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  • Day40

    A sunny warm morning which suddenly appeared to turn misty and windy, but it wasn't mist but smoke from forest fires in the hills nearby! Not sure how "nearby" but nobody seemed to be concerned and life went as normal with people running/strolling along the beach, swimming etc. The smoke cleared and the sun came out and it was time for us to start the push to the port....after calling in at the farmacia for some sea sick pills for Gill.

    After our fastest average speed yesterday, today was our slowest 4.91 km/hr, which I thought wasn't bad pushing a fully loaded tandem, well minus Gill, she walked as well. We stopped for a coffee "on the front" and, as we sat there, the ferry floated serenely by on its way to the dock. Back on the promenade we continued to push towards the ferry terminal past lots if signs for a Titanic Exhibition, and I don't mean big one, about the ship......not an omen I hope.

    As we arrived at the port who did we bump into but Poppy and Jem, also pushing their tandem which had some problems but not as terminal as ours. We pushed along the port fence for what seemed like about half a mile, checked in and then had to push all the way back on the other side of the fence to board the ship. We headed for the cabins and arranged to meet Poppy and Jem in the bar later which also turned out to be a meeting for dinner for the four of us.....well four started the meal but only three finished it. The storm had passed but there was a big swell in the Bay of Biscay and who felt sick but Tony (I never get sea sick) who retired to the cabin without finishing his meal and counted Gill's seasick pills to make sure they had enough for two!

    Next morning everybody was fine, the sea was calmer and food was back on the menu for breakfast. After the usual wondering around a ferry waiting to arrive, we got into Portsmouth 2 hours late...maybe there was a silver lining in having a broken tandem and arranging a lift home! After the long push round to the terminal building we met Jane and John who'd kindly agreed to pick us up.

    A few facts from the trip
    We slept in 31 different beds
    The places we stayed were various, from B&B's to hotels from 2 stars upwards and one was even a former palace.
    If you're cycle touring, people seem to think you can't afford a "proper" holiday and can't quite "get" that you're doing it because you like cycling.
    In Spain, if you're cycle touring they usually think you're a pilgrim and doing some sort of penance!
    We cycled 1000 miles according to the Garmin and even further on the small back up speedo, maybe because it was set up by Mr 10%?
    Each of our legs pushed the pedals down approximately 450,000 times...yes that was four hundred and fifty thousand times! What was that about a penance?
    Apart from a couple of occasions, the French and Spanish drivers were much more considerate to cyclists than their UK counterparts.

    We think that's it.......until the next time, see ya then.
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  • Day39

    Despite plenty of hills and a fairly long day we made our best average speed of the trip 78km/hr, yes seventy-eight!

    Let's go back to 7am and the alarm woke us, quick get ready and pack most stuff before breakfast at 8am. Much quieter affair today, two other couples and soothing piped music. Suitably fuelled it was back to the room for final packing etc and we were back in reception checking out by 8.45 ready for a 9am departure as the weather forecast was showing 29degC in the afternoon. Tony got the bike out of the cupboard and wheeled it through the wood panelled and carpeted reception.

    Everything was outside ready to load and Tony did a few checks on the bike. "Front wheel bearings are a bit loose, I'll just get the cone spanners out to adjust them" he said. As he took out the quick release skewer to get the wheel passed the front pannier carriers, one of the wheel bearing cones fell onto the floor! This wasn't an adjustment job, the front axle had snapped and we didn't have a spare, it was Sunday and a public holiday and we were miles from any sort of town and bike shop (who probably wouldn't have a tandem front axle anyway). "Well that's torn it" ....or something similar, he said. It must have broken sometime last Friday......the 13th! and we hadn't realised, another lucky escape! and that does make the 3rd mechanical failure this year.

    With no chance of repair we had to sort getting to Santander. The Parador receptionist was very helpful and arranged a taxi capable of taking wheelchairs so we could get the bike in. So, by about 10.30 we were off and by 12 we were checked in to our hotel by the beach in Santander, 2 hours earlier than allowed and in a free upgrade. Neither of which did a lot to lighten the disappointment of not riding the last 30 odd miles into Santander. But, on reflection, the trip's been great, we did get over the 1000 mile mark, which was one of the aims, and in the circumstances we did what was the only option to get to the ferry by tomorrow.

