To Aragon in Spain

Discussion in 'Epic Rides' started by Sylvia Stuurman, Jul 22, 2011.

  1. Sylvia Stuurman

    Sylvia Stuurman Adventurer

    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2009
    Oddometer:
    63
    Location:
    Mheer, the Netherlands
    In 2010, we decided at the last moment to go to Aragon in Spain: our first idea was to go to the area of Dresden in Germany, but it had been raining over there for months, and it would not stop: Spain it would be.

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    The idea was to take it easy: I *have* to take it easy after my motorcycle accident. "Easy" meaning: shorter stretches, more rests than what I was accustomed to.
    Anyway: any trip starts at home. We never take the highway: the ride itself is the holiday.
    That's easy to say if you live in such a beautiful area as we do, in the "Hill country" of the Netherlands, in the south of Limburg.

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    First the Belgium Ardennes, with what I always call "Spa-houses", though I don't know if it's really the town of Spa that these kind of houses belong to.

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    This is how we traveled: I rode my Tenere, with only a tank bag, and Ernst rode his SuperTenere, with cases and an Ortlieb and a tankbag and a rucksack. And a bottle of water, of course.

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    Here, we enter Germany.

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    The only legal way to ride off-road in Germany is, I think, when there is work to be done on the road...

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    and after many very likeable small roads, we found ourselves in the hassle of Saarbrücken. One of the Saarbrückeners painted his house like this.

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    It was late when we reached the village of Abreschviller in France, at the foot of the Col du Donon, where we found this small hotel, named "Col du Donon". In France, you can still find such gems: a small familyrun hotel, consisting of a few rooms above a bar, very cheap, without any luxury. The best ;-)

    More foto's on http://www.sylviastuurman.nl/stories/aragon/dag1/ (in Dutch)
    #1
  2. simmons1

    simmons1 Long timer

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    :lurk
    #2
  3. Sylvia Stuurman

    Sylvia Stuurman Adventurer

    Joined:
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    Location:
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    The Col du Donon marks the beginning of what is called les Vosges in French, and de Vogezen in Dutch, but for which I don't know the Engelish name...
    It's a region of relatively low mountains and very pretty villages, and beautiful motorcycle roads.

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    You ride up through the woods to the Col du Donon.

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    Riding down, we encounter many more motorcycle riders.

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    We ride east, on typical "Vosges"-roads.

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    We tried a cut-off, and I had to give up when the gravel turned far more loose, and the road got steeper, with hairpins. Yes I know, I am a coward!

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    This monument marks a very sad spot: the place of Le Struthof, a concentration camp where both Jews and Roma (gypsies) found a terrible end, after having served as guinea pigs for the Nazi's.
    I think the monument is beautiful: a sharp object, jamming itself into history.

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    The Vosges is a region of fine roads...

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    and of picturesque French villages.

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    The white car drove in front of us, when suddenly he backed up, to a driveway at the opposite side.
    He had spotted the enormous truck, which drove down with an incredible speed, and would never have been able to stop in time for the white car: the driver of the white car was a smart one!

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    After that incident, we had the road for ourselves, but you can still see the white car behind me.

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    We took small roads, and sometimes, a road ended. Such a place is, of course, a fine spot for a picknick-lunch.

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    This is Saintes-Maries aux Mines, a colourfull old mining town.

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    The Col de la Schlucht, always full of motorcycle riders. The name of this Col tells it all: this region has always been fought over by Germany and France. The language is French now, but many places have very German names.

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    The "route des Cretes" takes you over the crests of the mountains. It's a splendid route, but not during holiday times: there were cars parked along the road everywhere, and people walking and picking berries. The Route des Cretes is to be done when empty, so you can enjoy the corners to the fullest.
    This time, we go off it, to a smaller road.

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    Then you ride down, hairpin after hairpin.

    But eventually, we ride out of the Vosges, and we enter the Jura. The Jura is slightly higher, and wider than the Vosges.

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    This farm is typical of the Jura: very big, with a low roof.

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    And this road is typical of the Jura: you ride through wide open grasslands. Cows give very good milk here!

