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Oh No! Where To Go

Blog Date 6 January 2024

Oh my, oh no, oh dear, poor poor poor Ren! I am facing an awful, terrible dilemma, I just don't know what to do. Feel sorry for me, for once just feel sorry for me you 'orrible lot of reprobates. You just don't understand the terrible traumas and struggles I have to face every day.

I, well Sharon and I, need to decide where our "big" trip will be this year.

We should return to Europe. We've not been since 2019 when we went to meet with The Blue People. Well the lockdowns are over, the borders are open and Europe is once again available to us. It's less available than before Brexit, but it is available. 

There are 3 primary options on the table, however with nothing booked this can all change. 
1. Spain and The Picos and/or Pyrenees. 
2. The French and Italian Alps.
3. The Hebridean Islands (Yes I know that's not Europe (any more)).
But - none of these are without their downsides.

Lush Green valley and misty mountains at The Picos
The Picos De Europa. Lufferly.

1. Spain and The Picos and/or Pyrenees. We will have 16 days to play with (2 weeks with associated weekends). One day to the south coast. One whole day on the ferry. The same for the return leg. Theoretically this leaves us with 12 days in Spain which would be fabulous! However the ferries do not sail on ideal days at ideal times. Without boring you with the details we can probably get 9 clear days in Spain. That... that's not bad actually.

OK let's do that! Errr, sweetie, the ferry will cost £1275 for 2 people, 2 bikes and 1 cabin each way. We can get the price down to around £950 without the cabins but having done the crossing with a "reserved seat" myself in the past I can assure you it makes for one MISERABLE sailing. It's not that we can't afford the crossing, we can, it's just that £1275 could pay for an awful lot of other trips. The question is - is it actually worth £1275 or should we use that money to go elsewhere?

A broad dusty car park, a closed hotel and the towering mountains of the Alps
We never planned to visit The Alps, but I'm glad we did.

2. The French and Italian Alps. We clipped the Alps gosh, 10 years ago and they were mightily impressive. Since then we developed the saying "it's lovely, but it's not The Alps". Yeah, let's go back to The Alps, let's look around there more, let's dip into Italy or Switzerland or even Austria or Southern Germany! Excellent, I can hear myself yodelling already.

Of course there's a but. We have learned from hard experience that we are NOT big miles daily kind of adventurers. We are both capable of covering 300 miles in a day, more if required I suspect, but this is a chore to us not a pleasure. In a perfect world we'd move 100 to 200 miles, pitch up, spend the next day exploring locally, then the next day another 100 to 200 miles, repeat. Yes it's slow going but it makes for a calm, enjoyable trip where we see and experience things rather than a frantic dash were all we see is tarmac and service stations. 

We have 16 days. Day 1 -a hard 300 miles to Folkstone for the Chunnel. From Calais to Chamonix is 600 miles, that's 2 more hard day's ride. 3 hard day's ride there, 3 hard day's ride back? That would leave us with a clear 10 days in The Alps which would be great. Except all I'd be thinking about while there would be the huge ride home. 

We could do the hard hard ride to get there, spend 5 or 6 days in The Alps then spend a much more comfortable short week travelling back home slowly. This, well this would be better but I fear we still wouldn't get those stay-in-place days where we can relax and look around. 

Mountains stretching into the distance in Bonny Scotland
Bonny Scotland.

3. The Hebridean Islands. Aaah Scotland, bonny Scotland. Scotland would cure all the complaints above. With 16 days we can saunter up to Oban over 2 days, cross to Barra and spend 2 days there, cross to the Uists and spend 2 days there, cross to Harris and Lewis and spend 3 days there, get back to Ullapool and still have plenty of time to meander our way home through The Highlands. The ferries would add up to around £250 which is still "yikes" but we can live with that. We know the lingo, we don't have to organise travel insurance and green cards and Crit Air stickers and it's something I've wanted to do for a while now.

Buuuuuuut... I do think about the weather. Of course Scotland won't be as warm as The Picos or The Alps. We have been drenched in France and rained upon in Spain (and Germany and The Netherlands and Belgium) so it's not like we're sure to find sunshine abroad. Statistically though the odds are against Scottish weather. We've "done alright" weatherwise in Scotland over the years I suppose.

There's another thing. I still love, adore and yearn for Scotland but if we're always going there am I at risk of spoiling the enjoyment? Let's face it this whole website has become an homage to the place, maybe it's all getting a bit dull? On the other hand we are still exploring new places there, finding out new things and we both extract a lot of pleasure from being there - if it ain't broke don't fix it.

So those are the 3 primary options. There are also other thoughts in our minds. 

