Europe 2016

IMG 0660Finally a warm sunny day albeit with poor visibility (haze).

We set off at around noon and take the M4/M5 to Exmoor. Google says 3.5 hours non stop and that's probably about right. The poor folk coming the other way will be a bit longer as the queues on the motorway are horrific, presumably due to it being the end of the school holidays.

Our destination is pre booked at the Lynton Cottage hotel on the north coast of Devon. The views are clearly spectacular on a haze free day, but this is not that day. You can kind of make out the sea and the hills in the middle distance.

The coast road across the moor is worthwhile coming for on its own and the view from the hotel is great and our room spacious. Hopefully an auspicious start.IMG 0659

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IMG 0663Dinner at the Lynton Cottage hotel was none too bad but breakfast was, shall we say, ok - everything there but not inspired. The man at reception is past his use by date and not helpful about allowing a little extra time for checkout which rather let the whole experience down. Pity.

The other staff are Polish students and they have been chatty, enthusiastic and friendly. 

We had time for a short look around Lynton and a walk down the cliff to Lynmouth, 20 mins downhill. There's not a huge amount to see but what there is is very pretty. The funicular railway is a miracle of Victorian engineering, powered by water, just great.

First stop Has to be Exeter due to a failure of my glasses. Fortunately I have a spare pair but it's very worrying not to have a usable second pair to hand. Several fruitless calls to opticians and finally Spec Tech in Exeter claim to be able to fix them.

Exeter seems very down at heel but Mr Spec Tech seems to have done the job - when he got back from his lunch. It cost £45 which seemed horrifying expensive but what choice is there?

Axminster and our friends are very welcoming and we enjoyed a superb fish dinner in Lyme Regis at the Hix Oyster and Fish house.

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IMG 0666Reluctantly we left our friends excellent B&B (Prestoller House) and had a tedious drive along the A31(?) with little to commend it.

We arrived early in Portsmouth in the midst of loading the ferry for Santander. No idea that there would be so many motorcycles. We thought it a good job we weren't late however the ferry actually did not depart until over 2 hours past it's scheduled time. 

No matter it was warm all day and the forecast rain came to nothing.

The late departure from Portsmouth will give a late arrival in Santander, docking around 7:30pm local time and some time to unload no doubt.

Mary's cold is not improving but luckily we have appropriate medication to stem some of the symptoms.

A couple of pre dinner drinks and dinner in the on board restaurant followed by a good nights sleep on board. Fortunately we had booked a cabin on board, better than a night in one of the seats!.

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IMG 0668A good lie in (possibly due to the wine last night?) and a tolerably good breakfast. Time however passes slowly on board and the ship is quite crowded. I'm not inclined to want to take a long cruise is this is what it's like.

Read a book, walk about, drink coffee, repeat. 

The ship takes a surprisingly long time to unload, quite a lot of it with us standing sweating in the hold with several hundred other people waiting to get out. Finally we gratefully emerge and get to our hotel, the nearby Grand Hotel Sardenero By 9pm

La Cania bar and cafe just around the corner does a nice tapas and a welcome drink.

No time to form any first impressions, we're struggling with the Spanish phrase book.

 

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IMG 0671An interesting breakfast in Santander across the road from the hotel. Actually a simple sandwich and coffee with the map in front of us.

The coast road west starts unimpressive you as we exit from Santander. It's a jumble of apartments, malls, factories and is uniformly big city tired. Finally though we get out into more rural areas albeit still covered in the haze that we have had throughout our visit to Europe.'

A very nice lunch at the very quiet seaside resort of Commillas, clearly we are here before the high season, and then on inland to Potes (pronounced Potez) and over the spectacular mountain pass to Riano for the night.

The Hostal Sainz is somewhat basic but will do. Lots of fellow bikers including at least one couple from the ferry.