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    The motorcycles and we got a rest at the Doubs, a peaceful river, between France and Switzerland.

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    After having crossed the river, we are in Switzerland.

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    We both have this idea of not wanting to sleep in Switzerland. Maybe it hasd something to do with the fact that the only hotel which refused us, ever (in pouring rain), was in Switzerland. Maybe it has just something to do with the fact that we like France. However, we try to ride back to France.
    Though I must admit that Switzerland is a very pretty country.

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    This is a dramatic way to leave a country: when you ride out of this tunnel, you are in France.

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    Finding a place to sleep was not easy. This hotel was fully booked, and some others as well.

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    This place was, unfortunately, only a restaurant.

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    This was a hotel in an abby, which was closed.

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    But in the end, we found a place, in the French Jura, where they know what good food is...

    More pictures of this day on http://www.sylviastuurman.nl/stories/aragon/dag2/
    #3
  4. vodonos

    vodonos FILIP

    Joined:
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    Nice to see you back:wave
    #4
  5. zadok

    zadok Been here awhile

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    Location:
    Western Australia
    Great riding roads. Great pics.:clap:D
    #5
  6. Rema in Paluda

    Rema in Paluda Been here awhile

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    Well it was a bit let's say steep-ish, so i forgive you :wink:

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    #6
  7. Sylvia Stuurman

    Sylvia Stuurman Adventurer

    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2009
    Oddometer:
    63
    Location:
    Mheer, the Netherlands
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    At breakfast, we got into a conversation with the two Scooter-riders. They were from Germany. He had a Bandit 1200, and his wife did not have a license for a motorbike, so she had a scooter.
    And for that reason, he had decided to buy a scooter too, to go on holiday together. I like that very much!

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    And on we ride, through the Jura.

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    I love these roads, especially after we have passed all cars!

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    We arrive in St Claude, where we have been before.
    It's a strange town, St Claude: it strikes me as very sad. We once slept there in what is maybe the worst hotel we found ever, and it was almost impossible to find something to eat in the evening: everything was closed, run-down.
    The strange thing is: it's a very beautiful town, built at both sides of a ravine with a river running through. It is as though its inhabitants have given up on trying to make it a prosperous town.

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    The D124 is very quiet and very pleasant.

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    The SuperTenere just had to pose next to this Porsche tractor.

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    When we pause, this Harleyrider, from the Netherlands, joins us. He is camping here, with wife and kids, and is enjoying his bike now and then.
    I am very lucky to be able to ride with Ernst, both on a bike!

    At this point, the obvious way to go would be to the south-west: that is where Spain is.
    But the trouble with France is that it is very big, and, though many parts are extremely beautiful, there are also many very boring long and straight and crowded roads.
    So, we decide to go to the south-east instead: to the Alps. A detour it will be.
    When you think about it, every trip is a detour: nothing wrong with a detour!

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    After some boring roads, we enter the Haute-Savoie: we are in the Alps.

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    This is a rare view: Montblanc, without clouds!

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    After Beaufort, we ride onto the Cormet de Roselend, one of my favorite Alp-passes. We are accompanied by this motorcycle rider. I admire him: we have bikes with much more ground clearance, and we like corners, but he was able to keep riding behind us!

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    The Barrage de Roselend has an almost unreal colour.

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    We climb higher and higher, and the scenery gets wilder and barer. Here, you see that the Cormet de Roselend is a favourite during bicycle-races as well.

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    This is for me the best symbol of the Cormet de Roselend: bare, lonely, impressive.

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    We have to stop for road works, so we are able to talk to our fellow-motorcycle rider.
    He is from Italy, and "his bike and he are very old", he says. And he enjoyed riding together as much as we did.

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    On top of the Col, in a valley, lies a camping ground plus hotel: Auberge de la Nova.
    We decide to stay there: nothing better than a night high in the Alps, in the shadow of the MontBlanc!

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    When dinner is served, you eat at long tables. We sit next to a couple from St Etienne, and are able to practice our French.
    I remember the time when many restaurants in Paris were like that: you just sat next to other guests, at long tables, and you ate what was prepared, without a menu list. Maybe this is the best way to eat in a restaurant, I think. It was a very enjoyable meal.