Bogger's trip to Brittany would make for a much easier adventure mileage wise while still taking us back into Europe. I fear we'd be missing some mountains? Mountains aren't essential but they do help somewhat, coast also helps and there's plenty of that in Brittany. If we only want mountains and with 16 days to kill, heck we could WALK to the Welsh mountains and back in that time.

Big skies with con trails and the setting sun in Lincolnshire
Maybe mountains aren't everything?

There's still a lot of England we've not explored properly, again there's not much in the way of mountains here but again there's plenty of coastline. Maybe we should go extreme non-mountains and head to East Anglia for the "Big Skies"? Hmmm, I was there last year, we've had a poke around that area once or twice and while it's pretty, rural, filled with cute villages and charm... we're happy to be there but we're not drawn to the area. 

I've opened a conversation here and I'd welcome your input - BUT! Remember we are NOT big miles daily riders. I'm sure some of you are capable of riding from Ullapool to Lake Garda in 2 days, sleeping briefly in service stations and hedges, eating takeaways and chocolate bars, all the while loving every minute. For us this is a HOLIDAY adventure. We want to take our time, enjoy the scenery, sip tea in cafes, heck there might even be the odd day where we don't touch the bikes.

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Reader's Comments

ROD¹ said :-
Ren, Have you considered the Luxembourg area? I have not stayed there myself, but it looked good passing through. You have mountains, or at least big hills, and you are not far away from the Moselle Valley which I have visited and is very nice.
10/01/2024 11:21:42 UTC
ROD¹ said :-

10/01/2024 11:21:56 UTC
Ian Soady¹ said :-
The Hebrides are still in Europe (as indeed is Bolton) - just not, sadly, in the EU.....

I used to spend a week like this - leave work on Friday afternoon and ride down to Portsmouth for the overnight ferry (a bit further for you). Spend 3 gentle 200-mile days drifting down through France to either Alps or Pyrenees. Spend a couple of days in the mountains of my choice. 3 gentle days again returning back through France for the overnight ferry on Saturday getting me home for lunch (dinner!) time on Sunday. With your 2 weeks that gives you loads of time to dawdle if you wish.

My personal preference is for the Pyrenees - although not quite as dramatic as the Alps they seem somehow more human. And the villages are much nicer than the Alpine ski resorts. And there are amazing places like the Mas d'Azil (see photo - the Norton is on the RHS of the road to give scale).

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10/01/2024 13:27:50 UTC
Upt'North ¹ said :-
The boat to Spain as you know Ed is hard work and not to be done without a cabin. I know they do, but why? If you do decide on this see if you can get a cabin which includes club access. The upfront sitting and nibbles are definitely worth a few quid more. It's almost pleasant?
Scotland.....sorry Scots....but isn't that a bit of a waste for 16 days?
I see the Alps in your future. Take your time, 4 days down, a week or so pootling, and a good 4/5 days to get back. A week is a long time down there, you could easily do the Grande and Petite St.Bernard, plus the surrounds. The Aosta Valley is glorious. The Italian lakes can be reached easily if you want to do a round trip and maybe come back through the Dolomites.
It's a nice problem to have, we're trying to sort our trip out, where to spend a week in Southern Italy.......problems, problems.
10/01/2024 17:07:03 UTC
Upt'North ¹ said :-
Petite St.Bernard with Er'Indoors just visible doing a runner. She does that.
Nuff said.

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10/01/2024 17:11:32 UTC
Upt'North ¹ said :-
It may be easier if you don't base yourself for a long spell, just keep moving on.
10/01/2024 17:13:40 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Luxembourg ROD? I'd never considered it but I've had a poke around on Google Maps and, you know, there's a lot more there than I first realised. I'd always thought it was a city with a few fields around it. T'ain't big enough for a full week there but I must make a note that it's far more than a city, there look to be some pretty little lanes up in the North.

Upt' - we usually do keep moving on but a lot slower than most. As stated ideally we like to travel to somewhere, pitch up, settle in and spend the next day there, maybe another if it's especially nice, then move on again. This is how we rolled in Scotland. IF, and it's a big IF, if we were to go to The Alps I reckon we might use a couple of hotels en-route. This makes the day easier as we don't need to decamp in the AM then camp in the PM, as well as probably getting a better night's rest. Then you start weighing up fuel and hotel costs versus the ferry To Bilbao...

Ian Soady, that's a blummin big hole! Apparently it's ahem "GROTTE DU MAS D’AZIL" and it'll cost you €10 to go and have a look inside. I am quite fancying The Pyrenees it's... it's... it is that blummin ferry cost!