IMG 0672We ate at Punto y Coma just down the street. A very nice lady with no English helped us order a array of dishes (salad, chips and hamburger) none of which were what we expected. Not expensive and very nice so we were not unhappy with our meal. We arrived at 8pm and we're told, I think, that she did not open until 8:30 but we were happy to wait. No one else turned up before we left at 10. Not a profitable evening for them.

Now I have Mary's cold :(

 

 

 

 

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IMG 0762Courtesy of UK's Three phone service we have mobile internet at no more cost than the £20 plan I bought hence we are able to keep in touch with the family over breakfast using the miracle of Whatsapp. Really good that the EU have stepped in to stop the vicious profiteering by the mobile phone companies. Now hopefully other countries will join in and regulate their mobile operators to stop this rort.

Anyway, after a surprisingly good breakfast at the Hostal Sainz and the purchase of appropriate medicine at the local pharmacy, we set off for a short run to Rioseco some way to the north west. We couldn't help but take a more scenic route through the San Isidro ski area and over the adjacent mountain pass. The temperature dropped below 10C for some of this and we spent a little time in the clouds. Very cool.

Little traffic at this time of year and the roads are a joy except for one stretch which seemed to be a collection of pot holes strung together with nasty lumps.

IMG 0760A very nice empanada at a bar in a town with a name I didn't catch. A most helpful lady showed us what we she thought we wanted before she served it.

Our night stop tonight is the highly recommended Don Felix Hotel and we shall dine in their restaurant. Apparently there is a laundrette in a town some 16km away so we shall avail ourselves of that tomorrow. Things are apparently getting smelly.

We sat in the town square for an aperitif while the locals attended mass after a walk, it was quite cold out tonight.

Dinner was a home cooked affair at Don Felix, actually pretty good with local trout.

 

 

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IMG 0766Seems that we are opposite the party bar. The locals leared up until gone 2am, very noisy and not helped by our colds which have started streaming. Most unpleasant. If we stay on then it will be with the windows closed and the air conditioning on.

A day for chores as it's a week since we left and despite great care the clean underpant supply is now' close to exhaustion. For the first time in memory google maps is helpful in finding a launderette - in a mall some 16km up the road, apparently in a shopping centre.

In the event it turns out to be true, the hyper market is vast but there is a small selection of individual retailers including a 3 washing machine self service. Many of the other spaces are either empty or closed, surprising on a Saturday morning, but perhaps they were all out partying outside our hotel last night?

Anyway, there is a very down at heal feeling about the place but the selection of goods in the hypermarket is vast. I passed on taking a photo so you'll have to make do with photos of the surrounds at Rioseco.IMG 0765

Returning to Don Felix, Mary has decided on an afternoon of watercolours and I settle down to plan the next stage of our route, there are many many options. Despite the weather being really nice today my cold has reached the miserable stage :(

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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IMG 0824Another nice dinner at Don Felix and early to bed to nurse my cold. It's another party night at the bar but this time we shut the window and hit the air conditioning. That fixes the problem For us but the management defiantly have a problem 

Today we drive with tissues to hand to a small village near Reinosa called Fontibre. The guest house (Postana Fontibre) is highly recommended and gets uniformly good reviews and is indeed very nice.

The drive has highlights but is hard going with our colds. Constant pain in the head! We are however particularly taken with the storks that have built some very precipitous nests.

Worse yet the restaurant in Fontibre is closed on Sunday (not what it says on Tripadvisor) so it's back on Mary's bike and 5km into Reinosa to a pizza place. The pizza place was pretty much the only choice as everything else was either closed or not opening for dinner until 9pm. Groan.

 

 

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IMG 0826A late start after not too bad a nights sleep. A bit of debate about where next or taking a sick day. Eventually we decided on a short ride as the forecast is for showers getting worse tomorrow.

Problematically the Internet failed at the Posana but luckily the Three roaming came into it's own and I was able to find what appeared to be a nice place at San Asensio (La Capelliana) in La Rioja (think of the wine). Google claims the journey will take most of 2.5 hours but by the time we have stopped and messed about it would be nearer 4.

