BMW R1200GSA vs Moto Guzzi Stelvio NTX

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Cadaques by day.

Wednesday 24/4/13

Welcome to Cagaques, my new favourite place.

This is our hotel, Hotel Playa Sol. The Mediterranean is in the bottom left corner of the photo.

Close to the water or what?

Our view across the bay.

If I lived here, I'd have to take up sailing.

Cadaques would easily be the most stunning place I have ever been. The white village buildings contrast against the  deep blue water, which is actually crystal clear close up. It offers everything that you could ever want. The best news is that the perfect motorcycle road into town is the thing that keeps the tourists away. OK, in summer there are tourists, but not as many as if Cadaques was easily accessible. 

It's Heaven.

Suzanne and I walked up the road and around a couple of bends to see what was there, and it was more of the same picturesque views.

We made our way back to Es Taronger, our restaurant for a late lunch or early dinner and Andreas was there to greet us. We were treated to a sumptuous lunch and were feeling very contented.

The only downer was a table with four "foreigners" in the restaurant. You know the type. They only speak English, and every other damn person in the world should as well. They think if they yell loudly enough the person they are yelling at will understand, and they were yelling plenty loud. What happened after they finished their lunch will be a blight on their nationality in Cadaques for ever and a day.

There had obviously been a small mix up with one of the orders for this table. OK, to be fair, we had a mix up as well, but the waiter didn't speak much English, so I reckon it was our fault for not making it clear exactly what we wanted. We didn't even mention it. The chief antagonist at the other table, an obnoxious female, stood there yelling "We aren't going to pay for this" and it went on from there. Andreas had gone home for a siesta, so the poor waiter was trying to sort it out as best he could, and he was doing a bloody good job. After twenty minutes, yes, twenty minutes, of three people yelling at the waiter, and a couple of phone calls to Andreas, they settled the bill and left. What a bunch of mongrels. I hope someone kidnaps them and holds them for ransom. I don't think anyone would pay to get them back.

The whole episode spoiled what should have been a really nice day for us. Luckily it was saved by an Irish couple a couple of tables away, Ann and Gus. As the ********s left we all looked at each other and burst out laughing. Ann and Gus ended up joining us for a drink or two, maybe more, and we had some laughs with the waiter, who was obviously pretty shaken. At one point I had to give the waiter a big hug and explain we were Australian, and our new friends are Irish, so even though we speak the same language as those other people, we're not from where they came from. He laughed and said from now on, anyone from that country will be turned away. The restaurant will be full. By the way, they weren't English, or New Zealanders. Narrows it down eh?

The photo above is our only photo of Gus and Ann. They are on the left. Our other "friends" are on the right. To be fair, they guy in the blue, short sleeved shirt was talking to us and wasn't involved at all. He was a really nice guy. I feel very sorry for him being stuck with that mob on holiday.

After Gus and Ann joined us, the rest of the day was just laugh after laugh. Eventually we moved to another bar on the beach, had a few more drinks and enjoyed some great craic (Irish word for fun / enjoyment).

Salvador Dali liked Cadaques.

It was a real pleasure meeting you Ann and Gus. You made our day. You also made us stagger home in the dark. I have no idea what time we got back to the hotel, but funnily enough we needed a couple of nightcaps before bed.

I hope we cross paths again somewhere.

Time to head home.

Actually heading home, many hours later.

Home at last, and I made two more friends in the bar.

I've suddenly realised that this trip has a real penguin theme to it. First there were Kinder Pinguis, the best chocolates in the whole world. Then there was Penguinos, a great bike rally, and fantastic Penguino friends. And now my two new mates. I might have to get a couple of penguins for the pool when I get home.

I can see us coming back to Cadaques for a couple of weeks holiday in the future. Suzanne would relax on the beach while I would ride up and down the mountain on a mid range sports bike. I reckon I could shred a set of tyres in a week.

Hmm, property is pretty cheap here...

Monday, 29 April 2013

Adios Barcelona. Hola Cadaques.

Tuesday 23/4/13

Our last day in Barcelona coincided with the Sant Jordi's (Saint George's) Day festival. The Spanish treat Sant Jordi's Day in a similar way to the way we treat Saint Valentine's Day. The guys give the girls roses, and the girls give the guys books. As a result, there are flower sellers absolutely everywhere.

Rose, roses, roses, and more roses.

And more roses.

There is still resentment about Catalunya (the province Barcelona is in) being a part of Spain, and people are happy to express their feelings.

Catalan flags fly everywhere. That's subtle.

Some banners aren't so subtle.