    At night, we make an evening stroll, and see Ravens, a Golden Eagle, and the white of the MontBlanc against the black of the night.
    Perfect!

    More photo's on http://www.sylviastuurman.nl/stories/aragon/dag3/
    #7
  8. panzerrocket

    panzerrocket Been here awhile

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    Excellent! More...
    #8
  9. Sylvia Stuurman

    Sylvia Stuurman Adventurer

    Joined:
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    Thank you all!
    And yes, there is more to come ;-)
    #9
  10. Sylvia Stuurman

    Sylvia Stuurman Adventurer

    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2009
    Oddometer:
    63
    Location:
    Mheer, the Netherlands
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    The following morning, the weather looked fine. It was just a little bit cloudy.
    We followed the Cormet de Roselend to the south.

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    And then we got stuck: A crane had fallen down, and was being haled up. Impossible to pass, even with a motorbike.
    We were lucky to be able to turn: the cars arriving just had to wait, for hours at least...

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    But to the nord, the weather turned. There was such heavy mist on the Cornet de Roselend that I had to ride without my glasses, to be able to see *any*thing.
    Here, we are on the D925 to Albertville, in heavy rain...
    This is, I think, the only time that I was glad to have a truck in front of me: his lights were very visible, and he drove fast. I could just focus my eyes on those red lights...

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    Eventually, we climbed the Col de Télegraphe. It was slightly drier, and the clouds were picturesque.

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    We ate, and tried to dry our stuff, on top of the col. Here, the view is completely clouded by mist.

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    But an hour later, the sun was shining. On the road again!

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    Our next col was the Galibier. A favourite of many motorcycle riders.

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    Each col in the Alps has its own characteristics. The Galibier has these magnificent mountians as a view: loose black gravel and sharp points.

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    On other mountains, the gravel is lightgray.

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    Near the top, you can choose between a tunnel and a narrow road. Of course, we took the narrow road. Difficult for someone with fear-of-heights, as I have, but very, very beautiful.

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    The south-side of the Col du Galibier is worthwhile as well.

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    We now rode in big sweeps along the D1091 to the west.

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    with great views along the way.

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    The Col d'Ornon, to the south, marked the end of the "Big Alps": we are now in the smaller Alps.

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    "Smaller" Alps means: more trees, less cars and motorcycles, just as many corners, and great views.

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    This is Mont Aiguille, a strangely formed rock in the Vercors.

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    We climb the Col de Menee, with these orange rocks, high above us.

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    In les Nonieres, we find a hotel, with great food. These were our Alps-days: tomorrow we will leave them.

    More photo's on http://www.sylviastuurman.nl/stories/aragon/dag4/
    #10
  11. Sylvia Stuurman

    Sylvia Stuurman Adventurer

    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2009
    Oddometer:
    63
    Location:
    Mheer, the Netherlands
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    When we left the following morning, to the south, we saw the same orange rocks. They are the Cirque d'Archian.

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    The D61a crossed a small river. I got a sliding back wheel: too much gas!

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    The D61 is magnificent: it goes on and on, alongside a river. Along with the river, you descend slowly.
    And the river made corners, everywhere.

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    This is the Gorge of the Eygues, where we saw our first Griffon Vultures.

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    To get into Spain from the Alps, you have to cross the Rhone, at some point.
    The Rhone is a big river, and has made a big vast plain. But there is no alternative: we have to cross it, which means no corners for a long time.
    No corners: instead, just wind and wine...

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    And this is the river that ate away our corners...

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    But now, we are in the Cevennes, and corners are plentiful. This is the D907, from Anduze.

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    After a while, the D907 gets smaller.

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    And then we take a side-road that is even smaller: the Col de Salides.

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    We ride through the Parc National des Causses des Cevennes, and you can look over the tops of them mountains.

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    The D151 passes through strange landscapes, with prickly plants and prickly rocks.

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    The D142 feels like "my" road: empty, and one fast corner after another. It feels like the road gives me energy, I love it!

