Saturday, 27 October 2012

126 Conil De La Frontera and Cadiz

Wednesday 24th Oct
Rain and storms were forecast all day today. The forecast was correct. The overnight rain was not too bad but the day was horrible. Our pitch had turned into a bog. It was nothing like as bad as it was going to get. It rained hard on and off all day and we just stayed in the tent and hid from it. We discovered that the all singing and dancing replaced tent was leaking badly. I fired off an e-mail to the manufacturers in Australia telling them of my problems with the two tents and inviting them to comment. (at the time of writing no reply had been received)
We had about 30mm of rain in all that day.

Thursday 25th Oct
Todays forecast was for even worse rain. Again it was correct. It started heavy and by 12 O'clock we had to abandon our pitch and find another made up of gravel. We moved during a lessening of the rain (it did not stop) and with the tent now on gravel all we needed to worry about was the rivers under the groundsheets. The tent was covered in mud. We washed the groundsheets by laying them in the road and letting the rain/river do the cleaning - it worked.
We discovered another leak in the tent. Nice - not. Not as bad as the first though. We decided that we needed to get out so we drove into Conil De La Frontera, about 2 km South and decided to do some shopping first. We got to the Mercadona as the rain was very very heavy. We parked almost outside and still got soaked running to the door. About 10 minutes later whislt we were aimlessly towing an unwilling trolley around the store we heard a suddden 'WHOOOSH !', all the shoppers and staff looked up and the shop windows looked as though we were stood outside a glass carwash. Then suddenly the roof drainage was overcome and water just flooded into the shop through the tiles and down the light fittings. In all about 4 places in the store were flooded. We helped where possibe to move stock out of the way but it stopped as quickly as it started. The tannoys started to go off, obviously calling for the mobile squeegy things which the staff came out on singing Weeeeeee! as they rounded up the flooded water. It was surreal but funny at the same time. There was no panic whatsoever and business did not stop at all. I couldn't see that happening in the UK.
Anyway, then we drove to the old town and after parking up Gromit, went to the same beach as we were at 2 days ago.
I can only imagine the Spaniards were a lot lot shorter then !

The whole place was flooded to about 6". Fortunately the restaurant was not but the waiter made us laugh when he came up to our table mimicking swimming to get to us.
The beach road during a lull in the rain

After dinner, with it still raining unbelievably hard, we went back to see if we were flooded. Fortunately not. I had strategically placed a large cereal bowl in the tent and it was just to the brim.
My fiendishly clever anti flood mechanism

Then the rain stopped. As though someone had thrown a switch and the moon came out !
According to the reports, we had about 90mm (yes ninety) of rain in all that day.

Friday 26th Oct
With the weather finally broken we set about trying to dry everything out. It was not wet but with 2 days of 100% humidity it was all very damp.
We set up our Chinese laundry on the fence surrounding the campsite. Nobody seemed to bothered about it. It they were I would have advised them where to go,

Saturday 27th Oct
With the Sun shining and hardly a cloud in the sky we decided to spend the day in Cadiz. On the way there we needed to do some shopping. I wanted 2 new tyres for the trailer. "no Sir, not till Monday" was the best translation for that. We had decided to leave for the direction of La Manga on Monday so that was no use. I also wanted some seam glue for our new and expensive tent so we drove to the Decathlon. Again, no way Jose. I settled for some Aquaseal that is used to repair divers suits.
After that it was a short drive into Cadiz.
We spent the next hour trying to find somewhere to park without luck and just as we had given up and headed for home we saw someone pullout in front of us directly outside the cathedral which was also next to the town square. Nice.
The cathedral also known as Gromit's parking place

We went a roundabout route to the dock area where we saw the fountains dancing to music. Not quite as good as Caesars Palace (in fact, the only connection was the water and the music) but it was pretty never the less. There were many cruise ships in and the one next to us was a Fred Olsen one, Black Watch. Makes you proud doesn't it. We even had a beer to celebrate - we needed an excuse - not.
Ceasars palace it isn't, Black Watch in the background

After that we meandered back toward Gromit and came across the main Square. There was some sort of show in the setup phase with many large animated models being tested.
Er.. a bird

Sleeping giant. Female kind. Best not wake her up.