I decided that as it's our last day in Barca we had to ride down La Rambla one last time, but these guys had different ideas.

I could get through that gap, but...

Oh well, no biggie. It was another perfect day for a ride, so ride we did, avoiding the motorways of course.

The longest straight piece of road I've seen in ages.

We saw a little restaurant on the side of the road near Roses, (the town, not the flower. What a coincidence eh?) so "Restaurant Can Vila" was chosen as our lunch stop. We were looked after extremely well and the food was superb. Thank you Manuela.

Pre lunch nibbles. The wine and beer were ice cold.
The food was amazing.

After lunch it was onwards. Cadaques is a little fishing village on the Costa Brava, where the Pyrenees Mountains meet the Mediterranean. The interesting thing is that there is only one road in, and it's over a bloody big mountain. We were driven there in a van on our previous visit and I had said I'd love to ride this road on a bike. Suzanne just closed her eyes in fear and said "No way!" 

Well, it's a few yeas later, and here we are.

How can there be so many great biking roads in such a small country?

It doesn't look high, or steep, but trust me, it is.

This was a lot of fun.

A gradual, winding climb that went on forever.

We eventually crested the mountain and were rewarded with a spectacular view of the Mediterranean and Cadaques.

The village of Cadaques.

After about half an hour of descending the mountain, we rolled into Cadaques and into the centre of the village. We pulled up on the side of the road and started looking at the sat nav to locate the hotels. Our standard ploy is to start in the middle of town, and work our way out until we find a hotel within our budget range.

A minute later we met Roger and Michael, a couple of BMW riders from Switzerland. They saw the bike and came over to say hello. We must attract the Swiss for some reason. It turns out that these guys work at the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland so I laughingly said "Cool. You can take us to see it when we visit". To which Micheal said "Yes. Fine." Um. Wow. Nerds of the world, eat your heart out. I better watch some Big Bang episodes and brush up on my physics before we go.

This is the website for the collider where the guys work

Then Michael invited us to stay with him in Geneva if we get there next week. We'd love to, but I don't know if we can stretch the credit card that far. We really are pushing it right now. I'd love to go, so we'll see.

While we were talking to the guys I heard someone say "That sounds like an Aussie accent" and so we met Michael and Pam from South Australia. 

After chatting for a while we moved on and stopped outside the first hotel we found. Suzanne did her usual check the room price, but came out with a disappointed look on her face saying it was too expensive. What the hell, we splurged and booked a room in a hotel where the front door is fifteen paces from the Mediterranean Sea. You only live once.

The BM having a rest. I think Alan was a little scared on the ride here.

After settling in we went out for a walk along the water's edge, and to find dinner, at the usual Spanish time of ten o'clock. To our surprise, everything was closed. We did find one restaurant open, "Es Taronger", but it was closing. Luckily the Aussies we met earlier, Michael and Pam, were already there. They went in hard and did a big sales pitch which got us in for a last minute meal. Thanks guys.

Andreas, the owner, told us that because it was so late, all we could have was the fish. No problem. Dos pesces, y una botella de vino blanco per favor. The fish was Sea Bass, and I don't think I've ever enjoyed a fish so much. It was exceptionally good. I don't know what we are going to do about food when we get home. We have been so pampered and spoiled while we've been away. Everything has been so fresh, and so tasty, and so cheap.

We had a chat with Michael and Pam and it turns out they are staying in the same hotel as us. When Andreas overheard this he told us it is the most expensive hotel in town. OK, it was a bit pricey, but it was only about a third of what you'd pay in Perth for a hotel nowhere near as nice. And the location, it just doesn't exist anywhere in Perth.

After dinner, which came to a total of thirty five euros, we asked Andreas if we could get another bottle of wine to take with us. "Of course" he said, and gave us two wine glasses to take as well, as long as we promised to bring them back the next day. We also got an apology because he couldn't let us take his corkscrew because he only had one. Customer service is alive and well in Spain, and you know what, we'll eat there again tomorrow. Thank you Andreas.

We enjoyed a very pleasant stroll along the shore back to our hotel.

The scene outside our front door.

It had been another memorable day. Perfect weather, ideal riding roads, more delicious food, nice wine, and some great people.

We are so very lucky to be able to enjoy this.

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Poble Espanyol - Mini Spain.

Monday 22/4/13

This morning we visited Poble Espanol, which is like a mini Spain all in one place. It was built in 1929 for an international exhibition and is a showcase of all the different  styles of Spanish architecture. It features replicas of buildings from the different provinces and we thought it would be interesting to go and have a look.

