May 16, 2013 – Cambo-les-Bains, France
We dodged the rain today and here we are in the Basque region of France. Warm weather and clear skies and as pretty a French village as you could hope for.
We decided that surrender was the lesser evil yesterday and stayed two nights in Arnedo, Spain. It was cold, and when it wasn’t pouring rain it was drizzling and even more cold! We walked around with our Gerbings on under our moto jackets. It was 39 degrees last night.
Today was much better. We caught the edge of a few showers and just as we neared Pamplona it really dumped. But right there was a McDonalds with good espresso and free wifi. We waited it out and rode the rest of the way here in sunshine.
We rode mostly back roads to Pamplona, then followed N-121A due north to Berroeta and then over the mountains to Ainhoa, France and on to Cambo. Once we turned off 121 we had the road to ourselves until we dropped into France. Then lots of traffic. From the top of the mountain you can see the Atlantic. I kept looking for Capt Aubrey and the Surprise.
We have a room at the Hostellerie du Parc. A large bright room and we got dinner and breakfast and a very nice bottle of rosé from Provence. Maybe the best meal of the trip so far. The highlight was the green salad with duck-throat meat. Very delicious.
The owner and his wife speak excellent English and they were telling the other quests that we were both riding “motos”. The two older French ladies at dinner looked at Debb and said “Super!”. The owner has an LT parked under the garden awning.
France is nice, I recommend it.
May 20, 2013 – Carcassonne, France
The sun is back – and so are we.
We awoke to full sunshine today. As long as you were in the sun it was quite pleasant. In the shade you were grabbing your sweater or jacket.
La Cité is the main attraction here. A huge double-walled fortress billed as Europe’s largest. And quite old, being used by the Gauls, Romans, Visigoths and Franks, It fell in two weeks in 1209. Then, as now the new technology is disruptive.
We walked across the new Auld river bridge and up to the fortress. Took a short tour, walked around between the walls, had a nice lunch and then walked back down the hill and across the river on the old bridge. It was good to get some exercise.
This afternoon we walked more discovering more of the city. We found the popular shopping streets and the canal that you can take tours on. From the fortress and its wonderful territorial views you can see how Carcassonne has spread out. Down in the city on foot you can see lots of empty and abandoned buildings. I suspect the fortress gets most of the tourist Euros.
Most restaurants aren’t open between 4 and 7:30, which we have figured out the hard way a couple of times. So tonight at 8 we headed out to a nice place where we have eaten before. It was closed, as were many other places we passed. Must be a Monday thing. We found a Subway open so no authentic local cuisine for us tonight.
There is a lot of wrought iron work here, much of it seemed to be the most substantial part of some older buildings. Some very nice pieces. Not quite as elaborate as Louisiana, but close.
Tomorrow we are off to Millau and the Tarn River Gorges. I think there is a nice bridge around somewhere, too.
May 23, 2013 – Nimes, France
This was another great day of riding. Mostly sunny and it got warmer as the day wore on. I took my Gerbing off for the last hour into Nimes. Woot!
The Tarn Gorge is a beautiful ride along a narrow twisting river canyon. There are not a lot of turn-outs so you have to grab whatever photo ops present themselves.
The area has three main items of interest. First, near Millau is the spectacular bridge just west of the town. Seven towers support the roadway high in the air with a fan of cables at each tower. No pictures for us since it was pouring rain when we passed underneath. The Tarn Gorge is a very scenic ride along the river with lots of interesting rock formations. At the east end of the gorge, near Florac the road is a delight of twists and turns following the river. Watch out for the single lane sections and the trucks!
Getting a room was more of a challenge than usual. First couple of places we stopped at were full. We found a spot near the Arena and the old downtown. Big cities are always tough for us, especially getting in and getting out.
The desk clerk recommended a place just across the street from the Arena. Wow! Le Cheval Blanc was as good as it gets. Mussels, escargot!, salmon, turbot, creme brulee and coffee. Yum, yum, and yum!
May 23, 2013 – Moto Roads
N106 – Florac to Les Salles-du-Gardon, France
After your morning’s serene ride through the Tarn Gorge and a delightful lunch in Florac you can tighten the chin-strap and tilt the horizon from Florac east and south past the lake to Les Salles-du-Gardon. The road is in excellent condition but watch out for the occasional one-lane sections. Some are natural and some are man-made! Need more motivation? There was plenty of truck traffic on the day we rode it. Stay focused.
Once past the lake, you can sit up and shift up and relax. Its over. Find a cafe in Alés before you venture into Nimes.
May 23, 2013 – Avenue Feuchères in Nimes, France
This wide walking plaza is between the train terminal and the Esplanade Charles De Gaulle in the old town of Nimes. It is slightly uphill to the esplanade and the green stripe is a shallow river with fast flowing water over widely spaced low waterfalls. The lights change color periodically; white, blue, green, red, purple.
I took this picture with my Sony WX80 which has a handheld nightshot mode. Not too shabby – especially since Debb and I had just finished a bottle of wine during dinner.
Vive la France!
May 24, 2013 – Collioure, France
This is the view from our room in the Triton Hotel. Your next chilled adult beverage if you can tell me why we are here.
Today was just a transit day – all on secondary roads. I guess you have to be reminded every trip why that isn’t a good idea. I’ve gotten really good at roundabouts. I know if I had a Nuda 900 I could get a knee down! 🙂
Maybe a few more photos later if we get out and wander around before the sun sets. Serious wind today and for the last several days. Yow.
May 24, 2013 – Collioure, France
Not a lot to report this evening. We got here, found a room overlooking the harbor and walked around before dinner. It is mostly sunny and COLD. There must be one hell of a low pressure system somewhere because the wind is constant and ferocious. Out of the wind and in the sun it is very nice. Otherwise you need a coat and gloves.
We choose the restaurant right next to the hotel for dinner because of the wind. Excellent food. I chose what amounted to The Captain’s Plate for my dinner since I wanted to sample all the seafood. Well, not quite. I got a plate full of seafood that would have served four comfortably. Not a sample of each, but a full serving of each. I managed about half of it. The salmon was extraordinary. The rest was just very, very good.
Just on the other side of our window on the outer seating area there were two couples eating dinner. Between each course they each smoked one or two cigarettes. The man nearest me had the salmon and when it arrived he salted the entire plate thoroughly. I wanted to go around and take the plate away and tell him he was not allowed to eat here.
The author of the Master and Commander series, Patrick O’Brian lived here for 50 years. He and his wife are buried here. If we can find it we will pay our respects. I admire his work greatly.
On the Mediterranean.