And the biggest rocking horse since Troy

We asked what time the show was on and decided to wait the 3 hours till 8:30. We killed time with a long walk along the sea wall overlooking the Atlantic and at about 7:30, after watching the Sun disappear, we went back to the square and sat outside a bar to watch the show.
Bloody kids. Whats wrong with graffiti and smashing car windows. Actually a Spanish version of our 'free runners'.

Karen's sunset.

 By the time the show started there was no room for anyone to move. The place was packed and our bar seats were as good as useless except for ordering beer. The show obviously had some theme and the dialogue was incomprehensible (even for the Spaniards I would imagine) but it was very good despite.
She is awake. honest. Its just that her eyes ans my shutter work at different times.

Despite the distance these guys were good.

How good is the horse in the dark, especially with Lady Godiver on its back.

Then came big bird with a passenger

Who then just happened to pick up a passing trapeze artist.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

125 The journey South along the Atlantic

Wednesday 10th Oct
I had a very bad night with sweats and chills but when pack up time came I was reasonably OK.  We set off at about 10 for what turned out to be a long boring driving day. Our basic intention was to take 3 days to drive from the top of Northeast Spain to the Algarve and do some sightseeing in the meantime. Unfortunately that corner of Spain and the associated roads were just long and tedious. On top of that was the fact that the Sat Nav was giving us a lot of duff info as to where we could get some food supplies, not a problem in other countries. On top of this, anyone who has used a Sat Nav in Spain will tell you that the Spanish Government like to keep their hundreds of new EEC financed roads and roundabouts a secret from the likes of Garmin and TomTom. The upshot of this is that you are often driving on roads that the Sat Nav has no knowledge of even if they are 5 years old.
There were lots of houses on stilts. Dunno why.

At about 6pm we crossed over the Portuguese border and it became 5pm. No more late night and late mornings for us then. We drove a further 20km to our target campsite and it started to rain. It was right by the sea but as the weather had closed in we never actually saw it. That night we just chilled out and read our books under a noisy (with rain) awning and then went to bed.

Thursday 11 Oct
The cats and dogs played us several visits during the night. It can be very noisy in the tent when it is raining even lightly as the roof is plastic reinforced material. Karen appears to be becoming an essential part of most of the insect populations life cycle. She has been bitten on the forearm in exactly the same place as 2 weeks ago. The lady ain't happy.
I had a better night but regressed whist packing away so Karen drove all day today. We used the side roads as the motorways are automatic toll roads and we have no clue how to pay them.  We did not want to get caught out like we did in Norway last year. Karen is getting a bit giddy having driven around over 100 roundabouts today.
I was typing this while we were driving and we got caught out by one of the tolls....
We were looking for a supermarket and the Sat Nav (again) gave us confusing data so we were shoved up a motorway. Fortunately this did not appear to be a toll one. Appearances can be deceptive. After 300m and round a convenient corner was a conventional toll booth. This was accompanied by a small sign that although it was not in English meant 'Take a ticket and pay at the other end you cheapskate English moron or camp here till the police nick you'.
Needless to say we took a ticket. 550m later we turned off and was charged 90cents at the machine for the privilege. I paid with the smallest change I had and when the 90c was in, it mumbled something at me that I could not understand. I said "piss off". It said "Obrigado" (thank you).
We dissolved into fits of laughter and eventually found the supermarket.
We eventually stopped at a campsite at Da Foz Do Arelho. We got there just as it was getting dark so did not get to see much of it aside from the toilet block. We know how to live don't we.

