My bike

Newbridge to Faro

Covering day one to day five
  • Day one
  • Day two
  • Day three
  • Day four
  • Day five

Newbridge to Rosslare (Saturday)

Well this is the day I’ve been waiting for, nearly nine months since I decided to go. Bike fully loaded, fully fuelled, it’s  time to say good bye to the family, first time away from the missus (Phil) and the kids, Ciaran, Aaron and Ally for this amount of time, I know it’s only two weeks but hey what are you going to do!
I set off, a couple of stops along the way and by the time I get to Mick's (Joe Soap) house, I find he has already left, the excitement was too much for him and me being late didn't help. I head for the M50 via the N81 in Dublin and passing a petrol station who should pull out, only Mick - that was handy! The weather is pretty miserable and as we pass the Bray exit the rain stops, cool, I might dry off a bit now, not long before we are at the next pick-up point John’s (Quietman’s) place.When we get there, we see a Varadero fully loaded in the driveway,Outside John's its John’s # 2, another of the four John’s on the trip. So as we pull up, we see some familiar faces, Quietman, Blondie, and John, all smiling like it’s all their birthday. So swap pleasantries and we’re invited in for breakfast, just prefect as I couldn’t eat earlier, must have been the excitement, during breakfast we meet other members of the family and the familiar face of Marie (Nuttymoo). All really nice people, and a big thank you for your hospitality.

So it’s not long before we are ready to hit the road for the final leg to Rosslare and meet up with the rest of the crew, but a quick stop to Tesco, Arklow first to get final bits for various members including myself :-) only to bump into Jimmy (breannach) another IBF member!! Back on the road to Rosslare, all uneventful till we pass the rest of the crew at the pre-arranged meeting point, a lot of beeping, waving and shouting as we pass, just dropping in to the petrol station just down the road to refuel as surprisingly it’s cheaper here than France and then back to meet with the others, the excitement builds and the slagging and banter is all a sign of things to come!!

Two birds outside Tesco

So after refreshments, it’s time to get to the ferry, after checking in we are waved straight through passing all the cars/vans etc, cool but that will come back to haunt us soon. As we board the ferry a guy points to a ramp to deck 3, which then has another narrower ramp to deck 5. I look at him wondering is he taking the piss, but no he points out the lads at the back of the ferry up near the funnel who had pre-paid and got away before us, holy fook I think to myself, it’s like a photorally point, anyway they’ve made it up there, can’t be that bad, so proceed up the ramp, the metal doesn’t seem to have much grip but in fact it wasn’t too bad, when I get up top, it’s down to the back of the ferry and in behind the funnel there’s about eight bikes already in and most strapped down, I get my bike into position between the two anchor points and the crew strap the bike down with ease, now it’s time to grab an over-night bag and find the cabin, which is no bother, a quick shower and change and I find the bar, and find a couple of the crew already enjoying pints which I duly indulge in, not long before the whole gang are here and the first session of the holiday is well and truly started, with lots of banter which includes a biker from Norway going around Europe and some of the truck drivers on board too, I eventually bale out and hit the hay as we have a long day ahead tomorrow and my first experience on riding on the wrong side of the road on the bike...

Cherbourg to La Rochelle (Sunday)

I wake up to the sound of an alarm, time for breakfast, seems if you don’t get to the restaurant early the queue get ridiculous,that’s one thing that Celtic Link would need to sort out, it was the same for dinner the evening before and when I checked the queue later in the evening the restaurant was closed had to settle for a sambo, only a two hour window to eat if you can get in, anyway no such problem this morning, one of the first in, and by the time I finish the queue is stupid again, really needs some management.I go out on deck to see how we are doing, definitely warmer than the morning before and it’s fairly bright and dry – woohoo. Sail boat leaving CherbourgIt’s not long before we get our first view of France which included some nice sailing boats leaving Cherbourg Harbour. I was surprised to see how big the harbour was!!
As we approach we get the call to prepare to disembark, so get all my stuff together and get out on deck and get the bike ready. Was surprised to see how much salt was on the bike as it was on top of the ship, anyway my mind was more on the ramp for disembarking, not that was going to happen any time soon. As we got on first, we’ll be the last to leave :-(, some amount of vehicles left the ferry, hard to believe they can all fit, but eventually we get our turn and I must say, when I was looking down that ramp I was saying to myself, don’t fook this up, at least wait till I’m on the way home lol so on the way down I just kept saying back brake only, back brake only, but I needed of worried, it wasn’t a bother.

