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29th November 2004

A European Adventure, III

After a short saga of disasters, Mick M's continental holiday on board his Ducati finally got on track in Spain. From there, he struck out for some previously unexplored territory...

We were off to our furthest port of call, Porto. We'd never been to Portugal before and the only thing I knew about Porto was the export of port, from when I was a publican, so that's not much! The route from Santiago to Porto was very boring, with excruciating roads, thankfully relatively short -- only 150 miles; less than one tankful. As a first taste of Portugal we weren't sure what to make of the town. On the outskirts there sits a very modern and very expensive football stadium, whilst in the old part of town people are still living in corrugated iron shacks without water or electricity!

The first thing to hit me in the old part of town very nearly literally was the cobbles. Yes I have ridden on them before but on a 6% hill, potholes, and tramlines, with a fully loaded bike it made one concentrate just a tad more than usual. As we looked around for the ideal hotel the bike's suspension was tested to over and above its limit. We found a hotel (inevitably, on a hill). We had a terrific view of the old town and river from our room but unloading the luggage made life very interesting. Even with it in gear, this lumpy motor was hard pressed to keep the bike from rolling away...

Bridge for sale. Ideal for enthusiast. Spares or repair. Scaffolding not included. This bridge is advertised elsewhere and I reserve the right to withdraw it from the auction.

We found the Portuguese people to be very friendly and helpful, with many speaking English. We left Porto with mixed feelings; it's part shanty-town, part modern city and wholly dog s**t ally. It still had plenty of charm.

Time to turn back north, but not before heading to Vigor and then Orense. I am sorry to say I used the autoroutes as the state of the local roads left nothing of the fillings or spine attached! By contrast the main road (N620) that took us back into Spain was very good and they are even improving that. It travels through some very scenic territory. When the roadworks are finished It will be an excellent route. We made Salamanca in good time, leaving us plenty of time for sight-seeing.

The town is well known for its university, and intricately sculpted renaissance architecture. The cathedral is two-in-one with the old and new being part of the same building! By this time we were becoming a little travel weary because of the frequent short stops, so it was very good to know that the next stopover in Madrid was to be for three nights. The route from Salamanca took us via Toledo, the old capital of Spain.

You have nothing to lose but your chains. And your luggage, of course...

When we're on the road and looking for a lunch time halt, the criteria is very simple: we must be able to park very close to the chosen bar/restaurant which must have tables in the shade. The bar of in Toledo was just that. I parked the bike opposite the bar, behind a chain which prevented cars from parking but created a convenient area for bikes. We had just been served and were looking at the architecture of the church... when along came two Policemen on Hondas.

Always one to think the worst, I assumed that they wanted me to move the bike but to my surprise they didn't mind me parking there. With some pidgin English/Spanish they said that 'Ducat' was their number one bike -- and they were only stopping for their lunch!

Anyone want to guess what is on the right of this picture?Madrid was only some seventy miles away, with the luxury of a flash hotel waiting. I'd used this hotel as one of my weapons of bribery with to persuade Vicki to make this trip. The Hotel Ritz was to be our chosen abode for three nights.

The two travel-weary souls on, by this time, a not-very clean Ducati, who pulled up at the entrance did not flummox the doorman at all. We were shown where to park once our reservation was confirmed.

At check-in though, one of the flunkies could not hide his concern, and whilst showing us to our room he carried Vicki's haversack by two fingers away from his body as if it had fleas! (And kept preening himself in the mirrors of the lift). Once the door was shut we fell about laughing.

We'd visited Madrid a couple of years before -- on that occasion we were on the Norton Rotary and stayed in a two-star hotel. What a difference this was; the Duke and a five-star hotel! Still I won't let it go to my head. Madrid is a large city with plenty of things to keep anyone and everyone amused. We were not disappointed. The Prado and the Queen Sofia art galleries were just two places on Vicki's list, with Platza Mayor and a Jamon Musoe on mine. The Jamom Musoe is a type of restaurant peculiar to the Spanish (which I have only seen in Madrid), one that is full of hams.

The three nights passed far too quickly. The highlight for Vicki was having breakfast on the terrace -- although I'm not too sure that having a sparrow dump on me was that great! Sunday the 8th arrived all to soon and we found ourselves off on the road to Bilbao, with a lunch stop at Burgos. This town is on the pilgrims' trail to Santiago, so has plenty of bars and restaurants for a stopover on the way to Bilbao.

Ducatis on

The inevitable result of a creased blueprint.Last time we visited here the metro was the best method of transport as it was very new. Now it is accompanied by the new tram system. This is also tourist friendly with the ticket machine using five different languages.

We found a hotel in the old part of town, so just had to use the trams to get over to the Guggenheim Museum.

Finally... it was all over. Monday morning meant a slow ride to the port and the ferry back to Portsmouth. Back in Britain, the final leg of the journey was very congested -- with a couple of accidents just to rub in that we were back home. But we were in one piece!


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