Sunday, 4 October 2015

Barcelona Run - Summary

In the process of uploading various clips to the my YouTube Channel.
I'm not editing much - these are for fans of realtime or slow television, just chopping out parts where the view is a slower car or Camper-van in front...

In theory these are 1080p, but Youtube does pixelate any shadows badly, and if I have just uploaded the video it may still only be in low resolution until Youtube re-encodes.

To choose a clip:
The menu top-left of the image can be used to switch between clips.
Once playing hover over the bottom left 'fast forward' for next clip and bottom right to go full screen.

Clips so far:
   Boarding the Ferry

   Eaux Bonnes to Col D'Aubisque - first major climb into the Pyrenees
   Col D'Aubisque Cow Bells
   Col D'Aubisque Descent - including sheep crossing & hewn stone tunnel
   Col du Tourmalet

   Guchen to Col D'Azet
   Col D'Azet Descent to Genos - including the hairpin and nonchalant cows
   Saint Mamet to Bossost - crossing into Spain!
   Ascent to Port de la Bonaigua
   Bonaigua Descent - the road with never ending hairpins

   Monserrat Ascent

More to follow....

The Plan

Two souvenirs

To remember that first drive in the Pyrenees to Col D'Aubisque, and the generally awesome D918 - A miniature mile marker:

...and to recall the destination as well as the run back through Catalonia and all the independence flags draped from windows - My own Blue estelada:

I may yet somehow attach it to the car...

Monday, 28 September 2015

Beauvais and the Boat home

The route is north of Paris, and via Beauvais - at least to try and drive past the Cathederal. Boat sails at 17:20, so really need to be targeting 16:00 at Dieppe.

My host at Casteland still taking pictures as I prepare to leave. There is Sun, but its back to long sleaves and jacket. The days of short sleves and sunburn are behind me now - time to get used to northern European weather again.


18 or 19 years ago I first visited the Cathederal at Beauvais; sort of half a building & it remains one of my favourite places. Never finished due to the over ambitious design and moving foundations. Only the Choir to the Crossing exists - but the buildings aim - the 48m height and light inside is awe inspiring...

SatNav showed I had about an hour to spare, didn't need any other excuse to stop for a while.

Cathedrals impress me, just the nature of the scale of them and the building method based on massiveness of stone producing such impressive interior spaces. They also just feel calm - especially after a noisy blustery drive - not even really a religious thing - they are just peaceful.

Where the nave should be is blanked off, and made visible are the flying buttresses supporting flying buttresses...

Inside the stone columns are supported with wooden props..

This is where you stop, crane your head back and - I am moved by this space - the height, glass, columns and vaulting, the silence, the sheer ambition of builders in 13th century...

To give an idea of the scale - the scaffolding tower on the right is around 14 stories high!

I think the wooden supports add something - something fallible and human...

Wow... - refreshed, back to the car, the final leg to the Ferry

The Boat Home

A roads lead me around the north of Paris and then back cross country towards the coast on the typical French 'star' road patterns to the ferry terminal at Dieppe

Made it around 16:00 as planned, and within 20 minutes rolling on to the boat.

Sailed on time, arrived in the UK around 21:30 and then the drive back to Maidstone for around 23:00. That last bit home was a challenge, remembering to drive on the correct side of the road, pitch darkness and a fair share of drivers out late speeding - seemed to go on for ever.

Amazing...  we did it - GN13 and one very tired driver.


  • 11 days in total, of which 8 were driving & 3 working in Barcelona
  • Roof down all the way
  • Crossing 3 countries - UK, France and Catalonia (Spain)
  • Sunny and dry from day 2 onwards, downright tropical south of the Pyrenees
  • About 2,000 miles on the clock
  • Around £300 spent in Fuel
  • Highest point - 2,115 metres over Col du Tourmalet
  • Lowest point - pretty much sea level boarding the ferry

Damage - one rattly silencer which needs a rivet in just the right spot to fix it.

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Long Haul - the slow day with a Great finale

There is always one day on a Holiday, especially on a homeward route where its just a bit - lacklustre, a bit - I want to be home... Nothing wrong with the location or the people,  my same smatterings of attempted French to on the fuel stops - the day was just a bit - meh.

Nothing appeared to be open - on a Sunday, everywhere sooo quiet. The normal cadence of lone driving broken up with activity to watch in villages was broken today - the villages were devoid of people. The temperature was dropping too - much more like home now.

Turned the radio on for the first time - loud, some loud rock to try and get my mood up; kind of worked, then a stop - as I came over the bridge into Cercy-la-Tour a couple of things of note
  a. The wide canal and some boats to look at.
  b. A huge white statue of Mary towering over the town

There she is - behind the encircling stone wall...

Top right...

No idea why, i.e. other than the obvious Catholic relevance, but why does this place needs such a huge statue?