10/01/2024 20:26:21 UTC
Bogger said :-
Go for Corsica. I went with a couple of other lads about 5yrs ago on 125's.

Brilliant roads, brilliant scenery, warm, no rain whilst we were there.

Didn't cost a fortune either we camped on one of the Municipal sites literally 200mtrs from the small town and the beach/harbour area. We all loved the place.

10/01/2024 22:31:59 UTC
Bigngreen said :-
Austria. 3days riding out, Mannheim, Black forest, Friedrichshafen then a week in Austria. 4 days back, either north through Germany or West through to Belgium. I love Mons for a last night.
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10/01/2024 22:36:01 UTC
Upt'North ¹ said :-
Ed, I know you're clever so you'll have worked it out by now. The cost of the ferry is fairly irrelevant.
The ferry to Spain that is.
I'm thinking it will take 3 or 4 nights each way to get to the Pyrenees at the pace you're suggesting. If you're thinking of using hotels (shock horror), plus the not insignificant fuel costs, there will be little or no difference in costs. But you will arrive at your destination refreshed'ish.
We were a little unprepared for the ferry and it was two nights going down, I think it depends on your personality how you enjoy it or not. We just wanted to get off the damn thing. But like I said, go prepared, sit at the pointy end, watch the dolphins and don't forget something good to read.
I can't help with the Pyrenees, we've ridden through them and around and along them, but I wouldn't claim we know them. They're preddy but from memory not the Alps or the Dolomites.

11/01/2024 09:32:08 UTC
ROD¹ said :-
Upt', I have only used the ferry from Spain once for a return trip. I know we are all different but I found it boring and would much preferred riding up through France.
On my calculations it would have been cheaper and not taken any longer.
Bigngreen, I am not sure you are allowed to post pornograghy on this site? I am now lusting after that K1600GT and can imagine myself delving into that six cylinder engine.
I'm just off for a cold shower!
11/01/2024 10:50:45 UTC
Ian Soady¹ said :-
"that's a blummin big hole! Apparently it's ahem "GROTTE DU MAS D’AZIL" and it'll cost you €10 to go and have a look inside."

That's for the archeological site. The D119 actually runs right through the main cave and is of course free. It's in the lovely Ariège region between the Pyrenees and Toulouse.
11/01/2024 10:52:29 UTC
ROD¹ said :-
Ian, This area is a great recommendation.
I have not ridden the area on a bike, but I did stay on the outskirts of Carcassonne for a few days, and travelled the area by (sorry for the language) car.
11/01/2024 12:57:43 UTC
Upt'North ¹ said :-
Rod, I said we just wanted off, it wasn't too much fun. Moments of pleasure and hours of meh.
Regarding the time though Rod, I don't see Ren and Madame Soleil riding from the South Coast of blighty to Northern Spain in what is effectively one day. We got on at about 4 ish at Portsmouth and early morning the day after next in Bilbao, so we only missed one riding day. That equates from what Ed said would be 300 miles which is well short of Northern Spain. As in another 2 days short.
Even cheap hotels, food, fuel, coffee stops, x 2 persons and the same in return would cost the same as the ferry or thereabouts.
Then you've got to extract the six days or more from your trip time.
But we're all different, we'll be using the ferry to Amsterdam from Newcastle-upon-the-Tyne in the Autumn which avoids probably around 700 miles of English motorway for the return journey, plus another two overnights. It also allows us to avoid France if we desire.

11/01/2024 16:37:22 UTC
Upt'North ¹ said :-
Carcassonne, blummin lovely, even if it is French. We rode there on the way to the Dolomites. No we weren't lost.
11/01/2024 16:39:05 UTC
Upt'North ¹ said :-
Carcassonne. Blummin lovely. Can you feel the warmth.

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11/01/2024 16:44:02 UTC
ROD¹ said :-
Upt', You are right about the time the ferry can save, but I was travelling from just south of Alicante. My ferry was the 24 hr one which left mid morning and docked at Portsmouth mid morning the next day.
I could not ride to the port on the morning of departure, so I rode up the day before. On this day I could have left the Alicante area and be well into France that night.
Taking into account longest day on the way down was over 700 miles I think I would have been back in the UK mid morning the next day.
I really need to get back to Carcassonne and explore more of the Aude region.
11/01/2024 17:35:52 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
I have come up with the ultimate solution, but I need your help.

It's obvious you're all proper roughty toughty riders who think nothing of rattling off a few hundred miles and then a few hundred more the next day. It's also obvious Sharon and I are not, being a bit soft and all that. My solution is Sharon and I stop working then we can see all these wonderful places while travelling at our own sedate pace.

