Posted by: Stevie D | March 20, 2013

Heading for home.

From Humilladero, we set off due west past Seville and Huelva and crossed into Portugal once more near Castro Marim. We then hit the coast just east of Faro at Fuseta. It’s a small town by the sea which is blessed by having nearby a huge area of coastal marshland which is a reserve for many wading birds. It is criss-crossed with pathways which enable those with an interest to stroll along and marvel at ones depth of ignorance of the natural world around us. The day we spent in Fuseta was great. The weather, for late November was brilliant. Unbroken sunshine and temperature in the low 20’s. As it happens, it was the last day of real summery weather we would enjoy on the trip.

Warm sun and few people to share it with made for a lovely day.

Warm sun and few people to share it with made for a lovely day.

The picturesque harbour at Fuseta.

The picturesque harbour at Fuseta.

Given more time, we would have explored further, but we wanted to spend a little time on the Atlantic coast so next day we were off once more along some typically bad Portuguese roads.Unfortunately, what looked on the map to be a reasonably straightforward route north from Olhao, turned out to be a twisty, bendy mountain road which took literally hours to negotiate. The scenery and the beautiful Portuguese villages we passed through were compensation enough however and I didn’t feel too bad about covering only half the distance I had intended at the end of the days drive. We overnighted at the Barragem Pego Do Alta, a reservoir not too far from Lisbon It was a haven of peace and tranquillity. At least, it was after a guy in a campervan had taken the hint and turned his generator off.You could almost touch the silence.

You see all sorts of vehicles on Portuguese roads.

You see all sorts of vehicles on Portuguese roads.

It almost felt like an honour to be able to overnight at Pego Do Alta.

It almost felt like an honour to be able to overnight at Pego Do Alta.

The view from above the dam.

The view from above the dam.

Next morning it was off once more, to the surf resort of Peniche, on the Atlantic coast north of Lisbon. It was another full day’s drive, but only because we prefer to travel off the well-beaten track. This principal has its’ rewards however.

We don't see many Storks in the UK. That's why we love to see them when we travel.

We don’t see many Storks in the UK. That’s why we love to see them when we travel.

We passed by the town of Obidos, with it's ancient castle walls.

We passed by the town of Obidos, with it’s ancient castle walls.

We arrived in Peniche in the late afternoon to a cold wind whipping in off the Atlantic and an almost deserted campsite. The omens didn’t look good. Next day was a big improvement however and we went to explore this surfers summer paradise. Most of the cafe’s, bars and shops in the town were open, but customers were pretty thin on the ground. More appealing though, was the walk around the headland with great views  of the town, beaches and the coast to south and north.

The old fort at Peniche.

The old fort at Peniche.

It's the waves that make Peniche so popular.

It’s the waves that make Peniche so popular.

It would be busy in summer, but in late November, it was all ours.

It would be busy in summer, but in late November, it was all ours.

After a couple of days at Peniche, the weather closed in once more so we set off to the north-east and crossed back into Spain in one of my favourite regions, Extramadura. We stopped for the night at the ancient city of Caceres and decided to spend the next day looking around it’s old centre.

The famous 'Old Town' is so unspoilt, it's often used as a setting for films needing a Middle ages' backdrop.

The famous ‘Old Town’ is so unspoilt, it’s often used as a setting for films needing a Middle ages’ backdrop.

The whole area is completely devoid of modern day clutter. And all the better for that.

The whole area is completely devoid of modern day clutter. And all the better for that.

We had a great day in Caceres and a mighty fine campsite too. First camp we’d found with individual bathrooms for each pitch. Very plush. However, time wasn’t on our side so, luxury notwithstanding, next day we were on the road once more. We found ourselves on the N110 heading for Avila and the glorious weather and scenery made it one of the most memorable drives of the whole trip.

It was one of those trips you just don't want to end.

It was one of those trips you just don’t want to end.

I could post a hundred photos, just of this day.

I could post a hundred photos, just of this day.

Seemingly endless rural landscapes.

Seemingly endless rural landscapes.

As we drew closer to Avila, the clouds began to build.

As we drew closer to Avila, the clouds began to build.

We stopped in Avila to stock up on provisions then off once more through Segovia. As the sun began to set, the snow began to fall and we reached the campsite at Riaza in complete darkness and a blizzard.

As we approached Riaza, the writing was on the wall,so to speak.

As we approached Riaza, the writing was on the wall,so to speak.

