Friday 16th May
We were unsure whether Christine would be able to join us on the holiday as she had been suffering from a painful dose of shingles, so we were delighted when she and Richard met us at the morning coffee stop on the way to the ferry. Ian, Denise, Mick , Netty , Roy and I then travelled down to Portsmouth where we met Rodger and Edit and finally Grenville and Jan. For the first time ever Roy and I and Rodger and Edit where pulled over to have our panniers searched! Luckily it was on the way out and not on the way back as then they would have been full of dirty undies. We think it was because Rodger and Roy were discussing drugs ( e.g. old people drugs) over the CB!!! Once on board we all made ourselves at home and headed to the bar for drinks and food.
Saturday 17th May.
After a very gentle crossing we were ready to depart the ferry, to meet Dave and ride a sweepy swoopy route to Aguilare de Campoo, which looked very derelict when we first entered the village but it soon opened up into a busy town. The hotel Valentin, had underground parking and offered a set menu of 3 courses plus wine for 15 euros, which cannot be bad. Unfortunately Gren hurt his arm parking the bike which was to cause him a bit of a problem for the rest of the trip.
Sunday 18th May
After a good nights sleep and an interesting breakfast , served in the bar we headed off for Guarda. As it was Sunday we expected the roads to be fairly empty but what we did not expect that for the whole day we only passed 2 cars and 2 tractors on a route before getting to the23 miles motorway into Guarda, Portugal !!! IAM skills were really stretched. The road was very straight and passed through several abandoned villages, closed petrol stations and restaurants , as a brand new road had been built beside it ( thanks to EU money) taking all the business away from the original route. We would find this throughout trip but this left the roads on our routes clear for us to enjoy. There were hundreds of stork nest s, complete with babies, adorning poles, pylons and buildings and these would become a common sight as the trip progressed
The weather was hotting up and we stopped by a huge dam and reservoir to feed the fish with the remains of today’s breakfast, and let the airflow jackets see some light. The hotel Lusitania, was very modern and again we had a great meal, buffet style. Although we had to do battle with a Spanish Saga trip to get any food. I also caused a problem by asking for an Orange and Lemonade, this threw the barman who had to get the manager and we discovered I needed to ask for Orange juice and Sprite, which then came served in a Goldfish bowl sized glass!!! That kept me “going” all night!
Monday 19th May
As we left the hotel we became split up and “ off route “, Roy leading the back bikes took us on interesting route around the cobbled backstreets of Guarda, following the local school bus!! We somehow expertly found us ourselves back on route and headed up into the Serra da Estrela mountains, where you could see how an ancient glacier had scooped out the valley and left huge smooth boulders littered all over the place.
As we climbed higher we could see snow on the top and the temperature dropped until we were amongst the snow and thick wet cloud. Not air flow weather! As we descended, the temperature rose slightly but we were plagued by showers on and off for most of the day. We passed a couple of Guarda Civil who waved as we went by and then they decided to stop Gren for riding with fog lights ( we all had them on) and showing blue lights ( a couple of the others also were showing blue lights) He had a telling off and was then quickly on his way. So beware when in Portugal.no blue lights or fog lights!. We arrived at the beautiful Hotel Grande Real Vila Italia, in Cascais, for a 3 night stop.
Tuesday 20th and Wednesday 21st. May
Woke up to showery rain so we had a walk around the lovely picturesque fishing village of Cascais, with its wonky looking tiled pavements, not very good if you have a hangover!! There were narrow streets to explore and numerous café’s to enjoy a coffee and the local custard tarts called Pastéis de Nata , in fact Dave was eating so many of the them we thought he would turn into one! As the rain set in we decided to eat at the hotel again but Rodger and Edit were FORCED to sit in a bar and enjoy several drinks as it was too wet to walk back to the hotel. On the Wednesday the weather as still a bit unsettled so Ian, Denise, Christine, Richard, Dave, Roy and I caught a train into Lisbon and took a trolley tram around the city. It was not the most comfortable of rides but we did see some of the old city, with its tiled decorations and intricate iron balconies. The others stayed in Cascais and explored more of the fishing village, as the weather did try to clear up a bit.