Friday 12th October
We were due a short days driving today. We (the Royal WE that is) have done a lot of driving in the past few days so we had a slow start. Fortunately the site had free WiFi so whilst having a lie in I looked up the symptoms of my 'man flu' type illness. I could have kicked myself when I sussed it was tonsillitis. It cheered me up as it is only treated with pain killers till it goes away. On top of this, we were looking at a hospital visit before long, as Florence Nightingale was looking at abandoning me, taking early retirement and taking up golf. I drove today, I am getting better. Karen says she notices because I just get worse (does that make sense ?).
At the end of our short days driving we found a delightful campsite about 500m from an absolutely massive beach. As I was feeling better we ate in the restaurant of the site and then after a few drinks hit the sack.
The sunset was something to behold. Ya gotta love the West coast of anywhere.

Saturday 13th Oct
The final 170km drive to Debbie and Andy's place. With only a short distance to go we took our time decamping. It is a good job we did, as whilst laying the sleeping bags over Wallace to air. I noticed that the divers side trailer tyre was flat as a pancake. Brilliant !!
We had a spare so after about 20 minutes of dragging kit out of Gromit the brand new (as in unused but still 2 years old) tyre was on. We left the site at 11:30 and went the opposite way to the sat navs instructions and straight to the beach 500m away.
To the left is an estuary with a bird sanctuary and in front a sand bar separating the sea from it.

We went for a little paddle in the Atlantic surf and finished up completely soaked and ended in a small bar for a beer and a pizza.
Empty gorgeous beaches.

Is it possible for a drip to get wet ???

We then set off for Debbie and Andy's. About 20km down the road we saw a supermarket and decided to buy some wine etc for our visit. As I got out of Gromit I saw that the trailer tyre I had just put on was looking a bit low. I put this down to lack of checking it and resolved to shove some air in when we had finished shopping. When we came out a guy in a nearby van pointed the tyre out to us as well. When we looked at it, it was completely flat. Oh dear !
We were now in a fix. I set about fixing punctures. On taking the 'new' tube type tyre off the rim (the originals are tubeless !!) I saw a valve cap drop out of the tyre. The plank that put the new tyre on had dropped a valve cap into the tyre and then stuffed the tube in over the top of it. The sudden use and extra pressure had forced the valve cap to cut the tube open. Easily fixed but surprising.
Whilst I was at it I tried a trick from a biker that has ridden several times around the world. I found the hole in the original tubeless tyre put some glue on it and stuck a self tapping screw in it. Its still up and a have a spare again!
After about an hour and a half we were on the road again with the rest of the trip being thankfully uneventful.
On arrival at Debbie and Andy's we were greeted with hugs, kisses, beer and wine. Not a bad combination. After a short while we managed to get Wallace and Gromit parked outside and they stayed there for the duration.

Sunday 14th Oct - Thursday 18th Oct
We had a great week at Debbie and Andys flat. Initially there were two other guests, Roz, a lifelong friend of Debbie's and Maureen Taylor, who lives next door to their pub on the IOM. The two of them returned to the UK after a couple of days.
I was ill, the cat had no excuse.
Andy, Maureen, Roz, Debbie, Karen and big ears

The visit was basically a pub and restaurant crawl with one exception.
Andy got us to have a go a golf on the driving range. I had told him earlier that I had no ball coordination, a small fact that he skillfully ignored. Anyway there we were playing bat and ball with long bats and small balls. I hate to say it but Karen was better than me at it and although I could hit the ball a lot harder, hitting it with the edge of the bat made it limp about 10 feet in front of us. Karen had the best hit at about 120 yards and mine was about 80.
I have to say it was an eye opener as to just how hard it is to play. Andy is all but pro status and can hit a ball wherever he wants.
As part of the apartment complex, there is a swimming pool which has a bar attached to it. It doesn't get any better than this.

Friday 19th Oct
It was all up early as Debbie and Andy had a plane to catch so just after first light we said our goodbyes and departed with a promise of a skiing trip in February. We set off for a 370km drive into Spain to stay at a place near Cadiz, still on the Atlantic coast.
The Spanish border. Weather does not look good. Ha, so what, the diesel is a lot cheaper ;-)

After the long drive via Seville, which we did not stop at as we have been there before, we arrived at the camp site which was about 500m from the sea but very pleasant never the less. There are a lot of Brits here too, some for the winter. I was still feeling rough so we decided to chill out for a couple of days to allow me to recover.