It cost a few too many euros to get in, and to be honest it wasn't all that impressive. All the buildings are now shops although some house artisans, but it lacks atmosphere and just didn't do it for us. I guess if you're in Barcelona, and you're short on time, it gives you the opportunity to see all the architecture of Spain in one day.

One of Barcelona's most famous attractions are the Magic Fountains. These fountains are lit up by coloured lights and operate in time with music. It's supposed to be quite spectacular. This was our next stop. I've been to Barcelona four times now, and missed the fountains every time. We finally got there today. When Suzanne asked a guy what time they come on he said "Oh, not today. Only Friday and Saturday." D'oh! I guess I'll have to see them on visit number five.

I keep saying how laid back Spanish people are. Here's an example. We were in the deli section of the supermarket, waiting to buy some more delicious Iberian jamon and queso. (Ham and Cheese). It was one of those take a number and wait to be served affairs. The problem was there  were three sections to choose a number from, and as luck would have it Suzanne chose a number for the wrong section. The error was discovered by a guy standing next to her and then this guy, who spoke very little English, smiled, gave Suzanne his number, and then took another for himself.

The assistant behind the counter was happily chatting to every customer, even after the sale was completed, and in no rush whatsoever. The surprising thing about this is no one else who was waiting could care less. They just chatted among themselves while they waited their turn. No one was in a hurry and everyone is very happy and very mellow. Heart attack - not around here.

I always go for a wander when we visit the supermarket, just to have a look around. I found these today.

Another tasty seafood delicacy. Any guesses??

Google says : "Goose barnacles, also called goose neck barnacles, are filter feeding crustaceans that live attached to hard surfaces of rocks and flotsam in the ocean intertidal zone." Sounds good to me.

Back to the hotel and I decided it was time to give the bike a bath. It was still covered in suicidal bugs from our ride out of Portugal. There was a petrol station next door, with a coin operated pressure washer. Perfect. I wandered over, fed a few coins into the machine, and was rewarded with hot soapy water spraying my bike. Yes, hot! It lasted forever and did a brilliant job of despatching the bugs and making the bike look like new again. Another coin took care of the rinse cycle. The big BM came up a treat. Even the pressure washers are great in Spain.

Tomorrow we make our way to Cadaques, which is very close to Port Lligat where Salvador Dali worked and lived. It's time to pay another visit to Dali's house, which is now a museum, and one of Suzanne's favourite places.
Birthday celebration in Barcelona.

Sunday 21/4/13

Today's plan was simple today. We'll visit the Sagrada in the morning, then Nello's Bar for lunch and the Moto GP on TV, followed by a bit of a walk around the Gothic Quarter afterwards. As it was my birthday we decided we'd take a taxi so could enjoy a few drinks during the day.

We rolled up at the Sagrada, walked past the huge line of waiting people, and went straight in the door. That was easy.

What we saw inside was stunning.

 The Sagrada is big on the outside, but huge inside.

The ceiling.

Stained glass and organ pipes.

More glass

Every time I turned around there was something that would take my breath away.

The museum was enlightening, covering Gaudi's history with the project and displaying a lot of his models and drawings. I would have liked to sit down to dinner with this man. It would have been an interesting night. He obviously thought way outside the box.

The reproductions of the original models were incredibly detailed.

Just a small project.

The idea for the Sagrada was put together in 1866 and in 1882 the first foundation stone was put down. Initially work progressed very slowly because it was funded by donations. Once the project was advanced enough to charge people (tourists like us) to go inside, things began to happen quickly. More than half of the project has been completed in the last fifteen years. These God franchises obviously return a good profit, or should that be prophet?

The model shop. I'd love one of these at home.

Drawing of one of the fa├žades.

While we were in the museum we met a lovely Canadian couple. It turns out they are bike nuts as well. We're collecting contacts in North America all the time. Maybe our next adventure will be from north to south through the Americas. (Too soon to think about Suzanne?)

As we'd been here a couple of times before we didn't take any exterior photos, but if you're interested I'm sure you'll find thousands on the net if you're so inclined.

As we left we saw some guys doing the giant bubble thing in the park across the road.

Lots of fun.

The kids loved it, and so did I.

Next stop, Nello's Bar for a birthday lunch. After a very good feed of nachos and a burger, a surprise birthday cake arrived, with some champagne.

Happy birthday boy...

...and his birthday cake.
Thanks for the surprise Suzanne.

Then our waitress Sophia and Suzanne sung happy birthday and were joined by most of the restaurants patrons. It was a fun afternoon.

The Moto GP wasn't on, if was the F1 cars, but it didn't matter, we had a good time anyway. The bikes are on later tonight.