There are some spectacular views and countryside, lakes, mountains, forest, farms and little or no traffic. Some pretty rough roads surfaces at points though. Overall we are feeling much improved on yesterday, still very snotty and coughing but not nearly as miserable.

La Capelliana is a real find and Mercedes has good English and the area seems lovely. A shower and off to explore.

IMG 0823Later,

Problems arose on our return to the only restaurant we were able to find in town as at 8pm it was not open. Unlocked yes, but in darkness with no one that we could find inside.

Fortunately the owners of La Capelliana came to the rescue and arranged a meal for us at I one of the bars in the village. Mercedes even came over to check that we had been looked after. 100% customer service!

 

 

 

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IMG 0845A second night at La Capelliana is an obvious choice despite the lack of restaurants in town. We are assured that the one will be open tonight and that a booking has been made.

After a very satisfactory breakfast Mercedes gives us a briefing on the area and places to visit. Two of the local ladies were very impressed with the size of the unit Mary is astride! They made it quite clear in sign language.

After some messing around finding a petrol station both for fuel and to replace my headlamp (the BMW tells you when the bulb has failed which is better than waiting for the local cops to notice) we made for the monastery at San Millan de la Cogolla. Fortune smiled on us and we arrived in time for the last tour of the morning (13:10) before the siesta.

The monastery is a working one but tours of the place show the opulence and wealth of the place. Make you wonder somewhat about the church. There's a very nice cafe just accord the road where we enjoyed a sit down lunch and glass of water.

In what remained of the afternoon we rode to the Basque town of Laguardia which gives is a splendid medieval hilltop town which is clearly popular with the tourists. We ate ice cream.

IMG 0846Finally back to San Asensio narrowly avoiding a couple of itinerant showers that were in the vicinity.

Some thoughts on La Rioja. Much of the area is benefiting from tourism with many of the towns clean and clearly doing pretty well. There are many, many splendid winery's and acres of vines so there is considerable employment and hence income for the locals. Towns off the beaten track such as San Asensio are doing less well, with litter and an unkempt, down at heal look with much abandoned property for sale.

Overall this is a great place to come for good wine, empty roads, pleasant temperatures (highs of 18-26C so far) and reasonably priced accommodation. It might be a different story in the summer when it is probably uncomfortably hot anyway. We seem to have timed this just right..... (Hopefully)

Later,

A quick drink on the square, curtailed when the makers came out of the bar. (The ladies were playing cards inside again).

Dinner at Casa Marisa was a set menu affair and not too bad at all. I have ended up with half a bottle of Rioja in the pannier that I don't know what to do with, well I do but not this morning.

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IMG 0851Tonight is booked at one of the Paradores hotels as recommended by the Morgan owners we met a couple of days ago. They spoke very highly of this government run chain and since there is one on our route to the Pyrenees we might as well give it a go. It's on special too as it's a bit over our usual price range.

The road from San Asensio first takes us through an extensive wine growing region (La Rioja) but this peters out in the rather unattractive outskirts of Lograno and though an unattractive area of poor farms and scruffy businesses.

The smell of the huge broon plants in flower is stunning now we can smell a bit

We stop for fuel at Tafalia where we are berated by the gas station attendant for some transgression with the impossible traffic islands surrounding the petrol station. We have no idea what he is on about and his shouting conveys no meaning. We buy the fuel anyway and ignore him although Mary ticks him off which he doesn't understand either. No points on either side.

IMG 0852From Tafalia (near Olite where we stayed a coupons of years ago) things improve markedly but we are very surprised to arrive at a roundabout in Sanguesa where we recall that we stopped for a meal last time.

The Paradores is in the pretty hilltop town of Sos del Rey Catolico and is remarkably like any other business chain hotel, basic rate ok but everything is extra. None of the personal touch of La Capelliana, we miss that already.

A walk around the town is pretty quick as it's quite small and we stop in a bar for a drink and in Mary's case a sketch. Dinner at the Cocina Del Principal is good but not sadly not stunning, it is however the best we've had in Spain.

