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Thread: Santander to Roscoff via Pyrenees

  1. #1

    Santander to Roscoff via Pyrenees

    So late last June, our band of four riders set off for a ten-day trip from Spain, through France before heading home again. Two Daves, one Mark and a Phil.

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    In addition to my GS, there were two Pans and a brand-new Triumph Trophy, which Mark had just had its first service carried out.
    We left our start point in Frodsham Cheshire and headed down the A49 etc to just outside of Gloucester, avoiding motorways as much as possible and only stopping for drinks and ice creams as it was bloody roasting.

    The first night was spent at a rather disappointing hotel / bar and which stopped serving food at half past four during the day. Of course, we arrived at about quarter to five.

    Luckily there were some rather good food places nearby and so we survived despite roasting hot and not very good rooms and no breakfast.
    The following morning, we set off for Plymouth using the motorway as far as Exeter before heading over Dartmoor and the stunning scenery.
    Just before we left the main road, Mark suddenly realised that he had left his paperwork and passport in the wardrobe in the hotel and a mad dash followed as he went back to get it whilst we enjoyed a fantastic ride to Plymouth and to meet the ferry for Santander.
    We parked up for an ice cream and watched her arrive

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    We’d phoned the last hotel several times to see if the papers were there, if Mark had collected and if he’d set off back for Plymouth.
    Meantime, we waited rather impatiently in the hot sun at the dock wondering if he’d make it back in time. He did.

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    We joined the queue of bikes and cars waiting to board, getting slowly hotter and hotter in the mid-day sun before at last entering the bowels of the ferry where it was at least a bit cooler.

    The ferry crew made light work of securing the bikes and of the four of us went to our two cabins.

    Ours had windows which, I hadn’t realised, could not be opened. At least the air conditioning worked and so it was comfortable, in fact much more so that the previous hotel.

    We dropped one of the higher berths to create bunk beds so leaving us more room to move around.

    I was glad that we’d booked two cabins because four in one cabin would have been really tight.
    After what seemed like an eternity, we were off and heading out of Plymouth Harbour.

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    The sea was amazingly calm even into the Bay of Biscay.

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    Britany Ferries did their best to keep us entertained as we had a few drinks and watched the cabaret acts. A really good duo were on for a while and we then went to eat.

    Sad really because most of the food was rather dull and with little choice unless, of course, you wanted to pay a good bit more in the A la Carte Restaurant which we didn’t.

    After a decent kip, the same situation occurred over breakfast. Pretty shite unless you wanted to pay much more .

    Lunchtime that day, we arrived in Santander where it was 39 degrees and absolutely roasting again.

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    We went down retrieved our bikes and waited for what seemed like ages to dis-embark. A couple of laps of various roundabouts and we were off to our first night in Spain at Pamplona after stopping to admire this little beauty at the Port.

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    We soon found the hotel and the two twin rooms had a connecting door and were really very nice.

    There was secure parking nearby and, thank god, air conditioning. After settling in, we walked in to town for a few beers and something to eat.

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    We headed for the old town and it was really nice. We found a bar and sat outside watching people walking past before finding a really stunning looking food place where, sadly, the food did not match the look of the place.

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    Had a good night’s sleep and some breakfast and off we went towards Jaca.

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    Just as we’d avoided motorways as much as possible at home, we avoided major roads as much as possible here and instead zig-zagged across country.

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    Yet another hot day and we arrived at a McDonalds in Jaca with an amazing outside but covered seating area where we had some lunch and found a really nice hotel just out of town with two rooms and, more importantly, a swimming pool.

    So, we checked in and went for a dip.

    Later we took a taxi into Jaca and the driver dropped us off near the old town. As was becoming the norm. we had several drinks before finding somewhere to eat where we sat outside under a canvas canopy and watched the rain / thunder & lightening.

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    We loved Jaca and vowed to return.