    Tony's put the cone back in the wheel and the skewer is holding it in so, at least, the bike is still wheelable (fingers crossed), just not rideable, and we can load it with the panniers and push it the 3km to the ferry tomorrow. We walked into the old town this afternoon, checked out the route for tomorrow and had a paddle, ice cream, coffee etc.

    We've arranged a lift back from Portsmouth courtesy of some very kind friends who can put the bike in their car. But with storm Ophelia going up the Bay of Biscay in the next couple of days there could be more adventures yet on this trip, look out for the final chapters.
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  • Day38

    A lazy get up, we weren't in breakfast until 10am and it was bedlam, where were all these people last night it seemed so quiet? Later we realised there was a wedding on which explained why so many children were around.

    Walked down into the village for the picturesque promenade by the river and were met with what appeared to be hoards of walkers coming at speed in the other direction. Never seen spaniards move so quick, it looked like a mega U3A walking group on steroids. The front ones marched round a corner passed us and out of sight and a small band struck up .... where did they come from? Then the reason for the rush became obvious, they were first in the queue at the feeding station on some sort of organised walk. Mind you, the brown slop they were getting didn't look too appetising but I suppose we didn't know how long they'd been walking or maybe it was some sort of penance pilgrimage?

    Our gentler walk was clearing our muzzy heads, probably too much sleep, but we were nearly out of paracetamol so stopped in at the farmacia to get some in case they were needed later. My goodness they don't go in for small quantities, who's been stopped in Tesco for having more than two 16 packs of 500mg strength tablets because it's regarded as dangerous. Over here they don't seem to do less than packs of 40 double strength. That's like 5 packs back home.

    We didn't need the tablets in the end (just an import licence for the quantity or dangerous drugs something probably) and after our gentle walk it was back to the Parador for a drink in the relative cool of the garden. Then sort the route a little siesta before having the massage to prepare the body for the final push into Santander tomorrow, evening meal and bed.
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  • Day37

    We were up bright and early so we could maximise our time at the Parador. The senhora told us it was another fiesta day so we were hoping for quiet roads. We called in to our favourite pasteleria for some provisions as breakfast had been a bit 'light'. Our route on N634 snaked around the autovia and had a few serious climbs. We crossed the river at one point and the mountain scenery reminded me of Canada. In this area there seemed to be something going on in an old house, a dog had been sent in to search the place but we weren't able to find out what was cracking off. There were many pilgrims on the road, presumably walking on the Camino de Santiago. We usually get a cheery wave from them even though we are not quite part of the gang as we are on a bike. Equally we get an 'hola' from the Lycra clad riders as they wiz passed us but we are also not part of their gang!!! For us there probably was more camaraderie on the Velodysee in France as we have seen very few bike tourers in Spain.

    When we reached Laredo we had a magnificent view from our road over the town and huge sandy beach. We did another rapid decent into the old town where we stopped for coffee.

    We were only a few kilometres from the Parador, which was well signposted. We entered through the old gate and of course the long tree lined drive was uphill! Again 2 sweaty cyclist walked into the spacious, beautifully decorated and furnished entrance lounge but the receptionists didn't give us a disapproving look and actually invited Tony to bring the tandem through the entrance lounge to store it in a secure room. Well at this point we had cycled over 1000 miles, quite a milestone, and arrived safe and sound even though it was Friday the 13th!

    We spent the afternoon soaking up the surroundings, taking tea on the terrace, a gentle stroll in the garden and booked massages for the next day. We enjoyed a delicious meal in the dinning room in the evening and were able to go to bed without setting an alarm as tomorrow is a real rest day!
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  • Day36

    Today we will be leaving the Basque region and will be crossing into Cantabria. The Basque people are very supportive of their region, we have seen many flags and posters supporting Basque independence and the Catalonian desire for independence. Many of the older men seem to wear the large berets which seems to be part of the Basque culture and yesterday we saw many people wearing purple neck ties but we couldn't find out why. We have enjoyed the Basque region and there has been some beautiful scenery but I hope in Cantabria the signs will just be in "my" Spanish rather than all the unpronounceable words of the Basque language!