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    There is heavy traffic on the D908, but after a while everyone is home, it seems, and the road turns out beautiful.

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    After crossing through the whole of St Pons de Thomieres, we find a hotel just outside the town, Les Bergeries de Pondérach.
    It is housed in an old wine-makery, and we get a big old room, with very high ceilings and an open fire.
    We eat outside, and our host appears to be very charming. The food is delicious!
    Our host (you can see him in the background) wants to sell the place, because he wants to retire. If anyone thinks of a life as a hotel-owner: this is a great place, along a great road...
    #11
  12. V-Twin-Maniac

    V-Twin-Maniac Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Sep 5, 2009
    Oddometer:
    256
    Location:
    Germanistan
    i love france....the good thing is i live close to the border:D.....we are always in alsave, vosges on the road...i was at this places you posted here...its very nice!

    vive la france! and thanks for the pics :clap
    #12
  13. Sylvia Stuurman

    Sylvia Stuurman Adventurer

    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2009
    Oddometer:
    63
    Location:
    Mheer, the Netherlands
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    This is the courtyard of the hotel Les bergeries de Ponderach, in St Pons de Thomieres. You eat (dinner and breakfast) at the back. Our room is behind the door to the right. A great place!

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    The hotel is along the D907, which we ride to the south. It's a perfect motorcycle road.
    Here, in the south of France, the weather is perfect as well! This is how you always hope your vacation will look like. It's like, with every breath you take, you get healthier and happier.

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    We have the strange sensation of riding along, for a while, and crossing,, here, the Canal du Midi.
    In the Netherlands, we have many canals of course, ans I associate canals with flat countryside. Here, the canal runs through hills. Sometimes the canal is dug deep into a hill, sometimes, the canal runs *over* a bridge, which you ride under. Very strange indeed!

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    Then we choose de D613, and, when we sit for a pause, an enormous group of motorcycle riders comes along. They are right to have chosen this road: this is motorcycle riding at its best.

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    We ride to the south, along smaller and smaller roads.

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    Sometimes we come through a village, which has been built for horses and donkeys; not for campervans...

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    We find a restaurant near Cubières sur Cinoble, Le Vieux Moulin, where you eat outside, in a big party tent.

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    We take our time to eat there.
    Here, in the south of France, you feel the vicinity of Spain: the food and the language here are Catalan, and the time at which lunch is served is late. In Spain, you eat lunch between 14:00 and 16:00, and over here, it's about between 13:00 and 15:00.
    The rythm of having your main course in the form of lunch, late, and eating some tapas or a light dinner after 22:00 at night, is really compatible with a vacation on motorbike: you enjoy a real siesta during the day, and can then ride until late in the evening, find a place to sleep, and eat you dinner.
    It ads to the sense of freedom, and here, in the south of France, we begin to feel that freedom.

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    We ride through the Gorges de Galamus.

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    Very narrow, and whatch out for people walking or on skates!

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    We enter the Pyrenees, which are still low here. This mural is in Caramany.

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    We see the Orgues de Ille sur Têt from far. It's not clearly visible, unfortunately, but it's a sort of Mini-Bryce, and you can see a glimpse of it riding along the D21.

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    After the D21 we take the D618, and it's one tight corner after another, for hours. The corners are tight, and blind, and the road is narrow. It's beautiful, but also very, very tiring. I'm beginning to feel exhausted.

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    But in the end, we arrive at Amélie-les-Bains, and turn to the right, onto the Col d'Ares.
    The road is wider, and we climb: this road will cross the Pyrenees, into Spain. It's as though I can breath again.

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    And then we are in Spain!

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    We get lost in Ripoll, where the main street has been closed, but we don't find a hotel there.

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    When we are on the C26, the sun is setting: the colours deepen.

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    We haven't seen any village or house for a long time, when I spot a Refugio. Not knowing what kind of accomodation they have, I ask the girl sitting outside, whether she has a room for two people. "No problemo", she says.
    I also ask whether we can eat here. "No problemo" as well.
    So we unpack, and start carrying our luggage to the backside of the building, where the room should be.
    It turns out not to be a room for two, but three areas with bunk-beds, in rooms where you can't stand-up, and without any windows...