Just glad we don't have to put the tent up.

Just glad we don’t have to put the tent up.

The campsite at Riaza was brilliant. 11 out of 10. Just as well because the weather was grim, to say the least. We would have liked to take a look around Riaza itself but time pressures and a freezing wind meant that first thing next morning we were gone and heading for the Pyrenees. Summer was well and truly finished now, for us at least and the day started cold and got colder. By the end of day we were near Pamplona and stopped at a campsite on the outskirts of the city. However, somewhere on the site road, the van’s back tyre picked up a big ugly metal spike which left it, and me, completely flat. An hour in the dark and driving sleet failed to get the wheel off, so I retreated to the warmth of the van and my lady’s bosom and comforted myself with a bottle of duty free whisky.

Next morning, the world was a different place, and by lunchtime the wheel was off, puncture fixed and wheel back on again. Thanks to the campsite owner for taking the offending wheel to a local garage, and the garage man for fixing it for only 5euros. We headed up into the hills, becoming more concerned by the mile at the worsening weather.

Not the first time we'd had snow whilst crossing the Pyrennees.

Not the first time we’d had snow whilst crossing the Pyrennees.

By the time we reached the French border, the snow had cleared. We stopped just inside Spain at a shopping mall which had been set up to tempt French bargain hunters from across the border. It had worked, and we joined the hoards of French shoppers stocking up with cheap Spanish goods.  Then across into France and pressed on, ever northward.

  Our only thought now was to reach the ferryport at Roscoff with the minimum ado. We cut through Mont de Marsan and wild camped in the huge forests of Gascony. Next morning was gloriously clear and cold and we had a lovely run to the east of Bordeaux and onward.

Travelling was much more pleasant than on the previous day.

Travelling was much more pleasant than on the previous day.

We spent the next night at a campsite at Pons, which was owned by a Dutch couple and had a very welcoming bar. We sampled the local speciality, Pineau, and spent a while recounting tales of our travels. Really very pleasant.Next morning we had an early start and travelled all day. By evening, we were back at the first place we had stopped on our trip, all those months ago, Port Louis. We slept well in a spot overlooking the estuary. When I awoke at first light, I took a walk into the old town and bought fresh Croissants and Baguettes from an artisan baker and took them back to Jayney, all proud like a returning hunter.They were delicious served with steaming hot tea, and we set off on the last leg home with a warm glow inside.

It's quite a view to wake up to.

It’s quite a view to wake up to.

We spent our last night in Roscoff. It rained incessantly and most of the bars and eateries were closed. Thoroughly miserable in fact, so we weren’t sad to see the ferry the next morning.

We finally arrived home quite late in the evening. It was a strange feeling to be traversing familiar terrain once more and an even stranger feeling to open the door and walk inside the house again. More of that soon, and also thoughts on what next.

Thanks for reading and sorry for the delay in posting this final chapter. 

Posted by: Stevie D | December 9, 2012


Firstly, apologies dear readers for the long delay in posting. Jayney and I have been travelling home and internet has been a scarce commodity on the way. Here though,at last, is the latest part of our ongoing tale.

From Abanilla we cut back to the coast and stayed a couple of days at a campsite near Almeria where we had stayed on our very first holiday together. Back then, the owner had said it hadn’t rained in 8 years on his campsite. This time it hardly stopped for two days so on the third, we moved.

We cut back inland to a small town just west of Antequera called Humilladero. The town itself was nothing out of the ordinary, although the Andalucian white towns all have a charm of their own. The campsite was excellent, although weirdly situated on the edge of a housing estate without any houses. Roads, streetlights, pavements, litter bins, everything in place but buildings. What made Humilladero such a great place to stay, however, was what was around it and the superb road network which joined them all together. We also enjoyed a few days of good weather which enabled us to get full value from riding in this beautiful part of Andalucia.

Standing high above Antequera is El Torcal,one of Europes best examples of a ‘Karst’ landscape. We rode up it one sunny day and took in the views across Andalucias olive groves sprinkled with white towns. If you’re in the area, it’s well worth the trip.

We took a break on the way up.

We took a break on the way up.

It wasn't easy to get a clear shot of the amazing scenery.

It wasn’t easy to get a clear shot of the amazing scenery.

The elaborate erosion of the rocks is typical of karst areas.

The elaborate erosion of the rocks is typical of karst areas.

The trip down was one of those you don't want to end.

The trip down was one of those you don’t want to end.