    Bilbao seemed to be asleep as we headed out at 10 am. The initial bike route out of central Bilbao was good and along a smart promenade but, as we progressed further along the opposite side of the river to our inbound route, it was equally tatty. Once we had crossed another river inlet we headed up the coast towards the port of Bilbao and tatty turned into some smart areas. We stopped at a cafe and within 5 minutes the area was crowded with families promenading and we assumed it must be a fiesta day. We saw the Brittany Ferry in Port which we had originally intended to catch but they wouldn't book the bike on. We continued round to La Arena beach which was heaving with families. A french cyclist from Paris stopped to talk to us and asked if we were going to Santiago, he was, then going on to Portugal. We have seen him several times since and he is only travelling at a similar speed to us so I think he is going to be on the road for a while.

    Because of the fiesta day the roads were quiet, which was good as the climbs were tough especially as it was a hot day. The views along the coast in both directions were magnificent. As ever Stoker was worried about the descents especially on one particularly steep one when we had a huge lorry behind us and you could smell his breaks over heating as he was trying to keep behind us! We pulled in to let him pass.

    We could see Castro Urdiales on the horizon and thought we were descending towards it only to find ourselves in a different village and another hill to climb before we got to our destination. Eventually we saw the sandy bay of Castro Urdiales and road along the smart promenade to our "small hotel" called Villa Floren which was an old semi detached house right on the sea front. We knocked on the door which was opened by Marco who was about 9 years old, his mum and Grannie were there but he was the English speaker and was determined to say his rehearsed script and certainly didn't like me chipping in with any Spanish. I can remember Tony booking this hotel and the location looked good but I was suspicious because it was cheap and neither of us realised it wasn't en suite!!! (Almost camping as far as we were concerned!). It probably seemed even worse as we had just left the very smart hotel in Bilbao and the following hotel is the Parador. Anyway we buckled down to a more basic life style!! We went for a walk and were impressed with the town and pleasure port. We found a good pastelerie (cake shop) for afternoon refreshments and somewhere for dinner but, this being Spain, there is no chance of food until 8 pm at the earliest so we went back to our "des res" for a while to find 2 other rooms were occupied and sharing the bathroom - shock horror!
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  • Day35

    Plan for the day, hop on hop off bus tour for orientation, visit things noted, lunch in the old quarter and then the Guggenheim.

    Well, hop on and off it may be but people don't. It's packed with people at the first stop, Guggenheim, and when they've got their places on the top deck they're not giving them up for anyone.....we got on 2 stops after (!) the "G". They probably should update the commentary, two of the items described as "to be build" were a thirty odd storey skyscraper and another twin tower block development, both of which are there already.

    So, having done the tour round to the G we nipped up onto the top deck for half the trip again round to the old quarter, where we did "hop off". We wandered round the old streets, came across a bit of a folk band, had pintxos and soaked in the atmosphere. Then up the funicular for a view of the city. Down again for coffee by the bandstand then off to the G.

    The Guggenheim...not so much the "Wow" factor more the "What the?" factor. It's certainly a wacky shaped building and supposed to be as interesting as the art inside. Well it surpasses that by a long way but I doubt it merits its billing as the building of the century. The puppy of flowers....have the curators seen the flower floats at the parade in Zundert ? They make this puppy look distinctly amateur. The spider.... the artist obviously can't weld proficiently but I suppose that gives it texture and it does have a presence and a menacing "HG Wells" sort of look. Inside.....well what can I say, the phrase that kept coming to mind was "the emperor isn't wearing any clothes" but nobody seems brave enough to say it. Mind you there was a full frontal video of two naked old people shining torches at bits of themselves, we gave that up after the arm session, didn't want to know what the next bit to explore was going to be. Another piece of video was especially striking, an early 1900's silent black and white sequence of people entering a church for a wedding shown to some plink plonk sounds in the background. Rather than being shown at normal speed it was freeze framed with each frame moving on every 10 or 20 seconds. It was striking because it was shown in a hall so dark that when you went in you bumped into people desperately trying to find their way out and, just for good measure, there were randomly placed sofas for you to fall over or inadvertently sit on someone's knee as you sat down. One of the artist's masterpieces apparently and it wasn't even his original film! This stuff makes a pair of knickers on Tracy Emin's Unmade Bed look positively riveting. (That was my attempt at sarcasm for any art lovers following, by the way) I really couldn't see what all the fuss was about in the textile section, we went to a quilting exhibition in a tiny village in Spain last year that was much more impressive than anything here. There was, however, one piece of art I really thought hit the mark, outside is a sculpture of lots of shiny metallic spheres by Anish Kapoor called Tall Tree and The Eye, it's just that he got the title wrong, I think a more appropriate title would be "It's All Balls". You do wonder at the rationality of some people, not least those who spend loads of money on this stuff......but they've got 15€ of ours to spend on it now too.

