of a massive fortress and church. Incredible sight. There were several municipal buildings up there including a library and a couple of different police units (local and municipal….don’t know the difference).

The building at the top of the walkway from the lower village in San Vicente de la Barquera

From here Ken suggested we go a short distance to Potes which the hotel reception had said was worth a look and they were right but what they hadn’t said was that the journey to get there was unbelievably spectacular!

Soon after we left the coast we travelled through a little farmland then began winding our way up through canyon walls along the Deya River and let me tell you this would have to be one of the Great Motorbike Rides of the World!

The views were spectacular with soaring rock faces ever-changing in colour shape and form and each time we thought ‘it can’t get better than this’ it did! It felt like we were moving from one great cathedral to another for the whole journey and when the ever-changing rock views seemed exhausting we would ride through a beautiful leafy avenue and gain our breath. The trip was also interrupted with many little villages on the way most of which were impeccably maintained and clinging to the edge of the river or the canyon’s edge.

All in all a great afternoon and the town of Potes was just spectacular as well. What a treat. Mind you Ken has a little ground to gain with his estimation of what is actually a short distance but the endorphins we absorbed throughout the ride let him off the hook somewhat…not that we will let him know that of course. Ha ha.

A street scene in Potes complete with bikes on the footpath which led to conversations with a German girl who loved them and a Spanish family who were all excited about a daughter who wants to go to Australia and yes that is some of the Pyrenees Mountains in the background we had ridden through

Bits and Bobs:

Got a lot of toots and waves and thumbs up from passing motorists again the last few days on the road. I’m glad we put the sign on.

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