Fuel stop & Lunch

On leaving the ferry we stopped on the pier to re-group as most pillions had to make their way down by foot rather than the back of the bike, and by the time we left the quay, there was no customs or any check of any kind. So 12 bikes and Cherbourg to get through, the first set of lights and a roundabout and we we’re all separated into at least three groups. I was near the back of the group and it’s seems nobody seems to know where we we’re going, but my sat nav obviously had its mind made up about which way we should go, so I take the lead and it’s not long before we bump into some of the others, as we head south towards La Rochelle, I’m pleasantly surprised at how familiar everything looks, maybe its watching to many episodes of Band of Brothers or all the war movies, but even with sixty odd years in the difference it all seems as I expected it. Anyway it’s not too long before we need to have a break and refuel and while having lunch Quietman turns up to add to the crew. Back on the road and all is uneventful, the French motorists are a pleasant change from their Irish counterparts and will pull over at any opportunity.

Formula 1 Hotel for the night

Eventually we pull off the motorway and are cruising down lovely country roads with fields and fields of Sunflowers and the odd vineyard thrown in and some lovely little villages, as the sun sets we arrive at our hotel in La Rochelle, I use the term hotel loosely, it’s more a room  with a bed but you have to jog down the hall to use the loo, anyway we’re all tired and hungry and rumours that everywhere is closed does not go down too well, and then the break through, the Buffalo Grill is open till 11, and it’s now 10:30, so a bit of a charge by foot I might add to the restaurant, well the beer order was the easy bit even if the delivery was slow, but the menu translation takes a little longer but we get there, all in all, a lovely meal, a few beers and some craic, what more could you ask for, I know, bed as I was wrecked.

La Rochelle to Vitoria Gasteiz (Monday)

Vineyard beside the road

Well, up bright and early, surprising considering the thunder and lightening show during the night and the only thing to show for it was a soaked bike and damp roads but they don’t last for long as we ride south on the same country roads, a lot of farming and irrigation around, but as enjoyable as it is we have to hit the motorway to make up some time, the further we go south, the more the trucks increase, not that they hinder you progress, but just the sheer volume was surprising, and more amazing was the amount of Vans with caravans in tow in a convoy, taught I was back in Ireland, but seems they  are popular in France but thankfully they were all heading North. Time for a break and a refuel and as we have  a coffee and a sambo, this lovely Corvette plus into the service station, great sound from the V8, we get talking in broken English about the car with the French owner, as far as I can remember it was a 1960’s one in perfect condition, but before the owner goes in to the shop, he opens the bonnet to let the engine cool down, it was pretty hot at this stage so after some more small talk he’s on he’s way, but I could listen to that car all day...

Spanish Scenary

When we get back on the road the traffic builds as we get close to the Spanish border but surprised that the is no real border, just a sign  - Welcome to Spain, a slight change in signage but other than that nothing, strange - anyway as we snake our way along the north Spanish coast, all the names of the cities  are all so familiar from Biarritz in France to San Sebastian, Bilbao and Santander with the scenery to the right being coastal and too our left mountains, but the feel of the place has more a Swiss type of alpine feel maybe it’s all the chalet type of houses, a sign of the kind of winter they have here perhaps, either way, it’s all very built up, town and cities all seem to merge and the traffic never-ending so we make a break for the mountain and thanks to the Zumo, we’re on an absolutely brilliant road climbing and climbing on tight country roads, As I’m riding and I can see glimpses of the spectacular scenery between the tree line and I keep saying to myself, pull in here, no pull in here instead and eventually the vista opens and I have to pull in – breath taking is all I can say, pictures just don’t do it justice, so after pushing on we get to Vitoria Gasteiz and not for the first time what I thought was a small town turns out to be a substantial city, but thanks to Garmin we are brought to the entrance of the camp site and set-up house for the night, a shower and a few beers are just what the doctor ordered.