    We are too tired to pack again, and decide to stay here. At least we will be able to eat.

    But when we return to the front of the building, the girl has disappeared, and everything is closed, including the toilets....

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    So our dinner is consumed in the kitchen: the only place where you can stand upright. Dinner consists of dry biscuits and water.

    In the end, it's not so bad: it's very, very quiet, we are the only guests, and it's almost as we will be camping.

    More photo's on http://www.sylviastuurman.nl/stories/aragon/dag6/
    #13
  14. rattis

    rattis Long timer

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    Location:
    East of the seas of Kattegat
    Very very nice, maybe I should reconsider Transfargasan.....
    #14
  15. GreeKKTiNoS

    GreeKKTiNoS Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Dec 24, 2009
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    994
    Location:
    Athens Greece
    :wings
    #15
  16. Rema in Paluda

    Rema in Paluda Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jun 7, 2011
    Oddometer:
    563
    Oh, but we've been there too, shall i show you the picture which i shot of it, because Romania needs our support way more than Spain, now they are excluded of working in our land.

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    #16
  17. Sylvia Stuurman

    Sylvia Stuurman Adventurer

    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2009
    Oddometer:
    63
    Location:
    Mheer, the Netherlands
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    We woke up early in the morning in the refugio, and went to look downstairs. Everything was still closed. We had to piss outside, grabbed some dry crackers as breakfast, and packed our bags. Ernst put 10 euro at the door knob as a payment: that seemed enough, as we had slept in our own gear, and only had used the roof above us.

    When Ernst fastened the luggage , a man came outside. I was glad: maybe he could get us a cop of coffee.
    I sat outside, and Ernst went inside. Then I heard the man screaming. I went inside to look, and saw him, with a big axe.
    We both were too perplex to move. Instead, the man moved, to the back. He had hoped to scare us, and became scared himself, apparently. While moveing backwards to another room, he screamed in Spanish: "Dos Alemanos", (meaning two Germans), and "puta", was all I could understand. He also waved the 10-euro in the air.

    Ernst started to talk to the man in Dutch. He told him to put the axe down.
    The strange thing was, the man obeyed.
    Ernst put another 5 euro for him on the table, when he was gone, and hid the axe behind the shed.
    Then we went...

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    The road was beautiful.

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    In La Pobla de Lillet, we had a proper breakfast, were served by very friendly people, and everybody who walked by on the street greeted friendly. Almost as if they wanted to make up for the strange incident ;-)
    We pondered about the situation, which had been hilarious. Probably, the man had come from Barcelona, only for two guests, and was very angry about it. I don't understand that he doesn't close up when he gets this angry when he has to come to his refugio!

    By the way, La Pobla de Lillet has a garden which is designed by Gaudi. We were there once before, and it's really worthwhile to visit. Now, we just had coffee and bread, and enjoyed the sun.

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    On we went, into the Pyrenees.

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    The rocks at our side coloured orange.

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    At some point in the Sierra de Cadi we took an unpaved road, but had to go back because of roadwork. Here, you can see how Ernst takes the photos.

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    We rode on small roads in the Sierra de Cadi, in the direction of La Seu de Urgell. Here, the rock is dark red, and obviously turns into mud when wet.

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    Every village here has a church, and these churches are often very old (like 800 or 900 years).

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    Here, La Sey de Urgell shows that it's a village at heart.

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    This is the N260, which crosses the Spanish Pyrenees from east to west (or the other way around). At some stretches, it is narrow, at other stretches it is boring and straight, and at some stretches, like here, it is like a circuit.
    There is almost no other traffic: the only thing you have to watch out for are these patches of dried mud...

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    Halfway, in Rubio, we find a brand new family-owned restaurant with delicious food.
    When we have finished our food and go outside, we see these two motorcycle riders, from Switzerland, one with a SuperTenere!

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    We make a detour along a smaller road..

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    And then descend, along the N260, in the direction of Sort.

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    We follow the N260 for a while to the south, where it comes through the Congost de Collegats.