Saturday 20th and Sunday 21st Oct
I spent both  days in and out of bed feeling drained and tired. By this time Karen had reached 100% on the Florence tolerance scale so I promised to see a doctor in the morning.

Monday 22nd Oct
We got up slowly and whilst doing so Karen made up a list of my ailments using the Spanish dictionary just in case no one spoke English. We arrived at the medical centre and it was like a typical North London war zone also known as a casualty department. There were people and cops milling around all over the place. After getting several NOs to our do you speak English question we finally figured out that we needed a number ticket.
When our number was called we went to the desk to be confronted with another NO, but a request for our EHIC card. Its the card that, issued in the UK by the DSS, allows you to receive free health care in the EU. Fortunately, this time we were armed and it was handed over and photocopied. The name on the card said "HALL, RAYMOND KENNETH WILLIAM". We were booked in and sat down again.
10 minutes later a nurse came out of an office shouting WILLIAM, WILLIAM. Its not a easy name for Spaniards and everyone in the waiting room pointed at us two. We were that obvious !!
After another NO, we showed the nurse our crib sheet, which incidentally started out with "I need to see a Doctor who speaks English". She allocated us a doctor and indicted to a numbered consulting room upstairs.
Up we went, found the room and waited outside. When our turn came, we again asked "Hablas Inglais", "NO", "Excellente" was my reply to which the doctor laughed. We showed him our ailment crib sheet and I said "Comprende". He replied "Si..   Errrrr....Antibiotic". "Si" was my reply and 2 minutes later we were on our way to the chemist armed with a prescription.
I'd just like to add the doctor also prescribed codine based medicine which actually spaced him out more than he already was.
I have to thank Karen for her forethought on the crib sheet. We would have been there for days otherwise.  (My Spanish was brilliant considering he has "gripe de hombre! flu))
I was feeling a bit better after the chemist so we went for a bite beside the beach and a paddle in the sea.
"Is it dead Mum". "Don't touch it son, it's horrible either way"

Florence Nightingale letting off steam

Tuesday 23rd Oct
I woke up brighter today so we went back to the beach and this time we had swimmers on and went out to play in the surf. It was a bit chilly but we soon got used to it and spent an hour or so failing to body surf. Then it was a couple of hours snoring (only Ray!) whist sunbathing and then to a restaurant for a bite. A much better day all round.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

124 Motos Picos Bike rally, Santander

Tuesday 2nd Oct
The campsite at Navarrete, near Logrono was a pleasant and quiet place but unbeknown to us was popular with wine drinkers as it is at the centre of the Rioja wine producing region and is surrounded by 'bodegas' which are the wine producing factories. One English couple near us, told us of a particular one that was famous for its design. Apparently with a wave like titanium roof designed by a Brit. After getting the washing done we decided to pay it a visit but unfortunately it was by booking only and they were full up for the day. Sounds familiar doesn't it. Anyway we took some pics of it and in protest did not buy any of their wine.
The bodega with the titanium roof
Another Bodega we found on the way

We rode back to Navarrete and found a nice little bar and watched the hoards of little tractors pulling trailers full of next years wine stock.
If you look closely, he is driving 'hands free' for our pleasure

It was then back to the campsite where we found that a very pleasant Dutch couple had moved in beside us and were besotted with Leon and the fact that he traveled with us without running off. Another early night and up to bed.

Wednesday 3rd Oct
A shorter day today, only 130 miles or so, so we took it steady.
We stopped at a large lay-by for spot of lunch and hawk-eye Karen spotted some large soaring birds.
Our lunch stop. Hawk-eye in the foreground, security detail in the passenger footwell.

We ummed and ahhed about what they were initially thinking they were eagles but they were far too big for that. We eventually agreed they were Griffon Vultures. They were massive with a wingspan of about 2.7m.
A cropped photo of the Griffon Vulture. It gives no perspective of it's huge size.