Vitoria Gasteiz to Merida (Tuesday)

Water stop

Well after packing up house and getting breakfast, we could tell it was going to be a hot one, and this was the stretch across central Spain, yet again spectacular scenery as we leave Victoria Gasteiz but eventually we hit the plains, not much to see unless you’re into farming. We pull into a service station soon followed by a police car and I assume his victim, the only speed trap I’d seen was just a few miles back with a police car set in the central reservation which you couldn’t see till you where on top of him, but thankfully we were held up by a truck over taking another. We push on to Salamanca were we stop for lunch, which was interesting trying to make head or tail from the menu, but with the help of another customer and some broken English from the waiter we get sorted!! Must say any food we had so far has been great. So as we mount up to hit the road, my god the heat of the seat in the sun was hot, very very hot, if you had an egg and all that... Up to now, once you where moving, the heat wasn’t a real issue, but today it didn’t matter what speed you went, it was simply HOT, and we stopped for more water than fuel which slowed us down somewhat but it had to be done, when we get to Merida, I have to say I wasn’t looking forward to camping in this heat and when we arrive at the camp site, Joe Soap managed to get a chalet type room with air-con, result!!! So ditch the gear and head to the pool which I had been looking forward to it all day. Ah cool water just felt great after the day we had and as usual it’s not long before we all gather at the bar, all on site, marvelous!!

Whuch way pic

As we have a few beers and enjoying the craic it becomes obviously that the locals are having some kind of ritual, a lot of alcohol and fruit in a big bowl which is on fire and then a guy speaking, sounds like a prayer or something similar while spooning the liquid up and pouring it back and as only burkie can, he is invited to have a go and burkie has no problem coming up with some words of his own, a pmsl moment and then Tania gets ago, wonder why?? :-) Then we are all offered to taste it, and my god was it strong, you’d expect the fire to burn off the alcohol, but not in this case, tasted like a fruitier version of Sambuca – quite nice but wouldn’t drink much of it as burkie found out to an unnamed person’s expense lol, but that’s another story. This was the first night where we bumped into other bikers heading to Faro which all added to the excitement and the place was buzzing.

Merida to Faro (Wednesday)

Bike packed in the hot sun pic

Well it’s the morning after the night before and I’ve felt better, anyway, it’s a short day today, John#3 (Anchorman) had said amongst others, about the road ahead and I was looking forward to it. The road from Merida to Zafra was interesting with nice scenery, but paled in comparison to the road from Zafra to Huelva, what a road, mostly wide sweeping bend with and excellent surface for the best part and all this in some spectacular scenery, biking bliss, really enjoyable, hard to concentrate on the road with the views around and at one point I even had a suicidal lizard bale across the road in front of me!

Not sure if the presents of the odd ambulance and police car was intentional by local powers, as this was certainly one of the busier roads for bikes on the way down, not saying it was busy, but when you pull over for a while, certainly more bikes pass that any other vehicles, and from here on in, that was the way it was going all the way to Faro. So after a great run down, we’re back on the motorway heading west on the E1, the final stretch, and as we head to Portugal the anticipation builds which coincides with the tiredness, you certainly feel it after the miles we had covered and I look forward to the a couple of days off the bike, but that’s not the issue now, the Portuguese border is and it’s not long before I see a bridge not unlike a miniature golden gate bridge and just on the other side, a sign welcoming you to Portugal, soon followed by another welcoming you to the Algarve. Spanish Bridge picThere is a border control but no one stopping and we just ride on, something like 60kms left but pull in for one last time at the 20km mark for lunch and a refuel and as we are all heading to slightly different places, we say our goodbyes here till we meet again tomorrow at the rally. When we get going again, the coast comes into view and the exit for Faro, can’t believe after all the planning etc, we are finally here and as we peel off, the amount of bikes around are plentiful and signs of the rally everywhere, and at one roundabout, a stainless steel sculpture type thing of a big bike with text claiming to be the bike capital of the world, which I can understand. The Zumo again brings me straight to the door of the hotel, and I must admit - I was glad to see it.
After check-in , it’s time to unload the bike, shower and chill out for the evening, head just up the road to the town square right on the water’s edge and have a few pints then dinner and then another pint or two across the road from the hotel, well it is my holidays after all ;-)

Dublin to Faro map