Thursday 22nd May
We set off early to catch the ferry across to Praia De Troia but as the inbound route to Lisbon was stationary we became split up. As we all had Sat Navs we would be able to find the route(?).The bendy ride around the headland on the way to the ferry was spectacular with deep green trees and the blue Atlantic ocean joining together to create a beautiful backdrop. When we reached the ferry ( in a staggered arrival ) we realised that Richard and Christine had not made the meeting point and with Richard’s phone not working we were unable to contact them. We decided the only thing we could do was to continue the route and hope to pick them up later in the day. We boarded the ferry after a lovely coffee stop, where Denise had persuaded the owner to open up for us ( they were a restaurant and did not just do drinks) and then rode down the beautiful coast to Sado for lunch, at the Sado Café, which was very nice and not at all Sado. Still no sign of Richard and Christine!.
On we went towards Mertola, at the afternoon tea stop we saw a Wing, it was R & C, they had been there since lunch waiting for us to catch them up!! They were okay, they had missed the turning and decided to cut the ferry out as they would not have got there on time.
Hotel Museo , in Mortola was a museum!!! With Roman ruins in the heart of it, very interesting. The owner was very friendly and arranged for us to park the bikes in her garage. But the entrance was very tight and steep, along with the road you had to go down, but luckily everyone made the entrance safely and the bikes were stored. The owner suggested we try the local restaurant at the top of the hill!!! It was at the very top of a steep hill!!! They served local food and we were recommended to try the “ meegis” which was a lump of cold solid bread sauce, mixed with various meats or vegetables, it was horrid!!! We think the owner of the hotel and the restaurant are related!!
Friday 23rd May
After several nerve racking moments the bikes were all safely out of the hotel garage and we wound our way out of the old town of Mertola on to Estepona. The weather is now warm and sunny and soon we are back once more in Spain ( we noticed the prices had increased as Portugal was so cheap ). The route today took over the Parque Natural de Los Alconocales , where we had to not only contend with the bends but herds of goats all over the road, leaving slippy droppings and lorries laden with cork ( Cork Trees everywhere) Dave unfortunately had an accident on a roundabout and laid the bike over and hurt his ankle, when we arrived at the hotel, it was suggested he went to hospital but he declined although he appeared to be in some pain. The Hotel H10 Estepona Palace, was fab. We had our own free lounge and free bar!!!
Saturday /Sunday /Monday 24/25/26th May
3 lazy sunny and hot days, walking on the beach, visiting a Sunday Market, lazing by the pool or on the beach. Taking a dip in the free indoor Spa, where Roy and Rodger had a sports massage from a young nubile girl, but she knew her stuff! Drinking and eating in the free bar (no need to buy lunch) eating breakfast and dinner in the all you can eat buffet (help will the bike trousers fit on Tuesday?) watching the FI in our own private lounge, chilling out in the evening watching the sun setting and the lights on Morocco and Gibraltar twinkling in the distance. Heaven, I could do this all the time! Gren even found time to design some hearing aids for himself , he does need them!!!
Tuesday 27th May
All to soon we have to Estepona and make our way to Cordoba . We climbed up to the city of Rhonda , a beautiful city clinging on to the sides of steep cliffs , famous for having the oldest bull fighting ring in Spain, for coffee. A place to visit again I think. The days route took in more swoopy roads with endless olive trees filling the country side, we started counting them but soon run out of fingers!. The entrance to hotel Macia Alfaros was particularly hairy, with hairpin bends all the way down, we were concerned how we would get the bikes out, but after Gren had walked the course and found an easier exit route we were all relieved. That night we ventured into Cordoba to find a meal, which as the Spanish eat so late was a little difficult to start with.
Wednesday 28th May
Today was spent sightseeing and visiting the magnificent Cathedral of Cordoba with it hundreds of red and white arches, spectacular ceilings and ornate chapels lining the sides. It really does take your breath away when you first enter, It has been a Christian temple, a Mosque and now a Cathedral. The narrow shop lined streets are ideal to wander and purchase gifts. There is the usual abundance of coffee shops serving delicious cakes as well as a Roman bridge to a walk over, we all had an excellent day taking in the sites. Rodger, Edit and Dave booked tickets to see the Andalusian Horse – Equestrian Show that evening so did not join us for the meal we had sitting in the square having the courses served in any order!! E.g. starters last, main course first and then a mix of both!!!. Cordoba is a lovely city and if you are in that area well worth a visit.
