France, Switzerland, Italy, Spain & Portugal 2017!

“Pour les uns, qui voyagent, les etoiles sont des guides”

 

I came back from the bank holiday weekend after taking part in the BMW GS Trophy UK challenge, and slept like a baby. It was a tough weekend and the start of my summer holidays. On the Tuesday morning when I woke up I made a booking for that evening to France via Dover to go for a ride for a couple of weeks…………..destination…………Tarifa Spain.

 I had three things planned for this holiday……

1. See Broken Social Scene play live on the Tuesday night in Paris.

2. Go to Switzerland and visit Tim PS, whom I met on the road just outside Winnipeg in Canada last year.

3. Get to Tarifa…………

That was it.

I had no planned route and no plans other than the three above. That’s my kind of holiday, no plans, no routes, no time schedule, (other than the ferry home.) and most importantly no stress.

Tuesday

I packed my things on to the bike and left my flat in east London on Tuesday afternoon and rode down to FWR Tyres In Kennington and picked up a set of Michelin Anakee Wilds for my trip as the Anlas Capra X would not last the journey and I had left it to late to get another set of Anlas Capra X, so settled for second best and piece of mine that I had tyres with me and didn’t have to have the hassle of trying to find a shop that has my tyres when out and about riding in Spain……..like I said…..stress free.

I then rolled out of south London along the Old Kent road in out to the leafy burbs of Greenwich and eventually out on to the A2 and wound my way down to Dover.

When I arrived at Dover the Official at the gate informed me that I had made an error in my booking and that I was booked to leave Calais and sail to Dover not the other way around. After a few minutes of sweet talking the office staff they called the ferry agency I booked through and switched the sailing times around for me and then I was free to jump on the boat and get moving towards France.

After an hour and a half of bumbling our way across the English Channel we docked in Calais and the ferry doors opened. I rolled off the ferry and on to dry land and out towards the highway and on to Paris. Only 182 miles. I arrived in Paris quite late around 10pm, found the venue, got my ticket and caught the tail end of the gig. I had made it. The gig was awesome as usual and the Parisian crowd were having a great time. After the gig I had some late night tapas with Kevin & the band. I met a few new friends who gave me their numbers and told me to hit them up on the way back to London which was great.

The band had a deadline to get on the road to Barcelona for the Primavera Sound Festival the next day, so after an hour or so we said out goodbyes, and wished each other well on our travels and left Paris behind.

I rode around the city for a while, along the Champs-Élysées & along the Seine to the Eiffel Tower to do a bit of sight seeing. I noticed he petrol stations were super busy with cars trying to fill up with fuel, there may have been a fuel shortage in the city, but not across the country.

I rolled out of central Paris and out to the suburbs then on to the highway to find a place to swing my hammock for the night. I pulled into a highway petrol station/rest area, and found a couple of suitable trees in a tucked away location at the end of the parking lot to make camp for the night. I got my hammock out and jumped inside and settled down for a good nights sleep.

Wednesday

I woke up and started to pack up camp, and when doing so dropped my phone on the floor…. screen side down….. I bent down to pick it up, not holding out much hope it wouldn’t be broken…… And it was, into what seemed like a thousand pieces.

What was even worse the camera function had stopped working all together…I was not a happy camper.

I packed up and left the patrol station to find somewhere to fix it.

After searching a few towns I found a place who said he could do it. Whilst he repaired the phone I went to wash the bike as it was still filthy from the GS Trophy UK and I felt it was time to give her clean.

It was baking hot and I was getting in to the day. I scrubbed her clean and went to pick up my phone. It worked ok. I carried on out of town and rode through the roads past the farmland and fields of poppies.

It was a pleasant afternoon, until a murky dark cloud started showing it’s ugly big head on the horizon.

As I approached the storm I stopped to put my waterproofs on and it started to bucket it down with rain. I waited for 30 minutes under a shelter, but it was not going to stop any time soon, and I was losing time.

So I rode out from under the shelter, embraced the rain and made my way through out to the border with Switzerland. It was a long ride, getting wet through and my visor steaming up and vision being blurred by the rain on my visor all the time.

Day turned to night and I eventually found my way across the Swiss border and into the village where MR Tim PS lives.

By now and for most of the ride to Switzerland my phone had started to play up on me, and the electronics on the screen appeared all scrambled so I would have to take a trip to the Apple shop in Geneva in the morning to get it fixed once and for all as it was unusable in its current state.