We arrived in Suances, a suburb of Santander at about 4pm. We found our annexe hotel, the hotel Roiz. It was only about 50m up the hill from the nasty evil one that would not take Leon. It was run by a father and son who spoke English as good as we spoke Spanish but they were both such characters that each encounter left us all laughing. The father would greet us with "Comment allee vous" which is French for 'how are you'. The son had a pet dog like a large Yorkshire terrier and a pet parrot that would allow the dog to lick it. They were bonkers. The dog spent most of its time chasing Leon about and Leon reciprocated by beating the dog up.
We settled in to a room that would have accommodated a foot ball team in luxury (exaggeration alert). It had 4 beds, 14 chairs of various descriptions, a bath (something to keep Karen happy) and a funny extra toilet for cleaning your feet. It was only spoiled by the fact that we could not open the door more than half way due to the floor tiles being laid at a slope. This was OK until we tried to carry our bags into the room!
The Hotel Roiz. We were in another building out the back.
The inside was absolutely massive.

One other small problem was, that despite the room being booked, it had not been paid for Doh! They took my passport and told me I would get it back when they were paid.
We waited for the boat from Portsmouth to deliver its live cargo of what later turned out to be psychotic bikers. They turned up at about 7:30pm and we went to greet them. There were 8 in all, in our group. Jon Elvidge (who had told us about the trip), his local mate from Ware, Steve, (who turned out to be one of the nicest blokes you could meet and we hope to see him again when in the UK) Graham, a Police driving school teacher, Gordon, an ex racer (more on him later), another Steve, a youngster (compared to us) called Colin and two brothers Craig and Dean.
After a quick reception it was down in the basement of the main hotel for grub. I managed to find the organizers representative and when I informed him of the non payment problem I was met with blank looks. It was all sorted in the end which was good as I was ready to eat somebody.

Thursday 4th Oct
This is where the fun begins (ish). I set off with all the other bikers at 9am expecting a nice ride through the scenic mountains, stopping every now and then to take pictures. What actually happened was more akin to racing the TT circuit at the Isle of Man. Gordon, (the ex racer,) set the pace at the front and I had to ride well out of my comfort zone to keep up. He was psychotic. The last time I had ridden like this I was about 20. For the first 4 hours I was absolutely crapping myself. Only then did I relax somewhat when I appreciated how good Wallace was when shod with off road knobbly tyres when everyone else had sports bikes (except Jon) and sticky tyres. 
The evil Gorgon (left). Only joking. He is another of the worlds gentlemen. He has a passion for biking that I can only admire. He is so good that I never want to ride like him ;-).  Jon having just removed his thumb from somewhere is on the right. 

In the afternoon my confidence had increased and I started to enjoy the roller coaster that the others called a ride.
In fairness, it was actually very exiting. I had never seen mountain roads so twisty and smooth.
Karen spent the day browsing the shops and climbing up and down the hill that  the town was built on.
It had to be in here somewhere... a rare stop (stress break for me)

Jon and I at a viewpoint. Note my dirt tyres and his road ones. This was the best excuse I could come up with.

Back: Gordon, me, Steve, Graham and john. Front: Dean (nearest), Colin, Craig and Steve2

Friday 5th Oct
Another lunatic day. More of the same and by now I was keeping up with similar powered bikes. Graham and Gordon were on 157hp BMWs so they were in a different league but I was holding my own - just. The only problem I could not address was my 'Monkey butt'. The reddening of the lower regions that resembles a baboons rear aspect.
The town square at our lunch break place. I have no idea where it was, I was more concerned with staying on my bike.
The view of a resevior during a fuel stop. Have you noticed these are the only times photos are taken ? 

Karen spent the day removing as many white bits as possible on the very pleasant beach.

Saturday 6th Oct
I took Karen out on the bike today. At last I was able to have a stress free ride. I tried to put into practice some of the tips the other more experienced riders had given me. Whilst I thought I was doing very well, Karen did not notice !
We stopped at a place called Fuente De and rode the cable car to the top of the mountain. The view was very impressive and more huge vultures were spotted, along with some Black Kites. Despite the temperature down below it was very windy and quite cold.
It was blowing hoolie up here.