    Lessons for Bilbao, get on the hop on hop off bus at the Guggenheim, look at the building as you pass and don't bother with the stuff inside. Spend time on the old stuff in Bilbao and just soak up the atmosphere over coffee and pintxos, that's the best bit.
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  • Day34

    Last night we carefully studied the map as we knew there was a range of hills we had to go over and a decision to be be made as to where we went over the hills between us and Bilbao or if we went on a longer route on a reasonably busy road passed the airport and around the end of the second set of hills. We decided on the latter route but as we thought it was going to be a hard day of riding we tried to set off reasonably early. As we left Gernika the mist was swirling around in between the hills. The road out of town was busy but we then turned onto a BI road which was much quieter and through a more rural area. After a short while the road started to climb and continued up for 9 km, we eventually reached a village so decided it was time for coffee. It wasn't a very relaxed break as the man at the next table was having a bit of a melt down on the phone. After a long hill there is always a long descent and now the captain knows he has to follow stokers request and go slowly down otherwise the stoker has a melt down too.

    We are very impressed with the Spanish drivers, they wait behind us as we slowly wind up the climbs and give us plenty of room when they pass. They seem to prefer to get wingmirror close to the oncoming traffic rather than come close to us, what a difference to U.K. cycling. Everywhere people assume we're pilgrims on the Camino so maybe that's why drivers are nice to us, it's probably bad luck to damage a pilgrim.

    We stopped for lunch in Larrabetzu's shady square for our picnic, saw another Picasso type tile mural and found a place for another coffee.

    The busy road by the airport was not as bad as expected and there was even a small section with a cycle track. We had another uphill before turning back in the direction of Bilbao along the river. First impressions of Bilbao weren't good, it looked very run down and there were plenty of derelict buildings. However as we approached the Deuso University area it all started to look much better. We found a cycle track along the river but we did get ushered off at one point as equipment was being set up for a light show for the Guggenheim Museum's 20th Birthday. We took a selfie with the Guggenheim in the background wearing our Rolls Royce shirts in appreciation of our Rolls Royce readers and to show them we are overseas promoting their 'firm'! We crossed the river and easily found the 4 star Abando Hotel where we were staying. Two sweaty cyclists walked into the marble entrance hall with panniers, checked in and asked for the tandem to be 'parked' in the hotel's garage! Always an amusing moment to see the look on the receptionists face!

    After some r & r in our very comfortable room we headed out to Ledemar which we had read was one of the gastronomy areas of town and had a very delicious meal. Then it was time for bed so we were ready to 'do' the town tomorrow.
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  • Day33

    Our room looked out over the tranquil garden of the hotel and we could see it was going to be another glorious day when it warmed up. We had a delicious breakfast with plenty of fresh fruit and a wide selection of other goodies. We knew it was going to be a day of climbing in the mountains but only low mileage. As we loaded the tandem we saw Lisa and John, who we met last night, and they waved us off on our way.