I arrived at the village and it was still pouring down with rain. I found Tim’s house but he was not at home just now, so I went to the little restaurant around the corner from his house and ordered a cool beer and asked for some food. I was promptly informed the kitchen was closed.

I begged them to do something, they suggested some cheese and duck pate and some foie gras…how could I resist?. I settled in to eat some of the best pate du foie gras I have even had the pleasure to eat…after 40 minutes or so Tim Arrived at the restaurant. I asked for the bill…..which turned out to be 48 Euro! Wow.

A nice price to match the nice food. I paid the bill and sad my thanks and went back with Tim in the pouring rain to his house to hang out for the rest of the evening

It was great to see him again and see what he had been up to since I left him on the road in Canada last year. We stayed up late drinking beer and having good times. Around 2am I had a shower and went to sleep in comfortable bed.

Thursday

I left Tim’s house early in the morning and rode to Geneva to the Apple shop to get my iPhone fixed. It was a half hours ride from Tim’s house to Geneva. I arrived at 8.30 and managed to get the phoned sorted out after paying more bloody money, then made my way out of Geneva towards the Mont Blanc Tunnel.

When I arrived an hour or so later the tunnel was closed due to a truck breaking down in the tunnel, so all the vehicles had to wait until the back log and broken down truck were moved along.

I rode back down the mountain and picked up at postcard for my daughter and a sticker for my bike in Chamois then made my way back to the tunnel entrance where the vehicles were still queuing. Being on a bike I made my way towards the front of the queue and waited with everyone else for the tunnel to open.

After 30 minutes or so it did.

I expected the tunnel to be colder but this time around it was pleasantly warm and rode through it happy to get some relief from the sun outside.

Before long I had ridden the 10km tunnel and was out on the Italian side of the Alps.I turned right at Pre- Saint Didier and rode through some gorgeous roads up and through the hairpins via La Thuile and back in to France across the Petite Saint Bernard Pass and then down the other side. My morning and afternoon were spent riding the hairpins and S bends through the hills.

 I stopped at a small café to have a spot of lunch and rest a while, then pushed on through the Parc National de la vanoise, past Grenoble and through to southern France where I stopped again at a pub in a small village town for dinner had some food in the town. Rode put of town and found somewhere to eat in a small French village, then made my way out to the country side and found an empty fruit and veg stall on the side of a farmers field where I could hang my hammock for the night.

Friday

I woke up I rode through Pyrenees heading west enroute for Santander, I had the most glorious morning riding through the twisting roads and climbing up through the mountains and down the other side, as I started on the main road west the weather started to turn and I was heading into rain again.

Not again. I told myself “I’m on holiday!” And promptly turned around and headed back into the sunshine and towards Barcelona. I arrived around 11pm and the city was hot and sticky.

I rode around to the the Gothic quarter and found a nice tapas bar to grab some food and beer then headed back out on the road again and headed towards Tarragona. About 20 minutes out of town I took a slip road off the highway and road into a police check point. police pull me over, yellow lights are not allowed in Spain so I had to remove my covers and also turn the lights down low as they deemed them too bright. They also told me off for my chain covering my number plate. They then breathalysed me and obviously it came in negative, told me to remove the chain from my number plate and sent me on my way.

As soon as I was around the corner I put my yellow covers back on the bike and put the chain back where it was, then rode on to find somewhere to sleep for the night.

Saturday

I woke up and rode to the coast, it was so hot and sunny and I was in no rush to go anywhere.

I let everyone overtake me, rode along and sat back listening to tunes and letting the cars and trucks go past. around 2pm I approached a roundabout under a motorway bridge nice and slow and notice the road was shiny and thought it was the road melting in the heat of the day, but it turned out to be a spill of diesel and as i was leaning to the left to go around the roundabout the bike slipped away on the diesel and I came off.

It wasn’t a bad crash as it was so low speed and I had my spare tyres strapped to the side of the bike which took some of the force away from the bike being damaged as it slipped down the road away from me.

As I said, I was taking it nice and slow and letting everyone overtake me that day, so luckily there was no cars or trucks behind me to run me over as I came off. After a few seconds the bike came to a stop and so did I.