I love Spain.

I love Spain.

Apologies for my head sneaking in at the bottom there.

Apologies for my head sneaking in at the bottom there.

We passed by the historic town of Antequera, with it's 14th century fort, the Alcazaba.

We passed by the historic town of Antequera, with it’s 14th century fort, the Alcazaba.

The riding in the area was truly superb. One day we rode in a big circle for four hours, stopping only to refuel, through seemingly endless olive groves and the occasional typical white town. We didn’t need to stop along the way as the pleasure, on that day at least, was simply the road, the bike and the warm autumn sun.

On another day we visited the nature reserve at Fuente de Piedra. It is unusual in being an inland, salt water lake and is home to the largest colony of Pink Flamingoes in Spain.

Looking across the Laguna de Fuente de Piedra at the town which shares its name.

Looking across the Laguna de Fuente de Piedra at the town which shares its name.

We also had a ride down to the historic town of Teba. Draped across a hilltop like a sheet, its steeply sloping streets made a fascinating place to spend a few hours of exploration.

Looking across the rooftops  of the town of Teba.

Looking across the rooftops of the town of Teba.

A view of the Andalucian countryside and the twisty road up to Teba.

A view of the Andalucian countryside and the twisty road up to Teba.

Teba's steep streets and stairways took their toll on these ageing legs.

Teba’s steep streets and stairways took their toll on these ageing legs.

While we were staying at Humilladero, we booked our boat home to England. After this, although physically we were still travelling, I think psychologically we were simply heading home. The curtains were being drawn on our amazing year and what came after wouldn’t feel quite the same somehow.

Still at least one more post to come though, about the long road home. Thanks to you all for following.

Posted by: Stevie D | November 22, 2012

Old friends in new places.

Oropesa del Mar is a tourist resort just north of Castellon de la Plana. As a tourist resort, when the tourists go home, there are few people left behind at all.The rows of apartment blocks along the seafront stand empty and the bars and restaurants which thrive for six months of the year sit forlorn and empty and, in the most part,closed.A walk along the promenade in the late October sun however is probably more pleasant than it would be in August. Not so hot and fewer flies would probably sum it up. More people should take advantage, as it is a very pleasant time of year to be here.

It was good to be back by the sea on such a lovely autumn afternoon.

Jayney takes the air on Oropesa beach. There was plenty to spare. No one else seemed to want it.

It wasn’t long, however, before the lack of human company and, perhaps, available bars took its toll and we chose to move on. We decided to do what we hadn’t done on the whole trip until now, namely, return to a place for a second visit.

Those of you who have been following this tale since the start(shame on you for having nothing better to do) may recall from last May that we stayed in the town of Calp, with its outstanding rock. Well, there is a big difference between Oropesa and Calp. Calp is a town.Oropesa is a tourist town. When the tourists go home, Oropesa dies, whereas Calp has plenty of people of it’s own to keep it vibrant through the winter months.We had enjoyed Calp, and its excellent campsite, so much we headed back and enjoyed several more days in and around this fine little town. We had a couple of rides in glorious weather along the coast and up into the hills that surround the town.If you want to see photos of Calp, check out the post ‘In the Lap of Luxury’ from May.I’ll just post one now. As we were walking on the seafront one day, we saw the strange phenomenon of cloud forming as air rose over the rock and rapidly cooled.

It looked like the rock was on fire.

When we left Calp, we headed down the coast past Alicante. We were going to the small town of Abanilla, between Alicante and Murcia. Some good friends of ours from the UK  had moved here some years ago and this would be our first visit to the cave they call home. Ron and Michele had kindly invited us to take a break from the endless round of campsites and share their home for a few days, an offer gratefully accepted.

The town of Abanilla doesn’t appear, at first sight, to be a place that would draw a traveller away from the more well-trodden routes around southern Spain. But with the benefit of Ron and Michele’s local knowledge and, more importantly, the wonderful friendships they’ve built with many of the Spanish inhabitants, we found a really terrific little town full of interest and character.To recount all the things we did, places we went and people we met would take far longer than I have to write them down, but here is a brief recap, in picture form.

Looking across Abanilla beneath unusually cloudy skies. It’s one of Europs driest areas but we had three days rain out of five.

We were made to feel completely at home by Ron and Micheles many friends in the town, here with Jose Antonio and Maria.

The local baker, Geronima, showed us the inner workings of her traditional oven.