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    The following morning was the start of our ride into and around the Pyrenees and wow what a ride it was. We took a couple of unplanned detours and one road was closed which, I thought, may have scuppered our route but it didn’t.

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    The roads were a mixture of decent and shite surfaces but they never ceased to entertain. The views were fantastic and we spent most of the day riding before reaching Arudy for an overnight over the border in France.

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    Someone was pissed off by the pigeons!

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    This was a small village really with a couple of hotels and a lively bar. We ate at the hotel and the food was good. The rooms were old and tatty and with no air conditioning and the music from the bar nearby kept us awake for much of the night. It took ages to get to sleep.
    The owners though were a really lovely couple and we had a good laugh with them over dinner.

    Now Phil reckoned his French was pretty good apart from his Lancashire accent and so, every time he used it, no one understood, which was hilarious because none of the rest of us spoke French but it was easy to be understood and provided we tried a little bit, everyone was brilliant and so friendly – much to Phil’s frustration…

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    The Pyrenees had been so good that we decided to spend an extra day riding through them. So next morning, we headed past a couple of ski resorts and along the snaking roads before finding a hotel for the night in Pau, filling up with some holy petrol and an ice cream in Lourdes. Being a bunch of heathens, we were soon sussed so fled.

    We were lucky in Pau as we’d booked a couple of rooms within a gated courtyard right in the middle of town, so we parked up and strolled through the gates and found ourselves right in the middle of loads of restaurants and bars. It tried to rain briefly but didn’t amount to anything.

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    The next day, it was pissing it down and likely to do so all day, so we broke our rule about peages and shot up as far as Saintes in order to catch up on the extra day that we’d spent in the Pyrenees.

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    The only problem was that we were now ahead of ourselves and in danger of arriving in Roscoff early. Sadly though we’d probably missed out some lovely towns, villages and countryside.

    We found a lovely little spot to stay but didn’t realise that it was out of town so after parking up and freshening up, an evening in Saintes followed. We were advised not to walk into town as it mean traversing quite a few busy roads and roundabouts and so we took a taxi into town.

    After several more drinks and something to eat, we tried to book a taxi back to the hotel. Absolutely no taxis could be found.
    We phoned, the waiter phoned and the bar owner phoned. By that time, the bar owner wanted to close and so the he kindly allowed one of his staff to return us to the hotel, where we were provided with a free huge bowl of chips before retiring for the night.

    Saintes was very pretty with a lovely water front and we all vowed to return another day.

    After a chat over breakfast, we decided to spend less time on the bikes as we were ahead of our unplanned route and wanted to explore a little more on foot, so we headed to La Rochelle and parked up at the new harbour area whilst perusing Booking.com.

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    A really nice old hotel was found near to the town centre and with nearby parking and so the four of us shared a family room up a lovely twisting stairway. It was again bloody hot and had no air conditioning and very little breeze through the windows. Four hairy sweaty blokes sharing one room was not the best of ideas in all fairness but we had a great laugh – followed by a snoring competition, which I won apparently.

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    Mark pays the bill.

    We walked around the town and down to the old harbour area. It was beautiful and there were lots of bars and eating places about. So, of course, we indulged.

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    Breakfast was again disappointing but soon we were loaded up and off again and heading to St Nazaire.

    Avoiding the peages, we cut across country and I must admit that I think that we were a little disappointed with so many modern developments rather than character French buildings but, I guess, these are as a result of tourism in the area.

    Maybe if we’d taken a trip up through the Dordogne etc., it would have been far prettier.

    We rode over the massive bridge as you enter St Nazaire with a large police presence at both end of the bridge. I waved and they all politely waved back. I thought it was really nice of them to turn out to greet us.

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    It was, of course, still fucking hot!

    So, we arrived at a modern hotel on the outskirts of town which had lovely bedrooms but fuck all else, so after unloading and having a freshen up, we took the tram into town – except for the fact that the last tram back was at 22.00, it made a nice change.