No damage to me, hardly any to the bike other than the windscreen had cracked from top to bottom as I had my bottle of Fanta tucked in behind the satnav and screen, so the screen had no movement in it, hence the crack, there were a few scuffs on the Barkbusters handlebar protectors and a few scratches on the mirrors, and crash bars other than that it was fine.

I picked the bike up and brushed myself off and sat down for a moment or two. It was the first road accident I have had in many many many years and was somewhat shaken by it, and annoyed at myself for thinking it was melting tar rather than diesel on the road. My spirits had dropped dramatically in only a few moments & I thought about going home there and then. I stood up and walked around the bike and looked at the damage, swore a little and sat down again. checked myself over again. No damage. swore a little, breathed deeply for a minute or two and got my mid right and decided to carry on.

I started up the bike and rode away and on to the seaside via a few towns here and there.

I went to Mojacar, rode around the beaches and cliffs and along a coastal road which I would have loved to slept by for the night but couldn’t find any trees for my hammock!!!

I parked up and went to the sea to have a wash and clean my feet and change my socks and a bunch of guys form Ukraine were having a party on the beach, they called me over and gave me some beers to have later on which was really nice of them!DSCF9634.JPG

I rode on to find somewhere to eat and found a roadside tapas bar which had some really tasty food and beer. I left there after an hour and found a sweet spot at a petrol station to sleep for the night!

 Sunday.

I woke up in the petrol station and rode to Velefique. I was told about the road by a friend and it was going to be a highlight of the trip and it didn’t disappoint!

Puerto de Velefique (or Alto de Velefique) is a high mountain pass, at an elevation of 1,820m above the sea level, located in Sierra de Los Filabres, in Almería Province, Andalusia, Spain.

Starting from Velefique, at an elevation of 955m above the sea level, the ascent is 11 km long. The average percentage is 7.8 %!

It was a sweet ride up to the top and I was the only one on the rode. I rode all the way up to the top and then came down again and filmed it on my GoPro. I couldn’t lean as far as I wanted to because I had my tyres strapped to the side of the bike, but it was nice all the same. Such a lovely road. A hidden Gem of southern Spain!

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA I rode on from Velefique towards Malaga past and through the The Sierra Nevada mountain range and after a while stopped for fuel.

Whilst at the sleepy petrol station in the middle of nowhere I decided to change my trousers for shorts and whilst changing in the WC some theiving git stole my phone from my bike.

I came out and looked for it everywhere. I used the petrol stations phone to call mine and it was already switched off. I then called my brother back home in England and asked him to disable my phone so it would be useless other than in parts to the thief and then called the police to report it stolen. After half an hour they arrived at the petrol station and I then followed them back to the local village to make my report.

They were really nice police officers and made me laugh a lot whilst filling out the report. after we had done the report I had a cup of coffee with them and they showed me the police BMW R1200 he had at the back of the station.  Sadly no pictures of it and now and all the photographs I had taken previously were lost when the phone was stolen at the petrol station. I was more annoyed about losing the pictures more than anything else!

I was also using my phone for information and maps to make my way around on my journey and was now left with only my Garmin Nav V to navigate with. It’s clunky at the best of times.

I left the police station and made my way to meet my friend Ana in Malaga, I was meant to meet her at the Burger King Near the Beach there, but I rode to the wrong beach and wrong BK. I carried on another 15 miles down the coast and eventually found her!

I went back to the place where she was staying and quickly charged up my laptop and worked out a route to go to next, had a quick shower, and then gave Ana a lift to the train station via getting some food, as she was flying back to England that evening. I rode out of Malaga and eventually went past the Rock of Gibraltar and eventually arrived around 2pm in Tarifa. I rode around the town for a while then found somewhere to hang my hammock!

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Monday

I woke up to the sound of a moped riding around the place where I slept and a local chap taking pictures of my bike and hammock. I rolled out of my hammock and could see the waves crashing upon the shoreline next to me, in the distance across the water only 10km away was the continent of Africa, and the city of Tangiers begging me to come and take a look around…..sadly it wouldn’t happen this time as I didn’t have enough time ahead of me, and I knew If I got on that ferry to Tangiers it would be a long time until I came back again……if ever. I’ve no doubt Africa would swallow me up and knowing me I’d try and make my way down to South Africa no matter how unprepared I would be!