The owner of local bar, the Posada Casa del Pepe, proudly shows his trophy for best tapa in the ‘La Ruta de la tapa’ which is basically an excuse for everyone to visit all the town’s bars.

It was great to ride with our old friends again as they showed us some of the best roads in the area.

It was so good to ride in such pleasant conditions so late into the year. I almost felt guilty.


It’s wild and woolly country around there. Perfect for riding when you’ve got nowhere really to go.

Pride of place and hero of the week however, must go to Jose, who was the perfect guide, chauffeur and general Mr Fixit during our week in Abanilla. Nothing was too much trouble for Jose as we were whisked around the bike shops, museums and all the sights worth seeing in and around the historic city of Murcia. Finally he located a new battery to get us out of a jam just as we were due to leave.Thanks Jose. You’re the man.

Jayney with Jose. We all need a friend like he.

We saw the inner workings of a shoe factory, visited the Moroccan Gardens and took tea, checked out most of Abanilla’s unique collection of bars and cafes. The list goes on and I’m sure the memories will live on for a long time.

We took our leave of Ron and Michele and headed for Andalucia. Thanks go to them and the good people of Abanilla for giving us a fantastic week and a taste of real Spain.

Posted by: Stevie D | November 14, 2012

Reasons to love Spain.

There are many reasons to love Spain, especially if you love motorcycles. As Jayney and I left the Pyrenees behind
and set off to the South West, some of those reasons were made very plain to us.
We passed through the city of Lleida and then on to Mequinenza. By now, the road had become almost deserted as it swept
along beside the huge reservoir that is Lake Caspe. Some miles before the town of Caspe is Lake Caspe Camping, and here
we stopped for a couple of days to take in the sights. The campsite itself was completely isolated, and many of it’s
customers seemed to be there to take advantage of the range of watersports which were possible on the lake.Jayney and I
stuck to dry land however as we explored the wild country around the lake.

The long Spanish summer had taken it’s toll on the water level in the lake. Still more than enough to play on though.

It was one of the most isolated places we had stayed on the whole trip.

After a couple of days, we left Lake Caspe and, with time on our side, we decided to take a roundabout route to the coast rather than the straight road through Morella, which we had visited earlier in the trip. We had never used our chosen route before and had no reason to suppose it would be special, but herein lies another reason to love Spain. Most everywhere you go, something new and often spectacular thrusts itself before your eyes. This day would prove no different.

We cut down to Alcaniz and Alcorisa, then down some virtually deserted roads which were just stunning to see.Here are some photos we took on the way.

When the road ahead starts like this, you kinda know you’re in for a good day.

The terrain got wilder as we turned towards the coast,so we took a sandwich and admired the view.

As the road wound it’s way towards the Gudar mountains, the scenery became ever more spectacular.

Although there were some stretches of poor road, it was mostly pretty good, considering the terrain we were traversing.

We reached the village of Villarluengo, population 188, where no residents suffer from vertigo.

I wouldn’t care to fix the roof on some of these precariously perched houses.

The tiny and isolated hamlet of Cañada de Benatanduz, population 64. What an unusual lifestyle they must have.

This has to be some of the wildest country left anywhere in Europe.

That evening we arrived at the tourist resort of Oropesa del Mar, where we took a cold beer by the sea and reminised about what had been one of the best days of the trip.

Our evening resting place was a world away from the awesome scenes we had witnessed during the day.


Posted by: Stevie D | November 3, 2012

Changing seasons.

It is noticeable now how the days are shortening as winter approaches. During the long summer months, we had become used to wakening to a day which was already well under way. The chill of the night had long since been dispelled and sandals and shorts was all that was required to head out and face the world. But now, we often wake in darkness and there is a real chill in the air until mid-morning, when the sun has risen enough to clear the heavy dew from the grass. The greater effect however, for Jayney and I, is the shortening of the evenings. Some of our best times have been sat out on warm summer evenings, discussing the events of the day over a glass of something. Those evenings are a thing of the past though, as daylight’s door has slammed shut at an ever earlier hour. The dark, and the cold it brings, takes some of the pleasure out of ‘Al Fresco’ drinking that’s for sure.