The only problem is we don't have quite enough money to retire yet. If you could all help put this right and place about £250,000 each into our accounts this should cover our needs until we're old enough to retire properly. This would also have the added benefit of more content for this here blog which would improve your perusing pleasure.

Thanks in advance, I'm sure you'll all help out so I'm off to hand in my notice and get the bike loaded up. See you on the road soon :)
12/01/2024 08:04:26 UTC
Upt'North ¹ said :-
Have you noticed? It's gone real quiet.
12/01/2024 13:05:34 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Are you suggesting my handing in my notice might have been premature? Gutted. Now what me gunna do?
12/01/2024 13:20:54 UTC
Bigngreen said :-
Not a problem Ren. Just send me your account number,sort code and the 3 digits off the back and I will pass it on to my friend Nigel, Crown Prince of Nigeria.
12/01/2024 22:30:04 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Oh the crown prince mailed me directly. He's asking me if he can use my account to transfer 7.6 billion dollars, if I help I can keep 5%. Seems legit to me, I've sent him Sharon's bank details.
12/01/2024 22:51:28 UTC
nab301 said :-
Ren I can't help with advice on trips but there's plenty of good ideas here already. As for the retirement thing I think you seem to have sussed a reasonable work life balance already, how many times have I seen people planning over decades for retirement , but by the time they do it's too late and ill health or just plain old age prevents them doing what they wanted even though they may have a healthy bank balance. Better to die a happy pauper than a multi millionaire....
Just to confirm I am not the Nigel in the above post!
13/01/2024 10:30:46 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Nigel the crown prince and Nigel as in nab301... I've never seen them in the same room together... too much of a coincidence? I think you are the crown prince nab301.

All I've done by posting my thoughts is bewildered myself even more. Now I want to go EVERYWHERE
14/01/2024 08:01:51 UTC
CrazyFrog said :-
Why worry about the weather in Scotland? I can guarantee there'll be plenty of it, so that's value for money!

I have a potential weekend trip to the Isle of Mull at the end of March. On paper it's 450 miles on Friday stop the weekend, then 450 miles back home on Sunday. However, these days I'll need to break the journey and do the 450 miles over 2 days, so that makes it 4 nights. Also, if I'm going that far, I'd want to have at least 3 nights on Mull to make the journey worthwhile, preferably 4. All of a sudden it's morphed into a week's holiday....
15/01/2024 23:16:30 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
I'm glad someone's thinking like me CrazyFrog. Of course 450 miles in a day is do-able - you open the throttle and ride. Of course there are some people who just LOVE doing that, they can't think of anything better than ripping up tarmac for 9 hours straight save for petrol and pee breaks. I know a few like this, I envy their hardiness. I think if there was a life on the line or a dire emergency Sharon and I could do this too but it would not be pleasurable, it would not be fun, it would not be a holiday.

If you break those 450 miles into 2 days that might be 8 hours on the road still, but with tea breaks, time to walk around a nice village, time to detour over that twisty road, and at the end of the day not to be saddle sore.

I'm sure you read our report on Mull? It is quite lovely and ideally I think we could have done with another day there. 4 nights would be perfect with 3 "clear" days to explore. IF you plan to use the Oban ferry as per our trip it is worth booking beforehand. We were there in mid September and were told we could turn and and see if they could squeeze us on, no guarantees.

16/01/2024 08:04:50 UTC
Rev. Mick! said :-
Might see you up in OH this summer then. Will be wandering up that way at some point. There are some big breaks to be surfed and I still want to get out to St. Kilda. Climbing to look at on Sron Ulladale. There is also the incredibly beautiful and remote bothy at Uisinis.

The other thing is consider flying to third world and hiring. You only need small bags as you will not need to camp. The whole trip is way way cheaper once flight and hire is done.

Plus it takes you out of the western world comfort zone bubble. Which, I feel, is good for you and good for the rest of the world. However Greta Thunberg might not like the air travel.
17/01/2024 08:51:32 UTC
Rev. Mick! said :-
Senegal. Three hours from Lisbon. You get a through flight with TAP. Rent a small bike in Dakar then away you go. Can give a contact for bikes. Mega cheap, very friendly people, great food and the weather is as close as can be guaranteed.
Small throw over panniers. Keep on cheap local bike, can be mended anywhere. Plus if stuck just fire it on the back of truck. You don’t need much as most traffic does about 60 kph.
Just think how big a head full of images you would have. Have you ever seen a Baobab for real?
19/01/2024 18:33:07 UTC

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