So I stayed where I was and took a look around Tarifa. I remember around 7 years ago when I did my first ever long ride around Europe on my BMW F650gs, I met a father and son on the ferry over to France and I asked them where they were going, they told me they were riding down to the south of Spain to Tarifa, it sounded hot and sunny, which was the complete opposite of my trip that year which was full of rain and wet for 80% of the time I was riding. Ever since then when I’ve gone for a long ride I’ve wondered why I don’t go to Tarifa and experience what they did all those years ago, hot and sunny weather?. So finally here I am in Tarifa, and it did not disappoint. Although it was pretty windy Turns out that Tarifa is a big surfing town, I’d call it the Newquay of Spain. I rode around the old town and took in the scene.

I left early in the morning after buying a sticker for the bike and made my way up to Seville and into Portugal as I had never been there and wanted to ride to the most south westerly point of the country, Cape Saint-Vincent. It took me most of the day to get there, but the ride through the Algarve was worth it.

The views of the Cape are stunning. Vast cliffs that rise up from the water forming the start of south west land mass of Europe, the ocean bashing against either side of the Cape. It was really really windy too. I thought st one point my bike might be blown over and me over the side of the cliff!!

 I had a look around the place and bought a sticker from the old monastery then made my way back along the same road through the little villages and found somewhere to have a spot of late lunch and write some postcards. A young dude from Germany who was traveling around befriended me for my stay and we talked about bikes and travel etc. I pushed on through the late sunny afternoon in the direction of Madrid and soon the day turned to night and I found myself looking for somewhere to camp for the night.

I found another suitable petrol station with a place to hang my hammock, sadly though it turned out to be right next to the toilet and most of the people passing through ended up using it making it a rather noisy place to stay, not to mention the couple that spent an hour in there doing all sorts of weird shit I wont write about on here!

Tuesday

I woke up to the sounds of jet planes screaming past over head. A great wake up call if ever there was one!

I washed up and packed up my camp and rolled out towards Madrid. The roads became busier the closer I came to Madrid. You could tell you were about to hit a big capital city as the roads were getting wider, the lanes multiplied & more & more traffic started to build up!

The peace and quiet of the last few days, only to be replaced by millions of people and their cars!

I made my way into the city centre and had a ride around.  Charged my laptop in the Apple Store there and bought myself a new phone, however it wouldn’t sync because I needed the UK SIM card!. Doh!

I went to visit my brothers mother-in-law as she lived in Madrid’s suburbs and it would be rude to be so close by and not too. Then I rode around and found a tyre fitting garage that allowed me to use there air and settled down for the afternoon to change my tyres.

An hour or so later and it was mission accomplished. A new set of tyres and a fresh feel to the bike. I could corner again as they were not hanging off the side of the bike!!

I rode out of Madrid and stopped off at Guadalajara and found a place for some nice tapas and some beer!

A cool dude called Jamie was walking past and stopped to talk about my bike and were I was from, I offered him a chair and bought him a beer and we talked about bikes and life for a while. I told him about my route where I had seen, where I was off to and he told me of a nice road near by that I would be able to find a sweet spot to put my hammock up for the night.

Jamie & I

He offered to ride out with me to the road and show me where it was, so I accepted. I paid my bill and gave Jamie a lift back to his house so he could pick up his motorbike and we rode out of Guadalajara towards the countryside. A few miles later we were at the road I was going to take and we pulled over, shook hands and said our goodbyes, then I rolled on into the night along the quiet country road passing villages and fields of crops I couldn’t make out in the dark. I passed through the villages and eventually came to the hairpin in the road which Jamie had told me about, and then saw the castle set upon the hillside lit up in the dis.ance.

I made my way down the hairpin and it rolled into another and another and another until I came to bottom of the hill where there was a sweet clearing and trees in which I could take the bike into and off the road and hang my hammock for the night. It truly was a nice place to sleep. A great view of the castle lit up on the hill side, the silhouettes of the hills in the distance, the stars above my head and peace and quiet. Bliss!

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Blurred, but not from the beer!