Despite my previous careers, I am s**t scared of heights. For me this was a long trip down.
Once back on Wallace it was a quick 12km run to a lunch spot at a hotel called Hotel Del Oso, which means Hotel of the Bears. It was very pleasant and there were already a lot of bikers there. Bikers in Spain are treated with respect - its nice.
Lunch at the Hotel Del Oso. Hotel of the bear.
The views were amazing. He had just driven up this valley.

One of our two traffic jams. The other was horses.

We then drove the mountains for the rest of the day and by the time we got back to the Hotel my monkey butt (sore red bottom to those non bikers out there) was glowing nicely. It was then back into the bar with the others before a late return to bed.

Sunday 7th Oct
I hardly slept at all last night and woke up with flu like symptoms. I decide not to go out riding today and went back to bed once dosed up with tablets. I got up at about 1pm and we drove Gromit into Santander for some lunch. It took ages to find somewhere to park. Evidently, all the Spaniards, get into their Sunday best and go into town to the bars and restaurants. When we did eventually get parked we did the same. It was very pleasant and comfortable atmosphere. We then went back to the hotel and I went back to bed to try and sort myself out. Fortunately, I was not ill enough to stop us going to the bar with the guys again ;-)

Monday 8th Oct
All good things must come to an end and it was pack up time again. with Wallace on the trailer, all our bags backed in Gromit and all but one of our pairs of sunglasses (Doh!) removed from the hotel room we drove the 50m or so down to the main hotel to say our goodbyes to the guys and a big thank-you to Jon for inviting us along.
We then set off on our long trek to the Portuguese Algarve via the North coast of Spain. My flu thing was paying its toll and I only drove for about an hour when Karen took over to stop me driving Gromit into a motorway barrier. On Gordons recommendation we stopped in a lovely little town called Llanes. Again, it was not easy to park but this time it was our fault, we had Wallace on the trailer. The town was as Gordon had said, beautiful. We had lunch in a bar by the river/marina. It was very quaint and friendly as we have come to expect from this part of the world.
We were heading for a campsite on the coast near a place called Valdes. It reminded me of a  brilliant  1971 Western film starring Burt Lancaster, "Valdez is Coming". Age is sometimes a useful thing. Anyway enough of the ramblings of a boring old fart..
We needed to get some bread for us and prawns for Leon (no, he is not spoiled). Finding anywhere that sells food, let alone a supermarket where we do not have to ask for each item in Spanish was proving a bit difficult. We ended up traveling a further 50km round trip for the privilege of buying food. Where do there people shop ?
Once we arrived at  the camp site we were offered a pitch by the sea. It was magic and overlooked cliffs about 30m high. The next thing North was Ireland. We went to bed early (again ! - Karen wishes this man flu thing would pass quickly). Once in the roof tent we listened to the sound of waves crashing on the small beach below us.

Tuesday 9th Oct
Another admin/easy day. I was still feigning being ill and Karen was still feigning being sympathetic. We make a good couple. We got some washing done and generally had a chill out day. Hawk-eye Karen was at it again and spotted a Peregrin Falcon perched on the rocks only about 30m from Gromit. As is the norm in nature, 5 seconds before the photo could be taken, he flew off. It is truly a magnificent bird.
So, another early night and hopefully (for both of us !) I will be firing on all cylinders tomorrow.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

123 Through France and into Spain

Saturday 22nd September
What a night ! It was thundering and lightning for what seemed like an hour or so (probably 10 mins !). At one point after a particularly loud bang overhead I said to Karen "Blimey, that was loud". I got no answer. She slept through the whole flipping thing. We did not get a peep out of Leon either.
In the morning the rain was more constant and we huddled under the awning but as noon approached the clouds started to part and the sun shone through.
With the sun, out came Wallace and we rode into Lyon. John had told us of a few places so we parked Wallace up and went for a walk. Initially we were disappointed with the centre, it was very grubby but we ended up at the Place de Terrraux, which is several fire breathing (OK - steam) horses in a fountain.

