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 ย 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 ย 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.

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Responses

  1. Good write up, looks like an enjoyable ride. And getting on up on the taxman always lifts our spirits ๐Ÿ™‚

    • ‘Lifts our spirits’. Like it. Wished I’d thought of that myself. ๐Ÿ™‚ Seriously, it’s a seriously lovely part of the world.

  2. Love the Harley shot !

    • Love the Harley.

  3. We were going to go to Andorra but ran out of time. Flew over the Pyrenees on our way to Heathrow from Barcelona and had suffered amazing turbulence. Lots of fun. Now i can see what we missed.

    • Saw from your blog you were around Barcelona, John. We were a stones throw away. If you have a good arm, that is. ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Lovely photos again Steve, Andorra sounds interesting, must get there sometime. Enjoy the sun in Spain.

    • Sun has been ever harder to find Ian, but no doubt we’re getting more than you guys back home. ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. I am just amazed at all you have seen. I think I’m as sad as you to see this come to an end. Hopefully we’ll get a few more posts out of you, as well as some posts on how you acclimate yourself back into the real world. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Good point Shadowrun. I’m beginning to wonder what’s real and what is part of some weird dream. Find out before too long though. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ More posts to come though, hopefully one quite soon.


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