Wednesday

I woke up very late in the day. It was so warm and comfortable in my hammock that I didn’t really want to get up or move, but the sun was baking me at the same time and sleeping with all my clothes on….it was starting to get hot, it was like  so I slipped out the hammock and started to pack up camp, brushed my teeth, changed my clothes, noticed my feet were dusty and black where I wasn’t wearing socks becasue of the heat, thought what the hell and jumped on the bike to ride away, when all of a sudden I realised what the sound of the water was……… It was a fresh water fountain………with trough. Maybe it was built years ago for the cattle that would be heareded down the mountain…but right now it was for the animal who had dirty feet!. It was a god send. I stripped to my pants and had a wash in the trough in the blazing heat surrounded by ice cold fresh water. What a find!

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The Castle upon the hill

After my much needed wash I popped my clothes on and made my way down through the hairpin and out towards the Spanish plains.

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my hotel!

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I picked some wildflowers by the road to brighten up my ride!

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I rode on on through northern Spain and across the Pyrenees and eventually made my way back onto France. It was a long day of riding quiet roads and avoiding traffic as much as possible. I stopped for some late lunch at the monastery in Roncesvalles and met American folks doing the Camino de Santiago, had a chat with them for a while then rode on through the forests of the Pyrenees which were just beautiful and then back on in to France. I rode on through Bordeaux and started to look for somewhere to sleep for the night, I pulled of the highway into a truck stop but couldn’t find anywhere I was comfortable with so decided to to ride on to find another place, as I was rejoining the carriageway I clipped my GoPro which was attached to the right-hand side pannier on a road cone and it smashed off……….into the darkness it went………I threw out the anchor, jammed on the brakes and came to a stop. put the hazard lights on a rolled the bike back towards the cone i jhad knocked over to see if i could see the GoPro anywhere. 

You have to put yourself in the scene. It’s dark, very very dark, I’m on the side of a 4 lane highway, there are steep banks either side of the highway with deep long grass lining the banks, and i’m looking for a needle in a haystack……but there was no way i was leaving without it. After my phone was stolen I started using my go pro for pictures so this was all the photos i had left of my tour, and there was no way i was leaving them behind. It just required patience and logic. After 20 minutes of searching I found one of the clips from the go pro in the long grass around 15 meters from where I had clipped the cone, then I narrowed it down to the area I found the clip to a three metre radius, and after another 15 minutes of searching like an oasis in the desert there is was in front of me hidden deep in the grass. I had found it. Whoooo Hooooo. Happy days.

I saddled up and about 3 miles later I found a nice spot to hang my hammock at at petrolstation/truckstop. It had been a long day so I made camp and hit the hay!

Thursday

I woke up near Bordeaux and made my way in to the petrol station restaurant and grabbed myself a couple of cappuccinos to see m in to the new day.

I went back to the bike and started packing up my things. I sat down on the bench and had a smoke whilst planning my route to Paris. Route planned and loaded into the sat nav I rolled out of my hotel and on to the road to Paris!

The day was long and slow, I made good time along the highway and made it to Paris for around 5pm.

Friday & Saturday

Hanging in Paris for a few days……

Riding a motorbike a round Paris is lawless.

That’s the best way I can think of to describe it!

If you think London is bad, think again. Most Londoners would shit themselves riding here for the first time. The roads are CLOGGED with cars, motorcycles, moped, bicycles, trucks, bin men emptying bins in the middle of the rush hour and not giving a shit about the queue of traffic building up behind them. Really. They couldn’t care less that you want to get somewhere they have a job to do and will do it regardless.

Deliveries are made in the middle of the road, again not caring about the traffic building up behind them, slowing the city down even more and causing further delays to peoples journeys, not that they do themselves any favours, as usually when the light turns green it takes most Parisians 5 seconds to realise and by that time only 5 or so cars will get through.

 I loved it.

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Arc du Triomphe

I can kind of believe it too. They have no congestion charge zone so all traffic comes and goes as it pleases. Motorbikes regularly ride in the bus lanes and cycle lanes and pavements and through zebra crossings, ANYTHING GOES. And you get away with it. I Love Paris.

 Sunday

I left Paris early on Sunday morning and had one last blast of 100mph + all the way to Calais. The bike needed it after being cooped up in the city for so long and after one fuel stop I reached Calais 90 minutes after leaving Paris. and eventually home back to England via the channel tunnel.

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Total 4276 Miles

One thought on “France, Switzerland, Italy, Spain & Portugal 2017!

  1. Read every word Julian, felt I was with you all the way, wish I had been. Well done you for such an epic journey with such interesting comments. Really super to read. Lots of love Dad. xxx

    Like

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