 We then crossed the river Soane into the old town and the place took a serious upturn. It was very quaint and old (!) with lots of small shops and bars. We ended up supping on a beer in the Irish Bar. We are just so cosmopolitan. 
The old town. A better perspective of Lyon
The Cathederal

"The beer in here is rubbish.

Another anatomical clock. Do these people not have watches ?

Then it was back on Wallace in search of the main city park that John had told us about. He had apparently stayed nearby when he worked in Lyon.
We found the place that John stayed in when he was posted here with Interpol

The search was rapid with the aid of the Sat Nav. The park was fantastic and contained the botanical gardens and a mini zoo. It is called Parc Tete D' Or. It is quite huge and very pretty in the sunshine.
One of the hot houses at the botanical gardens

Some of the plants were weird

Karen found this monster lurking in the undergrowth

Ray had noticed a bar called Wallace, so it was only fitting that we visited it and had a photo opportunity.
Wallace outside Wallace
I was looking at the whiskeys...honest

We had walked around all the old town and along the banks of the river, however we did miss a couple of other places that John had suggested as the weather took another turn for the worse, so we headed back to the campsite via the supermarket and after a light tea, retired for the night.

Sunday 23rd September.
Once packed up we headed to Parc des Oiseaux. It is outside of Lyon at a place called Villars - Les -Dombes. It is like a large bird sanctuary with both wild and captive birds.
I don't get paid enough to do this

Same place, different faces....

We had a long wander about and then watched the live show, which featured many different species including vultures, parrots and large cranes.
Stand undercarriage

The birds flew pretty close
Wassup....aint you seen a bird eating his dinner before. This cheeky chap kept slamming this snake on the floor to kill it.

 It was brilliantly done and we could feel the air from the birds wings as they flew over our heads. Several people went home with bird poop, for which they weren't charged extra for. There was also a house of parakeets, you could get a little tub of "nectar" and walk through and the birds would come and feed and sit on you. We enjoyed this so much we went and had another go.
Before the nipping and pooing began

The colours were amazing.

If you poop, we are having parrot pie for dinner.

 It all lost it's appeal after we'd both been nipped and I got pooped on. At about 5pm we were both totally birded out so went back to Gromit. We decided that we would drive at least half way to our friends house, so set off with a view that we would just stop at an aires and sleep there and finish the journey in the morning. We pulled into two different aires and it was my fault we didn't stay there. They were in the middle of no where and to be honest I didn't feel all that safe. The third one was better. It had toilets (that should have been a clue really) and some overhead lights. I jumped into the back of Gromit to feed Leon and sort things out there and Ray was out the front. Another car pulled up and parked up next to us. A male got out and started walking around our vehicle and the grassy area next to us. He seemed to be playing pocket billiards and started "a conversation" with another male who appeared from no where. I still hadn't been seen, but the first man kept walking past the front of Gromit, obviously trying to attract Ray's attention. Needless to say that aires was also not suitable and we beat a hasty retreat and luckily for the strange man, he remained in one piece. Having failed so far we went to a campsite and got ourselves behind locked gates and felt heaps safer.

Monday 24th - Thursday 27th September.
Well I didn't sleep through the thunder and lightning last night. It actually felt like someone was letting off canons right beside the tent and the lightning lit up the inside of the tent. It was really quite amazing and the talk of the site in the morning. We are going to Billy and Sue's today and took the mountain route to their place near Marat. They are gradually doing the place up and work was on going whilst we were there. They have a large garden and Leon loved it.
The view from Billy and Sues garden in the morning

We spent the next few days in their company and met several of their friends who have also bought places in the same area. Our replacement tent arrived on Wednesday which was really quick. Sue and I kept each other company whilst Ray worked on the trailer and Billy helped the builder knocking out a doorway between the garage and the house. On Thursday Ray drove Sue me to Amber to the market and we noticed that we could hear a bit of grinding.
A side road in Ambert

Part of the market in Ambert - it was in a time warp.

