The final installment…. Mark, Jamie and Brian have an enjoyable last few days on their bikes before catching the ferry home.
Day 13 (Thursday 04 July)
Today was to be another day of big cols. After breakfasting in the hotel dining room, we headed out to retrieve the bikes from the secure parking. Once loaded up, we set off on our way.
The weather was great once again as we headed for the first col of the day, the Col du Portillon, which would take us back into France. This was followed by the Col de Peyresourde; no sooner was the descent completed than we started ascending the next col, the Col d’Aspin. Once we reached the top we stopped for a look around at the scenery and the passing traffic, both two wheeled and four.
Brian making a new friend:
The next target on the list was the Col de Tourmalet (from the other side to a few days ago). Even though this was fresh in our memories, going up the other side seemed totally new – views were available that you just don’t see whilst descending. A short break was had whilst at the summit, comparing notes with other bikers and taking a few more pics.
The aim was to descend and ride along the valley to our lunch stop at Argeles Gazost (same place as previously). Once fed and watered it was a reverse route up the Col du Soulor and then on to the Aubisque (3rd time this trip, only this time in much better weather than the last). The weather did not disappoint and stunning views and exciting riding were enjoyed on both cols.
Brian and Jamie on the Col du Soulor :
Once we arrived in Laruns at the foot of the Col d’Aubisque, the route to our final destination for the day was fairly straightforward and relatively flat. The temperatures seemed to be increasing once again as we headed away from the mountains, only this time it was much more humid and far less comfortable.
Our destination was a french town, Oloron ste Marie. On arrival at the town, we located the digs fairly easily. The old lady in charge had less english than the three of us had french put together. Eventually, we managed to check in and were shown to our rooms. To say the hotel was a bit tired is being kind, but the old lady made up for that by being really nice and kind. She gave us fresh cold water to drink as soon as we stepped into the place, whilst attempting to communicate and check in.
We went to our rooms. I wasn’t sharing tonight (no ear plugs !!), showered, met in the bar over a beer and then went in search of food. As has been found out in the past, most small french towns seem to be shut after around 7 pm – this was the case again. The only place we could find was a pizza place that sold stuff other than pizza just around the corner from the digs. The food was good and the pizza was freshly cooked in a wood fired oven, right in front of us. The beer however was decidedly average, so we had a couple of jugs of cheap red wine, which to be fair was pretty good . The place was shutting around 11pm, so we paid up and called it a night. Neither of our rooms had air con. Mine was still pretty hot even late at night but eventually I cooled down and had a reasonable kip.
Day 14 (Friday 05 July)
After a warm night in the digs , it was time to pack up and leave once again. Our communication skills with the old lady didn’t let us down and we managed to get hot water and milk to go with our Yorkshire tea bags. The bar / cafe area of the digs was busy with locals having coffee and croissants before starting their day’s activities. We said our goodbyes and set off – a glance down at my speedo confirmed that we had passed the 2000 mile mark late yesterday afternoon.
The destination for today was a town called Tolosa in northern Spain. This would put us within an easy day’s ride of the port of Santander for our ferry . We set off towards the border taking in some brilliant roads on the way.
The Col d’Osquich was particularly enjoyable; this dropped us down on the road to St Jean Pied de Port, an old town with a castle and lots of visitors. As we had a relatively short distance today, we stopped for a mid morning coffee in a cafe in the town centre. Half an hour later we were once more on our way. The road to Spain led us over a fantastic unnamed col, crossing the border at the summit.
Our dinner stop was next on the agenda. We found a small supermarket and a shady place to sit and enjoyed our usual picnic lunch. On the road in to the dinner stop, I enjoyed a fantastic view of a griffon vulture perched in a tree right by the roadside.
The road we chose to Tolosa was another cracker! We were rapidly coming to the conclusion that wherever you go in Spain, you’re going to end up on a great road. Tolosa was a big place, but thanks to Jamie’s excellent sat nav, we found the digs quite easily. The hotel was a palace compared to last nights digs; it was actually pretty posh (by our standards anyway). We settled into our rooms: Brian had the single room tonight.
Reconvening in the bar a little later, we then set off in search of food. We walked right around the town centre and ended up back in the hotel restaraunt. There was a reasonably priced 3 course set menu along with really nice draught beer. The waitress spoke a little english and helped us out with our choices. We enjoyed a nice meal.
Back in the hotel bar Brian decided he’d had enough beer and would like a Jack Daniels and coke. I ordered the drinks and returned with the round. Brian was mightily impressed with the measures! Jamie was too and straight away said he was having one of them next round. We had a couple more rounds before calling it a night and retiring to our nicely air conditioned rooms (unlike last night) .