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    Someone in the bus queue mentioned something about the QE2 but he couldn’t speak English and we couldn’t speak French, so most of the conversation was lost. We could though hear lots of bangs and explosions as we entered town.

    As we walked towards the town, we met loads of folk walking towards us.

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    We’d just missed the departure of the QE2 heading back to the USA. She’d visited to celebrate 100 years since the last Queen visited, so the Police presence wasn’t for us after all and the fireworks must have been tremendous.

    We’d arrived about lunchtime so took time to walk round the town a bit, which was covered in white feathers. These were from a concert the night before near to the U-Boat pens

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    We had a good look at them and then we found somewhere to get a bite to eat.

    One of my mates is an ex-Marine Commando and so we decided to visit the monuments a little way round the harbour.
    Sadly, one of them was above a U-Boat pen where ‘Espadon’ is moored up still and so we decided to stay another night but this time in the centre of town, so that we could see it the next day.

    Following morning, we went in and looked at the U-boat pens again before walking round to the pen where the Espadon is housed and went aboard. Thank god they’d made steps in and out as it really was claustrophobic.

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    How on earth those guys lived aboard those things is beyond me. The bunks were tiny and the gaps between minute. Really thought provoking.

    And then we went up onto the roof of the building for Dave to pay his respects to the fallen marines who raided the harbour all those years back.

    We were still ahead of our plan for the return Roscoff ferry so, after chatting to one of the hotel bar staff, we decided to head for Carnac where he advised we stay the last night.

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    It didn’t take long to reach this lovely little town, partly famous because of all the stones scattered over the countryside.

    We found a hotel just out of town and wandered down to the sea front, a lovely area with shops, restaurants and bars. Nice beach too.
    After spending a good while in one bar, which was very quiet, the owner decided to close for the night.

    After trying to get a taxi (again), he very kindly drove us back to the hotel for our final night on French soil.

    Another hot and airless night followed and with loads of street noise overnight and we were up early the next morning and heading across to Roscoff.

    The roads were lovely but we hit rain as we approached Roscoff (maybe a sign of things to come) before the sky brightened and we headed into Roscoff village. A wander round the market and something to eat - and then we were off to the ferry and soon on our way to Plymouth where we stayed the last night before a boringly wet run back up the motorways and to home.

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    It literally pissed it down all the way back up to the North West.

    Now this being my first trip abroad on a bike, I was a little bit apprehensive about boarding and leaving the ferry, fastening the bike down and generally riding through Spain and France.

    It was an absolute doddle, every single bit of it. Everyone seems to love bikers over there. Lane discipline on the dual carriageways is so much better than over here – but you all know that.

    The people were so welcoming and friendly and we will certainly be going back. In fact we did for a week during the August Bank Holiday weekend.

    Now if all these photos post, I'll be amazed!

  2. #2
    Strawberry fields ... forever Click here to find out how to Subscribe
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    Lots of links but no photo's, which is a shame as it was a nice write-up.
    Paul

  3. #3
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    Pictures work fine for me, although I have Dropbox installed

  4. #4
    New Member (less than 15 Posts)
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    Alsager, England
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    Really good account of your travels, sounds very much like our 4 man team on tour this year in the Picos ( snoring and drinking etc.), next year we want to try the Pyrenees via Bilbao or Santander but doing a loop back to one of those ports rather than the French route back, but your report has made me reconsider that option, we would also use a similar route to Portsmouth ( prefer it over Plymouth) and we will be starting from Alsager(Cheshire), so not a million miles from you guys.
    Thanks again for the tips and places to visit.
    Cheers Livo.

  5. #5
    Well this proves beyond doubt that I am crap at technology. I tried to link them all to dropbox and thought that I had but have clearly fucked up.

    Apologies!

  6. #6
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    The photos don't show automatically but the links are there to click and view.
    Bicycle riders.....Darwin's very own speed bumps.

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