Saturday, 23 April 2011

In Search of the Sotogrande Sun

One of the benefits of living in the UK is being able to travel to other countries with relative ease. When the weather begins to get you down in London, jumping on a cheap flight to one of many different countries with warmer climates is simple. One country that we enjoy visiting is Spain and so a few years ago, Jackie and I bought a house there, right down in southern Spain, at a place called Sotogrande, in the province called Andalucía.


My brother Tim, with his wife, Oh, live a long way away in Thailand, so we get to see them rarely. They are however, spending a few months working in Switzerland, so are relatively close for the time being. Tim and Oh had never been to our house in Spain, so we just had a week there together. Two of our sons, Charles and Jeremy came along as well, as did Jeremy’s girlfriend, Amy.

Spain became a very popular destination for the British back in the 1970’s when cheap package holidays meant that travelling abroad was affordable for a lot of people for the first time. That soon expanded to people from other European countries holidaying in Spain and many resorts appeared on the Spanish coastline to accommodate all of these visitors. It was the coastline with its very good weather that was the main attraction. Over the last thirty or forty years that expansion was continued and today, most of the coastline is built up. According to Wikipedia, in 2007, Spain became the second most visited country of the world after France when in that year, almost 60 million foreign tourists were received. That has changed and today Spain is the fourth most visited country, after France, the United States and China. Spain is still hugely popular with the British.

About thirty minutes drive from the house is a town called Casares, which clings precariously to the hillside. Casares dates back to the 12th century and was once run by the Romans and Julius Caesar supposedly was cured of a liver complaint here, thanks to the sulfuric waters that still pour out of the local spring. The buildings are Moorish by design and to reflect the heat of the sun, are all white....



















While we were there, the wind was strong in Sotogrande and this prevented us on most days from trying out my sons new wakeboard. Jeremy is a keen snowboarder and wanted to try wakeboarding, but the sea was just not quite calm enough to make this possible. Wakeboarding will need to be saved for our next trip.

One of the days we were there, we drove to Puerto Banus for lunch to celebrate my birthday. The port is where the rich and famous gather. The main part of the town is it’s marina where mega yachts are moored....















We found a terrific place to eat on the front facing the marina. From left to right, here are my wife Jackie, Oh and Tim, eldest son Charles, Amy, myself and middle son, Jeremy....




















We walked around the marina, peering into its shops where prices are so high, none are displayed. I think as the old saying goes "If you have to ask, you can't afford it".  You can buy a handbag here and pay as much as some pay for a good sized car. We only bought ice creams!

Jeremy and Amy....


























The back ends of many boats....


























On a different day, we returned to go check out the local street market, near the bull ring in Banus. This was Jeremy, Amy, myself and Oh in a local cafe just before hitting the market....





















At the market, Tim and Oh went on a small shopping spree, buying t-shirts and local souvenirs. We spotted the local police motorbikes and posed for a picture. Many of the local Spanish Police are very friendly and laid back, so they didn’t mind....




















Not many people would be able to get away from the Police when they ride these bikes....





















Back in the port at Sotogrande, there was a classic car gathering taking place. It wasn’t a proper car show, more just the drivers out for a drive and a good lunch....

Adorable car with great colour combinations....


















A cracking Mercedes convertible.....




















A lovely old Jag....


























A very unusual hood decorative figurine.....




















I have no idea what car this is, but it is beautiful and was my favourite....




















An old classic Ford....




















A classic Chrysler....


















Great colours and shapes....




















To my delight, there was also a small collection of motorbikes, mainly Montessa....





































I had seen this custom bike before, at a bike show in London and also in Sturgis. It seemed a little out of place amongst the classic cars and bikes, but I was pleased it was there....



















The port in Sotogrande is a great place to show off old bikes....

















Lunch in the port for Tim and Oh....


























and Jeremy....






















For some of my food admiring blog readers (you know who you are), this was Charles' salad lunch. Funny, when a boy he wouldn’t touch anything that was green....


















Son Charles in the centre, taller than his Dad (left) and Uncle Tim (right).....




















All my sons are taller than me.  That does't seem fair to me.

Due to the wind spoiling taking the boat out, a few of us drove along the coast to Gibraltar. This is a British Overseas Territory and is at the gateway to the Mediterranean Ocean.