    We bought some provisions in town as on the map it looked like there were very few villages. It was quite a steep climb out of the village then we were out in the countryside and steadily climbing. It was a reasonably quiet route and the drivers were generally considerate, fortunately, there were none of the noisy motor bike riders who whizzed passed us yesterday. We saw a few cows with bells clanging around their necks, some goats and barking dogs but none in the mood for chasing us. As we climbed higher we were in shaded forest areas and we were pleased for some cool air. When it came to our usual coffee break time we hadn't seen any cafe along the route all morning so had almost given up hope but then we saw a knife and fork sign in the distance but as we approached it said 2 km down a track and we didn't even know if it would be open. We went a little further and Stoker spotted a couple of barrel shaped tables outside a house with its door open. As the nominal Spanish speaker Stoker was sent in to find out if they were serving coffee and they were!! These little out of the way places, hundreds of feet up a mountain are about the only time you get to say things in Spanish and they reply in Spanish as generally in the hotels and restaurants in towns they cut straight to English. Not only were they serving coffee but through another door and the place was like a tardes (Dr Who fans excuse the spelling if it's wrong) with dinning room set up for 70 or 80 people.....in the middle of nowhere.

    Suitably refreshed, we had just a small amount more of ascending before a quick decent around some steep hairpin bends and made an early 1 pm arrival in town. As we rode in we passed our hotel but as we were rather early for check in we ate our picnic lunch in the park next door to the hotel.

    We had plenty of time to wander around the town and saw the Basque Parliament building for the region and the Basque tree, the parks and a Picasso tile mural. By early evening the town was humming full of locals and their children strolling around, drinking in the bars and eating tapas. We decided to go 'local' and order some drinks and tapas which was very filling and a voyage of discovery as we weren't quite sure what we had chosen. Then, like the locals, we went to the cake and chocolate shop for some sweet delights.

    Back to the hotel and just time to look at the topography map for tomorrow's route into Bilbao and see some more pink bits which means 1000 ft plus!!!!
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  • Day32

    Another cold morning but clear blue skies and the promise of another clear day with wall to wall sunshine but not too hot so perfect for cyclists. Tony did a mini service and clean up on the bike then we headed off and upwards on the N634. The scenery in the hills was beautiful, the drivers, on the whole were considerate and the climb was gradual but nearly always in the upwards direction. At the summit of the hill there were some road works with traffic control and a view point with stunning views in both directions along the coast. We stopped for a photo and some motor bikers from Israel offered us a coffee as they were brewing up, we declined but chatted to them for a while. We rejoined the traffic and cycled through the roadworks before making our decent into Deba. The reasonably steep decent down the snaking coastal route being over taken by the queue of traffic was as much of a trill ride as I've been in in any theme park. When we flashed into Deba I couldn't decide if I needed a coffee, gin and tonic or tranquilliser!!! Anyway we found a 'bikers' cafe next to the station and sat in the sunshine and I plucked up courage for the next leg of the journey. The route took us around the coast, again some amazing views, then through pine and eucalyptus woods before descending into Ondarroa where the whole population of the town seemed to be out promenading or drinking in cafes and bars, obviously Sunday's aren't a day for DIY and gardening over here but that could have something to do with most of the accommodation is apartments so not much gardening required!

    The final 12 km were again around the coast and it is easy to see why this is called "Green Spain", the mountains are not dissimilar to alpine areas of Europe, the sea is azure blue, there are many sandy beaches and there are dramatic rock formations, all in all spectacular scenery.

    We reached Lekeito and were slightly confused why the Garmin wanted to take us miles up the valley before entering town so, again, we used our sense of direction and were helped out by a local who saw us hunched over our map and said "follow me". We arrived at Zubieta Hotel which you enter via a cool, bamboo shaded road, the hotel is in the grounds of Zubieta Palace and was originally the stables but has now been very tastefully converted into a beautiful, historic, country house hotel set in tranquil grounds. We unpacked and set off to look around the old town with its impressive and large basilica, church, historic buildings and Port.