 

 

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IMG 0867A comfortable nights sleep in the Paradore but the breakfast left a lot to be desired - well the eggs and bacon were cold and had been there for a while and the coffee was somewhat burnt. The rest of it was fine (bread, cheese, fruit and so forth) but it left me with an upset tum, probably the coffee.

Anyway there is not enough in Sos del Rey Catolico to hold us for another day and the forecast looks decidedly flakey. We hit the road late though as we struggle to find a sensible destination that's not too far and has a good ranking hotel. There are not many such and we are determined to get over the border for a decent meal.

We didn't make it too far before the Spyder started to make a fuss about a brake failure, something to take seriously even though it all seemed to be working fine. A good look at the ABS sensors (assisted by a random dog) showed nothing wrong but the manual suggested that it could be low on brake fluid. This turned out to be accurate as once we found a garage with some and put a few drops in the message went away. Some helpful German bikers came to offer assistance which while not necessary was more appreciated Than the dogs help.

Sporadic rain beset the day and once the over jacket and trousers were on they were not removed as it became colder and colder as we moved up the hill (min 8C). Neither of us are convinced that we haven't come this was before as many of the IMG 0858features seem familiar. A particular landmark was some topiary on the French side that seems very familiar.

Our hotel tonight L'Amoulat in Gourette is pretty hard to find and Doreen leads us to a dead end with a cart track coming off it. Not much use. A diversion gives us another route which does, after a surprising amount of time, take us there.

The room is somewhat basic and by the time we arrived we were throughly frozen. After a bath(!) we manage to warm up and dinner at 7:30 turns out to be the best meal since we left the UK. Une Bon Surprise!

The owner/manager/chef is a charming woman who speaks excellent English but is more than happy to assist us with our French. First rate.

We like France!

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IMG 0866The bed is a tad small at L'Amoulat but otherwise it's fine. Good breakfast though. The Porche drivers from last night head off shortly before us.

Lourdes is not so far and we detour through another mountain ski area through a town called Bareges and thence into Lourdes. These high passes are really most dramatic and there are huge numbers of cyclists enjoying(?) the climb up and the high speed runs down. Some seem to have no idea about which side of the road they need to keep to, there's lots of scope for it going wrong.

The Lonely Planet is more than somewhat disparaging of Lourdes and our first and second impressions do rather confirm the accuracy of their view.

The Best Western are not ready for us despite saying 2pm and it being 2:30 but we wait and eventually get into the room and sorted.

The remains of the day are spent in the Lourdes laundrette and in the bar next door (coffee I'm afraid) then back to the hotel. Not inspiring.

IMG 0865Dinner at the adjacent Chez Ly asiatic restaurant is similarly uninspiring. The dishes are (to our taste) bland unlike those we get in Malaysia. Pity.

Fortunately the highlights of the day were the mountain passes and not the rather dowdy Lourdes town. Tomorrow we will try to see the grottos of great fame but it's very hard to take the whole thing seriously when you read that the miracles were the visions of a 14 year old girl in the 19th century. Perhaps we missed something as did the Lonely Planet but I suspect not.

 

 

 

 

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IMG 0971The Best Western Beauséjour in Lourdes is, according to the Lonely Planet, the pick of a bad bunch. There are a lot of hotels here and our room is small by pretty much any standard but otherwise satisfactory. We don't help things by having to repack all our gear after wash day yesterday.

It's not actually raining this morning and after a satisfactory buffet breakfast in the hotel we decode to chance it and try to move on elsewhere. The Best Western does not entice us for a second night.

First though we feel that we must at least see the famous grotto. It's clearly signposted and indeed if it were not you only have to follow the hordes of people to find the large church that marks the spot. Failing that you can head for the highest density of tat shops you can find and that should do it too.

Never in the field of human endeavour have there been so many little shops devoted to selling what can only be described as rubbish. It's truly astounding.

