Friday, 12 August 2011

Spain - The Final Frontier. Plus, Police use Scooters?

Concluding our trip in Spain, Paul and I soon reached the northern coast of Spain and prepared to get on board a ferry to take us back to the UK. The last few miles soon raced by as we went through the mountains to get to Bilbao, where the ferry port is located.

Before we arrived there, we had some terrific roads to ride on, set in spectacular scenery. We passed a lake with a very low water level....


























We took roads that twisted through gaps in the mountains....




















Here we had stopped to fix the GoPro video camera to my Harley-Davidson Road King while Paul checked his e-mails....




















The gorge we rode through was very twisty and great fun. We came out the other end with big grins on our faces!....




Stopping for lunch on the northern coast of Spain, we had an exceptional view....





















We stayed the night in Hondarribia, which is right on the frontier between Spain and France. This was the view from the hotel, with Spain on this side of the river and France on the other.  One could say, the final frontier we saw....




















Hondarribia is in the Basque country in northern Spain and this region is an Autonomous Community within Spain. It has its own language and this is immediately noticeable with road signs being very different from the majority of Spain. We stayed once again in a Parador hotel which was a converted from a 10th century fortress castle. The hotel has thankfully retained many of the castle’s original features, including one wall left in its original rubble condition....





















A main dining room....





















A massive stone staircase....





















The bar area....





















Paul and I walked into the main part of the town which being a Friday, was packed with many families, friends and groups all out enjoying the evening and the start of the weekend. The atmosphere was terrific and very laid back. We noticed this scooter, which very unusually, was a police bike! I have never seen a scooter like this before....




















The next day, our ferry didn’t leave until the evening, so the two of us took a ride into France, to the town of Biarritz. Being on the Atlantic Ocean, the waves are often good enough for surfing, in a pretty spectacular setting....




















More views along the coast as we made our way to the ferry....





































In Bilbao, we went to see the famous Guggenheim Museum, a contemporary art museum designed by Frank Gehry. The building is known as one of the most important pieces of modern architecture in the world and it is easy to see why....




















We didn’t go inside the museum, for it was the building we came to see.

Interesting public art outside the museum....







































A final shot of the two of us on this trip....




















And one of our bikes, which had performed tirelessly and without fault....




















On the way to the ferry, we had to cross a river by a ‘flying transporter bridge’. Capable of carrying just 6 cars (or 5 cars and our two bikes) the bridge is not really a bridge at all, but a cable car that you drive into, slung beneath a tall steel structure across the river. This picture is looking back at the structure....





















Paul, sitting on his bike paying the bridge attendant for the crossing....




















From our ferry leaving Spain....





















It was on the ferry that I discovered I had left my laptop behind in the last hotel we stayed at and a quick phone call confirmed it had been found in my room, where I had left it. It was a relatively easy job to get it couriered back to me in London.

As the ferry arrived back in Portsmouth on the south coast of England, we saw a passenger-carrying hovercraft and we passed a huge aircraft carrier, moored in the navy dockyard....



































Paul and I had enjoyed an excellent motorbike tour of Spain. We had seen a great deal of the country, mainly from back-roads. It is a huge and fascinating place, full of history and character. We had travelled 2,659 miles / 4,279 kms and learned much of the way of life in many parts of Spain that the tourists rarely see. We had seen glorious weather and had only been rained on for about 30 seconds, just before leaving England.

As ever, Paul is a tremendous riding partner and we cheerfully waved each other farewell as we headed back to our own homes and our wives late on a Sunday night.

A few pointers about motorcycle touring in Spain....
  1. The roads are of a very good quality
  2. Beware of people walking on the roads, where very often there are no pavements / sidewalks
  3. Away from the motorways and the main roads, there is almost no traffic
  4. Away from the motorways, there are very few places to stay the night. Hotels and campsites are few and far between, so book ahead.
  5. Away from motorways and especially on the back-roads, take every opportunity to fill up with fuel, especially on Sundays. Fuel filling is nearly always done by an attendant.
  6. Beware of the lunchtime drinking culture, even by drivers. While we didn’t experience any problems at all, we did see many drivers (including truck rivers) drinking alcohol in the cafes and bars we stopped in for lunch
  7. It can get very hot in July and August. Drink a lot and wear sun screen
  8. Few restaurants serve dinner at night before 2030. Many don’t open until then.
  9. Plan your motorbike ride to pass through mountain areas. The roads there are fantastic!
  10. Away from the coast, very few people speak anything but Spanish, but this is okay. Learn 10 Spanish words and everyone will try to help you!

14 comments:

RichardM said...

I've thoroughly enjoyed the glimpse you've shared of Spain. The video through the canyon was great and I like the perspective you use for your videos. What do you attach the camera to?

I've heard of a lot of people doing pilgrimages in Spain walking hundreds of miles with a lot of stops. I heard that there is a whole network of hostels supporting the walkers.

Gary France said...