It was time to work off lunch so we went for a stroll and took in some more of Barcelona's architecture.

A little more of Mr Gaudi's work.

I love, love, love this building and was fortunate enough to enjoy a very special dinner inside with some friends one night many years ago. Hi gang.

We then strolled down La Rambla, again. Alan tried to pick up some chicks but they didn't seem to be interested. Or maybe they just didn't understand English.

The old triplet fantasy eh Alan?

One of the scams you come across as a traveller is the "Please help me. All my luggage and paperwork has been stolen and I desperately need money to get back home."  ploy. The sign is written in English and is very believable. This same guy was sitting in the same spot in June last year when we were here.

Con man. It's all a lie.

We had a quick drink, it was actually an excuse to sit down for a while because we were worn out, then grabbed a taxi back to the hotel.

With absolutely perfect timing we walked in the hotel door just as the warm up lap for the races was on TV. Suzanne hit the hay, and I watched all three races.

That's what I call a birthday.

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Sunshine, Montserrat, great riding, and good food. That's the way it should be.

Saturday 20/4/13

What a difference a day can make. Today was FANTASTIC!

The sky on the way to Montserrat today.

Montserrat was first on the agenda today and the weather was perfect. I went a different way up the mountain today and it was a dream road. There were a lot of bikes on this road so I think it's a local haunt for sports bike riders.

Lean left...

...lean right. Repeat.

Getting closer.

Found them. The local boy racers, with an MGB thrown in for good measure.

We stopped, took some photos, then let the sports bike guys go first. I didn't want to be in their way and spoil their fun. 

See ya guys. Have fun.

I jokingly said to Suzanne we'll catch them further up the road.

The view from about half way up.

After our photo break we were back on the road, and guess who we caught.

Caught by an old man, two up, on a trail bike.
How embarrassing.

These tunnels were chipped out of solid rock.

Brilliant riding with distracting scenery...

..on the left, the right, up, and down.

Getting closer to the top.

How was the view from the top? You could see for miles. Suzanne wouldn't go anywhere near the edge even though there are railings everywhere. It was quite high with steep sides. How high?

This high.

Take a look at he walk path on the right hand side of the photo. It's about six to eight feet wide, with no barrier to speak of.

If this isn't high enough for you, you can always climb up the sculpture on the viewing platform...

Stupid tourist!

After scaring ourselves looking out over the world we enjoyed a light lunch, and met some Aussies from Tamworth. It sounded weird to hear an Australian accent.

Me being very brave. I'm really not comfortable with heights.

 There's a road down there somewhere.

We made a quick visit to the Monastery, then onto the art gallery. Both places didn't allow photos inside.

As usual, there were statues everywhere.

More than a couple of hours work in this.

The Monastery entrance.

The art gallery is very easy to miss but If you make it to Monserrat make sure you find it. It is well worth the time to visit. Unlike some other galleries we have visited recently, this one contained actual art. At one point I was standing in a room and could see a Picasso, a Dali, and a Renoir without moving. There was a lot of fine art from artists I hadn't heard of as well. All in all a pretty impressive collection.

Our work here was done and it was time to head back down to the flat lands.

I think we'll take that road.

Here we go again.

We should have taken the other road. Less traffic.

Back at sea level we pointed the bike toward Sagrada Familia. We have visited the Sagrada a few times before but we had never been inside. The queue for tickets to enter has always been around the block. Pre purchasing tickets the day before for a certain entry time the gives you easy access on the day. Our simple plan was to ride to the Sagrada, buy some tickets for tomorrow, and ride away. Easy. Well, you'd think so.

We couldn't even find the Sagrada. There was a festival on and one of the major roads was blocked off for miles. We tried skirting around it for about an hour but kept on coming up on dead ends. Finally when I rode up one street and was yelled at by four policemen, all who looked none to happy, (I don't know what the problem was. I was only going one way) I decided that it might be best to give up. We'll sort the tickets out later.

These are typical buildings in Barcelona. They give the city real character. It's not sterile like a lot of other cities.

Even the helmets here are artistic.

It was time for more food. We found a convenient parking spot and sat down outside Nello's Bar where they have a special. A burger and a gin and tonic for a bargain price.

The burger was pretty good as well.

There was a blackboard sign that read Motociclismo, tomorrow, on the big screen. I asked what time the race was on and the waitress checked and told me two pm. Perfect. We'll visit the Sagrada in the morning, then come back here and watch the Moto GP over lunch. 

Our day was complete. Barcelona had turned on it's great weather for us and we'd had a perfect and very full day. Thanks Barca.