    We returned to the hotel for a tasty meal in the peaceful hotel dinning room. Now we are no longer on the Velodysee we re not seeing any fellow tourers. However we did get chatting to some fellow travellers, John and Lisa from Connecticut, USA, who were visiting Spain and enjoying both the cities and walking in the mountains.
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  • Day31

    After our eventful day yesterday and experience on Spanish roads we felt apprehensive about how today's journey would turn out. The night before we carefully planned the route, especially the first section through San Sebastián, and I had written out instructions which I pinned to Tony's back. All the street names were in the Basque language and impossible to pronounce. We set off from the hotel and headed towards San Sebastián when we stopped to check the map a helpful local pointed us in the direction of the cycle route which we followed and found one of the town's beaches - phew. Next job was to find coffee. We came across the town hall with at least one wedding party standing outside. The square was packed so we headed down to the harbour area but the restaurants there only served food. We next tried the old town and found a little cafe with a fabulous choice of tapas or pintxos (the basque name) . Unfortunately we had only recently had breakfast so could only manage coffee which cost a mere €3.15 - bargain!
    We headed out of San Sebastián which was a bit of a challenge. We found a large supermarket to get provisions then set off towards Zarautz. The route was uphill for quite a way despite following a river (for a local cycling friends, it was the equivalent of 7 Beaulieu hills). The Spanish drivers were quite good but Stoker was constantly worried about the gutter running along the side of the road which we were cycling close to. We had lunch by the beach at Zarautz and were pleasantly surprised that the route took us around the coast with some fantastic views but not too bad hills. Stoker was now worried about the low barrier and sheer drops into the sea!!

    When we reached Zumaia there seemed to be a kayak race going on so it was rather crowded. Tonight we stayed in a bungalow on a camp site. The approach to the campsite was up a very steep hill and our bungalow was at the top of the site so another hill. Still it was a comfy little bungalow and we cooked some tea and prepared for more hills and scary adventures tomorrow.
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  • Day31

    Today the Velodessey certainly didn't live up to its reputation so far. Gone are the quiet excellent tracks, now we are on main roads with trucks and only a white line and bravado separating us, the signage seems poorer and when we were on our own track at the side of the road it was like a ploughed field, except this one was made of concrete so no softness in the bumps there then. None of this was helped by the weather, a dampness in the air when we left the hotel turned into a steady drizzle so waterproofs on ("it won't last long so no need for overshoes" - schoolboy error!) which then turned into a steady pour. By which time overshoes were irrelevant. All of which wasn't improving the captain's general demeanour.

    On one section, where we weren't on the main road but going through a side village, one of the local resident's dog decided he didn't like the look of us or our tandem and started snapping at the tyres as we rolled down a narrow street. The dog, ignoring all commands from the old lady owner (don't they always seem to) eventually gave up the chase but not before we were feet out and ready to retaliate. Kicking out on a downhill wet cobbled street was always going to be fraught with its own dangers so it was fortunate it didn't come to it.

    It was still raining when we got to St Jean de Luz when we stopped for coffee and, not wanting to flood the bar too much, I shook off the waterproofs outside the door, took my shoes and socks off and wrang out the socks and gloves too. The miserable looking lady who seemed to be swanning around inside as though she owned the place (maybe she did) gave me a disparaging look from the dry of the inside of the bar but that didn't stop her serving 2 thimbles of coffee for 8 euros.

    By the time we got to Hendaye the rain had allbut stopped so we sat on the seafront (on plastic bags) to eat lunch and watched the local police stop various passing motorists, seemingly at random and let them go again. A short ride down the prom and a stop for a coffee, warm and wee, not necessarily in that order. We had a lovely soft sofa seat and looked like the local bag people whilst the other diners certainly looked dryer than we did. The problem with cloth sofas and wet clothing is that one can leave a damp patch on the other......let's hope they realised (i) it was the result of the rain and (ii) the padding in the shorts was for cycling and not incontinance!

    Just when you thought the trail can't get any worse, there was the sign pointing down some steps! What! But, ever thoughtful there was a steel trough to run your bike down the edge of the steps....not with panniers on you can't, oh and what don't grip on a wet shiney stainless steel surface....tyres! Oh, and the trough is so close to the edge of the steps and wall that you can't even wheel it vertical, it has to be over at an angle...great design. But that wasn't the final sting in the tail, just as we're riding along a beautiful boardwalk towards the end of France, there's our bridge to Spain but hang on, there's no way off the boardwalk to get onto the bridge, we're fenced in over the water and pass right under the bridge and on for another 800 metres before we can get off and head back for the bridge.