It’s not all bad though. The weather remains, with a few isolated, short-lived exceptions, stubbornly fine and dry. After the sun has been up for a few hours, we have enjoyed many days of warm sunshine and, as we move into November, this has been most gratefully accepted. We just have to plan our days so we do our exploring within a constantly shrinking window of opportunity. Our position geographically has helped with the weather though because, with winter hovering above our heads, we are cutting and running away from the cooling centre of the continent, and back to lovely, sunny, reliably delightful, southern Spain.It’s the only place in Europe where you can hope for good riding conditions through the cold winter months and as the curtains close, not only on our trip, but on the year, we’re headed back for a final fling in the nearest thing in Europe to ‘biker heaven’.

Have to get there first though, which means crossing the Pyrennees once more. We left Provence and headed west. We had on overnight stop in the lovely village of Lagrasse, in the Languedoc, but by morning we were hit by real heavy rain so we pressed on without taking time to look around as we had intended.

The village of Lagrasse typified all that is attractive about rural France.

The ancient bridge over the river in Lagrasse. Time they had a new one, I think.

From Lagrasse, we continued west to the foothills of the southern Pyrennees, at  the spa town of Ax les Thermes. From here we took a ride(or two,actually) to Andorra, and also visited the local Wolf reserve.

The changing colours of the forests along our way are a reminder that winter is around the corner.

The old spa town of Ax les Thermes is the meeting point of three rivers and was a pleasant place and a convenient base.

I’m not a great one for zoos. I feel ever more strongly that wild creatures should indeed live in the wild. But zoos as they used to be, hundreds of mentally disturbed animals crammed into metal cages for the amusement of people who know no better, are thankfully fast disappearing institutions. It was, therefore, with some trepidation that I went to see the wolves at ‘La Maison des Loups’ near Ax, as Jayney wanted to see these enigmatic creatures. I consoled myself with the thought that in the wild, wolves have a bit of a dogs life(excuse the pun) in many parts of the world and that those in captivity don’t have to suffer the persecution that their wild brethren invariably endure. What we found was a collection of wolf species from around the globe in large fenced areas which, I would imagine, resembled the conditions they would have in the wild. They had the company of their own kind and  were obviously well fed and cared for, if a bit bored. Whether right or wrong I guess is up to the individual.

The reputation of these beautiful creatures is hard to understand when you view them from behind a three metre fence.

Andorra is a tiny country in the heart of the Pyrennees. Beautiful, accessible, fine skiing in winter. All these are true. But the main reason people go to Andorra, and it’s real attraction to travellers who find themselves near it’s borders is, it’s a tax haven. As such, many of life’s little luxuries which find themselves heavily burdened with duty in many countries, are made a little more available to society’s less affluent members. Like me. So, with the panniers emptied and credit card at the ready, we set off to explore what promised to be an Aladdins cave of delights at the top of this very big hill. However, after many months of travelling through the European Union, we had become used to crossing borders freely so forgot to take our passports with us. This meant riding all the way down again, then back up, only to be waved through without having them checked anyway. Lovely ride though.

The road through Andorra is one of the main routes through the Pyrennees so is well maintained and a great ride, especially downwards.

Just below the Andorran border is a place to stop and take in the view, and quite a view it is.

I thought the Harley should be in a shot, just for perspective, you understand.

They say we English are a nation of shopkeepers. This, I’m sure, applies much more so to Andorrans, whose country appears to consist entirely of mountains and liquor stores. And perfumeries. And tobacconists. And petrol stations. We didn’t overdo the duty-free shopping. Just took what we thought was rightfully ours, with that warm glow inside that comes from getting one over on the taxman. When we left Ax, we travelled through Andorra once more on route to Spain, but by then the weather had changed for the worse.

Andorra is a long way up and I’m sure this sign sees it’s fair share of cloud.

I got to wondering, if no one pays tax in Andorra, who pays for the roads?

It was the cheapest fuel on the whole trip, 30% less than the UK.

As you approach the capital, Andorra la Vella, there seems to be fewer shops and more, well, other things.

The border between Andorra and Spain was the strictest we have found on the trip. We actually had to stop while they took a look.

As we dropped down into Spain once more, the sun, naturally, began to shine and the road south for the final part of our trip seemed ever more appealing.

We were both looking forward to some autumn sun as we headed out of the mountains and back into Spain.

Posted by: Stevie D | October 25, 2012

The Camargue.

There are many reasons for staying at a particular campsite. Sometimes it’s because it’s close to something you want to see. Sometimes it’s because the sites’ facilities are especially good. When Jayney and I arrived at Camping La Roquette at Chateaurenard, it was initially because it was one of an ever decreasing number that was still open so late in the year. Also, it was within striking distance of Avignon and, more importantly, the Camargue national park. But this isn’t why we enjoyed our stay so much, or why we stayed so long. That was down to the friendliness and helpfulness of the owners, Henri and Chantal, for whom nothing was too much trouble, especially smiling. Thanks go to them.