The Grotto itself is unremarkable being a shallow depression in the rock with damp walls. Mary queued up to take a close look.

IMG 0972Water (from the grotto one assumes although there is no sign of this?) is dispensed in a series of taps around the base of the cliff. Many, many people are filling a myriad of containers (many purchased at the aforementioned tat shops) from these taps. It's hard to see how there can be enough water from the damp walls of the grotto to achieve this, doubtless nothing to do with the huge river flowing past 30 feet away.

There are baths too but we move away to see if the bikes are still on the footpath where we dumped them In the French manner and "get out of Dodge".

We only make it a few hundred meters before the rain sets in so an impromptu lunch stop is called - for an hour or so - in a very fine bakery. The decision gets made to go to Roquefort (not the cheese one) about 100km north as the rain radar shows the showers to be well spaced. A further impromptu stop has to be made under a covered market for half an hour but otherwise we make it to the St Vincent Hotel in Roquefort in good time and quite dry.

One of the St Vincent hotels claims to fame is their dinners, the owner is a chef (in the Michelin Guide) so it's an obvious call. For my taste it's a little avant guard but Mary think it excellent. Regardless the meal is beautifully presented and extremely good.

 

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IMG 1020The big question now is where to? We have explored many of the areas of the Dordogne and Loire so after some discussion and thought we head for the Atlantic coast and the sandspit of Cap Ferret. There are an astounding number of hotels in the area and the widest range of comments, prices, styles etc. Finally we settle on a high rating place, La Frégate.

Most of the roads are quiet forest affairs and when we finally get to a small town we stop initially for coffee but then for a small plate of local oysters. It would have been rude not to try them.

La Frégate seems very nice with a nautical theme and a good size room. Not content to linger there we walk off to see the sea which turns out to be a little further than the promotional material would suggest. No matter, we get an ice cream (from a young lady who recognized my hat and we discussed our mutual experience of Zanzibar and Tanzania for a while).

There is a small port where people still collect oysters and the like, The oysters are mostly farmed as far as can be seen. The beach seems to be under attack by the elements and there are several large trucks and diggers that we suspect are used to replenish the sand.

A walk along the very nice sand beach and then to the lighthouse (I climbed it for the view, others did not) and thence back to the rather remote La Frégate for a shower before dinner.

IMG 1021Mme. at the hotel recommends the waterfront La Pinnase cafe for dinner. This is an excellent choice except for the smokers who take liberties with the awning areas along the front deeming them to be outside, where smoking is permitted rather than inside where it is not.

A high spot apart from the lobster, was a boat with a piper went by. He wasn't very good but it was such a lovely sound.

None the less a very pleasant evening followed by a stroll along the pier to see the fishermen and thence back to the hotel.

 

 

 

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IMG 1023The coast road north from Cap Ferret may broadly follow the coast line but you can't see any of it as the land is low lying and forested. There is little traffic and and few bends until we reach the estuary of Girionde, a huge inlet that goes inland to Bordaux.

From here it's a ferry crossing from the tiny town of Le Verdon to the much larger Royan. No booking required and all uneventful except for the entire foredeck being full of smokers. Ugh.

Our destination today is the Les Jardins d'Aliénor at Le Chateau d' Oleron on the Island of Oleron, just off the coast (via a bridge). If it's nice we'll have two nights and a bit of a rest.....

Parking at Les Jardins is outside, fortunately no problem as there's a space opposite. The room and house are both charming with an unusual soft floor in the shower! So yes it's nice and two nights are on.

The acclaimed restaurant in the hotel is closed tonight (Monday of course) so Mme suggests that we go to the only open cafe, IMG 1024Comme Une Evidence, around the corner. Hobson's choice but actually very good with more oysters and a seafood stew

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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IMG 1071A day off so we start with a walk around the town which is built on top of an old castle or citadel as the locals should have it. The view of the tidal flats is amazing and we can see many people walking around digging up presumably some kind of shellfish?