    Spain at last, the rain has stopped, the sun's out and we're into manic street traffic in Irun with no route signs to follow just a rudimentary map and sense of smell, which after 4 weeks on the road is getting tainted. After a while we resort to giving Gavster his head and put in the coordinates of the hotel. "Bing" he's got a route, but not all the roads are on the map....we go with it anyway. It was when it said "turn right onto unpaved road" the alarms rang, but it turned out to be concrete, single track and very(!) uphill... on the bright side it had stopped raining. We were loosing confidence when the track appeared to end at a farm house door with leashed dog standing guard. Backtrack down the hill slightly to ask local if the track went passed the farmhouse and in the direction we wanted...."Si" was the reply. Girding loins we set off uphill again to find the track turned passed the farmhouse outside the length of the dog's leash....phew! Up, up and up again, eventually popped out into a road then down, thank goodness. Near the hotel gavster tried to direct us to turn left into a wall, we ignored him and carried on down, only problem was the only alternative road, nose to tail lorries and cars going at the speed limit in both directions. After some deep breaths, donning the high viz vests and knowing the hotel should only be a couple of kms down the road we set off as fast as we could manage. As we passed what looked like a motorway service station there was the hotel, veered into the almost non existent slip road and stopped outside the hotel. Modern place but very comfortable, totally pooped after most climbing day so far and stinky we just dropped the luggage in the room before pigging out at the Burgerking next door. Then back to the room for a great shower and contemplate "how the heck do we get out of here and avoid the road outside!?"
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  • Day29

    Today has be scheduled as a part rest day with only a short ride to Biarritz so we got up late and didn't make it into breakfast until 9.15 am. When we did our usual 'bonjours' to all in the dinning room a man piped up are you English and with the tandem? He was another cyclist who had parked his bike next to ours in the garage last night. We did the usual cyclist/travellers exchange of adventure, travel tales which meant we weren't leaving the hotel until 10.45 am - good job it WAS a short day. We made our way out of Bayonne and soon found ourselves in the upmarket residential, outskirts of Biarritz which was a classy area with big properties. Biarritz town is on top of cliffs so we had some climbing to reach the town and then descended passed the huge and elegant Palace hotel to the Grande Plage and promenade with its Art Deco casino and cafes. We had coffee in The Grande Plage Cafe and it won the prize for most expensive coffees at €8.90 for 2 small cups of coffee but it was a lovely location and we enjoyed watching all the surfers. The coffee in Biarritz was one of Tony's "must do's" for the trip. For those old enough to remember the TV series Ruskin Airways, Jack Ruskin seemed to fly there from the winter chill of northern England to deliver things or people and be having coffee in the sun sat on the seafront before setting off back.....well that's what Tony remembers anyway!

    We then set off, up hill again, and spotted a coffee called "The Tandem" so we headed over to take a picture and who should we see coming out of the restaurant but Poppy and Jem who we meet a couple of days ago. We spent almost an hour in the sunshine catching up on each other's travels and finding out we had been bumping into similar fellow Velodysee travellers. On Poppy and Jem's recommendation we stopped at "The Tandem" for Cafe Gourmet which is a drink of coffee and a selection of 4 or 5 small desserts. We then cycled up a very steep hill to our hotel which, like last night, was a lovely old building. We did a quick change into "civvies" and were off to the aquarium area to walk along the cliff path, passed the old Port to the Grande Plage and up into town. We took a ride around the town on the petite train and had hoped to eat early but non of the restaurants were open until 7 pm so went back to the hotel to do some laundry then walked back into town via the Halles area and eat again in "The Tandem". We have had a great variety of food on this trip, gallettes, fish, duck generally all french style dishes but tonight we opted for good old chicken burger and chips!

    Tomorrow we leave France and cross the border into Spain and, as well as swopping the easy cycle route for the unknown paths of Spain, we will also be in a country where we are a lot less competent at communicating. Tony still remembers "Soy Tony" (I'm Tony) from his Spanish lessons and the rest is up to me!!!!!!
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