    In the Spanish Pyrenees, the interesting roads go from east to west; the boring ones use valleys, and go from north to south.
    But these boring roads have often, like here, the bonus of a spectacular landscape.

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    As the N260 turns west, the road gets interesting again.

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    In Castejon de Sos, we turn to the north. Now, we ride in the direction of the High Pyrenees.

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    Benasque is a place for wintersport. Plenty of hotels here. But we go on, further to the north, higher into the Pyrenees.

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    The mountains get higher and barer,

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    The road gets narrower...

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    And then, at the end of the road, high in the Pyrenees, is the Hospital de Benasque.

    This "Hospital" lies close to the border with France. In France, there are buildings like these as well. They were run by monks, who provided shelter for people who crossed the mountains. The word "Hospital" means a place which is hospitable.

    The old Hospital has been restored, and in a way been given back its old function: it's a hotel now, at one of the most beautiful spots imaginable.

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    We eat in the restaurant. The only minus is that the food is not up to Spanish standards. But for the rest, everything is perfect here. Everything is wood, and all wood is woodcarved. The room is like the room in a parador, but without the price tag. The people are very friendly.
    In short, a starker contrast with the refugio we left this morning is not imaginable.

    Spain is a country of miracles ;-)
    #17
  18. Sylvia Stuurman

    Sylvia Stuurman Adventurer

    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2009
    Oddometer:
    63
    Location:
    Mheer, the Netherlands
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    Breakfast in El Hospital de benasque is delicious. We spend two days in this magnificent place.

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    We climb into the mountains, and see a Marmot playing Lion King.

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    Here, you see the hotel from high above.

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    We explore Benasque itself, and find a great spot to eat, les Arkades. This is our host.

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    And this is the photo he took of us.

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    On the way back, we pass this waterfall.

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    and have to wait patiently for these sheep.

    One last night in the beautiful place, and then we will ride further into Spain.
    #18
  19. Sylvia Stuurman

    Sylvia Stuurman Adventurer

    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2009
    Oddometer:
    63
    Location:
    Mheer, the Netherlands
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    The following morning, the cows that we had seen the day before, high in the mountains, wander around on the parking place. Cows function in the same way as swallows, it seems: when they walk low, rain is gonna fall..

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    When we are ready to leave, the sky has darkened.

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    We have to wear our rain gear (my trousers will soon prove to let all the rain come through), and ride on wet roads. I must say, this landscape shows even more beauty when it's wet.

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    We ride and ride through the rain, and get very wet.
    In Ainsa, we see a restaurant where you can sit outside. We are cold, but we don't want to wet the floors inside: we eat outside, with our coats on.

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    The bikes are parked at the opposite side, dry, waiting for the sun...

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    When we leave, the rain has stopped. The sun has not appeared, but it's dry, and beautiful.

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    We ride through what is called a Garganta, with strangely formed rocks.

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    Then, the road (the N260) becomes dry, and we can enjoy riding corners again.

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    We ride to Jaca, and here, a few kilometers before Jaca, you can already see Mount Oroel.

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    We leave Java to the south, following the A1205, and come nearer to Mount Oroel. We see lots of Griffon Vultures.

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    When we are really close, the whole mountain is covered by clouds.

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    We turn to the right close to Bernues, and the road here has perfect tarmac.

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    The sky looks threatening, but we keep it dry.

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    The road ends here, at the Monasterio Nuevo de San Juan de la Peña. The word "nuevo", new, suggests that there is also an old monastery de San Juan de la Peña, and that's true: we will visit it the following morning.

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    For now, we ask for a room in the hotel that is housed in this new monastery.
    We install ourselves, take a stroll outside, and eat in the restaurant.

    One of the many pleasant aspects of Spain, is that food is almost always very good, and compared to the prices at home, extremely cheap. Spain is great!
    #19
  20. PHILinFRANCE

    PHILinFRANCE Long timer

    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2010
    Oddometer:
    1,205
    Location:
    S W France my little bit of paradise
    Fantastic , we did a bit of that 4 weeks ago :clap
    Phil
    #20