There's a substantial small boat community in the port area and also many colored sheds with various artists and artisans plying their trade. Most interesting but of course it all stops at lunch time around noon. Daft really.

Back to the hotel, Mary for painting and me for a tour of the island, actually mostly of the lighthouse at the far end which has quite a history apparently. €3 get you a walk to the top and a few more get you a lunch of, you guessed it, more oysters.

Pleasingly the weather has picked up enormously and it's warmer and the mornings overcast has gone by early afternoon. I am also able to acquire proper tea bags for herself as the ones we brought worth us have nearly run out.

Some discussion of our next destination and we agree we need to start back towards Calais and who we will do a little larger day tomorrow and make for the Loire valley.

There are several bands playing in the square tonight (not all at once) and we watch the brass band until they stop and then wander down to the Port area for dinner at La Courtine (the hotel has a fine menu but at €49 per head plus grog we feel it's a bit expensive). La Courtine offers a wide range of IMG 1074seafood including oysters and moule frites and is very popular and very good. Only marred again by smoking on the terrace.

Finally we drifted back to the square where a band were playing to a large and friendly crowd in a very French manner. (clarinet, violin, drums, bass and accordion). Lots of fun.

PS apparently 21 June is "music day" in the whole of France. Who knew?

 

 

 

 

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IMG 1091Reluctantly leaving Ile d'Oleron we are making a larger day to Brissac Quince, near Angers. It's forecast to be hot today - mid twenties - which will be a relief.

The mornings highlight is the cranes that have taken up residence on the power pylons along the route. Doubtless this is not popular with the power company!

After an hour or so we stop at Sugeries for a much needed water and then onwards. No backroads today as there is too much distance to cover and the temperature has crept up to the high twenties.

Someway beyond our stop, in the middle of the countryside, on the D746, the Spyder coasts to a stop. Motor running but nothing happens, a brief look reveals the belt has gone west so no more driving today.

Luckily there is a bit of shade under a hedge at the side of the road, unluckily this is the home of a termite mound complete with unhappy termites. Quite some time on the phone including a very frustrating and lengthy call to a fellow in an Asian call IMG 1092center whose knowledge of the UK and English was particularly limited, he could not spell or pronounce "Slough". Finally a tow truck arrived and took Mary and the Spyder to Cognac and I drove there under my own steam (peage in 36C heat).

The problem with the trike is much more major than at first glance as the sprocket has come off the main drive and made a mess of various engine parts. It's going to be costly and we won't know if the parts are available or how much they will be until the morning.

The people at "Quad Bike Evasion" in Cognac are more than helpful, have good English and help us arrange a hotel and point us towards a rental car company (closed of course by now, after 6pm). They even give Mary a lift there.

The Hôtel François Premier in Cognac town Centre has a most welcome shower and beer. Le Coq d'Or over the road is much less lovely and has mostly non existent service and A barely adequate dinner.

Not the greatest day.

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IMG 1094A restless night with much to think about.

Firstly (well after breakfast) I ride over to Europcar, which turns out to be somewhat further down the same road that I'd tried last night, and rent a "Twingo" for a couple of days then check out of the hotel and go back to Quad Bike Evasion to find out what they know about the spares.

The news is all bad but broken to us over a period. Ultimatly it turns out that it will be several thousand Euros and at least 15 days to get the parts from Canada. The insurance folk have been on the phone several times and so we invoke them to get a plane ticket back to the UK for Mary, we obviously can't hang about for that long.

Curiously the insurance will pay to repatriate the bike to the UK but not if we have it repaired first! Then they will only pay for us to come and get it! Weird.

Anyway back to the mundane with a trip the Cognac launderette being the most pressing where we have a long and inconclusive discussion on what to do next.

IMG 1093The Quad Bike Evasion folk are happy to store my bike until Monday (unlike the sods at Europcar) and so we decide to keep the car until then and have the next few days around La Rochelle before we both return independently to the UK. Not the end to the trip we had hoped for But no dis aster either.