The morning after our arrival dawned warm and sunny(as usual) so Jayney and I took a walk into Chateaurenard to check out the town.

Chateaurenard, like many French towns, has an old castle at its heart.

Sunday morning and the market hits town. Stalls selling everything from clothes and shoes to local cheeses and these delicious oysters. Yum Yum.

We also spent a day in the ancient town of Avignon. As a child of course, I’d learned the famous song about the bridge so had to ‘put a face to the name’ so to speak.

Le Pont d’Avignon is only a part of a pont, as most of it has been washed away over the years.

Avignon is blessed with some of the most complete ancient city walls in Europe.

We had had a brief visit to the Camargue many years ago when touring the south of France on the bike, and we both wanted a return visit.

The Camargue is an area on the south coast of France where the horse still rules. Its famous white horses are everywhere and are still used by the local cowboys, or gardians, for ranching duties. Tourists can also take their turn on these beautiful creatures.

There are two main routes across the Camargue. Firstly we took the westerly road to Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer.

What is it with women and horses? Jayney had the camera as we rode and when I looked, 80% of the photos were horsey.

Riding down main street in the Camargues largest town, Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer.

Western lifestyle rules in the local shops which sell saddles, stetsons and these little beauties.

We also took the road to the eastern side of the park to the town of Salin-de-Giraud and beyond. This part of the park is much less visited and Salin-de-Giraud had, to me, the feel of a town at the end of the road to nowhere. Indeed, when you ride past Salin, you travel through huge areas of salt pans and marshy mudflats until the road fizzles out at the sea. These marshlands are some of Europes most important reserves for waders and other seabirds and make for a dramatically different days riding.

Looking across the marshes past grazing Flamingos, with massive piles of salt in the distance.

One of the main reasons for making the trip was to ride the different road.Riding in the Camargue fits that bill perfectly.

The Camargue, and Provence in general,is a lovely place to visit. One of our favorite parts of France.


Posted by: Stevie D | October 20, 2012

Venice and the north of Italy.

Leaving Croatia wasn’t easy but our next destination promised much as it is, I guess, pretty well unique in the world. We travelled north, leaving Croatia, passing though a tiny outcrop of Slovenia and entering Italy near Trieste. It was then a simple matter of following the Adriatic coast around and Bobs your uncle.  However, we found that, unless you want to pay the heavy tolls on the Autostrada, many Italian roads are overcrowded and very poorly maintained. It took a whole day and into the evening to reach our next campsite which was situated on the narrow spit of land between Lido de Jesolo and Punto Sabbioni. You can take a boat trip to Venice from Punto Sabbioni and the whole coast here is one long sandy beach. However, the site itself, whilst very well equipped regarding showers, restaurant and the like, had a few drawbacks. Firstly,it was situated on sand, extra sticky sand,which got everywhere, whenever you moved, the sand came with you.Also,they wanted something like 12euros a day to use their WiFi. In England, we call that daylight robbery and I’ll have no part of it. Finally, and most importantly as far as Jayney was concerned, the place was alive with mosquitos. Jayney,whose defense systems weren’t designed to cope with such an onslaught, was badly affected as the little bleeders missed no opportunity to steal what they considered their share of my lovely lady.

We fixed a day to head into Venice and, it must be said, we had a fantastic day in this amazing city. The evening before we went however, we had a massive thunderstorm which turned the campsite into it’s own ‘mini-Venice’.

If Carlsberg made rain…….

There follows just some of the pictures we took as we wondered around Venice’s myriad streets and squares.

As you approach Venice from the sea, the city appears to be floating on the water.

The canals give Venice a surreal air.

The most well known sights are crowded with tourists.

We were lucky enough to have glorious weather for our visit.

Some of the architecture rivals any we have seen on the trip.

It’s not all grand buildings however. Venice is a tangle of tiny backstreets which, to me, are much more interesting.

The hard part is finding your way around them.

There were literally hundreds of shops selling these masks. I wondered how they all made a living.

Jayney on the famous Rialto Bridge over the bustling Grand Canal.

There are as many ‘back-canals’ as there are backstreets. It is indeed an amazing place to just wander around, looking lost.