Brian and Jamie enjoying the spanish measures of Jack Daniels and coke:
Day 15 (Saturday 06 July)
Last night’s kip was not as good as I had hoped for – Jamie was snoring like a good ‘un and the a/c had been deemed too loud and turned off. Consequently I awoke, roasting hot in the early hours, the a/c was turned on again (to hell with the noise), but it took a good while to pull the temperature down again. Eventually I got back to sleep and slept well until the alarm went off.
Breakfast was in the hotel cafe. We loaded the bikes up, checked out and were on our way. This, sadly, was our last day in Spain. The next time we would get on the bikes would be in Portsmouth. As we only had a short distance to cover today, we decided to take the long, scenic, coastal route for at least part of the way. We were not to be disappointed: the cliff top road was fantastic, talk about curves and bends !
We stopped for our (last) picnic lunch at Gernika after turning inland and heading for the main road to Santander. Once back on the main road it was a case of skirt around Bilbao, then straight on to Santander. It seemed to cool off on the way there and even looked like we might catch a shower or two, but thankfully it held off and we arrived in Santander with about three hours to kill before we boarded our ferry.
We sat on the front overlooking part of the docks and got chatting with 3 other english lads from Stockport due to board our ferry. We compared notes about our trips and escapades, the time quickly passed and off we went to board the ferry. Going through security, my number plate came up on the computer but no big scene this time. They didn’t even want to see the offending multi tool and didn’t ask where it was in my luggage , just gave me a red naughty sticker again, filled in a paper and I was free to go. I didn’t even have to park in “naughty corner ” on the car deck.
Scraping the barrel here on the photo front – here’s the naughty sticker again:
We found our cabin, showered and went off to explore the ship in search of food. The ship sailed on time; there was barely a ripple on the water. The Stockport lads had told us the best cafe on the ship to get food; they weren’t wrong. It was reasonably priced (by ferry standards) and very tasty. We then adjourned to one of the bars, had a few beers, and cringed at the cheesy “entertainment ” on offer before retiring to our cabin for the night.
Days 16 and 17 (Sunday 07 July and Monday 08 July)
The weather remained calm overnight and we awoke to the sight of land – the coast of Brittany. Brian and Jamie were out of bed and down to the cafe for a fry up before I emerged from my bunk. I went in search of a brew and soon caught up with the lads.
It wasn’t long before we spotted several groups of dolphins in the calm sea. They would approach the ferry and swim alongside, leaping out of the water seemingly just for the fun of it. Dolphins were sighted at regular intervals throughout the day.
The day seemed to pass quite quickly and it wasn’t long before we were passing the Isle of Wight. We began to think about packing and changing into riding gear once more for the ride to the digs in Gosport, the other side of Portsmouth harbour.
Arriving in Portsmouth, we sailed past the historic dockyard which amongst other attractions has on show HMS Warrior, the worlds first iron clad warship, Admiral Nelson’s flagship HMS Victory and the preserved remains of the Mary Rose, the flagship of King Henry 8th. It wasn’t long before we heard an announcement to go to the vehicle decks ready for disembarkation. Funnily enough , the red naughty sticker on my bike had fallen off again!
Down the ramps and onto the quayside, a quick look at our passports and we were off. It didn’t take very long to ride around to Gosport, find the digs and check in. Unfortunately they had stopped doing food at 8 pm, but the girl recommended a fish and chip restaraunt we had passed not 1/4 mile away. Not even bothering to unload the bikes we shot around there, parked up and walked in. Talk about cutting it fine! The girl said that the restaurant bit was about to close, but the takeaway was open. Were we hoping to sit in and eat? We said yes, so she said ok, we’ll serve you. It transpired it was because we were bikers. Her dad was a biker, so therefore we were good sorts. The food was great – proper chips, mushy peas and a nice battered cod with a pot of tea and bread and butter, fantastic. We said our thank yous, paid the bill and went back to the digs. Quick shower and into the bar for a couple of beers. As it was a sunday they were shutting at half ten, so it was only a couple. It didn’t matter: it had been a long day and I think we were all looking forward to a kip.
The next morning we went down to breakfast, had the full english, loaded up the bikes and set off north. The ride up was uneventful, a couple of fuel stops, before arriving where we set off from over a fortnight ago, the Midway cafe near Whitchurch. This was to be our last lunch together before the parting of the ways, Jamie and I back to North Wales and Brian to Liverpool for his evening ferry back to the Isle of Man. As Brian had a few hours to killl before his ferry, he decided to call for a brew at his mate’s in Tilston. At the turning off the A41 we parted. Jamie and I were home in under a couple of hours, and Brian messaged me the next day to say he was home too.
The mileage count for Jamie and I (Brian’s was slightly different):
So that was it – tour over, everyone home safe, no major disasters, and we all had a great time. We will have to start planning the next one !!!