Formed mainly of a huge ‘Rock’, Gibraltar was captured by the British and Dutch in 1704 during the War of the Spanish Succession. Gibraltar determines its own affairs with all local decisions being made by its own Government. National issues like defence and foreign affairs are handled by the main UK government in London.

The Spanish government and people want to take Gibraltar back and for it to once again become part of Spain.  However this is resisted by the majority of Gibraltarians, who want to keep with the current status of being British. It is a sore point between the two nations and getting into and out of Gibraltar is unlike almost every internal border within Europe, with strict controls requiring a passportto get in or out.

Gibraltar is just 2.6 square miles but its strategic position at the entrance to the Med makes it an ideal location for the British Naval base that has been there since 1704. Gibraltar’s main feature is the Rock of Gibraltar, a 1,398 foot / 426 metre high limestone hill, from which views into north Africa as very good.

As we approached Gibraltar, we could see one side of the rock and its top was covered in cloud. This was as shame as the views from the top would be compromised. We rode the cable car to the top and the view looking down into the city wasn’t very good....




















It was an eery sight, seeing the cloud blowing up one side of the rock. Note how the right hand side of this picture is in cloud and the left is relatively clear....




















The Rock of Gibraltar is home to around 230 Barbary Macaques, the only wild monkeys found in Europe. They are very tame and will approach you and steal any food you might be carrying....





















This one seemed upset we didn't have any food....


















































Charles with a new friend....




















They look very cute, but can bite and steal just about anything from you.

We keep our replica AC Cobra in Sotogrande. I love driving this car! Charles adores the car as well and was often seen in it with a huge grin on his face!  He kept asking for the keys.....












































Sadly, we were only in Spain for a week on this visit, but it terrific to see so many family members there at the same time.

It is a great place to be able to go there when we can and Jackie and I are lucky to be able to do that whenever we can.

22 comments:

Charlie6 said...

HI Gary,

Sounds like a great week was had by all. Thanks for all the pictures, Spain is definitely one of the countries I want to motor in one day.

As to the mystery car you liked best, I think it's a Pierce Arrow. I searched for the hood ornament, the name Pierce Arrow kept coming back, then I search for Pierce Arrow itself and the car images rendered were very similar.

Cheers!

dom


Redleg's Rides

Colorado Motorcycle Travel Examiner

Gary France said...

Charlie6 / Dom – Spain is a great place to ride or drive through. I do believe you are right about the Pierce Arrow. I just searched for that on Google Images and the results are nearly all the same as the car I saw in Spain. Thanks for playing detective and solving the mystery.

Donna aka Froggi said...

Great blog, Gary! Thanks for sharing...loved the photos of everything, but we've come to expect that from you. LOL! My first guess was Pierce Arrow, too.

mq01 said...

ahhhh, thank you gary. spain, the culture, people, food, every aspect, its all fabulous! i hope to visit there to learn of where my family is from soon.

SonjaM said...

Lovely pics. It is always fun to escape the bad weather of the North. Long time ago I used to spend my vacation in Spain. Cheap accommodation, good food, great weather. Meanwhile my Spanish is a little rusty, but I used to get along quite well. Thanks for bringing back those memories.

Beck said...

Happy belated Birthday! We share something in common, mine is in April too. You have a beautiful family and it sounds like a wonderful trip. The pictures are great. Thanks so much for sharing with us. You are truly a lucky man!

Eve said...

wow that really was a good time Gary. You got a lot done in that short week! Glad you had a lot of your family there. Loved that crazy custom motorcycle and all the cars, especially your car! NICE!! Thanks for the great post on Spain!
Oh yeah and Happy belated birthday too!

George F said...

Nice pictures and nice cars, love your replica Cobra. Europe is full of small bikes, in the US small bikes like the montessas are mainly for dirt roads and trails. Spanish Montessa is now owned by Honda.
The first Macaque doesn't look too happy ;-)

VSTarLady said...

Terrific photos - I'm envious. (My sons are taller than me too, but I'm little.)... and I'd ask for the cobra keys too!

Tim France said...

Thanks again from me and Oh for a lovely time in the Sotogrande sun. Great to spend time together and years since we were together for your birthday too.

bobskoot said...

Gary:

it's great that you had a chance to be with family in such a beautiful setting. Perhaps one day we will get to see it for ourselves.

Happy belated birthday to you, and many more to come

bob
Riding the Wet Coast

Lady Ridesalot said...

Wow! Loved the pics! And Happy Belated Birthday! Looks like you had a wonderful week with the family.