Richard – Thanks and I am glad you liked posts about Spain and the video. I mount the camera to the front crash bars on my Road King, but I also use a long Cardellini clamp which extends the camera position out even further from the side of the bike. I wrote about those clamps previously on my blog, here.... http://garysusatour.blogspot.com/2010/04/rough-guide-to-camera-mounts-2.html but on that page scroll down to find the bit about Cardellini clamps. We saw many walkers travelling west and I believe most were on the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage where the routes head from the east to the west in northern Spain. Indeed there are so many walkers, the authorities have created special tracks at the side of the roads for them and no doubt you are right about the hostels, but these would I suspect only be in northern Spain on the 5 or 6 main walking routes.

motoroz said...

What a great trip. I enjoyed the posts and photos. One of these days I have to visit Europe and do some riding. Beautiful country. Thanks for the tips at the end of the post.

Gary France said...

Oz – Thanks. If you do come to Europe to do some riding, be sure to let me know and I will show you around, but be warned, it is a big place!

Paul said...

As ever Mr France, a thoroughly enjoyable time. I got a completely new prospective of Spain and its many treasures. It was a very easy couple of weeks thanks to your immaculate and detailed planning. I am mentally committed to change to a Harley!

bobskoot said...

Gary:

everywhere you go I notice photos of an H-D and sunshine. I'm so envious of your globe trotting and spectacular scenes of out of the way places that we don't know about. We are glad that you managed to "stumble" upon them. Maybe we should put $$ into your gas fund and you can just keep on riding around taking photos and blogging back to us.

If you make a quick phone call perhaps you could spend another week going back to get your laptop, it's not like there is a pressing need to go home, unless you need to mow your lawn

bob
Riding the Wet Coast

Charlie6 said...

Gary, you got lucky with that left-behind laptop! Glad they are sending it to your home.

What a great trip you and Paul just completed! Spain is definitely on the list of European countries I want to motorcycle through one day.

dom


Redleg's Rides

Colorado Motorcycle Travel Examiner

Gary France said...

Paul – Yes, we had a great time! Probably like you, I had mainly seen the tourist side of Spain from the fun of the beach, so it was good to learn more about the historic and rural side of the country. Good about the Harley, which means you should come to Portugal next year to the HOG Festival.

Bob – I guess I am very lucky with the weather when I am on my bike, as the sun seems to follow me almost everywhere! Sometimes I stumble and sometimes I plan well. The laptop is already back with me. I am already planning next years rides....

Dom – I was very fortunate that it was found and returned so quickly. Paul and I had a great trip and saw many wonderful places. Now, where to go next....?

Geoff James said...

Superb photos as ever Gary. The Guggenheim is one of the places I'd like to visit but I'd have to steer Jennie away from the spider art installation or she'd have nightmares for weeks!

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Gary:

I was mesmerized by some of the pictures in this last episode of your trip through Spain. I would like to buy that building on the cliffs in the surfing picture. Also, the trasnsporter across the river was pretty amazing.

I once left my camera on a bus in Paris. When I realized it was gone, and where I'd probably left it, I was just inclined to "kiss it goodbye." No one was more surprised than me to discover the bus company had it and would hold it for my pick-up the next day.

Fondest regards,
Jack/reeop
Twisted Roads

Amish Stories said...

I love Harleys being that im American, nice blog........I was just passing through and popping on blogs that I've never been on before. So greetings folks from Lebanon county's Amish community. Richard

Trobairitz said...

Your travels in Spain have been amazing. More to add to the bucket list I'm afraid.

I love the pictures from the coast, looking out across the water and looking up/down up the coast.

A grand adventure I'd say.

Sil said...

wow!! the trip of my dream after route 66(but in moto because I was a part in car with my Ted). Congrats to pics and better cronic! Thank's to share your experience with us!
ALWAYS HAPPY TO RIDE AND REGARDS FROM BRAZIL!
(sorry to my poor english!! I'm learning and study to do better)

Gary France said...

Geoff – We wanted to go into the Guggenheim to see what was there, but we were short on time, so we decided to just look at the building, which is a main attraction in itself, spiders or not!

Jack – Living in that building would be especially cool. I adore the honesty of some people. My friend Ian lost his i-Phone in Croatia and the person that found it contacted his wife and returned it in the mail. Brilliant.

Richard – Thanks for the compliment. Last year when riding through the USA, I stopped at Middlebury to look at the Amish community there, which I enjoyed doing. My only regret was that I couldn’t spend more time there.

Trobairitz – We had a terrific time seeing what rural Spain was like. It was good to see the blue of the coast when we arrived there – water has a terrific appeal for many, be that river, lake or ocean. Your recent trip to Crater Lake amply demonstrates this. In fact, on the theme of water, as I write this I am just one state away from you, overlooking the Pacific!

Sil – Thank you for looking at my blog and for your kind words. I rode on some of Route 66 when in the USA last year on my long tour – I enjoyed it a lot. I wrote about it here http://garysusatour.blogspot.com/2010/10/get-your-kicks.html