My final night I had booked what looked like a quiet out of the way B&B. It was too - what I missed until I walked through the door was the Movie reference in its name, and the themed nature of the establishment- the penny didn't drop with the name - Cast Land (in English) nor my room Oscar (as in the gold prize type things for movies)

The owner Mr C.Andrey was just seeing the other guests out for dinner when I turned up. He has possibly less English than I have French ( and I dont have much), but very friendly.

He produced this picture for his own Facebook page 'October News' and while it might look setup, its literally me on my way out to the local town for an evening meal and his dog on cue deciding he/she had to be in shot.

The farmhouse had been renovated years before; looks normal - very tidy on the outside...

Inside first the lounge - which immediately put me in mind of Olivier's character's front room from the 1972 movie Sleuth, complete with Billiards table, Suit of Armour, open fire, rocking horse, globe.. etc...

...then beyond through the archway, a small cinema.. not home theatre - literally cinema, celluloid oversize film on the walls alongside various film memorabilia and old-school projector. I asked Mr Andrey to stay in shot. Behind him in the cabinet various camera equipment, and along the shelf examples of all the 007 Bond cars from the movies.

Fantastic place very eccentric - good accommodation, good dinner suggestions and local knowledge, good spread for breakfast, and very friendly host.

All set for the last leg tomorrow, north of Paris to catch the boat from Dieppe around 17:00

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Back into France - Millau and Sainte Enimie

Now a full days drive north still avoiding motorways, my route takes me past a couple of selected waypoints to view the Millau Viaduct and an online hint from a RhoCar friend, and Soctland run veteran means I added Sainte Enimie to the list...

Before long the border at Le Perthus, a strange town, still asleep around 9am as I go through but looks much more like it wakes up after dark - plenty of night clubs.

Passed two seven style cars headed south - best guess, via the RhoCar members, is they are Dutton Melos, or something similar. We exchanged waves and then focus back on the drive north.

The route then in sight of the Mediteranian across sand flats, and the country all below the tree line and green, but still impressive distance on the views.

The Tomtom brings me to the Millau Viaduct viewpoint - I'm not driving over it, I have heard there is more to see looking at it than from it. Spent some time wandering, snapping photos and watching the parascenders...

Millau in the valley.

The sun is back...

Then down towards Millau istself, slow going sharing the road with the tail end of a running race and traffic queued up through the town meant my new route to Sainte Enimie was a little more convoluted - just head for the hills!

Towards Le Rozier and then my tip from Ian Kirkup at RhoCar to heard through the Gorges du Tarn area towards Sainte Enimie... Think cheddar gorge, then multiply it by 10!

Mostly empty roads that have blessed most of the trip.

...and another pause under the bridge at Sainte Enimie.
Some French tourists take an interest in the Zero and one lady drapes herself across it for her husband to photograph, so I offer her a sit in the car - her grandson in the drivers side. Smiles all round.

Great day, great relaxed atmosphere by the water.

Should have gone for a paddle too the water did look cool and inviting... I bet it was icy cold.

Heading up - out of the gorges and towards Le Puy for my next overnight...

Selfie on arrival - black with dust from the road and tired after nearly 300 miles. Another good run though and buzzing. I joke to my wife on my daily Facebook checkin - I have a tinge of the Carl Fogarty 'mad staring race eyes'  :)

View from my window...

Friday, 25 September 2015

Heading home - Catalonia

The return was never planned in as much detail as outward; mostly a practical route back splitting the journey as evenly as possible, and to my taste, not returning the same way but heading further east and then north of Paris back to the boat.

The first leg out of Barcelona then a scenic route towards my overnight stop still in Spain. Rather Catalonia - everywhere along the route are Catalonian and independence flags...

Travelled across Barcelona to pick up the car for the final time, and then along the coast to just past Mataro before heading north for the hills. The coast road gives glimpses of the sea, but because the railway takes the on-coast position, mostly the sea view is not great.

More good driving and smooth Catalonian roads, a short stop at the Church of Sant Marti del Brull. O Only the flag in the carpark giving away I'm not back in a Leone Spaghetti Western. No one here, notwithstanding a few cars around, the place is deserted.

My parking is not that bad, I just needed to get a shot of the car and the flag!

More cross country driving on the C-153: Vic, Rupit then Olot for a spot of lunch and to stretch my legs. The vistas still huge, but the mountains still way north.

Next pause around mid afternoon at Banyoles, and a chance to pickup a Separatist Catalonian flag;  They generally adorned many windows & balconies so I just had to have one. I did stop short of attaching it to the car though - possibly disrespectful.

Another wander through the old town to cool off...

Then on to my overnight stop near Verges, another reasonably cheap and cheerful bar come hotel. No english spoken so had to practice my smiles and sign language. Friendly people though and a good mixture in the bar of locals and workmen on their way home. 

Amusingly they did have an english version of the evening menu - but of course couldn't read it themselves so worked by matching the paragraphs I chose with their own Catalonian one - and thus I still got something I didn't order to eat. No-matter - well fed and watered on Estrella turned in for the night.