The recent Oxford Section trip to Spain had both ‘long’ (two week) and ‘short’ (one week) option. Brian has posted some excellent videos of the ‘short’ trip so here is a brief report on the ‘long’ trip – until we joined up with the rest of the party at La Franca. We will post a photo album later.
The trip was planned by Norbert Rodriguez and was designed to experience the most important sites in Northern Spain and Portugal. Unfortunately Norbert was taken ill just before the trip, happily he is much better now, so we had to improvise! Many thanks to Martin and Gwen our members resident in Spain for helping with restaurants and visiting the sites. First stop on the tour was Burgos, we arrived late and had to navigate some narrow cobbled streets but it was worth it – we ended up right next to the cathedral.
The following day we set of for Segovia and Avilia, on the way to Salamanca. In what was to become our normal practice we quickly split up into three groups, but amazingly we all seemed to end up in the right place at the right time!
We journeyed to Segovia, stopping for lunch near the massive roman aqueduct and then stopped at Avila, with has very large 12C walls which featured in the novel ‘The Gun’ by CS Forster and later in a film with Sophia Loren – we managed a team photo! We then experienced the only rain of the long trip, a thunderstorm on the way into Salamanca, after stopping to let the storm pass we arrived safely. Otherwise the weather was continuous sunshine!
We had a great evening in Salamanca, eating late as is the Spanish custom. The following day Jurgens led us on a great ride past a lake following a wonderful switch back road that crossed into northern Portugal near a dam on the Duoro river. The scenery had changed now and was much greener with steep sided valleys and along the Duoro river, vineyards. We followed the Duoro all the way to Porto to stay at another five star hotel, the HF Ipanema Park.
Crossing into Portugal you do notice that the drivers are crazy. The central line is purely advisory, even on unsighted hairpins and the drivers can come from anywhere! Before the trip I read about a British ex-pat motorcyclist who gave up riding his motorcycle in Portugal as it was just to dangerous!
Porto really surprised me, I had thought it would be a pale imitation of Lisbon, but in fact it has its own charm and a beautiful old town, although teh streets are steep. We visited Offley, one of the many English port makers, and we had lunch at the Sandeman restaurant on the banks of the Duoro.
From Porto we journeyed up the coast to Santiago de Compostella and had to endure the terrible hardship of lunch at the Parador at Baione. The menu del Dia was horribly expensive with three courses, wine, bread, coffee for about €12 – and Dick even managed to acquire an extra salad Nicoise that looked enough to feed a family!
I am sure had Norbert been with us we would have been put through our paces more extensively but you could certainly get used to the Spanish food and lifestyle.
Santiago de Compostella was one of the highlights of the tour, especially the Cathedral, the destination for the ‘Way of St James’ pilgrimage which starts in France.
In the Cathedral you can visit the tomb of Saint James and also the museum and cloisters which give a great view of the square in front of the Cathedral. The Parador, the building with the red roof, is reputedly the oldest hotel in the world.
Pilgrims traditionally carried a staff, gourd for water and the scallop shell to show that they were on the pilgrimage. Gwen managed to acquire this modern day set, most of us just made do with some stickers!
Santiago does attract long distance travellers and we met this very nice German F800GS rider outside the Parador who had come from India and was on his way to the Atlas mountains in Morocco – yes the Parador does have motorcycle parking!
We travelled along the coast roads to reach Cap Finisterre, the most westerly point in Galicia, literally the end of the earth in latin. Pilgrims traditionally burn their boots here on finishing the pilgrimage. According to Wikipedia the most westerly point in Europe is actually Cabo da Roca in Portugal. We suffered another four course Parador lunch at Ferrol, an important naval port rather like Portsmouth in the UK.
The following day some of us decided to travel south to Leon, crossing a fantastic bridge over the AP66. We then had lunch next to the Cathedral with fantastic views, weather and food.
Finally we travelled back through the Picos to reach La Franca at about 18:00. The total distance covered for the long trip two weeks was about 2,000 miles, Steve, Ruth and George probably did more as they rode all of the Picos routes as well.
Many thanks to everyone for making it such a good trip and to Ruth for taking some great photographs from the bike. Steve Wicks did a great job as tail end and despite some sat nav and routing problems we all arrived in the end. I may even stop having nightmares about the drop off system soon!
Many thanks to Norbert for helping to organise the trip – all we need now is a trip to Southern Spain to cover the Moorish period.