I was quoted 80euros (£65)for a half hour trip in a Gondola. I politely declined. That’s 4 tanks of petrol for the bike!

After seeing Venice, there was little to keep us in the area so we headed  South West through some lovely countryside but on some diabolical roads until we reached our next stop in the hills near Florence. Our intention was to pay a visit to Florence and explore the Tuscan countryside. Events back home put paid to that however, as I said in the post ‘Spanner in the Works’ a couple of weeks ago.

We had two long days of driving up to Nice, on France’s Cote d’Azur, from where we could get a flight home.

As for Italy, we left with mixed feelings. On the plus side, the people are so friendly and bubbly, the history and architecture are amazing and they do make the bestest Pizzas. Negatives however are that it is one of the most expensive places we have been, both for fuel and almost everything else. And if riding/driving is a big part of your reason to travel, the roads, apart from the toll roads, are bad, bordering on the downright dangerous.

Finally, most distasteful sight so far? In Venice, outside the public toilets.Turnstile gate at the entrance with a big burly enforcer squeezing 3euros out of unfortunate,desperate,mainly elderly tourists who know they are being ripped off but are in no position to argue. Good to see the spirit of the Mafia is alive and well in Venice. Be ashamed Venice, be very ashamed.

Overall, I’ll not be hurrying back.

Posted by: Stevie D | October 14, 2012

History in Istria.

It’s a strange feeling when you’ve lived by the coast all your life and then you spend several months without seeing the sea and smelling the salt in the air.

Jayney and I crossed into Croatia and headed south for the Istrian Peninsula. We didn’t realise how much we’d missed the old briney until we got our first view of it since we left Seignosse some months ago. There was a weird feeling of exhilaration, like meeting up with a long-lost friend. It helped,of course, that the friend in question was the beautiful Adriatic, glinting in the late afternoon sun as if studded with diamonds. However, I had the feeling that any sea would have done just then.

We drove down the coast to a campsite near Lovran but the site was poor and there was nothing around which caught our imaginations. So next morning we were off once more down firstly the lovely coast road which runs along Istrias north east coast, then across some unexpectedly beautiful  mountainous terrain to the small village of Fazana near Pula, at Istrias most southerly point.

We camped at the rather quaintly named ‘Bi Village’ a huge campsite which, apart from the pitches next to the sea, was largely deserted. It had some great walks along the coast however, and we used it as a base for some amazing rides up and down the length of Istria.

The old church and village square in Fazana were a pleasant walk by the sea from our campsite.

The Limski Kanal is several miles long and would be called a fjord in many other countries.

The roads in Istria were surprisingly good, and with weather and scenery like this…..biking heaven.

We took a ride into Pula and found a city with more intact ancient history than I think I’ve ever seen. In fact, it was an altogether lovely place to visit.

The Arch of the Sergi is the first of several monuments to take the eye.

Down the road is the Temple of Augustus

To prove that size is, in fact, important, check out the Roman Amphitheatre.

Those Romans were something else. They built it 2000 years ago, and it’s still being used today.

Our rides took us through some lovely Croatian villages and finally to the southermost point at Premantura. Near there, we found a narrow walkway across an inlet which led to a tiny bar overlooking the sea. We parked the bike and went across. As we sat with a cold one watching an Egret graze in the shallow water, I realised that we were as far from home, as the crow flies, as we would get on this trip. Frankly, there were few more atmospheric places to have that thought than there, at that tiny bar.

Just an unnamed Istrian village, but passing through places like this helped make our rides a bit special.

The walkway was too tempting to ignore.

We shared a cold beer and it was a place and a moment we didn’t really want to leave.

All too soon we had to leave Istria but it is a place to which we would definitely, if the chance arose, return.

The sun sets across the Adriatic, as seen from the campsite bar.

Posted by: Stevie D | October 13, 2012

Back on the road.

Sorry for the delay, but Jayney and I have now returned to our travels and we hope to start where we left off, although with a somewhat different mindset for the time being. I have a couple of stops to write about that we made before events overtook us and they will hopefully be in the next two posts which will soon be coming your way. Thanks once more for following our trip and also for the kind thoughts you have sent our way.

Posted by: Stevie D | September 30, 2012

Spanner in the works.

Hello, dear readers, wherever you are. This short post is to let you know that there will be a pause in this tale of travel due to the sudden death of my brother back in England. Jayney and I will be flying home as soon as we can. Please stay with us, as we hope to resume our journey before too long.

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