This post as just created another "to do" on the ol' "Bucket List". Thanks for sharing... it looks absolutely beautiful. :)

Trobairitz said...

Beautiful pictures. A great way to spend your birthday surrounded by your family in a picturesque location. Thank you for sharing and happy belated birthday.

Richard said...

What a great site, and this blog is very well made. Very good writing as well. Richard from Lebanon countys Amish community. www.Amishstorys.com

myrideblog said...

Nice photos. I've never seen that many Montessa's in one place.

irondad said...

Isn't Gibraltar the place with an airport that has streets running across the runway? When a plane lands everybody has to wait like at a train crossing?

bluekat said...

What a wonderful trip. Especially nice to spend it with family. :)
Belated Happy Birthday, and many more!

Gary France said...

Donna – I’d never heard of a Pierce Arrow until Dom and you mentioned the name, but I am pleased to have seen one, for that is one cool car. I am glad you liked the pictures.

mq01 – I hope that you do go visit Spain, for it is great to both visit new places and find out about your heritage. If you can do both at the same time, that’s a real bonus!

Sonja – I think going to Spain was equally popular for Germans and Brits and I can certainly recall meeting many Germans there when I was young. The great thing about Spain back then was it was also exciting as (for me, maybe you) travelling abroad was a rare event and we made the most of it. Both you and I have travelled a great deal since, but those early trips to Spain are still some of the most memorable.

Beck – Thank you for your birthday wishes! And a belated Happy Birthday to you too! Yes, I am lucky to have a great family and to be able to visit abroad relatively easily from here in the UK. I love travelling and it was good to share some pictures of Spain with my blog readers!

Eve – Thank you. We did get a lot done, except much wakeboarding which was one of the things we all wanted to try. The Cobra is great fun to drive and very loud! Getting some early sun and having the family there was a great combination.

Gary France said...

George- The replica Cobra is unusual and turns quite a few heads - I’d like to think they were all looking at me, but sadly that isn’t the case...! Europe is awash with small bikes, especially in the larger cities. I should have taken some photos of them, but in Gibraltar, there are more small bikes than cars, mainly because there is no room to park cars and on a bike, you are allowed to queue jump at the long border crossing.

VSTarLady – Thanks and welcome to my blog. I took a quick peep at your blog and it looks really interesting, so I will have to find some time to go back through some of your older posts to catch up with your travels.

Tim – You are both very welcome and can use the house whenever you want. I was trying to think of when we last spent a birthday together and can’t remember, as it was so long ago! Enjoy Geneva!

Bob – Spain is a great place to visit and I’d love to show you and Mrs Skoot around. Thanks for your birthday wishes.

Lady R – It was a great week and to get a week of sunshine was a real bonus. That part of Spain is beautiful, but like most places, there are good bits and not so good. It is a great place to just relax though.

Gary France said...

Trobairitz – Thank you for your kind words. Birthdays, family and a great location = a terrific time!

Richard – When on my tour of the US last year, I rode through some Amish Contry in Indiana and made a short video. In case you haven’t found it, this is where the video is.... http://garysusatour.blogspot.com/2010/07/amish-gary-and-windy-city.html Your blog looks very interesting and somewhat unusual. I will have to read more!

myrideblog – Thanks for finding my blog and I am glad that you did, as I have now found yours, which looks very good. I have one plea though – when I read your blog, I would sometimes like to leave a comment, but I cannot. It seems that your blog is set up in such a way that I have to be logged in order to leave a comment. I am not registered to Wordpress and that means while I want to add a comment, I cannot. Sure, I could register, but I don’t want to as I think commenting on a blog should be a spontaneous matter, responding to something that interests me. Having to register is a pain and will put most people off, so while you have a great blog, you are not getting many comments and I think the registering thing is what is causing that. There, just my opinion, but keep up the good work anyway and I will continue to read, just not comment!

irondad – you are absolutely right – the road crosses the runway. Indeed it is a very busy road and it is very strange to sit at a red light and have to wait for a plane, mainly huge commercial jets, to land or take off in front of you. Depending on which way the wind is blowing and therefore which way the planes take off, sometimes they are lifting off just feet from you and it is a stunning sight!

bluekat – it was an excellent trip. Great to fun share as well with my readers!

Webster World said...

Cobra. My dream car.

Gary France said...

Webster - I have to admit, it is pretty cool to drive.