Thursday 29th May
After getting out of the narrow garage entrance and filtering into the many passing taxis we made our way to Toledo. The roads are now beginning to straighten out as we head North and again there is very little traffic and few places to eat, but we found a small bar which served large half a baguette sandwiches ( it was a mystery how the bar owner had so much bread to serve 13 people ) for lunch. As we came over a brow of a steep climb the flat plains of Spain lay us, dotted with olive trees, it looked like herds of wildebeest grazing on the Serengeti, well at least I thought so, no one else appeared to agree! Soon we reach Toledo, the hotel Mecure, overlooked the old town. It was very hot so Ian, Denise, Gren and Jen went for a swim. Rodger, Edit, Richard Christine went into the old town for a quick look around. The rest of us ( Roy, me Mick, Netty, Dave) found a cool place for a cold beer and a chill out. Toledo looked lovely, and we will add it to the bucket list to go back and spend a day there.
Friday 30th May
A later start 9.30! a short ride to Segovia, the roads were very twisty which made a change from the straight roads of yesterday. We stopped at El Estorial where there is a huge monastery. The town was busy preparing for a visit by the King, on Sunday ( who has now announced his abdication) so when we tried to park the bikes on the pavement we were moved on by the police, to the Car Park. We then had a walk around the town, took in the monastery had lunch and an ice cream, as you do. The hotel San Antonia el Real in Segovia was an old convent. There were lots of unusual passages and doorways. None more unusual than Ian and Denise’s bedroom door which was Hobbit sized!!! Only people 5ft 5 and under could enter without ducking, so it suited Ian very well!!
Saturday 31st May
A day spent exploring the town, wrapped up against the chilly wind. Again we were stunned by the amazing Roman Aqueduct which loomed above the square, it had been started in 1BC and was still standing. How did they build such a structure without cranes and heavy lifting gear? It must have been an amazing sight to see. We walked up to the old town, did some more window and actual shopping. Visited the Cathedral and Alcazar (castle) both buildings were again outstanding, especially the carved golden ceilings in the Alcazar. There was a festival in the town square and live music was playing, which added to the atmosphere, it just not the same back home!. We ate again in the hotel as their excellent 25euro menu complete with wine could not be beaten.
Sunday 1st June
As expected the long swoopy roads w ere once again very quiet, the Spanish do not seem to be obsessed as we are with Sunday shopping, they take it easy and spend time with the family. Ian had found a lovely morning coffee stop, in a sleepy village. The village boasted the biggest stork’s nest you had ever seen, on top of the local church, the nest must have been used for several years. Lunch was in a small bar serving lovely fresh pizza’s ( which Mick enjoyed he had been asking for pizza all holiday) At Burgos the hotel again had an interesting spiral access to the car park , which would test the skills of the riders tomorrow.
We were not sure whether we would be lucky to find a meal that night , being Sunday but the city square was buzzing and we found a local restaurant, who could accommodate the 13 of us. It was the last night we would all be sitting down for a meal together so it was quite a sad occasion, the holiday was drawing to a close.
Saturday 2nd June
Roy acted as valet and kindly bought up Rodger’s and Gren’s bikes for them, as the steep twisty entrance was also the exit, with a traffic light system. A bit scary. The road to Santander was again sweepy with countryside taking a Austrian/Switzerland look, very green with wooden houses and flowers everywhere. Coffee stop was an old hotel, very dark and inviting by a large blue lake. We were making good time, covered over 200miles when Rodger CB ed that there was a police car coming up behind, so we let it pass, it then signalled for us all 7 bikes plus another, who was steadily overtaking us, to pull over. We had all been caught for speeding, although it was very difficult to know what the speed limit was, the fine was fine 150 euros on the spot or 300euros if you wanted to go to court!!!!. The other biker spoke Spanish and lived in Spain and he explained that the police look out for GB plates and target the roads around the ports, he had paid 2000 euros in fines already this year. So beware if you travel to Spain, watch the speed limits, if you can they change so often it is hard to know what the speed is. We paid up ( all used credit cards just to make it awkward for the police) and set off for the ferry home. Poor ole Gren got stopped again by the police for changing lanes while filtering to the right, he crossed a solid white ( again something the locals do but not with a GB badge on display) he was mugged for 100euros. Don’t you just love Spain? So be very aware!!!
The ferry trip home was calm and very smooth, we were also part of the D Day celebration as we sailed into Portsmouth , the sister ship Normandy, was sailing out, carrying veterans to France and both ships saluted each other with accompanying fire tenders shooting sprays of water in the air. Crews on other ships moored in the docks also saluted us, all very moving!!!
We have had a fabulous holiday, seen some wonderful sights, rode some great roads with even greater company. Thank you Ian and Denise for organising the trip and ensuring everyone had a lovely time.