The drive to La Rochelle is pleasingly uneventful but having no hotel booking we end up on the Ile d'Re (nearby) searching for a nice hotel which we finally find at the Hotel Galion in Saint Martin de Re.

Dinner at Le Tout du Cru could not be better with local seafood and a nice bottle of wine. We sat outside undisturbed by smokers and rolled back to the hotel for hopefully a better nights sleep.

 

 

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IMG 1155Awoke this morning to the surprise news that the Brits have voted Brexit, just like they've gone with the turkeys and voted for Christmas. An amazing decision and very hard to see how it could work out well.

We spent some more time on the "what to do with the Spyder" issue and have reached a decision that seems to make sense. We spent the morning attending to the consequences and are both satisfied if saddened that we will probably lose the three wheeler.

The town of Saint Martin de Re is old (in fact another fortified town) and very pretty. We spent a very satisfactory few hours walking around before returning to the hotel for a paint and a research on what to do tomorrow (La Rochelle). It's still sunny but quite a bit cooler today.

Somewhat later we returned to the town for an excellent ice cream and to make a booking for dinner. Being Friday we expect there to be more pressure on the restaurants. Apparently the place is just heaving in the summer proper, we can only imagine.

IMG 1156The port is overflowing with boats as the lock gates open with the high tide. Yachts are mooring some 5 or 6 abreast

Dinner at Les Embruns was pretty good with more fresh seafood.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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IMG 1157We sadly take our leave of the very excellent Le Hotel Galeon and their friendly staff. This was one of the best hotels of the trip.

A drive around the island and a walk up the very scary lighthouse Phare des Baleine followed by a lunch of mussels. There are a lot of people cycling and visiting the Ile de Re and we assume that this will only get worse and become intolerable over the next few weeks. A place to visit in the off season only?

From there E LeClerk has a selection of very cheap suitcases one of which is necessary to repatriate Mary and her gear to the UK on Monday. The talk amongst the Brits is all about the Brexit and the recession that they expect will follow.

Finally Google guide us to the hotel St Nicholas in La Rochelle. It's an amazing tangle of tiny streets and just as well we booked a car park as there is absolutely nowhere to park. The centre is a substantially pedestrian zone.

A swift excursion to the quay and surrounding streets shows us that the place is flooded with people, presumably a sunny Saturday has brought them out? TripAdvisor provides us with a recommendation for Le P'tit Nicolas for dinner and we head back to the hotel to clean up before dinner.

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IMG 1261An active day of sightseeing with the ancient and modern. The city of La Rochelle has much to commend it.

First the three towers, the oldest parts of which are 1000 years old. You can climb them all but need to get the timing right as they shut for lunch. Much of the documentation is also in english so we gained quite a bit of background but the main thing is the stellar views from the top.

Second (after lunch) a Segway tour of the city. This is a great way to get oriented as you can cover a lot of ground quickly and with an English speaking guide it makes a lot clearer then you can achieve on your own.

Finally a trip to the huge modern aquarium which has displays in both French and English. Very colorful and interesting but we'd had enough by this point so back to the hotel for a shower before drinkies and dinner.

We had dinner at what turned out to be a bar with snacks, not actually a restaurant which was a shame for our last night. It was a pity about the dinner but we do like La Rochelle and would commend it and the various local islands to anyone looking for an interesting few days visit.

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IMG 1264Up early for a complex day getting Mary to Bordeaux for her flight back to the UK, my to return the hire car, bidding a fond farewell to the Spyder and recovering my bike in Cognac.

All of this worked and I ended up fairly late (7pm) at L'Hotel Val de Vienne somewhere south east of Poitiers. This is a very tranquil and idyllic spot in very rural France. Well worth a visit and, apparently, there is a motorcycle track nearby.

Tomorrow will be a thrash towards Calais that I am not looking forward to.

I suspect that may be the last of our motorcycle trips to France which is very sad. I shall miss them a lot.

 

 

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