 It turned out our rear brake pads needed changed. He and Billy went into town to see if we could get some whilst Sue and I entertained Mr Smirnoff. Mission was accomplished but we couldn't pick them up till the following morning.
Friday 28th September
A quick trip to Ambert to collect the brake pads at 10am with success. 60 Euros about treble the UK price. Anyway, once back it was an hours work to fit the new ones and whist I was out Karen did the rest of the packing. At about 1 pm we set off south towards Spain. After an hour of twisty mountain roads we hit the free motorway south and over the Millau Bridge.
Millau bridge...again

A typical French mountain village

After about 250 miles, we eventually got to Perpignan and turned off at a small campsite at 9pm. A quick 16 euros and we were in bed knackered.

Saturday 29th Sept
An early start (unusual for us) and we were off again heading for a small campsite in the middle of nowhere but near the Motorland Aragon racing circuit. Another 250 miles.
We had set off under a cloudy sky and it immediately started raining heavilly and did not stop till about 3am the next morning. We saw nothing of the beautiful Pyrenees.
Once at the campsite it was up with the tent in the poring rain - not much fun and I got soaked - we then hit the bar of Lake Caspe Camp site.We bumped into a couple of bikers. Not surprising considering we were near a racing circuit on the eve of the Motorcycle Grand Prix. The guys were Brits from Norwich who had ridden down from Calais. The pair, Andy and Pete, were a double act and the stories they had to tell kept us laughing all night. Pete was one of those people that everthing bad happened to and whilst he was chatting to us, he was still dripping wet from the ride they had just been out on. He had had a puncture on the way down and as it was on a motorway, his own breakdown service were not allowed to tow him. A specialist French firm had to be used just to get him off the motorway. It was not so much the extra 170 euros he had to pay that irked him but the 300m (yes 300m) they towed him to get off the motorway. He then had to call his own recovery service again for the privelage of taking him to a tyre place when charged him a further 170 euros for a new tyre. He only had a slow puncture which they refused to rapair and probably could have ridden all the way to Spain with the puncture ! Having said that, he was still laughing. It was a great night.

Sunday 30th Sept
Up bright and early and a quick blast on Wallace to the race track. The sky was clear and the sun was warm. We went into the grand stand and watched the British riders do fairly well but only with one podium (a third). 
Cal Crutchlow in the middle. He eventually came 4th.

We were the only Brits in the stand and we were waving our Union Jack and cheering the British riders very loudly. The Spanish around us were very tolerant, probably because we were older that most British hooligans and their riders won all three races. 
The view from the side of the race track

It was another great day and we ended up in the bar with Andy and Pete. We were soon joined by a dutch guy called Vim and another Brit who we just called "lightweight" as, although he had traveled by bike, he had booked a small cabin whilst we were all camping.
Jon Elvidge had sent us a text a couple of days previously that there was a strike by French ferry workers that had virtually stopped all the boats to Spain and France from the UK. We were worried that this could spill over and stop John getting over to Spain for the Motos Picos bike rally next week. The strike was also of concern toAndy and Pete who were looking to sit the strike out beside the lake we were at with a fishing rod in one hand and beer in the other.

Monday 1st Oct
Another gloriously sunny day. We had a slow start today and whilst packing up for our slow trip to Santander (for the bike rally) Karen received a text. The next thing I knew was, I as being pinched and punched for the first day of the month. This is not a fair war when Karen's brother John was pitching in too. He will pay for that.
 We said our goodbyes to Andy, Pete, Vim and Lightweight and Andy informed us that the ferry strike had been cancelled and it was just a matter of getting the boats back into their correct places. I think he was a bit disapointed.
We then set off again and selected a campsite about halfway to Santader. This one has washing machines and internet - Yipee. Another 200 mile drive to Logrono. 
Guess where we are now ?

On arrival we dropped the trailer off and went shopping and into town for a Spanish meal in a Spanish restaurant. There was lots of it but it was not that good. It did however redeem itself somewhat and came with wine at no extra cost. Then it was back to the ranch for vodka and gin prior to an early night. We were both knackered. It's hard work being retired.